Tuesday October 16, 2012

Obama touts the economic record that some see as his biggest weakness in new campaign ad

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) -- With the economy showing some signs of improvement three weeks before Election Day, President Barack Obama on Monday laid down a full embrace of the economic record many Republicans say is his biggest weakness.

The president’s first act in this critical campaign week was to announce a new battleground state advertisement featuring voters discussing the ways their economic conditions have improved during his term. The ad was hitting the airwaves as Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney huddled in intense preparation for their second debate as polls show a closely fought campaign.

"This race is tied," Obama said in an appeal to supporters asking them to donate at least $5 to his re-election effort. He promised to be "fighting" for the election on the debate stage Tuesday night -- something many of his supporters thought he did too little of in his first face-off with Romney.

Early voting is under way in dozens of states, giving the candidates little chance to recover from any slip-ups that come in these final days. Obama has been trying to get his supporters to lock in their choice now, and his campaign announced Monday that he and his wife, Michelle, would become the first president and first lady to cast their ballots early.


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Obama planned to vote early during a visit to his home state of Illinois next week, while Michelle Obama told a rally in Delaware, Ohio, that she dropped her absentee ballot in the mail Monday. "For me, it was Election Day," she said.

Sept. 11 defendants back
at Guantanamo war
crimes court, without
antics of earlier hearing

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) -- Five Guantanamo prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 attacks returned before a military tribunal Monday, forgoing the protests that turned their last appearance into an unruly 13-hour spectacle.

But the apparent cooperation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has said he masterminded the worst terror attack on U.S. soil, and four codefendants did little to speed up proceedings that have stuck in a legal and political morass for years.

And Mohammed, dressed a white turban and traditional black vest, made clear he still feels a deep disdain for the proceedings, saying "I don’t think there is any justice in this court."

Defense lawyers spent hours arguing that their clients shouldn’t have to attend the hearing, saying they dredge up bad memories of their harsh treatment in CIA detention. The military judge ruled that the men would not have to attend the hearings at least for the rest of the week.

"Our clients may believe that ... I don’t want to be subjected to this procedure that transports me here, brings up memories, brings up emotions of things that happened to me," said Jim Harrington, who represents Ramzi Binalshibh, accused of helping to provide support to the hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.

FDA: Docs should check on patients who got other drugs made by pharmacy in meningitis outbreak

NEW YORK (AP) -- Two more drugs from a specialty pharmacy linked to a meningitis outbreak are now being investigated, U.S. health officials said, as they urged doctors to contact patients who got any kind of injection from the company.

The New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass., has been under scrutiny since last month, when a rare fungal form of meningitis was linked to its steroid shots used mostly for back pain.

Monday’s step by the Food and Drug Administration followed reports of three new infections. One is a report of a possible meningitis illness in a patient who got a spine injection of another type of steroid made by the company. The agency also learned of two heart transplant patients who got fungal infections after being given a third company product during surgery.

The illnesses are under investigation, and it’s very possible the heart patients were infected by another source, FDA officials cautioned. They did not say whether the meningitis case involved a fungal infection or where three infections occurred.

As of Monday, the current outbreak has sickened 214 people, including 15 who have died, in 15 states. For weeks, officials have been urging doctors to contact patients who got shots of the company’s steroid methylprednisolone acetate, advise them about the risks of fungal infection, and urge them to take any meningitis symptoms seriously.

White House wrestles with how, where to strike back
if Libya consulate attackers can be found

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House has put special operations strike forces on standby and moved drones into the skies above Africa, ready to strike militant targets from Libya to Mali -- if investigators can find the al-Qaida-linked group responsible for the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya.

But officials say the administration, with weeks until the presidential election, is weighing whether the short-term payoff of exacting retribution on al-Qaida is worth the risk that such strikes could elevate the group’s profile in the region, alienate governments the U.S. needs to fight it in the future and do little to slow the growing terror threat in North Africa.

Details on the administration’s position and on its search for a possible target were provided by three current and one former administration official, as well as an analyst who was approached by the White House for help. All four spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the high-level debates publicly.

The dilemma shows the tension of the White House’s need to demonstrate it is responding forcefully to al-Qaida, balanced against its long-term plans to develop relationships and trust with local governments and build a permanent U.S. counterterrorist network in the region.

Vice President Joe Biden pledged in his debate last week with Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan to find those responsible for the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.

Pakistani girl shot by Taliban lands in UK for specialized medical treatment

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) -- A teenage Pakistani activist shot in the head by the Taliban arrived in Britain on Monday to receive specialized medical care and protection from follow-up attacks threatened by the militants. Officials said she is stable and has a chance at "a good recovery."

The attack on 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai as she was returning home from school in Pakistan’s northwest a week ago has horrified people across the South Asian country and abroad. It has also sparked hope that the Pakistani government would respond by intensifying its fight against the Taliban and their allies.

Malala was targeted by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education and criticizing the militant group’s behavior when they took over the scenic Swat Valley where she lived. Two of her classmates were also wounded in the attack and are receiving treatment in Pakistan.

The Taliban have threatened to target Malala again until she is killed because she promotes "Western thinking."

Malala, who had been receiving treatment at a Pakistani military hospital, arrived at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in central England on Monday afternoon.

Pizza Hut rethinks presidential debate stunt following backlash

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pizza Hut is rethinking its contest daring people to ask "Sausage or Pepperoni?" at the presidential debate Tuesday.

After the stunt triggered backlash last week, the company says it’s moving the promotion online, where a contestant will be randomly selected to win free pizza for life.

The pizza delivery chain had offered the prize -- a pie a week for 30 years or a check for $15,600 -- to anyone who posed the question to either President Barack Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the live Town Hall-style debate.

But blogs and media outlets immediately took the pizza delivery chain to task for trying to capitalize on the election buzz by injecting itself into the process.

Pizza Hut spokesman Doug Terfehr said the majority of the feedback the company has seen has been very positive. He said that moving the contest online was a "natural progression of the campaign" after people got excited about the idea and "wished they could get in on it."

Historic mosque in Syria’s ancient city of Aleppo is burned; Assad orders repairs

BEIRUT (AP) -- A landmark mosque in Aleppo was burned, scarred by bullets and trashed -- the latest casualty of Syria’s civil war -- and President Bashar Assad on Monday ordered immediate repairs to try to stem Muslim outrage at the desecration of the 12th century site.

The Umayyad Mosque suffered extensive damage, as has the nearby medieval covered market, or souk, which was gutted by a fire that was sparked by fighting two weeks ago. The market and the mosque are centerpieces of Aleppo’s walled Old City, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Government troops had been holed up in the mosque for months before rebels launched a push this week to drive them out. Activists and Syrian government officials blamed each other for the weekend fire at the mosque.

Rebel supporters also alleged that regime forces defaced the shrine with offensive graffiti and drank alcohol inside, charges bound to further raise religious tensions in Syria. Many of the rebels are Sunni Muslims, while the regime is dominated by Alawites, or followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

"It’s all blackened now," activist Mohammad al-Hassan said of the site, also known as the Great Mosque. One of Syria’s oldest and largest shrines, it was built around a vast courtyard and enclosed in a compound adjacent to the ancient citadel.

Former wrestler Hulk Hogan filing lawsuits over sex video; says it was secretly taped

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Reality TV star and former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan is suing a Tampa Bay-based disc jockey, the DJ’s ex-wife and a New York media group over a sex tape.

According to a news release from Hogan’s publicist, two lawsuits will be discussed during a news conference Monday afternoon near the federal courthouse in Tampa.

Hogan says he was secretly taped six years ago having sex with the ex-wife of DJ Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem. Portions of the video of Hogan and Heather Clem were posted on the online gossip site Gawker.

Hogan has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Gawker.

Hogan’s real name is Terry Bollea.