The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

October 20, 2012

Today's news in brief

CLINTON —

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Top security official among 8 killed in Beirut car bomb, Lebanon's deadliest attack in years

BEIRUT (AP) — A powerful car bomb tore through the heart of Beirut's Christian sector Friday, killing a top security official and seven others in a devastating attack that threatened to bring the war in Syria directly to Lebanon's doorstep. The blast sheared the balconies off apartment buildings, upended cars and sent dazed rescue workers carrying bloodied children into the streets.

Dozens of people were wounded in the blast, the worst the Lebanese capital has seen in more than four years. The state-run news agency said the target was Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, head of the intelligence division of Lebanon's domestic security forces.

Al-Hassan, 47, headed an investigation over the summer that led to the arrest of former Information Minister Michel Samaha, one of Syria's most loyal allies in Lebanon.

"Whenever there is a problem in Syria, they want to bring it to us," said Karin Sabaha Gemayel, a secretary at a law firm a block from the bombing site, where the street was turned into a swath of rubble, twisted metal and charred vehicles.

"But you always hope it will not happen to us. Not again," she said.

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Sensing vulnerability, GOP pounces after news CIA quickly linked militants to Libya attack

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sensing a moment of political vulnerability on national security, Republicans pounced Friday on disclosures that President Barack Obama's administration could have suspected early on that militants, not angry protesters, launched the attack on U.S. diplomats in Libya.

Within 24 hours of the deadly attack, the CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington that there were eyewitness reports that the attack was carried out by militants, officials told The Associated Press. But for days, the Obama administration blamed it on an out-of-control demonstration over an American-made video ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, led Friday's charge.

"Look around the world, turn on your TV," Ryan said in an interview with WTAQ radio in the election battleground state of Wisconsin. "And what we see in front of us is the absolute unraveling of the Obama administration's foreign policy."

As a security matter, how the Obama administration immediately described the attack has little effect on broader counterterrorism strategies or on the hunt for those responsible for the incident, in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed. And Republicans have offered no explanation for why the president would want to conceal the nature of the attack.

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APNewsBreak: Medicare says compounded drugs a risk but didn't use its power to block payment

WASHINGTON (AP) — Medicare is coming under scrutiny in the meningitis outbreak that has rekindled doubts about the safety of the nation's drug supply.

The giant health insurance program for seniors long ago flagged compounded drugs produced for the mass market without oversight from the Food and Drug Administration as safety risks. In 2007, Medicare revoked coverage of compounded inhaler drugs for lung disease.

But Medicare doesn't seem to have consistently used its own legal power to deny payment, and critics say that has enabled the compounding business to flourish.

Now program officials are scrambling to find out how many Medicare beneficiaries are among the more than 270 people sickened in 16 states in a still-growing outbreak that has claimed 21 lives.

The illnesses have been linked to an injectable steroid used to treat back pain, made by the New England Compounding Center, a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy. The medication was contaminated with a fungus.

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Doctors say 15-year-old Pakistani shooting victim Malala Yousufzai is able to stand with help

LONDON (AP) — The British hospital treating a 15-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban raised hopes for her recovery Friday when doctors said she was able to stand with some help and to write.

Malala Yousufzai appeared with her eyes open and alert as she lay in a hospital bed, in the first photographs released by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham since she arrived from Pakistan on Monday.

It was a series of positive developments since the shooting, which was a brazen bid by the Taliban to silence the girl, who has been an outspoken advocate for girls' right to education.

Still, doctors said she shows signs of infection and faces a long, difficult recovery with uncertain prospects.

"She is not out of the woods yet," hospital medical director Dr. Dave Rosser said. "Having said that, she's doing very well. In fact, she was standing with some help for the first time this morning when I went in to see her."

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Release of Scout abuse files sparks public interest as attorney fields new claims of abuse

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The online release of files showing the Boy Scouts of America's cover-up of decades of sexual abuse has created interest among Americans who want to know who the alleged abusers are and whether people who molested them as Scouts are in the files.

The 14,500 pages of Scout files, from 1959-1985, were posted Thursday on the website of Kelly Clark, the Portland attorney who used the files as evidence in a 2010 lawsuit he won against the Scouts.

The website got more than 200,000 hits within the first few hours of the files' posting, crashing the site.

Release of the files has also prompted a debate on the Boy Scouts' Facebook page. Some people said they'd never allow their children to be involved in the organization and criticized the secrecy of the files. Others described positive experiences in the Scouts for themselves or their children, saying the organization's efforts to prevent abuse have improved significantly.

Clark said his firm has received about four dozen emails from people about the documents. About half came from people who say they were abused when they were in the Scouts and were interested in filing lawsuits.

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Dow falls 205 as weak earnings drag stock market lower; GE, Microsoft, McDonald's disappoint

NEW YORK (AP) — Poor corporate earnings reports pounded the stock market Friday in a sour end to an otherwise strong week of trading. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 200 points for its worst day in four months.

Disappointing results from three giants of the Dow — Microsoft, General Electric and McDonald's — were partly to blame. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fared even worse, as widespread worries about companies' ability to keep churning out better profits drove the broader market down.

Through Thursday, with 115 companies in the S&P 500 reporting, earnings have dropped 3.7 percent compared with a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters, a financial data provider, and ING, a financial company.

"And once you get one quarter of negative earnings, it's a precursor," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING Investment Management in New York. "It's the cockroach theory: If you find one, there's probably many more."

Heading into this earnings season, financial analysts had estimated that corporate profits for July through September would fall compared with the same period a year ago. That would be the first such decline in three years.

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Early taste of Windows 8 baffles consumers, as Microsoft ditches familiar look and feel

NEW YORK (AP) — The release of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system is a week away, and consumers are in for a shock. Windows, used in one form or another for a generation, is getting a completely different look that will force users to learn new ways to get things done.

Microsoft is making a radical break with the past to stay relevant in a world where smartphones and tablets have eroded the three-decade dominance of the personal computer. Windows 8 is supposed to tie together Microsoft's PC, tablet and phone software with one look. But judging by the reactions of some people who have tried the PC version, it's a move that risks confusing and alienating customers.

Tony Roos, an American missionary in Paris, installed a free preview version of Windows 8 on his aging laptop to see if Microsoft's new operating system would make the PC faster and more responsive. It didn't, he said, and he quickly learned that working with the new software requires tossing out a lot of what he knows about Windows.

"It was very difficult to get used to," he said. "I have an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old, and they never got used to it. They were like, 'We're just going to use Mom's computer.'"

Windows 8 is the biggest revision of Microsoft Corp.'s operating system since it introduced Windows 95 amid great fanfare 17 years ago. Ultimately, Windows grew into a $14 billion a year business and helped make former Chief Executive Bill Gates the richest man in the world for a time. Now, due to smartphones and tablets, the personal computer industry is slumping. Computer companies are desperate for something that will get sales growing again. PC sales are expected to shrink this year for the first time since 2001, according to IHS iSuppli, a market research firm.

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Armstrong says last few weeks "difficult' as Livestrong charity celebrates 15th anniversary

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lance Armstrong said he has been through a "difficult couple of weeks" and urged supporters of his cancer-fighting charity to stand behind its mission.

"The mission is bigger than me. It's bigger than any individual," Armstrong said Friday night in his opening remarks at Livestrong's 15th anniversary celebration.

Armstrong has been turned into an outcast in professional cycling and most of his personal sponsors dropped him this week after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive report detailing performance-enhancing drug use by the seven-time Tour de France winner. USADA has ordered him banned from cycling for life and stripped of his Tour de France victories.

Armstrong, who denies doping, didn't address the USADA report or the doping charges in his remarks. Instead, he focused on the mission of the foundation he started in 1997. Armstrong was diagnosed in 1996 with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain.

"I am ... truly humbled by your support," Armstrong said after receiving a standing ovation from the crowd of 1,700. "It's been an interesting couple of weeks. It's been a difficult couple of weeks for me and my family, my friends and this foundation."

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Jessica Biel marries Justin Timberlake in private ceremony in southern Italy

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel tied the knot at a seaside resort in southern Italy.

The Borgo Egnazia resort declined to comment Friday about the superstar nuptials.

The couple released a statement to People magazine saying, "It's great to be married, the ceremony was beautiful and it was so special to be surrounded by our family and friends."

Representatives for the couple confirmed the report Friday.

The 31-year-old Timberlake and 30-year-old Biel got engaged in December after dating for several years.

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Zito sharp, Giants jump on Lynn's error to beat Cardinals 5-0, narrow NLCS deficit to 3-2

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Barry Zito pitched the San Francisco Giants back into the NL championship series, dominating into the eighth inning of a 5-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night that narrowed their deficit to 3-2.

The defending champion Cardinals might have thrown away a chance to clinch a second straight World Series trip. Pitcher Lance Lynn's toss on a possible forceout deflected off the second-base bag, paving the way for the Giants' four-run fourth.

Pablo Sandoval homered for the second straight night and Zito made an extremely rare offensive contribution with a perfectly executed bunt for an RBI single.

The Giants' win in Game 5 sent the series back to San Francisco. Game 6 will begin Sunday in the twilight at AT&T Park, with Ryan Vogelsong pitching against the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter.

Once again this postseason, the Giants benefited from a big error.

Additional AP content can be found in our AP story section throughout the day.

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