Nation & World briefly |

Nation & World briefly

Obama to announce more troops for Afghanistan next week to ‘finish the job’ – expects support

WASHINGTON (AP) – War-weary Americans will support more fighting in Afghanistan once they understand the perils of losing, President Barack Obama declared Tuesday, announcing he was ready to spell out war plans virtually sure to include tens of thousands more U.S. troops.

He is expected to make his case to the nation in a Tuesday night speech, even as the military completes plans to begin sending in reinforcements in the spring.

Eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks led the U.S. into Afghanistan, Obama said it is still in America’s vital national interest to “dismantle and destroy” al-Qaida terrorists and extremist allies. “I intend to finish the job,” he said.

Obama said he would announce after Thanksgiving his decision on additional troops, and military, congressional and other sources said the occasion would be a Tuesday night televised speech laying out his plans for expanding the Afghan conflict – and then ultimately ending America’s military role.

Republican critics have been pressing him for months to decide on a next step in Afghanistan, but Obama has said repeatedly he was more concerned with making a decision that was right rather than quick.

SPIN METER: Republicans engage in legislation inflation in taking on Democratic health bills

WASHINGTON (AP) – Republicans are using everything short of forklifts to show Americans that Democratic health care legislation is an unwieldy mountain of paper. They pile it high on desks, hoist it on a shoulder trussed in sturdy rope and tell people it’s longer than “War and Peace,” which it isn’t.

Although they complain they don’t have time to read all of it, they found the time to tape it together, page by page, so they could roll it up the steps of the Capitol like super-sized toilet paper and show how very long it is.

Size matters in the health care debate because Republicans have turned the length of the legislation into a symbol: Big, unwieldy bill means big, overreaching government.

Even bigger when you display double-spaced copies with double-wide margins and large print – then pile copies of the House and Senate bills together so that the cameras see something monstrously tall.

Lawmakers routinely debate massive legislation without absorbing every word. They employ people to find what matters to them.

Comatose for 23 years Belgian says through aide that finding of misdiagnosis was like rebirth

BRUSSELS (AP) – With a caretaker holding his hand, a Belgian man who was diagnosed as comatose for 23 years typed out a message Tuesday that he felt reborn after decades of loneliness and frustration. A leading bioethicist, however, expressed skepticism that the man was truly communicating on his own.

Car-crash victim Rom Houben was diagnosed as being in a vegetative state but appears to have been conscious the whole time, doctors here said. An expert using a specialized type of brain scan that was not available in the 1980s says he finally realized Houben was conscious and provided him with the equipment to communicate.

Assisted by a speech therapist who rapidly moved his finger letter by letter along a touch-screen keyboard, Houben told AP Television News that years of being unable to move or communicate left him feeling “alone, lonely, frustrated, but also blessed with my family.”

The therapist, Linda Wouters, told APTN that she can feel Houben guiding her hand with gentle pressure from his fingers, and that she feels him objecting when she moves his hand toward an incorrect letter.

“It was especially frustrating when my family needed me. I could not share in their sorrow. We could not give each other support,” Houben wrote during the interview at the ‘t Weyerke institute in eastern Belgium.

Obama hails US-India ties amid talks with PM Singh, commits to go to India next year

WASHINGTON (AP) – Seeking firmer footing for U.S.-India relations, President Barack Obama tried Tuesday to calm India’s fears about Asian rival China, salving bruised feelings in the world’s largest democracy with an elaborate state visit and assurances of India’s “rightful place as a global leader.”

“The relationship between the United States and India will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century,” Obama declared – twice – during a news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The two appeared before reporters in the East Room after an elaborate morning welcome ceremony that was moved indoors by rain and about two hours of private talks in the Oval Office. The daylong White House extravaganza in India’s honor was to be capped with the day’s most buzz-worthy event: the first state dinner of Obama’s presidency.

The black-tie party for 320, featuring a mostly vegetarian meal of curry prawns, aged basmati rice, eggplant salad, lentil soup, potato dumplings and other delicacies served under a giant tent on the South Lawn, was Washington’s premier must-have invite. Menu, decor and attendance details – each designed to celebrate Indian culture and delight Indian guests – were kept tightly held until just hours before guests arrived in their finery.

The Obamas sought to add their own flair to the evening, as they have with all their entertaining since they took over the White House in January. Marcus Samuelsson of the award-winning New York City restaurant Aquavit was brought in to help prepare the food alongside White House chefs and two Oscar-winners topped the entertainment lineup, American Jennifer Hudson of “Dreamgirls” and Indian A.R. Rahman of “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Ky. police: Census worker found hanging killed himself, staged death to look like homicide

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – A Kentucky census worker found naked, bound with duct tape and hanging from a tree with “fed” scrawled on his chest killed himself but staged his death to make it look like a homicide, authorities said Tuesday.

Bill Sparkman, 51, was found strangled Sept. 12 with a rope around his neck near a cemetery in a heavily wooded area of the Daniel Boone National Forest in southeastern Kentucky. Authorities said his wrists were loosely bound, his glasses were taped to his head and he was gagged.

Kentucky State Police Capt. Lisa Rudzinski said an analysis found that “fed” was written “from the bottom up.” He was touching the ground, and to survive “all Mr. Sparkman had to do at any time was stand up,” she said.

Authorities said Sparkman was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol at the time of his death. His clothes were found in the bed of his nearby pickup truck.

“Our investigation, based on evidence and witness testimony, has concluded that Mr. Sparkman died during an intentional, self-inflicted act that was staged to appear as a homicide,” Rudzinski said.

CPSC’s Tenenbaum acknowledges slow pace in recalling cribs, vows better effort

WASHINGTON (AP) – The head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday promised swift action to get dangerous products off the market, acknowledging that the agency didn’t move quickly enough on a record recall of more than 2 million cribs linked to four deaths.

“We were not advancing this case as quickly as possible,” Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in an interview with The Associated Press. “So, I put all of the resources for the agency on this project so that they could accomplish this goal of recalling the crib.”

At issue are some 2.1 million drop-side cribs made by Stork Craft Manufacturing of Canada. Four infants suffocated in the cribs.

CPSC said the recall involves 1.2 million cribs in the United States and almost 1 million in Canada. Sales of the cribs being recalled date back to 1993 and nearly 150,000 of the cribs carry the Fisher-Price logo.

Stork Craft insisted Tuesday that its cribs are safe if used properly.

US offers $5 million reward for ‘The Bomb Man,’ a Palestinian accused of 1980s attacks

NEW YORK (AP) – The U.S. State Department announced Tuesday that it is now offering a reward of up to $5 million for a Palestinian bomb-maker suspected of once targeting commercial airliners and of aiding the Iraq insurgency.

Abu Ibrahim, whose real name is Husayn Muhammed al-Umari, stands accused of a spate of bombings in the 1980s. He was indicted in the 1982 bombing of Pan Am Flight 830 that killed a 16-year-old boy and wounded more than a dozen passengers as the plane headed to Honolulu from Tokyo.

The FBI has been trying to catch Ibrahim for decades. It has upped its efforts recently, releasing an age-enhanced sketch of him earlier this year and working to dramatically increase the potential reward for information leading to his capture. He is about 73 years old.

Previously, the reward for Ibrahim had been $200,000 – apparently not enough to get someone to turn on him. With the new amount, former law enforcement officials who hunted Ibrahim say the FBI might finally nab him.

“If he is still out there and functioning … we got a good chance now. Better than we had before. Money talks,” said Denny Kline, a retired FBI explosives expert who investigated Ibrahim’s terrorist organization.

Book tour brings Palin to Fla. retirement community that’s a must-stop for GOP candidates

THE VILLAGES, Fla. (AP) – Sarah Palin, who says the 2012 presidential election isn’t on her radar, took her “Going Rogue” book tour to the biggest of the battleground states Tuesday, including a stop in the retirement community where tens of thousands of people gave her star treatment in the 2008 presidential election.

The crowd was far smaller than when she made a September 2008 campaign stop as Republican John McCain’s running mate, but no less passionate for the former Alaska governor. About 700 people, some who arrived a full 24 hours before the signing, waited for Palin as country music blared. Several signs encouraged her to run for president in 2012.

When she arrived, the crowd chanted “Sarah! Sarah!” She made brief remarks – including a gleeful “You can read my story thus far – unfiltered by the media!” She sat down to a Fox News interview, during which there were shouts of “We love you Sarah! We love you and we want you to be president!” and, “Take back the Constitution! And the Bill of Rights!”

The Villages is a massive, heavily Republican retirement community about 60 miles northwest of Orlando that draws huge crowds for political events. About a month after McCain picked her as his running mate, a crowd that would make some college football teams envious sweated for hours in 92-degree heat to hear her speak for 23 minutes. Some waited 90 minutes for a parking space.

Palin remembered the day.

Stocks slip after report shows consumers remain gloomy; Fed forecast helps rein in losses

NEW YORK (AP) – A brighter economic forecast from the Federal Reserve helped the stock market pare losses that followed uninspiring reports on consumer sentiment and housing.

Stocks slipped from 13-month highs in light trading Tuesday as gains in health care companies helped offset drops in financial and industrial stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 17 points a day after jumping by 133.

The market strengthened in afternoon trading as the Federal Reserve released minutes from its latest meeting, during which it pledged to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future and said inflation remained at bay. The Fed raised its expectations for economic growth during the second half of this year, but said unemployment will remain high.

That followed the Conference Board’s report that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 49.5 in November from a revised 48.7 in October. While better than expected, the report shows that consumers remain gloomy heading into the holiday season. A reading above 90 means the economy is on solid footing.

Albert Pujols unanimous choice for NL MVP as Cardinals star wins 2nd straight and 3rd overall

NEW YORK (AP) – Albert Pujols was unanimously voted National League MVP on Tuesday, becoming the first player to repeat since Barry Bonds won four in a row from 2001-04. Pujols received all 32 first-place votes and 448 points in balloting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

It was the third MVP award for the St. Louis Cardinals star, who also won in 2005. He became the first unanimous MVP since Bonds in 2002.

Pujols said he concentrates on World Series titles, not MVPs. He won his only championship in 2006.

“I always make a joke. I got 10 fingers. I want to get nine more rings,” he said. “I want to get as many as Derek Jeter has so far (five). Obviously that’s hard to do.”

Pujols does have one individual goal – the Hall of Fame.