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World briefly for Oct. 11

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POSTED: October 11, 2012 9:22 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Time running short, Vice President Joe Biden faces the greater burden in his debate with Republican Paul Ryan as he seeks to use the election's only encounter between presidential running mates to slow Mitt Romney's momentum and reset the campaign storyline in time for the next Obama-Romney debate.

In the aftermath of President Barack Obama's startlingly lackluster showing against Romney in last week's debate, Biden's job is to forcefully confront Ryan, and by extension Romney, while making a case for Obama's policies that strikes an emotional chord with voters.

Thursday's debate comes at a volatile moment in the election, putting the contrasting political skills of Biden and Ryan on display for millions of viewers less than four weeks before Election Day.

Ryan, whose upbeat campaign style has been a Romney asset, must fend off attacks on the conservative fiscal policies the Wisconsin congressman has promoted as chairman of the House Budget Committee. He also has to embrace or answer for the more moderate tone Romney is employing as he seeks to attract independent and undecided voters.

The vice presidential debate occurs as national polls show a tightening race, a new momentum for Romney and pressure on the Obama camp to halt any erosion of support.

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AP IMPACT: Mexican meth pours into US cities, negates effort to curb US drug production

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Mexican drug cartels are quietly filling the void in the nation's drug market created by the long effort to crack down on American-made methamphetamine, flooding U.S. cities with exceptionally cheap, extraordinarily potent meth from factorylike "superlabs."

Although Mexican meth is not new to the U.S. drug trade, it now accounts for as much as 80 percent of the meth sold here, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. And it is as much as 90 percent pure, a level that offers users a faster, more intense and longer-lasting high.

"These are sophisticated, high-tech operations in Mexico that are operating with extreme precision," said Jim Shroba, a DEA agent in St. Louis. "They're moving it out the door as fast as they can manufacture it."

The cartels are expanding into the U.S. meth market just as they did with heroin: developing an inexpensive, highly addictive form of the drug and sending it through the same pipeline already used to funnel marijuana and cocaine, authorities said.

Seizures of meth along the Southwest border have more than quadrupled over the last several years. DEA records reviewed by The Associated Press show that the amount of seized meth jumped from slightly more than 4,000 pounds in 2007 to more than 16,000 pounds in 2011.

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President's bioethics panel urges new privacy protection to ensure benefits from DNA decoding

WASHINGTON (AP) — It sounds like a scene from a TV show: Someone sends a discarded coffee cup to a laboratory where the unwitting drinker's DNA is decoded, predicting what diseases lurk in his or her future.

A presidential commission found that's legally possible in about half the states — and says new protections to ensure the privacy of people's genetic information are critical if the nation is to realize the enormous medical potential of gene-mapping.

Such whole genome sequencing costs too much now for that extreme coffee-cup scenario to be likely. But the report being released Thursday says the price is dropping so rapidly that the technology could become common in doctors' offices very soon — and there are lots of ethical issues surrounding how, when and with whom the results may be shared.

Without public trust, people may not be as willing to allow scientists to study their genetic information, key to learning to better fight disease, the report warns.

"If this issue is left unaddressed, we could all feel the effects," said Dr. Amy Gutmann, who chairs the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

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UNICEF hopes new school brings healing to traumatized Syrian refugee children in Jordan camp

ZAATARI, Jordan (AP) — For many Syrian children traumatized and driven from their homes by their country's civil war, the opportunity to head back to school — even if it's in a dusty, wind-swept refugee camp — is a chance to return to a semblance of normalcy.

The children have a lot to try to overcome. Many have had relatives killed. They have seen their neighborhoods destroyed by bombings as the regime of President Bashar Assad battles rebels who have been trying for 19 months to topple him. They have endured as they and their families fled across the border into an unknown future in Jordan.

"Bashar shelled us and my cousin died. I want Assad to go away, so I can go back to Syria," said Safa, a 13-year-old who was among 2,300 children who were able to resume their studies in this tent city near Jordan's border with Syria.

"They started this school to try to help us forget what has been happening, but that's hard. Still, I'm happier now that I can study again," said the petite girl in a black headscarf at the beginning of her Arabic grammar class.

The start of school in the Zaatari refugee camp is a step in international efforts to help Jordan deal with what has become an overwhelming wave of refugees from the Syria conflict. More than 200,000 Syrians who fled the civil war are now in Jordan, their numbers growing daily, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

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Insurance giant, women's home wage public battle in Ohio over historic property

CINCINNATI (AP) — As Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic battled for the title at the Western & Southern Open north of Cincinnati, a small plane buzzed overhead, trailing a banner calling the sponsor a bunch of bullies.

The public nose-thumbing gave thousands of tennis fans a window into another match being played out downtown — between insurance giant Western & Southern Financial Group and a nonprofit home for women called the Anna Louise Inn — a fight that is headed for the Ohio Court of Appeals this month.

It has become the most public conflict in the transformation of Cincinnati, as well as a stark example of the difficulty in balancing the public benefits of gentrification with the human costs.

"We really do believe enough is enough," said Mary Carol Melton, executive vice president of Cincinnati Union Bethel, a nonprofit that operates the inn. "It's like someone coming up to you and saying, 'I want to buy your house' and you politely say it's not for sale, and they don't understand that not for sale means it's not for sale."

Western & Southern, a Fortune 500 company, has been trying for several years to buy or force out the Anna Louise from the Lytle Park Historic District, the beautiful and serene neighborhood they share, and turn it into a boutique hotel.

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Romney promises to get tougher on China but 'Day One' currency promise could backfire

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is promising to get tough on China to help American workers, but his plans could backfire.

Romney is pledging, on his first day in office, to designate China a currency manipulator, a step no administration has taken against any country for 18 years.

That could, eventually, lead to tariffs punishing China for policies that Americans believe unfairly keep Chinese products cheap, hurting U.S. manufacturers. Tariffs could trigger a trade war with a country that is the fastest-growing market for U.S. exports. Even if they don't, the designation would instantly set back relations with Asia's emerging superpower.

The U.S. seeks Chinese cooperation on international hot spots, such as North Korea and Iran, and wants to narrow differences over how to handle maritime territorial disputes in East Asia.

Given the potential repercussions, some foreign policy experts doubt Romney would carry out the currency threat. Other presidential candidates have made similar promises in order to appeal to voters who have seen manufacturing jobs migrate to China. But, once elected, they soften their approach.

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Indicted Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom plans website reboot while fighting extradition

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — In a move bound to provoke U.S. prosecutors and entertainment executives, indicted Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom is planning to launch a replacement of his shuttered website and a new online music service by year's end.

The file-sharing site that Dotcom started in 2005 was one of the most popular online sites before U.S. prosecutors shut it down and filed racketeering charges against Dotcom and six other Megaupload principals in January.

U.S. authorities are now trying to extradite Dotcom from New Zealand, where he's a resident, claiming he facilitated massive copyright piracy through his site. Prosecutors say Dotcom pocketed tens of millions of dollars while movie makers and songwriters lost some $500 million in copyright revenue.

Dotcom says he can't be held responsible for users who acted illegally and that Megaupload complied with copyrights by removing links to pirated material when asked. Some legal experts say proving Dotcom's conduct amounted to criminal conspiracy will be difficult, and he has gained some high-profile support, including from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

The flamboyant Dotcom confirmed in a brief telephone interview this week that he's almost completed work on "new Mega" and "Megabox" but said he doesn't want to divulge details ahead of a major press launch. However, statements he's made on Twitter and a promotional video paint a picture of what he's planning.

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Data show US foreclosure filings fell to 5-year low in September; homes on track down 12 pct.

U.S. foreclosure filings dropped to a five-year low in September as fewer homes were on track to be seized by lenders.

It was the second-consecutive monthly decline in filings, although there remains a sharp divergence along state lines, according to a report Thursday by foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc.

On a national level, overall foreclosure filings last month — including home repossessions — fell 7 percent from August and 16 percent from September 2011. There were 180,427 foreclosure filings reported for September, the fewest since July 2007 in the midst the housing market bust.

The number of homes entering the foreclosure process, so-called foreclosure starts, fell to 87,066 in September, down 12 percent from August and 15 percent from a year earlier. It was the second-straight month of declines following three months of increases, Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac reported.

Foreclosure starts since peaked in April 2009 at around 203,000. But the current level is still well above the 34,000 starts recorded in May 2005, before the collapse of the housing market.

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Ibanez hits for Rodriguez, homers twice to lead Yanks to 3-2 win over Orioles in 12 innings

NEW YORK (AP) — Down by a run in an all-even AL division series, Joe Girardi approached Alex Rodriguez and told baseball's highest-paid player he was going to pinch hit for him.

Bold move, benching one of the game's great sluggers.

"I just had a gut feeling," the Yankees manager said. "I just went to him and I said, 'You're scuffling a little bit right now, we have got a low-ball hitter and we've got a shorter porch in right field then left field obviously — Raul (Ibanez) has been a good pinch hitter for us, and I'm just going to take a shot.'"

The audacious decision worked.

Ibanez homered in the ninth, then again in the 12th, rallying New York to a stunning 3-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series.

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Athletics force Game 5 in ALDS with 3-run rally in 9th to beat Tigers 4-3

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — After a season filled with dramatic comebacks and memorable endings, the Oakland Athletics now expect the unexpected.

Two runs down and three outs away from their season ending, the A's staged their most magical finish yet.

Seth Smith hit a game-tying two-run double off closer Jose Valverde in the ninth inning and Coco Crisp capped Oakland's rally with a two-out RBI single as the A's staved off elimination for a second straight night with a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 Wednesday night.

"We've heard a lot of people say we're not smart enough to know when to lose a game like most people do," said Josh Reddick, who started the rally with a single. "We've been battling till the 27th out all year and we're not going to stop now."

The A's rode a major league-leading 14 walkoff wins in the regular season to an improbable AL West title. Those paled in comparison to No. 15, which set up a win-or-go-home Game 5 against Justin Verlander and the Tigers.

 

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