Monday October 8, 2012

Obama enlists celebrity pals to raise campaign cash in California with 1 month left

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fresh off his strongest fundraising month this year, President Barack Obama is looking to raise millions of dollars from celebrities and wealthy donors in California with just one month left in a tightening race.

The two-day swing through the solidly Democratic state highlights the critical role that fundraising will play in the campaign’s final weeks as Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, escalate their barrage of television ads in competitive states like Ohio. The president is to return there Tuesday.

Romney, campaigning in up-for-grabs Florida, sought to build on the momentum from a debate performance last week that even Democrats conceded was "masterful." The Republican told a crowd of about 12,000 in Port St. Lucie that he had enjoyed himself, ticking off a list of Obama shortcomings he said he had exposed during the first debate.

"Now of course, days later, we’re hearing his excuses," Romney said. "And next January we’ll be watching him leave the White House for the last time."

As Romney finished speaking spoke, someone in the crowd of supporters behind him held up a giant Israeli flag alongside smaller American flags, underscoring the amplified role that foreign affairs and the Middle East is playing as the presidential race draws to a close. Romney on Monday plans a major foreign policy address at the Virginia Military Institute, intended to throw Obama back on his heels over his handling of unrest in Libya and elsewhere.

U.S. to allow SKorea to have longer-range missiles

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- The United States has agreed to allow South Korea to develop longer-range missiles that could strike all of North Korea, South Korean officials said Sunday.

Under a 2001 accord with Washington, Seoul has been barred from developing and deploying ballistic missiles with a range of more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) due to concerns of a regional arms race.

As a result, some North Korean military facilities have been out of South Korea’s missile range.

South Korea’s presidential Blue House said South Korea and the U.S. have revised the accord to allow Seoul to have missiles with a range of up to 800 kilometers (500 miles) to better cope with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

North Korea has missiles that can hit South Korea, Japan and the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

Pharmacy linked to fungal meningitis outbreak issues recall for all of its products

ATLANTA (AP) -- The pharmacy that distributed a steroid linked to an outbreak of fungal meningitis has issued a voluntary recall of all of its products, calling the move a precautionary measure.

The New England Compounding Center announced the recall Saturday. The company said in a news release that the move was taken out of an abundance of caution because of the risk of contamination. It says there is no indication that any other products have been contaminated.

The Food and Drug Administration had previously told health professionals not to use any products distributed by the center.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted updated figures to its website Sunday showing there are 91 confirmed cases of the rare form of fungal meningitis. The outbreak spans nine states and has killed at least seven people.

The states with reported cases are: Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.

Chavez or Capriles? Massive turnout as Venezuelans vote in pivotal election for divided nation

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez’s crusade to transform Venezuela into a socialist state, which has bitterly divided the nation, was put to the stiffest electoral test of his nearly 14 years in power on Sunday in a closely fought presidential election.

Both camps said turnout was high, with millions of Venezuelans casting ballots. Long lines formed at many polling centers, with queues of hundreds of voters snaking along sidewalks and around blocks in many parts of Caracas.

Chavez’s challenger, Henrique Capriles, united the opposition in a contest between two sides that distrust each other so deeply that some expressed concerns whether a close election result would be respected.

"We will recognize the results, whatever they are," Chavez told reporters after casting his vote in Caracas.

Chavez was greeted at the polling center by American actor Danny Glover and Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu. He said he was pleased to see a "massive turnout."

As Afghan war enters 12th year, fears grow of new civil strife after foreign troops withdraw

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Nobody wants a repeat of the bloody ethnic fighting that followed the Soviet exit from Afghanistan in the 1990s -- least of all 32-year-old Wahidullah who was crippled by a bullet that pierced his spine during the civil war.

Yet as the Afghan war began its 12th year on Sunday, fears loom that the country will again fracture along ethnic lines once international combat forces leave by the end of 2014.

"It was a very bad situation," said Wahidullah, who was a teenager when he was wounded in the 1992-1996 civil war. "All these streets around here were full of bullet shells, burned tanks and vehicles," he added, squinting into a setting sun that cast a golden glow on the bombed-out Darulaman Palace still standing in west Kabul not far from where he was wounded.

"People could not find bread or water, but rockets were everywhere," said Wahidullah, who now hobbles around on red-handled crutches. He goes by one name only, as do many Afghans.

The dilapidated palace is a reminder of the horror of the civil war when rival factions -- who had joined forces against Soviet fighters before they left in early 1989 -- turned their guns on each other. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed.

Social media, shifting consumer habits erode greeting card market

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Say it’s your birthday or you’ve just had a baby, maybe got engaged or bought your first house. If you’re like many Americans, your friends are texting their congratulations, sending you an e-card or clicking "Like" on your Facebook wall.

But how many will send a paper greeting card?

"I’m really, really bad at it," said Melissa Uhl. The 25-year-old nanny from Kansas City, Mo., hears from friends largely through Facebook. "Maybe," she said, "an e-card from my mom."

Once a staple of birthdays and holidays, paper greeting cards are fewer and farther between -- now seen as something special, instead of something that’s required. The cultural shift is a worrisome challenge for the nation’s top card maker, Hallmark Cards Inc., which last week announced it will close a Kansas plant that made one-third of its greeting cards. In consolidating its Kansas operations, Kansas City-based Hallmark plans to shed 300 jobs.

Pete Burney, Hallmark’s senior vice president who overseas production, says "competition in our industry is indeed formidable" and that "consumers do have more ways to connect digitally and online and through social media."

What Jerry Sandusky can expect in prison after his sentencing set for Tuesday

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Jerry Sandusky will walk into state prison with little more than a watch and wedding band. He’ll be able to work a 30-hour week to make a few dollars. He’ll be able to watch Penn State football, but not violent movies.

If the former Penn State defensive coach is sentenced Tuesday to a long state prison term, he will find himself far removed from the comfortable suburban life he once led, placed under the many rules and regulations of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

Even Sandusky’s own attorney believes that whatever sentence he gets, at age 68 Sandusky will likely live out his days inside a state prison. Prison officials, written policies and former offenders provided a detailed look to The Associated Press about the regimented life behind bars that Sandusky faces.

Sandusky has been housed in isolation inside the Centre County Correctional Facility in Bellefonte since his conviction in June on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, and has spent his days reading and writing, preparing a statement for sentencing, and working out twice a day, defense attorney Joe Amendola said.

"Jerry is a very likable guy -- he gets along with everybody," Amendola said last week, as he worked with Sandusky to help get his affairs in order, including a power of attorney and updated will. "He’s a model inmate. He doesn’t cause problems, he’s sociable, he’s pleasant."

Calif. gasoline prices hit new all-time high for second straight day; jumps 4 cents overnight

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- California motorists faced another day of record-breaking gasoline prices Sunday, though relief appeared to be on the way.

In its latest update early Sunday, AAA reported that the statewide average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $4.655. Saturday’s average of $4.6140 was the highest since June 19, 2008, when it was $4.6096.

The four-penny-per-gallon jump Sunday was less than Saturday’s increase, which was 12 cents.

Sunday’s price, like Saturday’s, was the highest in the nation, with the Golden State overtaking Hawaii as the state with the most expensive fuel due to a temporary reduction in supply.

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered state smog regulators Sunday to allow winter-blend gasoline to be sold in California earlier than usual to help drive prices down. Winter-blend gas typically isn’t sold until after October 31. Few refineries outside the state are currently making summer-blend gas, putting the pressure on already-taxed California manufacturers.