World Briefly for Sept. 19

Published 8:35 pm Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bush meets treasury secretary, Fed chief, says he’s working hard on financial turmoil

WASHINGTON (AP) — Eager to show that he feels people’s pain, President Bush told the country Thursday his administration is working feverishly to calm turmoil in the financial markets. With reports swirling of possibly imminent new government action, the president met with his treasury secretary and the head of the Federal Reserve.

Nothing was announced immediately after the 40-minute meeting at the White House, which included Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox, along with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto would not comment on whether any decisions were made at the session, or whether any announcements would be forthcoming later Thursday. News reports said Paulson was considering having the government create an entity to take over banks’ bad debt.

“The president and his senior economic advisers had a very good discussion about the serious conditions in the financial markets,” Fratto said.

Bush was supposed to spend the day in Alabama and Florida raising money for Republicans and talking energy policy. He canceled his trip and sent Vice President Dick Cheney to sub for him at the fundraisers to focus on the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression.


Barack Obama mocks John McCain’s call to fire SEC chief, says vote out GOP in November

ESPANOLA, N.M. (AP) — Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama promised new ideas Thursday to calm America’s financial meltdown and help struggling families avoid mortgage foreclosure, saying that “this is not a time for fear, it’s not a time for panic.”

Obama also heaped criticism and sarcasm on Republican rival John McCain and mocked his promise to fire the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission if elected president.

“I think that’s all fine and good but here’s what I think,” Obama said. “In the next 47 days you can fire the whole trickle-down, on-your-own, look-the-other way crowd in Washington who has led us down this disastrous path.

“Don’t just get rid of one guy. Get rid of this administration,” he said. “Get rid of this philosophy. Get rid of the do-nothing approach to our economic problem and put somebody in there who’s going to fight for you.”

Obama came up with yet another way to poke fun at McCain for his comment Monday that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. “This comment was so out of touch that even George Bush’s White House couldn’t agree with it when they were asked about it. They had to distance themselves from John McCain.”


Details suggest Palin’s e-mail account was vulnerable because hacker impersonated her

WASHINGTON (AP) — Details emerged Thursday behind the break-in of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s e-mail account, including a first-hand account suggesting it was vulnerable because a hacker was able to impersonate her online to obtain her password.

The hacker guessed that Alaska’s governor had met her husband in high school, and knew Palin’s date of birth and home Zip code. Using those details, the hacker tricked Yahoo Inc.’s service into assigning a new password, “popcorn,” for Palin’s e-mail account, according to a chronology of the crime published on the Web site where the hacking was first revealed.

The FBI and Secret Service launched a formal investigation Wednesday. Yahoo declined to comment Thursday on details of the investigation, citing Palin’s privacy and the sensitivity of such investigations.

The person who claimed responsibility for the break-in did not respond Thursday to an e-mail inquiry from The Associated Press.

“i am the lurker who did it, and i would like to tell the story,” the person wrote in the account, which circulated on the Internet. What started as a prank was cut short because of panic over the possibility the FBI might investigate, the hacker wrote.


Chinese parents demand answers after wide-ranging recalls of tainted baby formula

SHIJIAZHUANG, China (AP) — Hundreds of Chinese parents, some cradling infants, converged on the company at the heart of the tainted baby formula scandal Thursday, demanding refunds and asking what they can safely feed their children.

Thousands of others filled hospitals, many hovering over sons and daughters hooked to IVs after drinking milk powder tainted with melamine, a toxic industrial chemical that can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure.

The scandal highlights the changing family dynamics and economic growth in China. A generation ago, women had little choice besides breast-feeding. Now, supermarkets are filled with dozens of brands of baby formula, marketed to women who continue working outside the home even after they give birth.

Yao Haoge, an 11-month-old baby with two large kidney stones, had been drinking Sanlu formula since she was born because both of her parents work. They had been puzzled by their little girl’s fevers and dark urine, but it never occurred to them that she had kidney stones brought on by her formula.

Now, like many of the babies at the Peace Hospital in Shijiazhuang, Haoge has an IV drip hooked into a vein in her head.


Jurors hear recording of Las Vegas police employee talking about ‘getting’ O.J. Simpson

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jurors who have been told to refrain from judging O.J. Simpson on his past heard a recording Thursday of a police employee exulting: “This is great. … California can’t get him. … Now we’ll be able to.”

Police detective Andy Caldwell conceded the statement was made as a team of officers examined a casino hotel room where Simpson is accused of leading a kidnapping and armed robbery. Caldwell said the comment came from a civilian employee of the police department, not a sworn officer.

The comments were picked up on a digital recorder that had been secretly placed by Thomas Riccio, who had arranged a meeting in the hotel room between Simpson and two sports memorabilia dealers that escalated into a confrontation last year.

Simpson and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart have pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, armed robbery, coercion and assault with a deadly weapon. The confrontation was over Simpson’s effort to retrieve items that the former football star says belonged to him.

Before Simpson’s lawyer, Yale Galanter, questioned Caldwell for a second day, prosecutors sought to bar his line of questioning.

Defense attorney Gabriel Grasso told the judge: “One of our themes is when police found out that O.J. Simpson was involved, there was the equivalent of a feeding frenzy. They dropped everything.”

Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass allowed the questioning to proceed “within the rules.”


Researcher: Previously unknown, ‘really important’ Mozart music found in French library

PARIS (AP) — It’s a forgotten melody, sketched in black ink in a swift but sure hand.

The single manuscript page, long hidden in a provincial French library, has been verified as the work of Mozart, the apparent underpinnings for a Mass he never composed.

The previously undocumented music fragment gives insight into Mozart’s evolving composition style and provides a clue about the role religion may have played for the composer as his life neared its turbulent end, one prominent Mozart expert says.

A library in Nantes, western France, has had the fragment in its collection since the 19th century, but it had never been authenticated until now, partly because it does not bear Mozart’s signature.

Ulrich Leisinger, head of research at the International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg, Austria, said Thursday that there is no doubt that the single sheet, the top third of which has been cut off, was written by the composer.

“His handwriting is absolutely clearly identifiable,” he added. “There’s no doubt that this is an original piece handwritten by Mozart.”


Researchers discover that stressed plants produce aspirin-like chemical

WASHINGTON (AP) — Aspirin is among the most popular remedies used by people. Turns out some plants like it, too.

Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research were surprised to discover that stressed plants produce an aspirin-like chemical that can be detected in the air above the plants. The chemical may be a sort of immune response that helps protect the plants, the scientists speculated.

According to the researchers, the finding raises the possibility that farmers, forest managers and others may eventually be able to start monitoring plants for early signs of a disease, an insect infestation or other types of stress.

Currently they often do not know if an ecosystem is unhealthy until there are visible indicators, such as dead leaves.

“Unlike humans, who are advised to take aspirin as a fever suppressant, plants have the ability to produce their own mix of aspirin-like chemicals, triggering the formation of proteins that boost their biochemical defenses and reduce injury,” NCAR scientist Thomas Karl, the lead researcher, said in a statement.

“Our measurements show that significant amounts of the chemical can be detected in the atmosphere as plants respond to drought, unseasonable temperatures or other stresses.”


Gary Coleman is charged, sued over Utah bowling alley ruckus

PROVO, Utah (AP) — Gary Coleman has been sued by a man who claims the actor punched him and ran into him with his truck in a Payson bowling alley parking lot, causing knee, back and neck injuries.

Colt Rushton, 24, of Spanish Fork, says he and Coleman got into an argument Sept. 6 after he began taking pictures of the “Diff’rent Strokes” actor with a cell phone.

Coleman, 40, was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving and disorderly conduct in Payson City Justice Court. A court clerk said Thursday there had been no notification that Coleman is represented by a lawyer.

In the civil lawsuit, filed Wednesday in 4th District Court, Rushton’s account of the confrontation said Coleman’s bodyguard, Paul Rohbock, told Rushton he would have to pay $20 per picture if he continued taking photos.

Rushton’s attorney, Dustin Lance, said Rushton stopped taking pictures, but when he later saw Coleman sitting in his truck close to the steering wheel, he thought it was funny and took another picture.


World’s oldest man celebrates 113th birthday in Japan, says he’s good for another 5

TOKYO (AP) — The world’s oldest man celebrated his 113th birthday Thursday in southern Japan, telling reporters he wants to live another five years.

Tomoji Tanabe, who was born Sept. 18, 1895, received birthday gifts, flowers and $1,000 cash from the mayor of his hometown of Miyakonojo, on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu.

Tanabe told reporters he wants to live “another five years or so,” according to city spokesman Akihide Yokoyama. That was a slight downgrade from last year, when he said he wanted to live “for infinity.”

The former city land surveyor, who lives with his son and daughter-in-law, is in good health and sticks to the habits that have gotten him this far. He rises early and reads the newspaper each day, drinks milk every afternoon and eats regular meals. He also avoids alcohol and does not smoke.

On Tuesday he woke up early in the morning to eat breakfast before walking out to meet the mayor and members of the press at his home, Yokoyama said. The cash gift he received is given annually to the city’s oldest resident.

Japan has one of the world’s longest life expectancies, nearly 86 years for women and 79 years for men, which is often attributed to the country’s healthy diet rich in fish and rice.