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POSTED: September 20, 2012 9:30 a.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — After this, politicians everywhere should surely get the message. Mitt Romney's secretly recorded remarks at a Florida fundraiser — and the uproar that has followed — reinforce a key reality of the digital media era: the power of viral video to disrupt and potentially alter a high-stakes political contest.

The amateur video of Romney casting 47 percent of Americans as believing they are "victims" who feel entitled to government assistance has burned up the Internet and aired continually on cable television since its release Monday by Mother Jones magazine. It's thrown his campaign off track in a tight race with President Barack Obama and with less than seven weeks until Election Day.

Mother Jones has not disclosed who recorded the remarks. A spokeswoman said that by Wednesday afternoon, the full video and a series of clips had received 5 million page views on the magazine's website and 3 million more views on YouTube.

In a presidential race noteworthy for the intensity of its televised advertising — Obama, Romney and their allies are on track to spend about $1.1 billion on campaign commercials this year — the impact of the leaked video has been particularly stark.

While both sides have deployed scores of highly produced ads aimed at swaying a small group of undecided voters in a handful of battleground states, the decidedly low-tech Romney video has done far more than any one commercial to sway the national political conversation.

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Census: Signs of economy bottoming out as mobility rises, fewer young adults live with parents

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy is showing signs of finally bottoming out: Americans are on the move again after record numbers had stayed put, more young adults are leaving their parents' homes to take a chance with college or the job market, once-sharp declines in births are leveling off and poverty is slowing.

New 2011 census data being released Thursday offer glimmers of hope in an economic recovery that technically began in mid-2009. The annual survey, supplemented with unpublished government figures as of March 2012, covers a year in which unemployment fell modestly from 9.6 percent to 8.9 percent.

Not all is well. The jobless rate remains high at 8.1 percent. Home ownership dropped for a fifth straight year to 64.6 percent, the lowest in more than a decade, hurt by more stringent financing rules and a shift to renting. More Americans than ever are turning to food stamps, while residents in housing that is considered "crowded" held steady at 1 percent, tied for the highest since 2003.

Taken as a whole, however, analysts say the latest census data provide wide-ranging evidence of a stabilizing U.S. economy. Coming five years after the housing bust, such a leveling off would mark an end to the longest and most pernicious economic decline since World War II.

"We may be seeing the beginning of the American family's recovery from the Great Recession," said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University. He pointed in particular to the upswing in mobility and to young men moving out of their parents' homes, both signs that more young adults were testing out job prospects.

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Anti-Islam movie puts spotlight on US Copts, a little-known Egyptian Christian community

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The anti-Islamic movie trailer inflaming the Middle East opens with Muslims ransacking a Christian medical clinic and then segues into a flashback of Muhammad's life. "Set the place on fire! We'll burn out these forsaken Christians!" cries one Muslim character.

The opening scene from "Innocence of Muslims," although crude, resonates with some Egyptian Christians, who have suffered years of persecution and attacks by Islamic militants.

The 14-minute trailer on YouTube enraged Muslims worldwide with its depiction of Muhammad as a womanizer, religious fraud and child molester. Most Egyptian Christians in the U.S. have rejected the movie and say the man and the nonprofit tied to the film are fringe players who are not well-known in the Coptic Orthodox Church, the church for the vast majority of Coptic Christians in America.

A tiny minority of U.S. Copts, however, have used their adopted nation's free speech protections to speak out against Islam in a way that would not be tolerated in their native Egypt. The few who engage in this anti-Muslim, evangelical activism — including those behind the movie trailer — are fueled by that history, said Eliot Dickinson, an associate professor of political science at Western Oregon University who has written a book on U.S. Copts.

"Whoever made this film is such an outlier in their community that it's completely unrepresentative," Dickinson said. "But what it does is, it taps into this frustration of always being persecuted back in Egypt and let's not downplay that. To be a Copt in Egypt now is a very, very difficult life because, especially after the Arab Spring, it's open season."

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Who are the 47 percent? The 3 groups Mitt Romney called out in his controversial remarks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just which 47 percent of Americans was Mitt Romney was talking about? It's hard to say. He lumped together three different ways of sorting people in what he's called less-than-elegant remarks.

Each of those three groups — likely Obama voters, people who get federal benefits and people who don't pay federal income taxes — contains just under half of all Americans, in the neighborhood of 47 percent at a given moment. There's some overlap, but the three groups are quite distinct.

Confusingly, Romney spoke as if they're made up of the same batch of Americans.

A look at the three groups:

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AP Interview: Catholic leader speaks out against violence against churches in Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) — After a series of attacks by vandals on Christian holy sites in Israel, normally tight-lipped Roman Catholic officials are beginning to speak out, publicly appealing to authorities to take a stronger stand against the violence.

The Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, one of the church's top officials in the Holy Land, said he is worried about relations between Jews and Christians in the Holy Land. He believes the blame can go all around.

"I think the main atmosphere is ignorance," Pizzaballa told The Associated Press in an interview.

Because the local Christian population is tiny, "we do not exist for the majority ... They have other priorities," he said. "On the other side, we as a minority maybe didn't invest enough energy and initiatives" to reach out to Israeli Jews.

That may be changing following this month's attack on a well-known Trappist Monastery in Latrun, outside Jerusalem. Vandals burned a door and spray-painted anti-Christian graffiti on the century-old building with the words "Jesus is a monkey." Suspicion has fallen on extremist Jewish West Bank settlers or their supporters, who are believed to be behind a series of attacks in recent years on mosques, Christian sites and even Israeli army property to protest moves against settlements.

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Space shuttle Endeavour makes pit stop in Houston en route to California for permanent display

HOUSTON (AP) — The space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to leave Houston early Thursday after giving locals a brief glimpse of what might have been.

Hundreds lined the streets and crowded the airport Wednesday to see the retired shuttle land before it was to head to California where it will be permanently displayed, a fact that doesn't sit well with many Houston residents who feel Space City was cheated out of an artifact that should have been theirs to keep.

"I think that it's the worst thing that they can do, rotten all the way," said 84-year-old Mary Weiss, clinging to her walker just before Endeavour landed after flying low over Gulf Coast towns, New Orleans and then downtown Houston and its airports.

Space City, partly made famous by Tom Hanks when he uttered the line "Houston, we have a problem" in the movie "Apollo 13," has long tied its fortune to a mix of oil and NASA. Astronauts train in the humid, mosquito-ridden city, and many call it home years after they retire. The Johnson Space Center and an adjacent museum hug Galveston Bay.

Houston's bid for a shuttle was rejected after the White House retired the fleet last summer to spend more time and money on reaching destinations, such as Mars and asteroids. Instead, Houston got a replica that used to be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center.

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House Republicans see vindication in inspector general's report on 'gun-walking,' but is it?

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans investigating a bungled gun-trafficking probe in Arizona see vindication in a long-awaited watchdog report that criticizes one of their favorite targets: Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department. But Justice's inspector general absolved Holder himself of blame.

The department's internal watchdog, Michael Horowitz, will be the only witness Thursday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a day after he faulted the department for misguided strategies, errors in judgment and management failures in an operation that disregarded public safety and allowed hundreds of guns to reach Mexican drug gangs.

"The inspector general's report confirms findings by Congress' investigation of a near total disregard for public safety in Operation Fast and Furious," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the committee's chairman.

However, committee Republicans will have to tread carefully. The IG's report knocks down some of the many accusations Republicans have made about the Obama administration during their year-and-a-half-long investigation of the operation by the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In places, the report reads like a rebuttal of House Republicans' past statements.

"We found no evidence" that staff at the department or at ATF informed the attorney general about Operation Fast and Furious before 2011, the report says.

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Poland helps Belarusian democracy movement, remembering legacy of its own repressive past

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Volha Starastsina saw no choice but to flush her work down the police station toilet.

That was the only place the Belarusian journalist could hide TV footage after being detained for interviewing people on upcoming elections in the repressive state.

Her risky independent journalism is part of a Polish-funded effort to get uncensored news to Belarusians, one of several projects Poland supports in a drive to encourage democratic change in its troubled eastern neighbor.

Poland has many reasons for wanting Belarus to embrace democracy, but it largely comes down to this: When Poland looks east, it sees its own past. The censorship, secret police spying and harassment of political opponents under authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko remind Poles of what Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement endured in the 1980s. Today's Polish government is led by many former Solidarity activists, and they want to give Belarusians the same kind of Western help that proved crucial in toppling their former Soviet-backed regime.

"It's emotional. It's a Polish thing to be anti-regime," said Tomasz Pisula, a Pole who heads Freedom and Democracy Foundation, a Warsaw-based group working for democratic change in Belarus.

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Starbucks turns up heat on market with 'Verismo' brewer starting at $199

NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks Corp. is about to turn up the heat on the single-serve coffee market, and someone might get burned.

The Seattle-based company says it will start selling its new single-serve brewer online this week for $199. It plans to start selling the machine in its ubiquitous cafes next month.

The arrival of the Verismo, which was announced earlier this year, comes amid intensifying competition in the rapidly growing market for single-serve brewers and the coffee pods they use.

The market was pioneered by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., which enjoyed soaring sales after its acquisition of the Keurig brand machine in 2006. But this month, the company's patent on its K-cup technology expired, which prompted supermarkets to roll out store-brand versions of coffee pods that can be used in Keurig machines.

Starbucks' decision to sell its own brewer comes just about a year after it struck a deal with Green Mountain to make coffee pods for Keurig machines.

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NFL's replacement officials adding new wrinkles to sports bets, changing Vegas casino lines

Las Vegas casinos think this weekend's NFL games will be the highest-scoring ever thanks to the league's replacement officials.

Oddsmakers say casinos are changing their expectations as interim referees add new variables to the game, changing its pace and the approaches taken by players and coaches.

Casinos haven't fully changed lines yet because there have been only two weeks of games and referees might adjust how they call games based on weekly feedback from the league. But oddsmaker Mike Colbert of Cantor Gaming says home teams will deserve an extra half-point in their favor if games are called all year the way they were officiated in Week 2.

"It's starting to concern us a bit," Colbert said. "(Officials) should have no influence on the total or the side."

Penalties were skewed in favor of home teams during the first two weeks this year, with visitors getting 55.1 percent of 419 penalties. Last year began in a similar fashion— visitors took 54.8 percent of 407 total penalties through the first two games — before evening out over the rest of the season. Penalties were relatively even between home and road teams for all of 2010 and 2011, and it's anybody's guess how this year's penalties will split.

 

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