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World briefly for Sep. 27

POSTED: September 27, 2012 9:37 a.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make his case against Iran before the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, arguing that time is quickly running out to stop the Islamic Republic from becoming a nuclear power and the threat of force must be seriously considered.

His demand that President Barack Obama declare "red lines" that would trigger an American attack on Iran's nuclear facilities has been rejected in Washington and sparked a public rift between the two leaders.

Netanyahu claims international diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions have failed. His time at the U.N. podium gives him an opportunity in front of the international community to press his case once again, perhaps in a final plea before Israel takes matters into its own hands. Israeli leaders have issued a series of warnings in recent weeks suggesting that if Iran's uranium enrichment program continues it may soon stage a unilateral military strike, flouting even American wishes.

The Obama administration has urgently sought to hold off Israeli military action, which would likely result in the U.S. being pulled into a conflict and cause regionwide mayhem on the eve of American elections.

Such an attack would almost certainly lead to retaliatory Iranian missile strikes on Israeli population centers. On Sunday, Iranian leaders suggested they may strike Israeli preemptively if they feel threatened.

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NFL and its referees reach tentative agreement, regular crew to work Thursday night's game

NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL's regular officiating crews are back. Their return couldn't have come soon enough for many players, coaches and fans.

After two days of marathon negotiations — and mounting frustration throughout the league — the NFL and the officials' union announced at midnight Thursday that a tentative eight-year agreement had been reached to end a lockout that began in June.

The deal came on the heels of Seattle's chaotic last-second win over Green Bay on Monday night in which the replacement officials struggled. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was at the bargaining table Tuesday and Wednesday, said the regular officials would work the Browns-Ravens game at Baltimore on Thursday night.

"We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week's games," NFL Referees Association president Scott Green said.

And plenty of players echoed that sentiment.

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AP Impact: Air Force experts foresaw problems with F-22 stealth fighter; solutions rejected

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AP) — Years before F-22 pilots began getting dizzy in the cockpit, before one struggled to breathe as he tried to pull out of a fatal crash, before two more went on television to say the plane was so unsafe they refused to fly it, a small circle of U.S. Air Force experts knew something was wrong with the prized stealth fighter jet.

Coughing among pilots and fears that contaminants were leaking into their breathing apparatus led the experts to suspect flaws in the oxygen-supply system of the F-22 Raptor, especially in extreme high-altitude conditions in which the $190 million aircraft is without equal. They formed a working group a decade ago to deal with the problem, creating an informal but unique brain trust.

Internal documents and emails obtained by The Associated Press show they proposed a range of solutions by 2005, including adjustments to the flow of oxygen into pilot's masks. But that key recommendation was rejected by military officials reluctant to add costs to a program that was already well over budget.

"This initiative has not been funded," read the minutes of their final meeting in 2007.

Minutes of the working group's meetings, PowerPoint presentations and emails among its members reveal a missed opportunity for the Air Force to improve pilot safety in the 187-plane F-22 fleet before a series of high-profile problems damaged the image of an aircraft that was already being assailed in Congress as too costly. Its production was halted last spring and the aircraft has never been used in combat.

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Obama pushes 'economic patriotism' in 2-minute ad while Romney decries loss of plant jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is pitching a broad economic argument to voters ahead of next week's debate with Republican opponent Mitt Romney, buying TV time in seven battleground states to promote what he calls a "new economic patriotism."

In a two-minute ad, Obama looks into the camera as he promotes an economic plan he says will create 1 million manufacturing jobs, cut oil imports and hire thousands of new teachers.

The ad set to air in New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and Colorado comes as Obama and Republican Mitt Romney shadow each other while looking for votes in a closely contested race. On Thursday, the two candidates are scheduled to campaign in the same state for the third straight day, this time in Virginia, a critical battleground in the Nov. 6 election.

Romney is to appear in suburban Washington for a veterans event, while Obama speaks to a farm bureau in Virginia Beach.

The simultaneous visits follow an all-day duel Wednesday in Ohio, where Romney declared he can do more than Obama to improve the lives of average people. Obama scoffed that a challenger who calls half the nation "victims" was unlikely to be of much help.

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NY Legislature's latest harassment scandal dogged by sordid past of clash of sex, politics

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — It was an odd assignment for the young, pretty staffer when she was ordered to go along on a trip to Atlantic City with her boss. But the reason soon became clear.

She said she spent much of the trip struggling to fend off the advances and kisses of 72-year-old Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez. He was persistent, she said, and eventually put his hand between her legs.

She and another female staffer said it was part of a regular routine of office harassment that included inappropriate touching and comments about their bodies, how they dressed and even how they were getting along with their boyfriends. They said the job included writing letters to Lopez about how much they loved their jobs — letters Lopez complained were "insufficiently effusive," according to his official censure.

The accusations that emerged over the summer are hardly unusual in a state capital, especially Albany, which has such a rich history of sexual misconduct by lawmakers that it has its own, unwritten Las Vegas-like code: What happens north of Bear Mountain stays there.

But what began as a relatively modest scandal has pierced the veil of the so-called Bear Mountain Compact, unraveling in public before a state ethics committee, revealing more sexual misconduct accusations against Lopez and a secret six-figure payoff to the accusers with taxpayer money that was approved by one of the most powerful lawmakers in the state.

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Pope is both victim and supreme judge in trial of ex-butler accused of leaking documents

VATICAN CITY (AP) — There was a time when a Vatican trial could end with a heretic being burned at the stake. Paolo Gabriele doesn't risk nearly as a dire fate, but he and the Holy See face a very public airing over the gravest security breach in the Vatican's recent history following the theft and leaking of the pope's personal papers.

Gabriele, the pope's once-trusted butler, goes on trial Saturday, accused of stealing the pope's documents and passing them off to a journalist — a sensational, Hollywood-like scandal that exposed power struggles, intrigue and allegations of corruption in the highest levels of the Catholic Church.

Gabriele is charged with aggravated theft and faces six years in prison if convicted by the three-judge Vatican tribunal. He has already confessed and asked to be pardoned — something most Vatican watchers say is a given if he is convicted — making the trial almost a formality.

To be sure, trials are nothing new at the Vatican: In 2011 alone, 640 civil cases and 226 penal cases were processed by the Vatican's judiciary, 99 percent of which involved some of the 18 million tourists who pass through the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica each year. And that's not counting the marriage annulments, clerical sex abuse cases and other church law matters that come before the Vatican's ecclesial courts.

Yet this most high-profile case will cast an unusually bright spotlight on the Vatican's legal system, which is based on the 19th century Italian criminal code, and the rather unique situation in which the pope is both the victim and supreme judge in this case.

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In Ohio, deep pessimism among working-class whites who will play a crucial role in election

BRIDGEPORT, Ohio (AP) — To look at Ohio is to glimpse America in a nutshell — a state full of places where laborers, truck drivers, cooks, store clerks and business owners form the backbone of small-town life. Places where the deli cashes checks, cars and trucks are "vehicles" and the NFL takes a back seat to high-school football.

It also is a place where presidents are made. No candidate has won without Ohio's 20 electoral votes since John F. Kennedy in 1960. Barack Obama won here in 2008 by about 260,000 votes, 52 percent to 47 percent.

That's why Ohio's white, working-class voters have taken center stage in the election, with Obama and Mitt Romney crisscrossing the state this week as they enter the campaign's homestretch.

These voters may well decide who wins the White House. So what do they want? About two dozen interviews in eastern Ohio revealed some answers:

They are looking for a president who understands what it's like to punch a time clock all month and still come up short on the bills, for a leader who will help the people in work boots as much as those in wingtips. They see money being doled out, from welfare to bank bailouts, and ask why nobody has lent them a hand. They talk of getting rid of everyone in Washington and starting fresh.

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Lots of new data, no analysis from Wyo. gas field where EPA linked fracking to water pollution

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The meaning of reams of new data from groundwater testing in a remote Wyoming gas field where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sparked concern last year will be a matter of interpretation.

Does the new science shore up damnation of hydraulic fracturing — the petroleum industry practice of blasting water, sand and chemicals deep beneath the water table? Or does it refute criticism of the technique as too much anxious hand-wringing?

No one is making either claim yet.

The U.S. Geological Survey on Wednesday released tables showing the amounts of dozens of various chemicals in the groundwater below the Pavillion area of west-central Wyoming. But there was no analysis accompanying the data.

The information, from testing in late April, follows similar tests last year, when the EPA linked contaminants in two water wells to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

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Bookstores in UK open early as 1st novel for adults from author J.K. Rowling goes on sale

LONDON (AP) — British bookshops opened their doors early Thursday and some grown-up Harry Potter fans lined up overnight as J.K. Rowling launched her long-anticipated first book for adults, "The Casual Vacancy."

The lines were shorter and the wizard costumes missing, but the book was published to some of the same fanfare that greeted each Potter tome, with stores wheeling out crates of the books precisely at 8 a.m.

Published five years after the release of the last book in the boy wizard saga, "The Casual Vacancy" is already at No. 1 on Amazon's U.S. chart, and bookmaker William Hill put 2/1 odds on it outselling "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which shifted 2.6 million copies in Britain on its first day.

Many of the early buyers were Harry Potter fans who, like the author, have moved on to more adult fare.

"I just like how much excitement there is about a book," said 23-year-old Grace Proctor, a "massive" Potter fan who was first to buy the book at one London store.

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With college rolls growing, student debt hits 1 in 5 households; big burdens on young and poor

WASHINGTON (AP) — With college enrollment growing, student debt has stretched to a record number of U.S. households — nearly 1 in 5 — with the biggest burdens falling on the young and poor.

The analysis by the Pew Research Center found that 22.4 million households, or 19 percent, had college debt in 2010. That is double the share in 1989, and up from 15 percent in 2007, just prior to the recession — representing the biggest three-year increase in student debt in more than two decades.

The increase was driven by higher tuition costs as well as rising college enrollment during the economic downturn. The biggest jumps occurred in households at the two extremes of the income distribution. More well-off families are digging deeper into their pockets to pay for costly private colleges, while lower-income people in search of higher-wage jobs are enrolling in community colleges, public universities and other schools as a way to boost their resumes.

Because of the sluggish economy, fewer college students than before are able to settle into full-time careers immediately upon graduation, contributing to a jump in debt among lower-income households as the young adults take on part-time jobs or attend graduate school, according to Pew.

As a share of household income, the debt burden was the greatest for the poorest 20 percent of households, or those making less than $21,044. In all, 40 percent of U.S. households headed by someone younger than age 35 owed college debt, the highest share of any age group.

 

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