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News briefs for Sept. 12

Interview: Palin says she’s ready to step in

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said Thursday that she didn’t blink when Republican John McCain asked her to be his running mate, a surprise selection that shook up the presidential race.

“I didn’t hesitate, no,” she told ABC’s Charlie Gibson in her first televised interview since accepting the Arizona senator’s invitation to be on the Republican ticket two weeks ago.

Asked if she felt ready to step in as vice president or perhaps even president if something happened to the 72-year-old McCain, Palin said: “I do, Charlie, and on January 20, when John McCain and I are sworn in, if we are so privileged to be elected to serve this country, we’ll be ready. I’m ready.”

McCain, Obama honor the dead on 9/11

NEW YORK — Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama made ground zero their common ground for one rare day, free of politics and infused with memory.

Putting their partisan contest on a respectful hold, they walked together Thursday into the great pit where the World Trade Center once stood and, as one, honored the dead from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Footage of McCain’s release from prison found in archive

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Previously unseen footage emerged Thursday showing Republican presidential candidate John McCain as a proud, stoic prisoner of war in Hanoi on the day his Vietnamese captors released him to the U.S. military.

A former reporter from Swedish broadcaster SVT, 71-year-old Erik Eriksson, told The Associated Press he found the video in the network’s archives while researching a book he was writing about his experiences as a Vietnam War correspondent.

Thousands flee Texas coast as Ike approaches

HOUSTON — Authorities in the Houston area and along the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast ordered hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate Thursday as Hurricane Ike lumbered toward the coast and threatened to grow even stronger.

Traffic was building on roadways leading away from low-lying areas in Galveston County, and officials urged residents to finish storm preparations quickly. Some gas stations were running out of fuel as residents scurried to leave.

New US deaths in Afghanistan make 2008 deadliest since 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents killed two U.S. troops in Afghanistan on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks Thursday, making 2008 the deadliest year for American forces since U.S. troops invaded the country in 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden.

The deaths brought the number of troops who have died in Afghanistan this year to 113, according to an Associated Press tally, surpassing last year’s record toll of 111.

Bill Clinton predicts Obama will defeat McCain ‘pretty handily’

NEW YORK — Barack Obama and former President Clinton talked for two hours on Thursday, their first meeting in a White House race that had once bitterly divided them. Clinton predicted that Obama will win the presidency “pretty handily.”

Their conversation started with small talk about the former president’s commute to his Harlem office and ended after a lunch of sandwiches, flatbread pizza and salad from Cosi.

Tests detect drugs in drinking water

Testing prompted by an Associated Press story that revealed trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in drinking water supplies has shown that more Americans are affected by the problem than previously thought — at least 46 million.

That’s up from 41 million people reported by the AP in March as part of an investigation into the presence of pharmaceuticals in the nation’s waterways.