World Briefly for Aug. 19

Published 11:02 pm Monday, August 18, 2008

Russia claims to begin a withdrawal but sends troops closer to capital

GORI, Georgia — Russia said Monday it had begun withdrawing from the conflict zone in Georgia, but it held fast to key positions and sent some of its troops in the opposite direction — closer to the Georgian capital.

Russian troops and vehicles roamed freely around the strategically located central city of Gori, Russian forces appeared to blow up the runway at a military base in the western town of Senaki.

There were few signs Russia was following the terms of a cease-fire to end the short war, which has driven tensions between Russia and the West to some of their highest levels since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Musharraf quits Pakistan presidency

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pervez Musharraf resigned Monday as the president of Pakistan, avoiding a power struggle with rivals vowing to impeach him that would have deepened the country’s political crisis.

His exit, announced in an emotional televised address, leaves the politicians who pushed out the stalwart U.S. ally to face the Islamic militants and economic problems gnawing at this nuclear-armed nation.

“There is a huge challenge ahead,” said Shafqat Mahmood, a former government minister and prominent political analyst. “Now this whole Musharraf excuse is behind us. Now people are going to be focusing on their performance.”

McCain says Obama tried to legislate failure in Iraq for political gain

ORLANDO, Fla. — John McCain told fellow veterans on Monday that his Democratic rival Barack Obama tried to legislate failure in Iraq and has refused to admit he erred when opposing the military increase there last year.

McCain said Obama placed his political self-interest ahead of his country’s, a theme the Arizona Republican has often repeated. McCain told a friendly convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that Obama’s positions have changed as his political ambitions grew.

“With less than three months to go before the election, a lot of people are still trying to square Sen. Obama’s varying positions on the surge in Iraq. First, he opposed the surge and confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge,” McCain said.

Gov’t destroyed early sample from anthrax suspect

WASHINGTON — FBI scientists early on had — but destroyed — the unique strain of anthrax used in the deadly 2001 attacks that years later would lead them to Dr. Bruce Ivins, the government’s top suspect who committed suicide three weeks ago.

FBI Assistant Director Vahid Majidi said Monday the initial anthrax sample that Ivins took from his Army lab in February 2002 and gave investigators did not meet court-ordered conditions for its preparation and collection.

In a briefing for reporters, Majidi said the sample kept at the FBI lab was destroyed because the bureau believed it might not have been allowed as evidence at trial.

Mom to be tried on charges of fleeing prison 32 years ago

PLYMOUTH, Mich. — A California woman who escaped from a Michigan prison more than 30 years ago and remade her life as a suburban mother of three is “extremely uncomfortable” back behind bars and wants to move the case through the courts as quickly as possible, her attorney said Monday.

Susan LeFevre, 53, skipped her right to a preliminary examination, which will send her case to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court weeks earlier than anticipated.

Survey: Many Americans believe God’s help can revive dying patients

CHICAGO — When it comes to saving lives, God trumps doctors for many Americans. An eye-opening survey reveals widespread belief that divine intervention can revive dying patients. And, researchers said, doctors “need to be prepared to deal with families who are waiting for a miracle.”

More than half of randomly surveyed adults — 57 percent — said God’s intervention could save a family member even if physicians declared treatment would be futile. And nearly three-quarters said patients have a right to demand such treatment.

When asked to imagine their own relatives being gravely ill or injured, nearly 20 percent of doctors and other medical workers said God could reverse a hopeless outcome.

“Sensitivity to this belief will promote development of a trusting relationship” with patients and their families, according to researchers. That trust, they said, is needed to help doctors explain objective, overwhelming scientific evidence showing that continued treatment would be worthless.

Pat Loder, a Milford, Mich., woman whose two young children were killed in a 1991 car crash, said she clung to a belief that God would intervene when things looked hopeless.

Marriage of Donnie Wahlberg and his wife is over after nearly 9 years; pair file for divorce

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Donnie Wahlberg and his wife are calling it quits after nearly nine years of marriage. Wahlberg and his wife, Kim Fey Wahlberg, each filed for divorce last Wednesday in separate counties in the Los Angeles area, court records show.

Kim Wahlberg cited “irreconcilable differences” in her filings in Los Angeles Superior Court. Donnie Wahlberg’s petition was filed in Ventura County.

The couple were married in August 1999 and separated earlier this year.

The move comes as Wahlberg, 39, prepares to tour with a reunited New Kids on the Block and appears on the big screen in “Righteous Kill,” which will be released on Sept. 12.

The former couple have two sons, ages 15 and 7.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Schools get students walking with fuel prices up, economy down

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Faced with soaring diesel fuel costs, school districts are forcing students to use the old-fashioned way to get to class: on their own two feet.

Many schools are eliminating or reducing bus service because fuel had jumped to $4.50 per gallon, 36 percent more than a year ago, and is busting budgets.

In California, districts are eliminating busing for thousands of students. Districts in Washington state, Idaho and Maryland and elsewhere are consolidating bus stops, canceling field trips and forcing students to walk longer distances to school to control costs.

Worried parents in Massachusetts have called WalkBoston, a nonprofit group that promotes walking, asking for help after their communities cut back on busing.

Health advocates long have encouraged students to walk, stressing the fitness benefits. But school and transportation officials say they fear that abruptly reducing bus service could lower attendance rates, increase traffic congestion or endanger students if they cannot walk on sidewalks and crosswalks.

“If you remove a school bus from the road, you’re adding 40 to 50 cars in the morning and in the afternoon,” said Bob Riley, spokesman for the American School Bus Council, which represents school transportation officials.