Daily Updates

November 7, 2013

The world in brief

Goodbye trans fat: FDA is ordering a phase-out of the last of the artery-clogging substance

WASHINGTON (AP) — Heart-clogging trans fats were once a staple of the American diet, plentiful in baked goods, microwave popcorn and fried foods. Now, mindful of the health risks, the Food and Drug Administration is getting rid of what’s left of them for good.

Condemning artificial trans fats as a threat to public health, the FDA announced Thursday it will require the food industry to phase them out.

Manufacturers already have eliminated many trans fats, responding to criticism from the medical community and to local laws, Even so, the FDA said getting rid of the rest — the average American still eats around a gram of trans fat a day — could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year.

It won’t happen right away. The agency will collect comments for two months before determining a phase-out timetable. Different foods may have different schedules, depending how easy it is to find substitutes.

“We want to do it in a way that doesn’t unduly disrupt markets,” said Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods. Still, he says, the food “industry has demonstrated that it is, by and large, feasible to do.”

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Kerry heading to Geneva to ’narrow differences’ as limited nuclear deal with Iran seems close

GENEVA (AP) — Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator signaled progress at talks with six world powers Thursday on a deal to cap some of his country’s atomic programs in exchange for limited relief from sanctions stifling Iran’s economy, saying the six had accepted Tehran’s proposals on how to proceed.

U.S. officials said Secretary of State John Kerry will fly to Geneva on Friday to participate in the negotiations — a last-minute decision that suggests a deal could be imminent.

A senior State Department official traveling with Kerry in Amman, Jordan, said the secretary would come to Geneva “to help narrow differences in negotiations.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information about the Geneva visit.

Even if an agreement is reached, it would only be the start of a long process to reduce Iran’s potential nuclear threat, with no guarantee of ultimate success.

Still, a limited accord would mark a breakthrough after nearly a decade of mostly inconclusive talks focused on limiting, if not eliminating, Iranian atomic programs that could be turned from producing energy into making weapons.

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Obama says he’s sorry Americans are losing health insurance plans he said they could keep

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to calm a growing furor, President Barack Obama said Thursday he’s sorry Americans are losing health insurance plans he repeatedly said they could keep under his signature health care law. But the president stopped short of apologizing for making those promises in the first place.

“I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” he said in an interview with NBC News.

Signaling possible tweaks to the law, Obama said his administration was working to close “some of the holes and gaps” that were causing millions of Americans to get cancellation letters. Officials said he was referring to fixes the administration can make on its own, not legislative options some congressional lawmakers have proposed.

“We’ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them, and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this,” Obama said.

The president’s apology comes as the White House tries to combat a cascade of troubles surrounding the rollout of the health care law often referred to as “Obamacare.” The healthcare.gov website that was supposed to be an easy portal for Americans to purchase insurance has been riddled by technical issues. And with at least 3.5 million Americans receiving cancellation notices from their insurance companies, there’s new scrutiny aimed at the way the president tried to sell the law to the public in the first place.

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Dazzling Twitter debut sends stock soaring 73 percent, could invite more companies to do IPOs

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Twitter went on sale to the public for the first time Thursday, instantly leaping more than 70 percent above their offering price in a dazzling debut that exceeded even Wall Street’s lofty hopes.

By the closing bell, the social network that reinvented global communication in 140-character bursts was valued at $31 billion — nearly as much as Yahoo Inc., an Internet icon from another era, and just below Kraft Foods, the grocery conglomerate founded more than a century ago.

The stock’s sizzling performance seemed to affirm the bright prospects for Internet companies, especially those focused on mobile users. And it could invite more entrepreneurs to consider IPOs, which lost their luster after Facebook’s first appearance on the Nasdaq was marred by glitches.

In Silicon Valley, the IPO produced another crop of millionaires and billionaires, some of whom are sure to fund a new generation of startups.

Twitter, which has never turned a profit in the seven years since it was founded, worked hard to temper expectations ahead of the IPO, but all that was swiftly forgotten when the market opened.

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Typhoon of historic power slams Philippines; ’There will be catastrophic damage’

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded slammed into the Philippines early Friday, and one weather expert warned, “There will be catastrophic damage.”

The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center shortly before Typhoon Haiyan’s landfall said its maximum sustained winds were 314 kilometers per hour (195 mph), with gusts up to 379 kilometers per hour (235 mph).

“195-mile-per-hour winds, there aren’t too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind,” said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist who is meteorology director at the private firm Weather Underground.

Masters said the storm had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of catastrophic damage.

Local authorities reported having troubles reaching colleagues in the landfall area.

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Who did it? Yasser Arafat was probably poisoned, scientists say; Israel denies involvement

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Yasser Arafat’s mysterious 2004 death turned into a whodunit Thursday after Swiss scientists who examined his remains said the Palestinian leader was probably poisoned with radioactive polonium.

Yet hard proof remains elusive, and nine years on, tracking down anyone who might have slipped minuscule amounts of the lethal substance into Arafat’s food or drink could be difficult.

A new investigation could also prove embarrassing — and not just for Israel, which the Palestinians have long accused of poisoning their leader and which has denied any role.

The Palestinians themselves could come under renewed scrutiny, since Arafat was holed up in his Israeli-besieged West Bank compound in the months before his death, surrounded by advisers, staff and bodyguards.

Arafat died at a French military hospital on Nov. 11, 2004, at age 75, a month after suddenly falling violently ill at his compound. At the time, French doctors said he died of a stroke and had a blood-clotting problem, but records were inconclusive about what caused that condition.

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People whose coverage is being canceled could improve overall risk of Obama insurance plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Insurance cancellations are fueling a political backlash against President Barack Obama and Democrats supporting his health care overhaul.

The president apologized Thursday for the turmoil some consumers are going through, but there may yet be a silver lining as far as the law itself.

It’s Economics 101, a little-noticed consequence of a controversial policy decision. And there are winners and losers.

Millions of people who currently buy their own health insurance coverage are losing it next year because their plans don’t meet requirements of the health care law. But experts say the resulting shift of those people into the new health insurance markets under Obama’s law would bring in customers already known to insurers, reducing the overall financial risks for each state’s insurance pool.

That’s painful for those who end up paying higher premiums for upgraded policies. But it could save money for the taxpayers who are subsidizing the new coverage.

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Senate passes gay rights bill barring workplace discrimination; chances in House dim

WASHINGTON (AP) — Reflecting Americans’ increasing acceptance of gays, the Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would bar workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Gay rights advocates hailed the bipartisan, 64-32 vote as a historic step although it could prove short-lived. A foe of the bill, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has signaled that the Republican-led House is unlikely to even vote. Senate proponents were looking for a way around that obstacle.

Seventeen years after a similar anti-discrimination measure failed by one vote, 54 members of the Senate Democratic majority and 10 Republicans voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It is the first major gay rights bill since Congress repealed the ban on gays serving openly in the military three years ago.

“All Americans deserve a fair opportunity to pursue the American dream,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a chief sponsor of the bill.

Proponents cast the effort as Congress following the lead of business and localities as some 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 22 states have outlawed employment discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

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New video emerges showing Toronto mayor in a rage, threatening to ’kill’ someone

TORONTO (AP) — A new video that surfaced Thursday showed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford threatening to “murder” someone and “poke his eyes out” in a rambling rage, deepening concerns among both critics and allies that he is no longer fit to lead Canada’s largest city.

Moments after the video was posted online, the mayor told reporters that he was “extremely, extremely inebriated” in it and “embarrassed” by it. The context of the video is unknown, and it’s unclear who the target of Ford’s wrath is. The video appeared at length on the Toronto Star’s website.

City councilors moved ahead in efforts to force Ford out of office, although there is no clear legal path for doing so.

Ford’s mother defended him later Thursday, saying she has advised him to work on his “huge weight problem,” get a driver, put an alcohol detector in his car and watch the company he keeps. But she insisted that her son, who has acknowledged a drinking problem, did not need to enter rehab.

The controversy surrounding Ford escalated last week when police announced they had obtained a different, long-sought video that shows Ford smoking a crack pipe. After months of evading the question, Ford admitted Tuesday to smoking crack in a “drunken stupor” about a year ago.

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RI victim of Boston Marathon bombing steps out with new leg for wearing high heels, skirts

WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — Heather Abbott rarely wore flats before she became one of the many people to lose a leg in the Boston Marathon bombings. She calls herself a “professional heel-wearer” and preferred heels that reached the towering height of 4 inches.

On Thursday, she showed off a new prosthetic that will help her reclaim a little bit of her personal style: a “high-definition” realistic silicone leg that can be worn with high heels.

To showcase it, she broke out a pair of black leather Nine West shoes with peep-toed 4-inch spiked heels that displayed painted red nails on both feet. It is almost impossible to tell just by looking that the prosthetic is not real.

“I can’t believe how much it looks like a real foot,” Abbott said.

Abbott, 38, of Newport, was going in to the Forum restaurant in Boston with friends on April 15 when one of two bombs went off a short distance away. Her left leg was badly hurt. She had to make the difficult decision to amputate it below the knee.

 

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