Nation Briefs

Obama raises cash; Romney eyes speech

LOS ANGELES – On a last dash for cash in the celebrity scene of California, President Barack Obama on Sunday took a good-natured shot as his own underwhelming debate performance, marveling at how his friends in the entertainment business could turn in flawless showings every time.

“I can’t always say the same,” Obama told thousands of supporters, who got the joke right away. It was Obama’s most direct acknowledgment that his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, won their debate on Wednesday as a tight race rolled into its last month.

The Republican presidential nominee, meanwhile, sought to build on the momentum from a debate performance last week that even Democrats conceded was “masterful.” Campaigning in up-for-grabs Florida, Romney told a crowd of about 12,000 in Port St. Lucie that he had enjoyed himself, ticking off a list of Obama shortcomings he said he had exposed during the first debate.

Romney ended his day in Virginia, where today he planned a major foreign policy address in which he will criticize Obama’s handling of unrest in Libya and elsewhere.

Pharmacy linked to outbreak issues recall

ATLANTA – The pharmacy that distributed a steroid linked to an outbreak of fungal meningitis has issued a voluntary recall of all of its products, calling the move a precautionary measure.

The New England Compounding Center announced the recall Saturday. The company said in a news release that the move was taken out of an abundance of caution because of the risk of contamination. It says there is no indication that any other products have been contaminated.

The Food and Drug Administration had previously told health professionals not to use any products distributed by the center.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted updated figures to its website Sunday showing there are 91 confirmed cases of the rare form of fungal meningitis. The outbreak spans nine states and has killed at least seven people.

The states with reported cases are: Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.

Calif. gas prices hit another record high

LOS ANGELES – California drivers faced another day of record-breaking gasoline prices Sunday, though relief appeared to be on the way.

In its latest update early Sunday, AAA reported that the statewide average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $4.655. Saturday’s average of $4.6140 was the highest since June 19, 2008, when it was $4.6096.

The four-penny-per-gallon jump Sunday was less than Saturday’s increase, which was 12 cents.

Sunday’s price, like Saturday’s, was the highest in the nation, with the Golden State overtaking Hawaii as the state with the most expensive fuel stemming from a temporary reduction in supply.

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered state smog regulators Sunday to allow winter-blend gasoline to be sold in California earlier than usual to help drive prices down.

Private space capsule off to space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A commercial cargo ship rocketed into orbit Sunday in pursuit of the International Space Station, the first of a dozen supply runs under a mega-contract with NASA.

It was the second launch of a Dragon capsule to the orbiting lab by the California-based SpaceX company. The first was last spring.

This time was no test flight, however, and the spacecraft carried 1,000 pounds of key science experiments and other precious gear. There was also a personal touch: chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream tucked in a freezer for the three station residents.

The company’s unmanned Falcon rocket roared into the night sky right on time, putting SpaceX on track to reach the space station Wednesday. The complex was soaring southwest of Tasmania when the Falcon took flight.

Officials declared the launch a success. NASA is counting on private business to restock the space station, now that the shuttles have retired to museums. The space agency has a $1.6 billion contract with SpaceX for 12 resupply missions.

Big Bird wings it to ‘Saturday Night Live’

NEW YORK – In a week when Big Bird was in the news, it seemed fitting to find him perched at the parody news report on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

But joining Seth Meyers at the “Weekend Update” anchor desk, the popular “Sesame Street” character declined to comment on presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s vow to cut federal funding for PBS. Explaining why, Big Bird said he didn’t want to “ruffle any feathers.”

He told Meyers how he had learned of being mentioned on Wednesday’s debate. He said he’d gotten “a million tweets,” – from real birds, that is.

Since then, he said he was feeling very famous, standing tall above every other 8-foot talking bird.

Associated Press