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World briefly for Aug. 14

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POSTED: August 14, 2012 9:51 a.m.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — In his run for a second term, President Barack Obama had an opponent before he had an opponent: House Republicans. They shellacked him in the midterm elections, blocked much of his legislative agenda and pushed economic views that are wildly different from his.

Mitt Romney put a campaign face on all that for Obama: Paul Ryan.

Now Obama is attacking both the "do-nothing Congress" and Romney at once, two forces united as a target on the Republican presidential ticket. Going after votes in Iowa on Monday, Obama called Ryan the "ideological leader" of House Republicans and singled him out as "one of the leaders of Congress standing in the way" of a bill to help farmers in a time of disastrous drought.

"I've gotten to know Congressman Ryan. He's a good man. He's a family man. He's a very articulate spokesperson for Governor Romney's vision," Obama said in Boone on the first of a three-day bus tour through Iowa. "The problem is it's the wrong vision for America. It's a vision that I fundamentally disagree with."

Obama also has something with Ryan that he does not with the presumptive Republican nominee — a relationship of sorts. Obama has laughed with Ryan, sparred with him and attacked his ideas right in front of him. Even their favorite football teams, Obama's Chicago Bears and Ryan's Green Bay Packers, are rivals.

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Romney-Ryan ticket faces growing pains as Dems attack Medicare proposals

DENVER (AP) — The newly shaped Republican presidential ticket is fighting growing pains amid charges from President Barack Obama's re-election team that challenger Mitt Romney favors his new running mate's controversial plans to overhaul Medicare and cut trillions of dollars from social programs.

The debate moves across five swing states as both campaigns operate at full strength for a second day.

Romney will spend Tuesday in Ohio on the final day of his multistate bus tour, having dispatched his vice presidential pick, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, to court voters and donors in Colorado and Nevada. For all the advantages of having a running mate to share the workload, the Republicans are working through the challenge of planning double the events, coordinating messaging on the road, handling new security stresses and simply getting to know each other.

All the while, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are linking Romney to Ryan's House Republican budget proposals, which could affect millions of Americans — seniors in particular — if enacted.

Obama is holding events in Iowa on the second day of a single-state bus tour, while Biden, who played the role of Obama's attack dog on Monday, is set to campaign in rural southern Virginia.

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Veteran police officer serving warrant among 3 killed in shootout near Texas A&M University

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — A routine serving of an eviction notice to a man living near the Texas A&M University campus turned deadly for Brazos County Constable Brian Bachmann when the resident opened fire on him, leading to the death of the law enforcement officer and another man before the gunman was killed.

The spasm of deadly violence Monday left a neighborhood shaken, a tight-knit law enforcement community in mourning and the family of 35-year-old gunman Thomas Alton Caffall anguished and "distraught by the havoc that he has caused."

Just after noon, College Station police began fielding frantic 911 calls reporting shots being fired. Officers responding saw the 41-year-old Bachmann down on the lawn and also were taking gunfire.

For nearly 30 minutes police exchanged shots with Caffall, 35.

By then, Bachmann, a police instructor, one-time Officer of the Year and a married father of two, had been mortally wounded. So was Chris Northcliff, 43, of College Station, who was outside and apparently caught up in the gunfire.

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Cosmo's Helen Gurley Brown leaves a legacy of frank sexual talk and a message of fulfillment

NEW YORK (AP) — Before there was "Sex and the City," there was "Sex and the Single Girl." And before there was Carrie Bradshaw, there was Helen Gurley Brown.

True, Carrie, the fun-loving and fashionable sex columnist of the HBO series, was fictional. But such was the influence of Brown, the long-serving Cosmopolitan editor (and "Sex and the Single Girl" author) who died Monday at age 90, that her admirers reached into pop culture as well as recent American history to describe her importance.

"Carrie and her friends couldn't have lived the lives they did without Helen," said Bonnie Fuller, the celebrity editor who succeeded Brown at Cosmopolitan in 1997. "She was the first woman to say you could have it all — and by that she meant a career AND a man AND a hot sex life. She was a visionary. She created the modern woman."

And why limit talk of her influence to the United States? "Hers has been a liberating message for women in other countries, too," said Kate White, current editor of Cosmopolitan. "It's about choice — choosing the life you want, and not worrying about what people think."

And, well, having fun — in the bedroom, to be precise. After all, why should sex be fun only for men? Brown's motto was emblazoned on a pillow in her office, says White: "Good girls go to heaven," it said. "Bad girls go everywhere."

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Visit to Russian underground sect reveals few signs of horrors trumpeted by authorities

KAZAN, Russia (AP) — Authorities spoke of a creepy cult living in an "eight-level ant house" dug deep into the ground, where children were kept in unheated cells and starved of daylight. A visit to the compound suggests a more ordinary reality.

A brief visit inside the compound, which provided shocking headlines around the world when police raided it and seized the children, revealed none of the elaborate underground design described by prosecutors. Nor does a police video showing rooms inside. The father of a cult member, who originally disapproved of his daughter joining the group, said he was able to visit freely and has no complaints about how members live or treat their children.

The conflicting portrayals raise questions about whether authorities may have exaggerated the eccentricity of the sect, perhaps in an effort to show they are cracking down on radical Islamic groups. The spokeswoman for Kazan prosecutors did not answer repeated calls to her office and cell phones on Monday.

Police stumbled upon the bizarre sect in early August as they investigated what they described as a terrorist attack that killed a top cleric in oil-rich Tatarstan, a central Russian province where the population is about 60 percent Muslim. Officials blamed the attack on the radical Islamic groups proliferating in the region.

Police seized the 20 children living in the compound and put them in orphanages. Their parents were charged with child abuse, which prosecutors said could deprive them of custody for up to two years. Prosecutors allege that the children, who did not attend public schools, lived in conditions "unfit for humans," in small, dark and unventilated cells dug into the earth. Health officials said the children rarely saw the light of day.

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Panetta says plans to set up a 'no-fly zone' over Syria not on front burner

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says plans to set up a no-fly zone over parts of Syria are "not on the front burner," despite persistent calls from rebel forces there that they need the added protection from escalating regime airstrikes.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Panetta said he is confident the U.S. could successfully enforce a no-fly zone over Syria, but doing so would require a "major, major policy decision" that has not yet been made.

"We have planned for a number of contingencies that could take place and one of those possible contingencies is developing a no-fly zone. But we've also pointed out difficulties in being able to implement that," Panetta said. "It's not on the front burner as far as I know."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said recently that Washington and Turkey are discussing a range of steps, including a no-fly zone over some parts of Syria. Rebel leaders have expressed frustration that the United States has limited its assistance to non-lethal aid.

The U.S. and its NATO allies successfully enforced a no-fly zone over Libya last year, as rebels there made gains and eventually ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Syria, however, has relatively modern air defenses that are far more plentiful and sophisticated than those in Libya. Syria buys its arms from Russia and is backed in its efforts to tamp down the rebels by Iran.

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Penn State receives accreditation warning on abuse scandal; officials express confidence

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Penn State has been put on notice by an accrediting organization that says the university's status is "in jeopardy" based on recent developments in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which accredits universities in the Mid-Atlantic region, cited information in the school's internal investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh and the severe penalties imposed by the NCAA over the school's handling of molestation allegations against the former assistant football coach, who was convicted in June of 45 child sexual abuse counts.

In an Aug. 8 notice, the commission said that Penn State remains accredited while "on warning" but it wants a monitoring report submitted by the end of next month detailing steps taken to ensure full compliance with governmental requirements, that the university's mission is being carried out, that the commission will be fully informed and that Penn State is complying with standards on leadership and governance as well as integrity.

The commission also wants the report to address the university's ability to bear financial obligations stemming from "the investigation and related settlements, etc." It said "a small team visit" will be made, a standard practice "to verify institutional status and progress."

Penn State officials on Monday expressed confidence that they would be able to address all concerns expressed by the commission.

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For all the hype, vice presidential picks rarely end up deciding race for the White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — It happens every four years in the dog days of summer: The presidential candidate — both of them, in some years — picks a running mate.

There's the buildup, the rabid speculation about who's being considered, then the all-important rollout, sending the media and the political world into a frenzy.

As Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan have undoubtedly learned, there are plenty of boxes to check.

Will the vice presidential pick give the ticket geographic diversity? Help the candidate appeal to blue-collar voters? Women? Minorities? How about foreign policy experience, legislative knowhow, private-sector skills?

Will any of it make a difference?

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TransUnion: Late payment rate on US credit cards edges higher in Q2, but near 18-year-low

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Americans are carrying more credit card debt than a year ago, yet the late-payment rate for card holders remains near an 18-year low, an analysis of consumer-credit data shows.

The average credit card debt per borrower in the U.S. grew about 6 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, credit reporting agency TransUnion said Tuesday.

At the same time, the rate of payments at least 90 days overdue inched higher to 0.63 percent from 0.60 percent in the same period last year, when the rate hit the lowest level in 18 years. Card delinquencies sank to 0.56 percent in the third quarter of 1994, the firm said.

The April-to-June figures reflect how consumers have been managing their credit card use since the start of the last recession toward the end of 2007.

Many borrowers have taken steps to save money and whittle down their debt. Among homeowners with a mortgage, many have made credit card bills a priority over their home loans and other financial obligations.

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Gabby's post-Olympic victory tour brings her to 'Tonight'; stage time with Michelle Obama

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Olympic champion Gabby Douglas basked in the "Tonight" spotlight and the admiration of fellow guest Michelle Obama, but the teenager already is thinking ahead to 2016.

Host Jay Leno, who noted that Douglas' last name was an anagram for "USA gold," asked Monday if the gymnast intended to compete in the next Summer Games, in Rio de Janeiro.

"Oh, definitely," she replied, reaffirming previous statements.

The 16-year-old looked like a winner, dressed in a gold metallic skirt and a fitted, black motorcycle jacket. Her hair, worn in a utilitarian bun during the Olympics, was gathered in a chic ponytail.

Her best accessory were the two gold medals she carried onstage, handing one to Leno and the other to Mrs. Obama for closer inspection.

 

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