World Briefly for Aug. 12

Published 8:12 pm Monday, August 11, 2008

Russian forces drive deeper into Georgia, beyond disputed provinces; Bush urges cease-fire

ZUGDIDI, Georgia (AP) — Russian tanks roared deep into Georgia on Monday, launching a new western front in the conflict, and Russian planes staged air raids that sent people screaming and fleeing for cover in some towns.

The escalating warfare brought sharp words from President Bush, who pressed Moscow to accept an immediate cease-fire and pull its troops out to avert a “dramatic and brutal escalation” of violence in the former Soviet republic.

Russian forces for the first time moved well outside the two restive, pro-Russian provinces claimed by Georgia that lie at the heart of the dispute. An Associated Press reporter saw Russian troops in control of government buildings in this town just miles from the frontier and Russian troops were reported in nearby Senaki.

Georgia’s president said his country had been sliced in half with the capture of a critical highway crossroads near the central city of Gori, and Russian warplanes launched new air raids across the country.

The Russian Defense Ministry, through news agencies, denied it had captured Gori and also denied any intentions to advance on the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.


Bush, back from Asia, denounces Russia’s military crackdown in Georgia

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush on Monday warned of a “dramatic and brutal escalation” of violence by Russia in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. He pressed Moscow to accept an immediate cease-fire and to pull back its troops.

Bush put the crisis at the top of his agenda as he returned from the Olympic Games in Beijing.

In a Rose Garden statement, he said there appeared to be an attempt by Russia to unseat Georgia’s pro-Western president, Mikhail Saakashvili.

He demanded an immediate cease-fire, the withdrawal of Russian troops from the conflict zone and a return to the status quo as of Aug. 6.

Russia has ignored calls for a truce and has responded with overwhelming military force. It appeared Bush had little leverage to win Moscow’s compliance.

Bush said the military crackdown has “substantially damaged Russia’s standing in the world. And these actions jeopardize Russia’s relations with the United States and Europe. It is time for Russia to be true to its word and to act to end this crisis.”

Bush appeared in the Rose Garden about an hour after his return from Asia.

“I just met with my national security team to discuss the situation in Georgia. I am deeply concerned by reports that Russian troops have moved beyond the zone of conflict, attacked the Georgian town of Gori, and are threatening Georgia’s capital of Tiblisi,” Bush said.


Study: Half of overweight adults may be heart-healthy, defying conventional wisdom

CHICAGO (AP) — You can look great in a swimsuit and still be a heart attack waiting to happen. And you can also be overweight and otherwise healthy. A new study suggests that a surprising number of overweight people — about half — have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while an equally startling number of trim people suffer from some of the ills associated with obesity.

The first national estimate of its kind bolsters the argument that you can be hefty but still healthy, or at least healthier than has been believed.

The results also show that stereotypes about body size can be misleading, and that even “less voluptuous” people can have risk factors commonly associated with obesity, said study author MaryFran Sowers, a University of Michigan obesity researcher.

“We’re really talking about taking a look with a very different lens” at weight and health risks, Sowers said.

In the study, about 51 percent of overweight adults, or roughly 36 million people nationwide, had mostly normal levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood fats called triglycerides and blood sugar.


Obama tries again to rebut McCain’s ‘celebrity’ taunts; new ad labels McCain biggest DC celeb

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — In a presidential campaign freighted with war, recession and energy woes, a jibe featuring Paris Hilton, of all things, seems to have struck a nerve in Democrat Barack Obama. For the second time in two weeks, he aired a TV ad Monday rebutting Republican John McCain’s claim that Obama is little more than a celebrity, like the blonde hotel heiress.

The first time, Obama dismissed the assertion as “baloney.” On Monday, Obama took a different tack with a commercial that says McCain, not he, is “Washington’s biggest celebrity.”

The back-and-forth may seem as frothy as a boardwalk milkshake in mid-August. But it suggests McCain is making some headway in trying to fight the campaign on his terms.

For weeks, Obama has tried to frame the election largely as a referendum on President Bush, using every chance to tie McCain to the unpopular incumbent. McCain has tried to make it about Obama by arousing concerns about the first-term senator’s experience and depth.

McCain has aired a series of TV ads that showed far more images of Obama than himself, a somewhat risky approach. All of them tried to turn Obama’s crowd-pleasing talents against him.


After race for the ages, Michael Phelps has another piece of unfinished business from 2004

BEIJING (AP) — Michael Phelps is taking care of all unfinished business while he pursues Olympic history. Next up: the 200-meter freestyle, one of two gold medals that eluded him four years ago in Athens.

The other was the 400 freestyle relay, which was avenged Monday with Phelps getting gold medal No. 2 thanks to an epic comeback by teammate Jason Lezak.

The 32-year-old American chased down Alain Bernard of France over the final 25 meters — half the length of the pool — in a race so fast that two world records were set and the top five teams produced the five speediest times in history.

Now that Phelps has gotten past the grueling 400 individual medley, his first gold of the Beijing Games, and the whisker-close relay, there appears to be no stopping him. Of his remaining events, he holds or shares the world record in four, and will be heavily favored in the other two.

“It’s hard to put that kind of race behind you,” said Phelps, still savoring being part of a relay team that crushed the world record by nearly 4 seconds. “But it sets me up for something good. The 200 free final, that’s my first priority.”


AP IMPACT: Administration to relax protected species rules, cutting back independent reviews

WASHINGTON (AP) — Parts of the Endangered Species Act may soon be extinct. The Bush administration wants federal agencies to decide for themselves whether highways, dams, mines and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants.

New regulations, which don’t require the approval of Congress, would reduce the mandatory, independent reviews government scientists have been performing for 35 years, according to a draft first obtained by The Associated Press.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said late Monday the changes were needed to ensure that the Endangered Species Act would not be used as a “back door” to regulate the gases blamed for global warming. In May, the polar bear became the first species declared as threatened because of climate change. Warming temperatures are expected to melt the sea ice the bear depends on for survival.

The draft rules would bar federal agencies from assessing the emissions from projects that contribute to global warming and its effect on species and habitats.

“We need to focus our efforts where they will do the most good,” Kempthorne said in a news conference organized quickly after AP reported details of the proposal. “It is important to use our time and resources to protect the most vulnerable species. It is not possible to draw a link between greenhouse gas emissions and distant observations of impacts on species.”


Mich. attorney general’s office says Detroit mayor violated bail terms in other case

DETROIT (AP) — A prosecutor on Monday accused Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of violating his bond in an assault case by spending time over the weekend with his sister, one of 11 witnesses listed by authorities.

Kilpatrick and Ayanna Kilpatrick were together at their mother’s house Saturday, a day after he was released from jail for violating bond in a separate perjury case, said Doug Baker of the Michigan attorney general’s office.

The mayor is charged with assaulting two investigators who were trying to deliver a subpoena at his sister’s house in July in the perjury case.

In a court filing, Baker said the mayor had been ordered to have no contact with witnesses.

Kilpatrick’s defense team, however, believes the mayor is not in trouble. Attorney Jim Thomas said Magistrate Renee McDuffee clarified Friday that Kilpatrick could have contact with his sister.


Stocks end higher, extending last week’s gains

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street advanced Monday but gave back some of its gains after crude oil prices pulled off their lows and the Federal Reserve said more banks are tightening lending standards.

Oil’s big drop over the past month has eased investors’ concerns about the drag of rising prices on the economy, but its move off its lowest levels Monday deflated a stock market rally that was building upon steep gains from last week. Light, sweet crude still fell 75 cents to settle at $114.45 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after dipping to $112.72, its lowest price since early May.

The Dow Jones industrials, up more than 130 points in afternoon trading, ended the day up 48.03, or 0.41 percent, at 11,782.35 after rising more than 300 on Friday.

The Fed’s report reminded investors that the nation’s credit situation is still deeply troubled. The central bank said about 75 percent of the banks it surveyed in July had increased requirements for prime mortgages, up from about 60 percent in April. The tighter standards can make it more expensive and difficult for borrowing that could stimulate the economy.


Deputies arrest father of ‘Heroes’ actress Hayden Panettiere on suspicion of hitting wife

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The father of “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere was arrested early Monday on suspicion of hitting his wife, authorities said. Alan Panettiere was arrested by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies in West Hollywood, jail records show. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said Panettiere remained jailed at a substation on suspicion of spousal assault, and was being held on $50,000 bail.

Whitmore declined to name the woman that Panettiere is accused of hitting, but said she reported to deputies that he struck the woman three times with an open hand.

Whitmore said detectives would not release a mug shot of Panettiere.

Los Angeles court records do not indicate any prior charges for the 49-year-old father of Hayden Panettiere, who plays Claire Bennett on NBC’s hit show, “Heroes.”

A phone message left with Hayden Panettiere’s publicist was not immediately returned Monday.


Steve Pearce’s 2-run single in 9th gives Pirates 7-5 win as Mets’ bullpen again falls apart

NEW YORK (AP) — Steve Pearce hit a two-out, two-run single in the ninth inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates became the latest team to take advantage of the Mets’ shaky bullpen, rallying past New York 7-5 Monday.

The Mets led 5-1 when Pedro Martinez left after six innings, but five relievers couldn’t preserve the edge. The Pirates, in town to play a makeup game, scored three times in the seventh and three more in the ninth.

It marked the ninth time this season New York lost a game in which it led in the eighth inning or later. The Mets have struggled lately minus injured All-Star closer Billy Wagner.

Aaron Heilman (2-7) began the ninth with a 5-4 lead, but allowed four straight Pirates to reach after striking out leadoff hitter Nate McLouth.

Ryan Doumit atoned for an earlier error with a tying single off the wall in right-center and Heilman hit Andy LaRoche with a pitch to load the bases.