World Briefly for July 16

Published 6:06 pm Tuesday, July 15, 2008

McCain, Obama duel over Iraq future: Should US military get out or stay and try for victory?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The two major presidential rivals sharpened their long-standing dispute over the Iraq War on Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama calling it a costly distraction that must end while Republican Sen. John McCain insisted it is a conflict the United States has to win.

“Iraq is not going to be a perfect place, and we don’t have unlimited resources to try and make it one,” Obama said in a speech in which he also said the United States must shift its focus to defeating the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

Rebutting swiftly, McCain said Obama “will tell you we can’t win in Afghanistan without losing in Iraq. In fact, he has it exactly backwards.”

While the two men agreed on the importance of prevailing in Afghanistan, the dispute veered in a new direction when it came to the tribal areas of next-door Pakistan, where terrorist Osama bin Laden and his men are thought to be hiding.

McCain accused Obama of “trying to sound tough” by speaking publicly of taking unilateral action against those blamed for the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


Bush says troubled financial system is ‘basically sound’ but urges help for mortgage giants

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush said Tuesday the nation’s troubled financial system is “basically sound” and urged lawmakers to quickly enact legislation to prop up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He also called on the Democratic-run Congress to follow his example and lift a ban on offshore drilling to help increase domestic oil production.

“I readily concede it won’t produce a barrel of oil tomorrow, but it will reverse the psychology,” Bush told a White House news conference — his first since late April.

Bush said the two troubled mortgage companies play a central role in the nation’s housing-finance system and that government action to help them were not bailouts because the two would remain shareholder-owned companies.

“I don’t think the government ought to be involved in bailing out companies,” Bush said.

Amid soaring gas prices, the toughest real estate market in decades, falling home prices and financing that’s harder to come by, Bush said: “It’s been a difficult time for many American families.” But he also said that the nation’s economy continues to grow, if slowly.


Video of teen’s Guantanamo interrogation offers glimpse into questioning at US military base

TORONTO (AP) — In a video released Tuesday, a 16-year-old captured in Afghanistan cries out for his mother and says he needs treatment for his battle wounds during questioning by Canadian officials at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay. “Oh Mommy,” he cries in despair in Arabic when he is alone in the room, watched only by hidden cameras.

The 10 minutes of video — selected by Omar Khadr’s Canadian lawyers from more than seven hours of footage recorded by a camera hidden in a vent — provides the first glimpse of interrogations at the U.S. military prison. It shows Khadr weeping, his face buried in his hands, as he is questioned by Canadian intelligence agents over four days in 2003. The lawyers hope to pressure Canada into seeking Khadr’s return, but the government said its position was unchanged.

The video, created by U.S. government agents at the prison in Cuba and originally marked as secret, provides insight into the effects of prolonged interrogation and detention on the Guantanamo prisoner.

A Canadian Security Intelligence Services agent in the video grills Khadr about events leading up to his capture as an enemy combatant when he was 15. Khadr, a Canadian citizen, is accused of throwing a grenade that killed one U.S. Special Forces soldier during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan that left another soldier blinded. He was arrested after he was found in the rubble of a bombed-out compound — badly wounded and near death.

At one point in the interrogation, Khadr pulls off his orange prisoner shirt and shows the wounds he sustained in the firefight. He complains he cannot move his arms and says he had not received proper medical attention, despite requests.


McCain assailed for opposing adoptions by gays; his campaign says he doesn’t seek ban

NEW YORK (AP) — Advocates for gay and lesbian parents are denouncing Sen. John McCain, an adoptive father himself, for opposing adoptions by gays, which prompted his presidential campaign to clarify Tuesday that he does not seek a federal ban on the practice.

Only one state, Florida, outlaws adoptions by gays, which have become commonplace in much of the nation.

The Republican nominee-in-waiting was asked for his views on the subject in an interview published Sunday in The New York Times.

“I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don’t believe in gay adoption,” McCain replied.

McCain then remarked that he and his wife, Cindy, were proud to be adoptive parents of a daughter born in Bangladesh, and he encouraged others to adopt. Asked if those adopting should be a “traditional couple,” McCain answered, “Yes.”


Lawyer says British airline plot defendant guilty of propaganda stunt, not murder conspiracy

LONDON (AP) — The alleged ringleader of a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic jetliners in mid-air is guilty only of planning a childish stunt to make a political point, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Attorney Nadine Radford said Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, has acknowledged planning to release anti-Western videos and detonate explosives at a high-profile location as part of a campaign to change the British government’s policy toward the Muslim world.

“It was childish, it was stupid, but it is not murder,” Radford said.

Radford was the first defense counsel to sum up at Woolwich Crown Court in the trial of Ali and seven other British Muslims charged with plotting to blow up at least seven planes with liquid explosives concealed in soft-drink bottles.

Three defendants — Ali, Assad Sarwar, 28 and Tanvir Hussain, 27 — have pleaded guilty to conspiring to cause explosions. All eight defendants deny conspiracy to murder.


Elderly women get life in prison for killing homeless men in L.A. insurance murders scheme

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two elderly women were sentenced to life in prison without parole Tuesday for murdering two indigent men to collect insurance policies taken out on their lives.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Wesley on Tuesday sentenced 77-year-old Helen Golay and 75-year-old Olga Rutterschmidt to two consecutive life terms each.

In April the women were convicted of a scheme in which they befriended homeless men, took out insurance policies on them and then killed them in murders staged to look like hit-and-run auto accidents. Prosecutors say the women collected $2.8 million before the scheme was uncovered.

The judge denounced the women, saying the men they killed needed only food, water and shelter and thought the women were going to help them.

“Instead, these unfortunate men were sacrificed on your altar of greed,” Wesley said.


Large study finds that when children become teens, they quickly turn into couch potates

CHICAGO (AP) — One of the largest studies of its kind shows just how sluggish American children become once they hit the teen years: While 90 percent of 9-year-olds get a couple of hours of exercise most days, fewer than 3 percent of 15-year-olds do.

What’s more, the study suggests that fewer than a third of teens that age get even the minimum recommended by the government — an hour of moderate-to-vigorous exercise, like cycling, brisk walking, swimming or jogging.

The sharp drop raises concerns about inactivity continuing into adulthood, which could endanger kids’ health throughout their lives, the study authors said.

“People don’t recognize this as the crisis that it is,” said lead author Dr. Philip Nader, a pediatrician and professor emeritus at the University of California at San Diego.

Inactivity is linked with greater risks for many health problems, including heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.


A-Rod’s wife wants to know if Yankees star hired detectives, installed wiretaps to spy on her

MIAMI (AP) — The wife of Alex Rodriguez wants to know if the New York Yankees star hired private detectives or installed wiretaps installed to spy on her.

Cynthia Rodriguez’s lawyers demanded evidence of any such surveillance as part of a routine request filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last week in their divorce case.

The document asks for any tape recordings, photographs, reports from investigators or results from possible wiretaps “or other electronic surveillance conducted by you or others on your behalf.”

Alex Rodriguez’s attorney didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to an e-mail seeking comment. The 32-year-old third baseman was scheduled to start in the All-Star game on Tuesday night in New York.

Cynthia Rodriguez filed for divorce last week after more than five years of marriage, citing her husband’s alleged infidelity. She wants their $12 million waterfront mansion in Coral Gables, a luxury SUV, alimony and financial support for their two young daughters.


Mexican man detained at US Embassy after showing fake CIA badge

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico City police say they have detained a man who allegedly tried to use a fake CIA badge to enter the U.S. Embassy to seek work as a driver.

Police say they detained 47-year-old Israel Cortes after he cut to the front of the line at the embassy by showing a fake CIA badge supposedly signed by U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza.

A U.S. Embassy official confirmed Monday’s detention, but declined further comment.

Police say Cortes acknowledged making the false ID as well as a phony recommendation letter signed by an alleged U.S. diplomat because he wanted to apply for a job as a driver.


All-Stars soak up Yankee Stadium, baseball’s most famous field, before midsummer classic

NEW YORK (AP) — The star of the All-Star game doesn’t swing a bat, throw a pitch or wear a glove. It has 56,000-plus blue seats, a famous field and history. Lots of history. Slated for extinction, Yankee Stadium gets perhaps its final moment in the national spotlight, hosting the All-Star game Tuesday night as part of its grand send-off.

“I catch myself actually looking up at seats where I sat as a kid and saying, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool that, you know, I actually watched the game from there and now I’m down here and somebody else is watching us,” Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan said.

Major League Baseball is taking a year off from showcasing the sport’s shiny new emporiums and toasting the House that Ruth Built, DiMaggio won over and Reggie conquered.

Albert Pujols set some goals, and for a change they didn’t involve home runs.

“Maybe tear up the grass a little bit and put it in the back of my pocket and take it with me,” the St. Louis Cardinals slugger said.