Monday October 15, 2012

Obama, Romney skip campaigning Sunday to focus on preparing for next debate, Tuesday in N.Y.

BURLINGTON, Mass. (AP) -- As Mitt Romney’s campaign claimed new momentum in the race for the White House, President Barack Obama’s political advisers on Sunday promised the incumbent would unleash his more aggressive side in Tuesday’s debate to prevent their Republican rival from delivering another "magical and theatrical performance."

Obama and Romney hunkered down in private debate preparation for much of the day as aides offered a pre-debate sparring match on television.

They disagreed on much, but agreed that Romney bested Obama in their first meeting nearly two weeks ago -- a performance that shifted the direction of a race that had favored the president but has since tightened in national and battleground state polls.

"He knows Mitt Romney had a better night at the first debate," Obama spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said of the president. "The American people should expect to see a much more energized President Obama."

Ed Gillespie, senior adviser to the Romney campaign, quipped that the former Massachusetts governor would be prepared regardless of Obama’s adjustments: "The president can change his style. He can change his tactics. He can’t change his record.


Advertisement

"

Human rights group accuses
Syrian air force of dropping
cluster bombs on its own people

BEIRUT (AP) -- The Syrian regime was accused Sunday of dropping cluster bombs -- indiscriminate scattershot munitions banned by most nations -- in a new sign of desperation and disregard for its own people.

The international group Human Rights Watch cited amateur video and testimony from the front lines in making the allegation against the government of President Bashar Assad.

Syria and Turkey, meanwhile, declared their skies off-limits to each other amid mounting cross-border tensions in Syria’s 19-month-old conflict, now a civil war. Turkey is an outspoken backer of rebels trying to oust Assad.

The weekend’s mutual ban on overflights is part of Turkey’s increasingly assertive stance toward Syria that has stirred concerns about a regional conflagration. In the past two weeks, Turkey has retaliated for stray Syrian shells and mortar rounds, intercepted a Syrian passenger plane on suspicion it carried military equipment, and -- according to a Turkish newspaper Sunday -- sent more warships to naval bases north of the Syrian coastline.

Inside Syria, rebel fighters and regime forces have been locked in a bloody stalemate for weeks, with rebels holding large rural stretches in the heavily populated western area, but unable to dislodge Assad’s troops from urban centers. During the summer, the regime escalated shelling and airstrikes on rebel-held neighborhoods.

At CDC, scientists fight fungus blamed for meningitis outbreak linked to steroid injections

ATLANTA (AP) -- Scattered across the carefully landscaped main campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the staff on the front lines fighting a rare outbreak of fungal meningitis: A scientist in a white lab coat peers through a microscope at fungi on a glass slide. In another room, another researcher uses what looks like a long, pointed eye dropper to suck up DNA samples that will be tested for the suspect fungus.

Not far away in another building is the emergency operations center, which is essentially the war room. There’s a low hum of voices as employees work the phones, talking to health officials, doctors and patients who received potentially contaminated pain injections believed to be at the root of the outbreak. Workers sit at rows of computers, gathering data, advising doctors and reaching out to thousands of people who may have been exposed. Overall, dozens of people are working day and night to bring the outbreak under control. More than 200 people in 14 states have been sickened, including 15 who have died.

There is a sense of urgency -- people are dying, and lives could be saved if those who are sickened get treated in time. But it’s not a race against a fast-spreading illness like avian flu or SARS -- or even the fictional virus the CDC fails to unravel in the popular TV series "The Walking Dead." Unlike those outbreaks, this strain of meningitis isn’t contagious and doesn’t spread between people. It is likely isolated to the contaminated steroid, produced by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.

"This is a very unusual infection," said Dr. John Jernigan, a CDC medical epidemiologist who is leading the clinical investigation team for the outbreak response. "So, treatment recommendations, diagnostic recommendations are all going to be new, and we’re learning as we go on this one."

Meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, is not uncommon. But it is usually caused by bacteria, and it is very unusual to see it in patients with normal immune systems, Jernigan said. This strain is caused by a fungus that is common in dirt and grasses -- people routinely come into contact with it without getting sick -- but it has never before been identified as the cause of meningitis.

CPSC promised to protect
kids from cadmium jewelry,
still failing on basic steps

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Federal regulators failed to pursue recalls after they found cadmium-tainted jewelry on store shelves, despite their vow to keep the toxic trinkets out of children’s hands, an Associated Press investigation shows.

Officials at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also have not warned parents about the contaminated items already in their homes.

More than two years after the AP revealed that some Chinese factories were substituting cadmium for banned lead, the CPSC still hasn’t determined the extent of the contamination.

Contaminated jewelry is surely less prevalent in the U.S. than before its widespread presence was first documented. However, rings, bracelets and pendants containing cadmium and marketed for preteen girls were purchased over the last year. The AP and representatives of two consumer groups were able to buy the items in Los Angeles, suburban San Francisco, central Ohio and upstate New York.

Despite touting its work as a model of proactive regulation, the agency tasked with protecting Americans from dangerous everyday products often has been reactive -- or inactive.

Gun-rights groups warming to Romney as Obama works other angles to court outdoor enthusiasts

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Gun-rights groups perceive President Barack Obama as a threat to unfettered access to firearms. They once had qualms about Mitt Romney, too.

But times and circumstances have changed for Romney, the GOP presidential nominee now in tune with the National Rifle Association and similar organizations, whose members are motivated voters.

In the tight White House race, every bit of support helps, especially in the most closely contested states and particularly from groups that claim millions of members nationwide.

Romney’s prior embrace of weapon-control proposals had put him crossways with the NRA and others. These days, Romney is on their good side by opposing renewal of a federal ban on semiautomatic weapons, additional regulations on gun shows and suggested federal gun registration requirements.

The NRA and some less prominent organizations are spending big money on mailings, radio ads, TV commercials and booths at game fairs to promote the former Massachusetts governor and portray Obama as hostile to gun rights.

Space shuttle Endeavour
arrives at Los Angeles museum after 12 mile trip across city

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It took much longer than expected, but the Space shuttle Endeavour has finally reached its permanent resting place at a Los Angeles museum.

After a 12-mile journey through city streets that included thousands of adoring onlookers, flashing cameras and even the filming of a TV commercial, Endeavour arrived at the California Science Center Sunday to a greeting party of city leaders and other dignitaries that had expected it many hours earlier.

The Endeavour was still slowly moving toward a hangar on the grounds of the museum mid-Sunday afternoon.

Organizers had planned a slow trip, saying the spacecraft that once orbited at more than 17,000 mph would move at just 2 mph in its final voyage.

But that estimate turned out to be generous, with Endeavour often creeping along at a barely detectable pace when it wasn’t at a dead stop due to difficult-to-maneuver obstacles like trees and light posts.