Thursday October 25, 2012

Obama predicts deal on deficits and immigration in 2nd term; Romney makes election personal

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) -- President Barack Obama is confidently predicting speedy second-term agreement with Republicans to reduce federal deficits and overhaul immigration laws, commenting before setting out Wednesday on a 40-hour campaign marathon through battleground states that could decide whether he’ll get the chance. Republican Mitt Romney looked to the Midwest for a breakthrough in a close race shadowed by a weak economy.

Romney declared, "We’re going to get this economy cooking again," addressing a boisterous crowd in Reno, Nev., before flying back eastward to tend to his prospects in Ohio and Iowa. Romney urged audience members to consider their personal circumstances, and he said the outcome of the Nov. 6 election "will make a difference for the nation, will make a difference for the families of the nation and will make a difference for your family, individually and specifically."

With 13 days until Election Day, opinion polls depicted a close race nationally. Romney’s campaign claims momentum as well as the lead in Florida and North Carolina, two battleground states with a combined 44 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Obama’s aides insist the president is ahead or tied with his rival in both of those states and in the other seven decisive battlegrounds.


Advertisement

Not even Obama, in an interview with radio host Tom Joyner, predicted that fellow Democrats would win control of the House from Republicans, who are looking to renew a majority they won two years ago in a landslide triggered by the tea party.

The Democrats and Republicans are struggling uncertainly for control of the Senate. And for the second time, a hard-fought Senate campaign was jolted by a dispute over abortion, in this case a statement by Republican Richard Mourdock of Indiana that when a woman becomes pregnant by rape, "that’s something God intended" and there should be no abortion allowed.

Foreign Islamic militants worry Syrian rebels but also provide a powerful boost to their fight

ALEPPO, Syria (AP) -- The presence of foreign Islamic militants battling Syria’s regime is raising concerns over the possible injection of al-Qaida’s influence into the country’s civil war.

Syria’s rebels share some of those misgivings. But they also see in the foreign extremists a welcome boost: experienced, disciplined fighters whose battlefield valor against the better-armed troops of President Bashar Assad is legendary.

Nothing typifies the dilemma more than Jabhat al-Nusra, a shadowy group with an al-Qaida-style ideology whose fighters come from Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Balkans and elsewhere. Many are veterans of previous wars who came to Syria for what they consider a new "jihad" against Assad.

The group has become notorious for numerous suicide bombings during the 19-month-old conflict. Syria’s rebels have tried to disassociate themselves from the bombings for fear their uprising will be tainted with the al-Qaida brand.

But several hundred fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra have also been a valued addition to rebel ranks in the grueling, three-month battle for control of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

E-mail: State Department told White House militants claimed responsibility for Libya attack

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two hours after the U.S. Consulate came under attack in Benghazi, Libya, the White House was told that a militant group was claiming responsibility for the violence that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

A State Department email sent to intelligence officials and the White House situation room said the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter, and also called for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

The document may fuel Republican efforts to show that the White House knew it was a terrorist attack, even as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was saying -- five days afterward -- that it appeared to be a protest gone awry.

The Obama administration’s account of the Benghazi events has become a campaign issue, with Republican challenger Mitt Romney and GOP lawmakers accusing the White House of misleading Americans about the nature of the attack. But militant groups often surface after such attacks claiming responsibility and it’s difficult to immediately verify such claims.

The Associated Press and other news organizations obtained the unclassified email and two related emails from government officials who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about them publicly.

Whites more likely than blacks, Hispanics to get CPR from family or bystanders, study shows

CHICAGO (AP) -- People who collapse from cardiac arrest in poor black neighborhoods are half as likely to get CPR from family members at home or bystanders on the street as those in better-off white neighborhoods, according to a study that found the reasons go beyond race.

The findings suggest a big need for more knowledge and training, the researchers said.

The study looked at data on more than 14,000 people in 29 U.S. cities. It’s one of the largest to show how race, income and other neighborhood characteristics combine to affect someone’s willingness to offer heart-reviving help.

More than 300,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in their homes or other non-hospital settings every year, and most don’t survive. A cardiac arrest is when the heart stops, and it’s often caused by a heart attack, but not always. Quick, hard chest compressions can help people survive.

For their study, researchers looked at the makeup of neighborhoods and also the race of the victims. They found that blacks and Hispanics were 30 percent less likely to be aided than white people. The odds were the worst if the heart victim was black in a low-income black neighborhood.

U.S. suit cites ‘brazen’ mortgage fraud at Countrywide, even after Bank of America purchase

NEW YORK (AP) -- The latest federal lawsuit over alleged mortgage fraud paints an unflattering picture of a doomed lender: Executives at Countrywide Financial urged workers to churn out loans, accepted fudged applications and tried to hide ballooning defaults.

The suit, filed Wednesday by the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, also underscored how Bank of America’s purchase of Countrywide in July 2008, just before the financial crisis, backfired severely.

The prosecutor, Preet Bharara, said he was seeking more than $1 billion, but the suit could ultimately recover much more in damages.

"This lawsuit should send another clear message that reckless lending practices will not be tolerated," Bharara said in a statement. He described Countrywide’s practices as "spectacularly brazen in scope."

He also charged that Bank of America has resisted buying back soured mortgages from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which bought loans from Countrywide.

Study: Aspirin may treat certain types of colon cancer; a gene-targeted drug for just pennies?

NEW YORK (AP) -- Aspirin, one of the world’s oldest and cheapest drugs, has shown remarkable promise in treating colon cancer in people with mutations in a gene that’s thought to play a role in the disease.

Among patients with the mutations, those who regularly took aspirin lived longer than those who didn’t, a major study found. Five years after their cancers were diagnosed, 97 percent of the aspirin users were still alive versus 74 percent of those not taking the drug.

Aspirin seemed to make no difference in patients who did not have the mutations.

This sort of study can’t prove that aspirin caused the better survival, and doctors say more research must confirm the findings before aspirin can be recommended more widely. The study wasn’t designed to test aspirin; people were taking it on their own for various reasons.

Still, the results suggest that this simple medicine might be the cheapest gene-targeting therapy ever found for cancer. About one-sixth of all colon cancer patients have the mutated gene and might be helped by aspirin. And aspirin costs just pennies a day.

Provocative research could lead to babies with DNA from 3 people, avoiding rare disease risk

NEW YORK (AP) -- Scientists in Oregon have created embryos with genes from one man and two women, using a provocative technique that could someday be used to prevent babies from inheriting certain rare incurable diseases.

The researchers at Oregon Health & Sciences University said they are not using the embryos to produce children, and it is not clear when or even if this technique will be put to use. But it has already stirred a debate over its risks and ethics in Britain, where scientists did similar work a few years ago.

The British experiments, reported in 2008, led to headlines about the possibility someday of babies with three parents. But that’s an overstatement. The DNA from the second woman amounts to less than 1 percent of the embryo’s genes, and it isn’t the sort that makes a child look like Mom or Dad. The procedure is simply a way of replacing some defective genes that sabotage the normal workings of cells.

The British government is asking for public comment on the technology before it decides whether to allow its use in the future. One concern it cites is whether such DNA alteration could be an early step down a slippery slope toward "designer babies" -- ordering up, say, a petite, blue-eyed girl or tall, dark-haired boy.

Questions have also arisen about the safety of the technique, not only for the baby who results from the egg, but also for the child’s descendants.