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World briefly on Sept. 25

POSTED: September 25, 2012 7:54 a.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — Campaign politics shadowing every word, President Barack Obama will step before the world and declare that anti-American rage and riots among Muslims abroad will never force the United States to backtrack on diplomacy.

In his final international address before the November election, Obama on Tuesday has a United Nations stage afforded to presidents, not presidential challengers. He will use it to try to boost his political standing without mentioning his opponent.

Obama's comments to the General Assembly will be scrutinized around the globe and by the gathering of presidents and prime ministers in the famed United Nations hall, given the tumult, terrorism, nuclear threats and poverty that bind so many nations. He will respond to unrest in the Muslim world and seek to underscore U.S. resolve in keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Yet, were there any doubt that the U.S. presidential campaign hung heavy over Obama's speech to the General Assembly, Republican rival Mitt Romney shredded it by assailing Obama's foreign affairs leadership on the eve of the president's speech.

"This is time for a president who will shape events in the Middle East, not just be merciful or be at the mercy of the events," Romney said Monday. Focusing on the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya and mass bloodshed in Syria, Romney repeatedly ridiculed Obama's comment that nations moving toward democracy after the Arab Spring face "bumps in the road."

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Report: Double-digit premium hikes seen in 7 of 10 top Medicare prescription drug plans

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seniors enrolled in seven of the 10 most popular Medicare prescription drug plans will be hit with double-digit premium hikes next year if they don't shop for a better deal, says a private firm that analyzes the highly competitive market.

The report Monday by Avalere Health is a reality check on the Obama's administration's upbeat pronouncements. Back in August, officials had announced that the average premium for basic prescription drug coverage will stay the same in 2013, at $30 a month.

The administration's number is accurate as an overall indicator for the entire market, but not very helpful to consumers individually since it doesn't reflect price swings in the real world.

"The average senior is going to benefit by carefully scrutinizing their situation, because every year the market changes," Avalere President Dan Mendelson said. Avalere crunched the numbers based on bid documents that the plans submitted to Medicare.

The report found premium increases for all top 10 prescription drug plans, known as PDPs. However, the most popular plan — AARP MedicareRx Preferred — is only going up 57 cents per month nationally, to $40.42 from the current $39.85.

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Thousands to turn out to see Suu Kyi in Indiana city that's home to large Burmese community

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's devoted followers are expected to turn out by the thousands Tuesday to hear her speak in an Indiana city where one of the largest Burmese communities in the United States has taken root.

The visit by the 67-year-old Nobel laureate, who spent 15 years under house arrest for opposing military rule, marks the zenith of a two-decade influx of Burmese refugees that has brought a new global awareness to Fort Wayne, Ind., a city of 256,000 about two hours north of Indianapolis.

Organizers say security will be tight for Suu Kyi's speech at Memorial Coliseum. At least 7,000 people from as far away as Toronto and Minneapolis have indicated they'll attend the speech, which Suu Kyi will deliver in Burmese with English translations on video. The visit is part of a 17-day trip to the U.S. during which she has met with President Barack Obama and received the Congressional Gold Medal.

Since 1991, when a single Burmese refugee resettled in this city 8,000 miles from southeast Asia, thousands more have followed, many of them relocating under a federal program after years in refugee camps in Thailand. They join other political refugees from a host of countries who have made the city a second home since the fall of Saigon in 1975, thanks largely to the help of Catholic Charities.

The 2010 census found 3,800 Burmese in Allen County, but Fred Gilbert, a retired welfare worker who now runs a website designed to help immigrants adjust to American life, says the number may be actually be a few thousand higher because some Burmese identify themselves by ethnic origin rather than nationality.

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AP Exclusive: Analysis of satellite images shows halt in North Korea work on new launch pad

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea has stopped construction on a launch pad where intercontinental-range rockets could be tested, an interruption possibly due to heavy rains and that could stall completion up to two years, according to an analysis of new satellite imagery.

Despite the setback, however, Pyongyang is also refurbishing for possible future use another existing pad at the same complex that has been used for past rocket launches, according to the analysis of Aug. 29 images provided to The Associated Press by 38 North, the website of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

While the renovations don't mean a launch is imminent, they indicate North Korea is preparing the site for possible future rocket tests, according to the 38 North special report written by Nick Hansen.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, but experts don't believe Pyongyang has yet mastered the technology needed to shrink a nuclear weapon so it can be mounted onto the tip of a long-range missile.

There are worries, however, about North Korea's rocket and missile programs. The United States, South Korea and others have said North Korea uses rocket launches, including a failed effort in mid-April, as covers to test banned missile systems that could target parts of the United States. North Korea says recent rocket launches were meant to put peaceful satellites into orbit.

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App allows geniuses, other users to see sections of Einstein's brain at cellular level

CHICAGO (AP) — The brain that revolutionized physics now can be downloaded as an app for $9.99. But it won't help you win at Angry Birds.

While Albert Einstein's genius isn't included, an exclusive iPad application launched Tuesday promises to make detailed images of his brain more accessible to scientists than ever before. Teachers, students and anyone who's curious also can get a look.

A medical museum under development in Chicago obtained funding to scan and digitize nearly 350 fragile and priceless slides made from slices of Einstein's brain after his death in 1955. The application will allow researchers and novices to peer into the eccentric Nobel winner's brain as if they were looking through a microscope.

"I can't wait to find out what they'll discover," said Steve Landers, a consultant for the National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago who designed the app. "I'd like to think Einstein would have been excited."

After Einstein died, a pathologist named Thomas Harvey performed an autopsy, removing the great man's brain in hopes that future researchers could discover the secrets behind his genius.

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Furor over NFL replacement refs grows after wild ending Monday night in Seattle

NEW YORK (AP) — The furor over the work of replacement officials reached a fevered pitch during Week 3 in the NFL, especially Monday night when Seattle beat Green Bay on a desperation pass that many thought was an interception.

Seahawks receiver Golden Tate was awarded a touchdown on the final play after a scrum on the ground in the end zone. Packers safety M.D. Jennings appeared to catch the ball against his body, with Tate getting his arm around the ball.

After a few seconds, one official indicated a stoppage of play, but another signaled touchdown for a conclusion former NFL coach Jon Gruden, working the game on TV, called "tragic" and "comical."

Tate clearly shoved cornerback Sam Shields to the ground on the play, but as Gruden noted, offensive pass interference almost never is called on desperation passes.

"Very hard to swallow," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I have never seen anything like that in my time in football."

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Romney, Obama focus on US posture abroad in twin speeches to the Clinton Global Initiative

NEW YORK (AP) — President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are sparring over how best to address U.S. challenges abroad in nearly back-to-back addresses at the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting.

Following deadly anti-American protests in Muslim countries over the past two weeks, Romney was to outline plans Tuesday to rework the U.S. foreign aid system, tying development money to requirements that countries allow U.S. investment and remove trade barriers. Obama also was to address top foreign leaders, CEOs and nongovernmental organizations at the gathering spearheaded by former President Bill Clinton.

The event puts the two presidential contenders in front of the same audience on the day Obama also was delivering a major address to the United Nations General Assembly. Both men were drawing contrasts in a presidential contest in which the state of the U.S. economy has been paramount, but which shifted focus this month to foreign policy after attacks in Libya killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador there.

In interviews and at campaign events Monday, Romney assailed Obama's leadership abroad, leading a chorus of Republicans in criticizing the president for what they said was minimizing the death of the Ambassador Chris Stevens. Obama, in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," said recent violence in the Mideast was due to "bumps in the road" on the way to democracy. Romney on Monday also suggested Obama was leaving American foreign policy at the mercy of events instead of working to shape global politics in America's interest.

At the United Nations, Obama planned a sweeping defense of his policy of engagement overseas. The president planned to "send a clear message that the United States will never retreat from the world, will bring justice to those who harm Americans and will stand strongly for our democratic values abroad," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in an email.

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Mass. chemist whose work is questioned tested drugs of 1,100-plus inmates serving time

BOSTON (AP) — Faced with the daunting task of evaluating more than 34,000 drug cases handled by a Massachusetts chemist accused of misconduct, prosecutors and defense attorneys are starting with 1,140 cases of people who are already serving prison sentences based on potentially tainted evidence.

David Meier, a defense attorney and former prosecutor appointed to help sort through the legal quagmire created by the chemist's alleged actions, on Monday turned over a list of 690 people currently serving sentences in state prisons and 450 who are currently serving sentences in county jails. Samples in all of the cases were tested by chemist Annie Dookhan, who state police say failed to follow testing protocols and deliberately mishandled evidence in some cases.

Meier said it is unclear how many of those samples might have been tainted by Dookhan's actions, but said both sides want to deal first with people who are already in prison.

"That is our first priority, people who are presently incarcerated," he said.

Meier said lawyers in those cases will now have to work out resolutions on a case-by-case basis.

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Seahawks stun Packers in controversial fashion on last-second touchdown in 14-12 win

SEATTLE (AP) — Golden Tate shoved a Green Bay defender out of the way, wrestled another for the ball and was awarded a disputed touchdown on the final play. But it was another 10 minutes before the game actually ended, when the Seattle Seahawks and the stunned Packers were called back on the field for the extra point.

Replacement ref rage may have peaked Monday night.

Just when it seemed that NFL coaches, players and fans couldn't get any angrier, along came a fiasco that trumped any of the complaints from the weekend. The Seahawks' 14-12 victory featured one of the most bizarre finishes in recent memory, and was certain to reignite frustrations over the locked-out officials.

"Don't ask me a question about the officials," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. "I've never seen anything like that in all my years in football."

"I know it's been a wild weekend in the NFL and I guess we're part of it now," he said.

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Clinton and Morsi discuss embassy security in first top-level meeting since 9/11 demonstration

NEW YORK (AP) — The United States and Egypt sought Monday to repair ties strained severely by a year-and-a-half of rapid change in the Middle East, culminating in the last two weeks with Egyptian demonstrators overrunning the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and President Barack Obama candidly remarking that the two countries were now neither enemies nor allies.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke with Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, in a New York hotel on Monday night, the highest-level meeting between the once stalwart Middle East partners since an American-made video ridiculing Islam prompted violent Egyptian protests on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. American officials said their discussions sought to strengthen a relationship that both see as vital.

They particularly emphasized the importance of ensuring the security of diplomatic installations, said a senior U.S. official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the private meeting and requested anonymity. Morsi was criticized for his slow, initial response to the protests that ended with vandalism of the embassy and the American flag torn down, but the official stressed that U.S. officials see the Egyptian government's protection since as reassuring.

Morsi assured Clinton that embassy protection was "Egypt's duty," the official said.

The meeting occurred amid a jam-packed schedule for Clinton in New York, where she is attending this week's annual gathering of the U.N. General Assembly and speaking with a host of world leaders. Egyptian hopes of a maiden meeting between Morsi and Obama were dashed when the White House announced that the president would not be participating in bilateral meetings during his brief stay in the city. Obama arrived Monday and will leave Tuesday.

 

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