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World briefly for Sep. 12

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Prime Time Specialty Mini Grid WIDGET

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POSTED: September 12, 2012 8:53 a.m.

CAIRO (AP) — Protesters angered over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad fired gunshots and burned down the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, killing at least one American, witnesses and the State Department said. In Egypt, protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, and tore and replaced the American flag with an Islamic banner.

Tuesday's attacks were the first such assaults on U.S. diplomatic facilities in either country, at a time when both Libya and Egypt are struggling to overcome the turmoil following the ouster of their longtime leaders, Moammar Gadhafi and Hosni Mubarak, in uprisings last year.

The protests in both countries were sparked by outrage over a film ridiculing Muhammad produced by an Israeli filmmaker living in California and being promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian campaigner in the United States. Excerpts from the film dubbed into Arabic were posted on YouTube.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed that one State Department officer had been killed in the protest at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. She strongly condemned the attack and said she had called Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif "to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya."

Clinton expressed concern that the protests might spread to other countries. She said the U.S. is working with "partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide."

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AP IMPACT: Common type of rail tanker has dangerous flaw that risks hazardous cargo spills

CHICAGO (AP) — For two decades, one of the most commonly used type of rail tanker has been allowed to haul hazardous liquids from coast to coast even though transportation officials were aware of a dangerous design flaw that almost guarantees the car will tear open in an accident, potentially spilling cargo that could catch fire, explode or contaminate the environment.

The rail and chemical industries have committed to a safer design for new tankers but are pressing regulators not to require modifications to tens of thousands of existing cars, despite a spike in the number of accidents as more tankers are put into service to accommodate soaring demand for ethanol, the highly flammable corn-based fuel usually transported by rail.

Derailments have triggered chemical spills and massive blasts like one in July in Columbus, Ohio, that blew up with such intensity that one witness said it "looked like the sun exploded." Some communities with busy railways are beginning to regard the tankers as a serious threat to public safety.

"There's a law of averages that gives me great concern," said Jim Arie, fire chief in Barrington, a wealthy Chicago suburb where ethanol tankers snake through a bustling downtown. "Sometimes I don't sleep well at night."

He's not the only one. The town's mayor is trying to build a national coalition to push for safety reforms.

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Obama, Romney return to campaigning after Sept. 11 anniversary; new jockeying in Wisconsin

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Reflection over Sept. 11 quickly past, the race for the White House is returning to fierce form, with negative ads free to fly again and the candidates spreading out from Florida to Ohio to Nevada.

In a campaign speech and a new TV ad, President Barack Obama was accusing Republican nominee Mitt Romney of failing to explain how he would pay for trillions of dollars in tax cuts.

Eying the possible electoral paths to victory, both campaigns are jockeying more in Wisconsin, a state that has long swung to Democrats in presidential elections.

Romney, in the midst of a campaign week that has slingshot him across the nation, was holding one event Wednesday — at his own campaign office in Jacksonville, Fla. He was expected to make the case that the nation's debt is undermining job creation and economic growth.

Obama was heading west, to Nevada, where he planned to hit Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan with charges of secrecy. The Obama campaign says the two Republicans are refusing to tell voters how they could pay for tax cuts that disproportionately help the wealthy without having to gut deductions for middle-class taxpayers.

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Many expect Fed to announce a third bond-buying program this week to try to boost US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — If the world's investors are right, the Federal Reserve is about to take a bold new step to try to invigorate the U.S. economy.

And many expect the Fed to unleash its most potent weapon: a third round of bond purchases meant to ease long-term interest rates and spur borrowing and spending. It's called "quantitative easing," or QE.

Others foresee a more measured response when the Fed ends a two-day policy meeting Thursday. They think it will extend its timetable for any rise in record-low short-term rates beyond the current target of late 2014 at the earliest.

On one point few disagree: The Fed feels driven to act now because the U.S. economy is still growing too slowly to reduce high unemployment. The unemployment rate has topped 8 percent every month since the Great Recession officially ended more than three years ago.

In August, job growth slowed sharply. The unemployment rate did fall to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent. But that was because many Americans stopped looking for work, so they were no longer counted as unemployed.

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Someone's watching: More than 200 British high schools have cameras in bathrooms, locker rooms

LONDON (AP) — At the King Ecgbert School in Sheffield, teens who go to the loos are never really alone — video cameras are inside all 12 bathrooms.

Citing findings gathered via freedom-of-information requests, privacy activists Wednesday identified King Ecgbert as one of more than 200 high schools across Britain that have installed surveillance cameras in bathrooms or locker rooms.

The group behind the report, Big Brother Watch, said a powerful watchdog is needed to ensure that students' privacy is protected.

The report "will come as a shock to many parents," said director Nick Pickles. "Schools need to come clean about why they are using these cameras and what is happening to the footage."

Lesley Bowes, King Ecgbert's principal, argued that the cameras help keep her students safe.

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In Chicago, teachers strike grinds into third day with no hint of imminent deal

CHICAGO (AP) — The public teachers strike that has halted classwork and upset family routines across the country's third largest city ground into a third day Wednesday with some movement reported by union and school board negotiators but no sign of an imminent deal.

Union leaders said they will meet Wednesday morning to review a new, comprehensive proposal from school board negotiators that addresses all the issues still on the table. The board has requested either a written response or a comprehensive counterproposal from the union.

But the teachers Tuesday were lowering expectations for an agreement, buoyed by energetic rallies in which even parents inconvenienced by the strike were waving placards in support. Other unions were joining in, with school custodian representatives saying their members will walk off the job this week as well.

Board President David Vitale, the lead schools negotiator, said early in the day that a deal could be reached, but union President Karen Lewis and her colleagues emerged from the talks accusing the board of having dug in its heels with its new proposal. Among the biggest remaining issues are a new teacher evaluation system and a process for deciding which laid-off teachers can be rehired.

"There's been — let's put it this way — centimeters (of progress) and we're still kilometers apart," said Lewis, who earlier stated it was "lunacy" to think the issues could be wrapped up quickly.

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Kissing babies and slapping backs? Yawn. Campaign 2012 offers body lifts and biker chicks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama goes airborne in a doozy of a bear hug with a pizza guy in Florida. Joe Biden cozies up with a biker chick in Ohio. Paul Ryan encircles a campaign supporter in North Carolina in a double-armed embrace. Even the more reserved Mitt Romney seems to be loosening up some with people he meets on the campaign trail.

Kissing babies and slapping backs are so yesterday.

The 2012 candidates are putting their all into the campaign cliche of pressing the flesh.

"America's become more touchy-feely," says Lillian Glass, a body language expert based in Los Angeles. "That's what they want in their candidates, and that's what they're getting."

When 74-year-old Jan Queen locked on to Biden for a hug and kiss in Jackson, Ohio, on Saturday, she didn't budge for a minute or so.

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After huge White House construction job, West Wing emerges little changed — but for how long?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House Big Dig is finally wrapping up, but the Big Reveal is proving to be a pretty big letdown.

After nearly two years and $86 million worth of noisy and disruptive construction, the West Wing has emerged from its visual seclusion remarkably unchanged. And deep underground, whatever has been built there remains shrouded in mystery.

Plus, if you ask what the next phase is in this massive, four-year project, the official answer is "TBD" — to be determined.

The construction project — officially a long overdue upgrade of White House utilities — began in September 2010 with the excavation of a huge, multistory pit in front of the West Wing, wrapping around to include West Executive Avenue, the street that separates the White House from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. A tall, green construction fence sprang up that blocked America's most famous office complex from public view.

But now the fence has come down, revealing the familiar whitewashed sandstone facade and the lone Marine guard who stands watch at the entrance to the West Wing lobby.

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Top German court rejects calls to block permanent eurozone rescue fund, markets rally

KARLSRUHE, Germany (AP) — Germany's high court on Wednesday rejected calls to block the Europe's permanent rescue fund, paving the way in a much-anticipated ruling for its ratification by the country's president.

Investors breathed a sigh of relief that Germany's highest court was not putting up a roadblock in a central part of Europe's efforts to contain its near three year debt crisis. Stocks across Europe rallied strongly, the euro spiked to a four-month high of $1.2897 and the borrowing rates of troubled economies, such as Spain and Italy, eased further too.

Opponents had challenged Germany's ratification of the European Stability Mechanism — a new, permanent €500 billion ($638.8 billion) bailout fund for the 17 countries that use the euro — arguing that it violated the country's constitution. They had sought an injunction preventing the country's president from signing the legislation into law.

Germany's ratification of the ESM is key, because the fund cannot work without the country's participation. Germany, as Europe's biggest economy, is the number one contributor the fund.

The taxpayer-backed fund is crucial to the eurozone's debt crisis resolution efforts because it can loan money to governments that can't borrow otherwise, and markets had been nervously awaiting the ruling.

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Death toll in factory fires in 2 major Pakistani cities rises to 191

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — The death toll from a pair of devastating factory fires that broke out in Pakistan's two biggest cities rose to 191 people on Wednesday, many of whom perished because they were unable to escape buildings that lacked emergency exits and basic safety equipment such as alarms and sprinklers.

Such safety issues are common in Pakistan, where many factories are set up illegally in the country's densely populated cities, and owners often pay officials bribes to look the other way. The number of deaths from the two fires that broke out Tuesday night could trigger calls for better oversight of industrial safety.

The more deadly blaze was at a garment factory in the southern city of Karachi, the country's economic heart. The death toll from the fire rose to 166 people Wednesday, as firefighters continued to battle the blaze, said Roshan Ali Sheikh, a senior government official in Karachi. It was one of the worst industrial accidents in Pakistan's 65-year history.

Most of the deaths were caused by suffocation as people caught in the basement were unable to escape when it filled with smoke, said the top firefighter in Karachi, Ehtisham-ud-Din. There were no fire exits, and the doors leading out of the basement were locked, he said. It's possible the death toll could rise further because authorities suspect there may still be bodies stuck in the basement.

Workers on higher floors of the five-story building struggled to make it out of windows that were covered with metal bars. Many were injured when they jumped from the building, including a 27-year-old pregnant woman who was injured in the fall.

 

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