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World briefly on Aug. 21

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POSTED: August 21, 2012 8:04 a.m.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rep. Todd Akin vowed to fight on in his embattled Senate campaign, but an significant deadline loomed Tuesday that was bound to intensify pressure on the Missouri congressman to abandon the race over his comments that women's bodies can prevent pregnancies in cases of "legitimate rape."

Akin spent Monday trying to salvage his once-promising bid against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in a race long targeted by the GOP as crucial to regaining control of the Senate. But ominous signs were mounting against the six-term legislator from suburban St. Louis, mostly notably the apparent loss of millions of dollars in campaign advertising money.

Akin went on two conservative radio shows Monday, pledging to keep the campaign alive, even as some people in his own party urged him to step aside.

The decision has some urgency. Missouri election law allows candidates to withdraw 11 weeks before Election Day. That means the deadline to exit the Nov. 6 election is 5 p.m. Tuesday. Otherwise, a court order would be needed to remove a name from the ballot.

"I was told the decision has to be made by 5 tomorrow, but I was calling you and letting you know that I'm announcing today that we're in," Akin told radio host Sean Hannity.

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NYPD official: Muslim spying by secret Demographics Unit generated no leads, terrorism cases

NEW YORK (AP) — In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday.

The Demographics Unit is at the heart of a police spying program, built with help from the CIA, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames.

Police hoped the Demographics Unit would serve as an early warning system for terrorism. And if police ever got a tip about, say, an Afghan terrorist in the city, they'd know where he was likely to rent a room, buy groceries and watch sports.

But in a June 28 deposition as part of a longstanding federal civil rights case, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati said none of the conversations the officers overheard ever led to a case.

"Related to Demographics," Galati testified that information that has come in "has not commenced an investigation."

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Syrian forces capture rebel-held town near capital Damascus, 23 opposition fighters killed

BEIRUT (AP) — Activists say government forces have stormed a rebel-held town outside the Syrian capital Damascus after days of fierce fighting, killing at least 23 fighters.

The Local Coordination Committees activist group and a rebel spokesman said regime troops entered Moadamiyeh Tuesday at dawn and troops were searching homes looking for rebels. The rebel spokesman asked to be identified by his first name only, Ahmed. The report could not be independently verified.

On Monday, a Japanese TV reporter was killed in the northern city of Aleppo, the first foreign journalist to die in weeks of fighting between rebels and regime forces in the northern city.

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Trade fair in North Korea's northeastern tip gives locals and foreigners chance to make a deal

RASON, North Korea (AP) — Fleets of shiny minivans, Chinese-made bulldozers and dump trucks festooned with red ribbons fill the plaza while toys, clothes and even probiotics digestive capsules are on display inside an exhibition hall.

Walking past the booths and examining the goods are Chinese, North Koreans and even some Europeans, who are exchanging business cards and sharing lively conversations -- North Korea is once again hosting an international trade fair, which opened Monday in Rason in the far northeast, a city seeking to sell itself as friendly to foreigners and a potential hub for international transportation, trade and tourism.

It's a scene not common in the rest of North Korea, where most business is state-run and interaction between foreigners and locals is strictly monitored.

The trade fair is an indication of how keen the insular nation is to attract foreign investment needed to reform its listless economy. Pyongyang has not publicly released detailed economic data for decades, but has made building the economy a focus of government policy since 2009. Rason, however, is one of North Korea's newly revamped special economic zones, governed by a separate set of laws and rules giving local officials more autonomy, and easier to access from the Chinese city of Yanji than from the North Korea capital of Pyongyang.

With its economy languishing in sharp contrast to the booming market economies of its neighbors in Northeast Asia, Pyongyang has turned in recent years to China to provide trade, investment and knowhow in exchange for access to its minerals and labor.

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Mindset List: Class of 2016 doesn't use radios or watch TVs, and sees women as leaders

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Remember when suitcases had to be carried instead of rolled? Or when an airline ticket was a booklet of pages separated by carbon paper? Maybe you remember when Lou Gehrig held the Major League record for consecutive baseball games played.

This year's college freshmen don't.

They never lived in a world where Kurt Cobain was alive or an NFL team played its home games in Los Angeles. The Class of 2016 has no need for radios, watches television everywhere except on actual TV sets and is addicted to "electronic narcotics."

These are among the 75 references on this year's Beloit College Mindset List, a nonscientific compilation is meant to remind teachers that college freshmen, born mostly in 1994, see the world in a much different way.

The students are also accustomed to seeing women in position of leadership. They were born at a time when Madeline Albright was serving as the first female U.S. secretary of state, and women have held the position for most of their lives.

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NATO: Plane of US joint chiefs of staff hit by rocket fire in Afghanistan; general safe

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Militants fired rockets into a U.S. base in Afghanistan and damaged the plane of the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff while he was on a visit, but the general was not near the aircraft, a spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition said Tuesday.

The attack on the plane of U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey represented yet another propaganda coup for the Taliban after they claimed to have shot down a U.S. helicopter last week. It also followed a string of disturbing killings of U.S. military trainers by their Afghan partners or militants dressed in Afghan uniforms.

Two maintenance workers were slightly injured by shrapnel from the two rockets that were fired into Bagram Air Field outside Kabul on Monday night, coalition spokesman Jamie Graybeal said.

Dempsey "was nowhere near" the plane when the rockets hit near where the aircraft was parked, Graybeal said.

The spokesman added that Dempsey had finished his mission in Afghanistan and had left by Tuesday morning, though it was unclear what plane he flew out on or how badly the targeted plane was damaged.

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GOP delegates want tough talk, yearn to party like 1980, when Democrat was ousted after 1 term

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans heading to their party convention are eager to hear an earful about the shortcomings of President Barack Obama's record, the woeful U.S. economy and the competing visions of the two presidential candidates. What they aren't looking for is any mention of compromise, which most Americans say is necessary to get the nation back on track.

The Republicans want a party like in 1980, when the GOP ousted a Democratic president after one term.

Delegates from around the country have big dreams for the Aug. 27-30 gathering in Tampa, Fla., where Mitt Romney will accept the party's nomination and Republicans will kick off their final push to defeat Obama. They sketched out a sharp message they want to hear from speaker after speaker — onetime White House hopefuls, GOP governors, congressional leaders and the party's top recruits angling to win a job in Washington.

Conventions are four-day slugfests directed at the opposing party and its candidate. The rhetoric is brutal, vitriolic and far from conciliatory. Some lines are memorable.

"Poor George, he can't help it — he was born with a silver foot in his mouth," quipped Texas state treasurer Ann Richards to laughs and applause at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta in 1988. Her target was the well-heeled GOP nominee, Vice President George H.W. Bush.

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Autopsy rules suicide, but supporters seek more answers about man shot in Ark. police car

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Hours after police released an autopsy report that ruled the shooting death of a young man in the back of a patrol car was a suicide, dozens of the man's supporters and relatives gathered Monday night in Memphis for a candlelight vigil.

The report from the Arkansas state crime lab says Chavis Carter, 21, tested positive for methamphetamine, anti-anxiety medication and other drugs. It ruled his death a suicide and says the muzzle of a handgun he apparently concealed from arresting officers was placed against his right temple when it was fired.

Instead of focusing on the newly released report, some supporters at the vigil were asking more questions.

"How (did) he shoot himself in his right temple and he (was) left-handed? In handcuffs?" one of his friends, Bianca Tipton, asked.

The state crime lab report, released to The Associated Press and other news organizations under a public records request, didn't answer that question.

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Phyllis Diller blazed trail for female comedians like Joan Rivers, Ellen DeGeneres

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Long before Kathy Griffin was languishing on the D-list, Roseanne Barr was calling herself a domestic goddess and Joan Rivers was asking audiences if they could talk, wild-haired housewife-turned-comedian Phyllis Diller was dishing one-liners about her husband, Fang.

"I should have suspected my husband was lazy," she once joked. "On our wedding day, his mother told me, 'I'm not losing a son. I'm gaining a couch.'"

Diller was the template for self-deprecating female comedians. She not only motivated a generation of funny women, such as Ellen DeGeneres and Whoopi Goldberg, her silver-tongued zingers — often punctuated by her trademark cackle — paved the way for them. And she inspired funny guys, too.

"Loved her," wrote Andy Richter on Twitter on Monday. "Sad to hear she died. A hero of mine." Dane Cook called her "a funny human being that brought tons of laughs to this world," while Patton Oswalt said she always seemed "genuinely tickled and happy" during her near century of life.

Diller passed away Monday morning in her Los Angeles home at age 95. She faced the end, fittingly, "with a smile on her face," said longtime manager Milton Suchin. The comedian, who suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 1999, was found by her son, Perry Diller. The cause of her death has not been released.

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FERGUSON ON GOLF: Augusta membership decision makes everyone feel like a winner

NEW YORK (AP) — Don't overlook the two biggest winners in Augusta National's decision to invite women to join the club.

Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore are now members of one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the world. They will be presented green jackets when the golf course opens for a new season in October. They can attend the members-only parties, including the Jamboree each spring. Members are discouraged from playing too much at the home of the Masters, though they can bring guests and stay in the white cabins along the 10th fairway.

If their schedules allow, they will be assigned a committee during the Masters. They will be at the members-only dinner in an upstairs chalet at the end of the tournament to toast the newest Masters champion.

But they weren't the only winners.

The only thing Augusta National ever says about membership issues is that it doesn't discuss them. Nothing spoke to the historic nature of Monday's decision more than club chairman Billy Payne issuing a press release to confirm Rice and Moore as the newest members.

 

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