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World Briefly for Aug. 17

Georgia says Abkhazian separatists seize villages, power plant

TBILISI, Georgia – Georgia’s Foreign Ministry says Russian-backed separatists from the province of Abkhazia have seized 13 villages in Georgia and a power plant.

A ministry statement says Russian army units and separatist militants shifted the border of breakaway Abkhazia toward the Inguri River. It says they set up temporary administration in 13 villages and put the Inguri hydropower plant under separatist control.

The claim could not immediately be independently confirmed.

Bush to Russia: Hands off disputed regions in Georgia

CRAWFORD, Texas – President Bush warned Russia on Saturday against trying to pry loose two separatist regions in Georgia and said Moscow must end military operations in the West-leaning democracy that once was part of the Soviet empire.

Bush told reporters at his Texas ranch that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s signing of a cease-fire plan with Georgia was “a hopeful step.” But Russia’s vision of Georgia without the provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was a nonstarter, the president said.

Leaving the doldrums of August, Obama and McCain discuss faith as campaign picks up pace

LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain agreed to appear on the same stage Saturday night, if only to share a handshake, as a televised discussion of faith ends a mid-August lull in the presidential campaign.

Obama spent the past week vacationing in Hawaii, and McCain held only a handful of public events during a time when many Americans were preoccupied with the Olympics and their own vacations. The contest now regains some intensity, starting with the two-hour forum hosted by the minister Rick Warren at his megachurch in Orange County, Calif.

Warren, nationally known for his sermons and best-selling book “The Purpose-Driven Life,” will be the only questioner. Obama will appear during the first hour and McCain will take the second.

House speaker signals willingness to OK more drilling offshore

WASHINGTON – Democrats’ stance against offshore drilling has shifted more, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaling on Saturday her willingness to consider opening up more coastal areas to oil and gas exploration.

In her party’s weekly radio address, Pelosi said opening portions of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling would be a part of energy legislation that House Democrats intend to put forward in the coming weeks to address oil dependence and high gasoline prices.

Lawmakers will be able to “consider opening portions of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling, with appropriate safeguards, and without taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil,” said Pelosi, D-Calif.

Long-secret US files yield truth on ‘Korean Mata Hari’

SEOUL, South Korea – Back in the days of “Commies” and “pinkos,” of Red scares, black lists, suspicion and smear, Kim Soo-im stood out as a one-woman axis of evil, a villainess without peer.

“The Korean Seductress Who Betrayed America,” as the U.S. magazine Coronet labeled her, was a Seoul socialite said to have charmed secret information out of one lover, an American colonel, and passed it to another, a top communist in North Korea.

In late June 1950, as North Korean invaders closed in on this teeming, panicked city, Kim was hastily executed by the South Korean military, shot as a “very malicious international spy.” Her deeds, thereafter, only grew in infamy.

AG King personally oppose early release of Roberts

MONTGOMERY – Attorney General Troy King says he will appear before the state Board of Parsons and Parole on Monday to oppose the early release of a man who murdered his wife in 1979.

Clarence Louvier Roberts was convicted in 1979 for the murder of his wife, Violet Lence Roberts. Reports showed Mrs. Roberts died of several stab wounds to her back and a severe beating to her skull.

Roberts was sentenced to life in prison in November 1979 but until he escaped in 1985, remaining free for almost 20 years until his recapture in 2005.

King said Roberts “has been shown leniency enough.”

Unemployment rate jumps to 5.1 percent

MONTGOMERY – Alabama’s unemployment rate jumped to 5.1 percent, the first time it has topped 5 percent since August 2004 when it also registered 5.1 percent.

State officials said the jobless rate had been at 4.7 percent the previous two months and a year ago it was 3.6 percent. The U.S. jobless rate was 5.7 percent in July, up from 5.5 percent in June and 4.7 percent a year earlier.