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News briefs for Aug. 20

Obama says McCain is wrong to question his character and patriotism

ORLANDO, Fla. — Democrat Barack Obama challenged his Republican opponent John McCain on Tuesday to stop questioning his “character and patriotism.”

Addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Obama reaffirmed his early opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and said the so-called “surge” strategy of sending 30,000 additional troops to Iraq last year had not produced the political reconciliation necessary to achieve lasting peace in the country. McCain supported the Iraq invasion and was an early champion of the surge.

Afghan insurgents kill 10 French soldiers and send suicide squad to US base

SUROBI, Afghanistan — Heavily armed insurgents mounted two of the biggest attacks in years on Western forces in Afghanistan, killing 10 French soldiers in a mountain ambush and then sending a squad of suicide bombers in a failed assault early Tuesday on a U.S. base near the Pakistan border.

The audacious strikes suggested a more sophisticated insurgency now willing to launch frontal assaults on U.S. and NATO troops.

Only months ago, militants shied away from large-scale attacks because of the heavy losses they could incur when jet fighters appeared overhead, NATO and U.S. officials said.

Russia removes some troops from key Georgian city

POTI, Georgia — Russia took the first steps toward a troop pullback from Georgia on Tuesday but at the same time paraded blindfolded and bound Georgian prisoners on armored vehicles and seized four U.S. Humvees.

The mixed signals came as NATO allies met in emergency session in Belgium and demanded Russia fulfill its promise to withdraw its forces from the small former Soviet republic.

A small Russian column including three tanks, three trucks, five armored personnel carriers and a rocket-launcher left Gori, the central city that straddles a vital east-west highway. A Russian officer said they were headed for South Ossetia, the disputed province at the heart of the conflict, then home to Russia.

Obama sets Saturday visit to Ill. capital where campaign began

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama gave his clearest signal yet that he has settled on a running mate when he announced Tuesday he would appear Saturday in this city where he launched his campaign.

Presumably, the running mate will appear with Obama when he shows up in front of the former state Capitol where Abraham Lincoln once served. The last time Obama appeared there, he announced he was running for president.

The Obama campaign’s announcement said only that the Illinois senator would begin his trip to the party’s national convention at the Saturday event. The Democratic National Convention begins Monday in Denver.

Bigfoot revealed as big hoax

ATLANTA — Turns out Bigfoot was just a rubber suit. Two researchers on a quest to prove the existence of Bigfoot say that the carcass encased in a block of ice — handed over to them for an undisclosed sum by two men who claimed to have found it — were slowly thawed out, and discovered to be a rubber gorilla outfit.

The revelation comes just days after a much ballyhooed news conference was held in California to proclaim that the remains of the creature were found in the North Georgia mountains was the legendary man-ape.

Study suggests low-level arsenic exposure may be linked with Type 2 diabetes

CHICAGO — A new analysis of government data is the first to link low-level arsenic exposure, possibly from drinking water, with Type 2 diabetes, researchers say. The study’s limitations make more research necessary. And public water systems were on their way to meeting tougher U.S. arsenic standards as the data were collected.

Still, the analysis of 788 adults’ medical tests found a nearly fourfold increase in the risk of diabetes in people with low arsenic concentrations in their urine compared to people with even lower levels.

– The Associated Press