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World briefly for Oct. 19

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POSTED: October 19, 2012 7:21 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington within 24 hours of last month's deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate that there was evidence it was carried out by militants, not a spontaneous mob upset about an American-made video ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad, U.S. officials have told The Associated Press.

It is unclear who, if anyone, saw the cable outside the CIA at that point and how high up in the agency the information went. The Obama administration maintained publicly for a week that the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was a result of the mobs that staged less-deadly protests across the Muslim world around the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S.

Those statements have become highly charged political fodder as the presidential election approaches. A Republican-led House committee questioned State Department officials for hours about what GOP lawmakers said was lax security at the consulate, given the growth of extremist Islamic militants in North Africa.

And in their debate on Tuesday, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney argued over when Obama first said it was a terror attack. In his Rose Garden address the morning after the killings, Obama said, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."

But Republicans say he was speaking generally and didn't specifically call the Benghazi attack a terror attack until weeks later, with the president and other key members of his administration referring at first to the anti-Muslim movie circulating on the Internet as a precipitating event.

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Romney, Obama going back on the attack in Va., Fla. battlegrounds after brief comedic truce

NEW YORK (AP) — President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are returning to the sometimes-nasty rhetoric of a close presidential campaign after a brief truce, renewing their focus on two battleground states and preparing for next week's final, perhaps pivotal, debate.

Romney and Obama set aside their differences — mostly — to poke fun of themselves and each other Thursday night at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner. On Friday, it's back to campaigning in Florida and Virginia, two of just a handful of states that will decide the election, now less than three weeks away.

Obama was planning a speech at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., rallying college students in the northern part of the state. Romney was to fly to Daytona Beach, Fla., for a rally with running mate Paul Ryan.

While they're both focused on the South, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls released Thursday showed Obama retaining his lead over Romney in Iowa and Wisconsin, two Midwestern battlegrounds. Obama's campaign circulated a memo highlighting the president's strength during the early voting period in Ohio, where Romney has largely staked his hopes of winning the White House.

But both kept relatively light public schedules as they planned to spend the weekend preparing for the third and final presidential debate, set for Monday in Boca Raton, Fla. Obama was leaving for the Camp David presidential retreat to prepare, while Romney planned preparations in Delray Beach, Fla.

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Fortunes based on casinos, real estate, energy help fuel contributions to Romney candidacy

WASHINGTON (AP) — For a casino mogul worth an estimated $25 billion, $34.2 million may sound like chump change. Yet that's how much money Sheldon Adelson has donated so far to aid Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and organizations supporting Romney this election, making him the donor of donors for the GOP.

Other top donors giving millions of dollars to aid Romney's campaign include a trio of Texas money moguls and the head of a south Florida-based energy conglomerate. Those donors and others are funding a presidential election on track to cost nearly $2 billion, with money going toward individual Democratic and Republican campaigns as well as independent, "super" political committees working on the campaigns' behalf.

Political donations can open doors that are closed to most people. Big-dollar donors are often invited to state dinners at the White House and other events with the president. They also may be asked to weigh in on public policy, especially if it affects their own financial interests. And the ranks of ambassadors, advisory panels and other government jobs traditionally are filled with those who have been unusually generous during the campaign.

Based on an examination of more than 2.3 million campaign contributions — the methodology is below — The Associated Press has ranked the top five financial supporters bankrolling the Republican presidential run:

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Movie producer joins other media moguls in raising the most money for Obama this election

WASHINGTON (AP) — Shrek would be green with envy. Movie producer Jeffrey Katzenberg is animating the presidential race this election season, raising more money than any other Democratic donor.

The DreamWorks Animation CEO joins two other media moguls, a personal-injury lawyer and a philanthropist in giving millions of dollars to help President Barack Obama win a second term. They are helping fund a presidential election on track to cost nearly $2 billion, with money going toward the individual Republican and Democratic campaigns as well as independent, "super" political committees working on the campaigns' behalf.

Political donations can open doors that are closed to most people. Big-dollar donors are often invited to state dinners at the White House and other events with the president. They also may be asked to weigh in on public policy, especially if it affects their own financial interests. And the ranks of ambassadors, advisory panels and other government jobs traditionally are filled with those who have been unusually generous during the campaign.

Based on an examination of more than 2.3 million campaign contributions — the methodology is below — The Associated Press has ranked the top five financial supporters of Obama's:

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As deadly airline crashes decline, new government safety rules get tougher to justify

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's been 43 months since the last deadly airline crash in the United States, the longest period without a fatal domestic accident since commercial aviation expanded after World War II. That sounds like unvarnished good news, but one consequence of having such a remarkable record is that it's difficult to justify imposing costly new safety rules on the economically fragile industry.

In analyzing costs and benefits, federal rules assign a value of $6.2 million to each life saved. Even modest changes in regulations can cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars when spread across a number of years.

"The extraordinary safety record that has been achieved in the United States ironically could be the single biggest reason the (Federal Aviation Administration) isn't able to act proactively and ensure safety into the future," said Bill Voss, president of the industry-funded Flight Safety Foundation in Alexandria, Va., which promotes global airline safety. The past decade has been the airline industry's safest ever.

Last year, the FAA revised rules on pilot work schedules and rest periods to address concern that tired pilots were making mistakes, sometimes with fatal results. But the agency dropped requirements that would have extended the new rules to cargo carriers. FAA officials said the rules changes would have cost the cargo industry as much as $300 million over 10 years.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has urged cargo executives to voluntarily comply with the new rules, but so far he's had no takers.

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Starved, brutalized, left to die: Austrian probe reveals gruesome fate of Nazi-era disabled

HALL, Austria (AP) — Forensic crews scraping away dirt from the remains of the Nazi-era psychiatric patients were puzzled: The skeletal fingers were entwined in rosary beads. Why, the experts wondered, would the Nazis — who considered these people less than human — respect them enough to let them take their religious symbols to their graves?

It turns out they didn't.

A year after the first of 221 sets of remains were exhumed at a former Austrian hospital cemetery, investigators now believe the beads were likely nothing more than a cynical smokescreen, placed to mislead relatives attending the burials into thinking that the last stage of their loved ones' lives was as dignified as their funerals.

But skeletons don't lie. Forensic work shows that more than half of the victims had broken ribs and other bone fractures from blows likely dealt by hospital personnel. Many died from illnesses such as pneumonia, apparently caused by a combination of physical injuries, a lack of food and being immobilized for weeks at a time.

Neither do medical records, which show that medical personnel cursed their patients as "imbeciles," ''idiots" and "useless eaters."

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Afghan police academy tries to prepare struggling police force for when NATO troops withdraw

KABUL (AP) — At the gate to the National Police Academy, on the western edge of the Afghan capital, the guard's rifle bolts into firing position. "Stop!" he shouts.

It's 4 a.m., the street lights are not working and the guard's superiors had neglected to tell him that the red Toyota Corolla would be arriving. Time and again, suicide bombers have attacked Afghanistan's police and army outposts. So one of the first lessons taught at the academy is diligence.

The readiness of Afghanistan's security forces is central to U.S. and NATO plans to withdraw all forces from the country by the end of 2014, and the academy's new commander wants to help turn around a 146,000-strong national police force long riddled with corruption, incompetence and factional rivalries.

Such problems are not always acknowledged publicly. On Thursday, President Hamid Karzai said that his military and police are prepared to take full responsibility for security if the American-led international coalition decides to speed up the handover. And a statement released this week by the NATO-led force, ISAF, called the Afghan National Army the most respected institution in the country and said "the Afghan national police also rank highly."

But the National Police Academy's director, Mullah Dad Pazoish, presents a different viewpoint.

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Images of terror suspect at odds: Jihad martyr to feds; 'good Muslim kid' to friends, family

NEW YORK (AP) — At the Missouri college where Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis enrolled, a classmate said he often remarked that true Muslims don't believe in violence.

That image seemed startlingly at odds with the Bangladesh native's arrest in an FBI sting this week on charges of trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York with what he thought was a 1,000-pound car bomb.

"I can't imagine being more shocked about somebody doing something like this," said Jim Dow, a 54-year-old Army veteran who rode home from class with Nafis twice a week. "I didn't just meet this kid a couple of times. We talked quite a bit. ... And this doesn't seem to be in character."

Nafis' family in Dhaka, Bangladesh, denied he could have been involved in the plot. His parents said he was incapable of such actions and came to America only to study.

Federal investigators, often accused by defense attorneys of entrapping and leading would-be terrorists along, said the 21-year-old Nafis made the first move over the summer, reaching out for accomplices and eventually contacting a government informant, who then went to federal authorities.

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Newsweek faced unique troubles amid general health of magazine industry

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Newsweek's decision to stop publishing a print edition after 80 years and bet its life entirely on a digital future may be more a commentary on its own problems than a definitive statement on the health of the magazine industry.

Magazine ad revenue in the U.S. is seen rising 2.6 percent this year to $18.3 billion, according to research firm eMarketer. That would be the third increase in three years, driven mainly by gains in digital ad sales, though print ads are expected to be flat.

Paid magazine subscriptions were up 1.1 percent in the first half of the year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. And while single-copy sales at newsstands are down 9.6 percent, overall circulation - the bulk of which is in print - is steady compared to a year ago.

The water is so warm for the magazine industry that in the first nine months of the year, 181 new magazines were launched while only about a third as many, or 61, closed, according to publication database MediaFinder.com.

By several measures, the magazine business has stabilized, albeit at a lower level, since the Great Recession ended three years ago.

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Pummeled pinstripes: Steinbrenner would have issued a public apology after Yankees swept

NEW YORK (AP) — George Steinbrenner would have issued a public apology.

After leading the league in wins this year, the New York Yankees didn't just lose to Detroit in the AL championship series. They got swept in one of the more humiliating moments in the team's history.

The four-game wipeout made headlines — A-Rod's benching, Derek Jeter's injury, Robinson Cano's slump. But it also revealed serious cracks in the foundation, showing a team full of aging All-Stars at the plate, in the field and on the mound that suddenly seems a long, long way from championship caliber.

"Obviously, we're all getting older," Andy Pettitte said Thursday night after the season-ending 8-1 loss to the Tigers.

Jeter broke an ankle near the end. Mariano Rivera busted a knee back in the spring. The Yankees transformed baseball's bruisers into the Bashed Bombers, closer to AARP years than MVP seasons.

 

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