Crews search for survivors after storms leave at least 38 people dead in Midwest, South
WEST LIBERTY, Ky. (AP) -- Across the South and Midwest, survivors emerged Saturday to find blue sky and splinters where homes once stood, cars flung into buildings and communications crippled after dozens of tornadoes chainsawed through a region of millions, leveling small towns along the way.
At least 38 people were killed in five states, but a 2-year-old girl was somehow found alive and alone in a field near her Indiana home. Her family did not survive. A couple that fled their home for the safety of a restaurant basement made it, even after the storms threw a school bus into their makeshift shelter.
Saturday was a day filled with such stories, told as emergency officials trudged with search dogs past knocked-down cellphone towers and ruined homes looking for survivors in rural Kentucky and Indiana, marking searched roads and homes with orange paint. President Barack Obama offered federal assistance, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich declared an emergency Saturday.
The worst damage appeared centered in the small towns of southern Indiana and eastern Kentucky's Appalachian foothills. No building was untouched and few were recognizable in West Liberty, Ky., about 90 miles from Lexington, where two white police cruisers were picked up and tossed into City Hall.
"We stood in the parking lot and watched it coming," said David Ison, who raced into a bank vault with nine others to seek safety. "By the time it hit, it was like a whiteout."
Romney wins Washington state caucuses for 4 in a row heading into Super Tuesday primaries
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mitt Romney rolled to a double-digit victory in Washington state's Republican presidential caucuses Saturday night, his fourth campaign triumph in a row and a fresh show of strength in the run-up to 10 Super Tuesday contests in all regions of the country.
Rick Santorum and Ron Paul battled for second place, while Newt Gingrich ran a distant fourth.
Claiming his victory, Romney said in a statement that the win meant Washington state's voters "do not want a Washington insider in the White House. They want a conservative businessman who understands the private sector and knows how to get the federal government out of the way so that the economy can once again grow vigorously. "
Romney's West Coast victory came on the heels of twin primary triumphs over Santorum earlier in the week in hard-fought Michigan and lightly contested Arizona, as well as a narrow win over Paul in Maine caucuses earlier in February.
Returns from caucuses in 60 percent of Washington state's precincts showed Romney with 37 percent of the vote, while Paul and Santorum each had 24 percent. Gingrich was drawing 11 percent.
Limbaugh apologizes to law student for insult on sex, says he intended no personal attack
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh apologized Saturday to a Georgetown University law student he had branded a "slut" and "prostitute" after fellow Republicans as well as Democrats criticized him and several advertisers left his program.
The student, Sandra Fluke, had testified to congressional Democrats in support of their national health care policy that would compel her college to offer health plans that cover her birth control.
"My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir," Limbaugh said on his website. "I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices."
Attempts to reach Fluke by telephone and e-mail were unsuccessful.
Fluke had been invited to testify to a House committee about her school's health care plan that does not include contraception. Republican lawmakers barred her from testifying during that hearing, but Democrats invited her back and she spoke to the Democratic lawmakers at an unofficial session.
BP avoids potentially costly trial, sets up potential settlement of remaining oil spill claims
NEW YORK (AP) -- BP's multibillion-dollar settlement with people and businesses harmed by its 2010 oil spill removes some uncertainty about the potential financial damages it faces. It also may help the company restore its all-important relationship with the federal government.
Although the oil company still has a few major legal and financial hurdles to overcome nearly two years after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the tentative settlement with plaintiff's lawyers sends important signals to investors, Gulf Coast states and federal regulators.
Where once it seemed conceivable that BP's spill-related costs could reach $200 billion, lawyers and industry analysts now say that figure will likely be less than a quarter that amount. If the class-action lawsuit by victims had gone to trial, BP could have faced much higher costs along with the embarrassment of having to publicly rehash the mistakes that led to the spill.
The settlement, which BP estimates will cost $7.8 billion, also shows its willingness to pay a huge sum to resolve issues related to the spill. That may improve its standing with the federal government, which controls access to oil reserves that are critically important to BP's future.
"The only trial I thought we would see in this case is the one that just went away," said David Uhlmann, a University of Michigan law professor who once headed the Justice Department's environmental crimes section.
Fresh assault on Homs as Red Cross seeks access to bloodied Baba Amr district
BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian forces launched a fresh assault on Homs on Saturday as the Red Cross pressed forward with efforts to deliver badly needed aid to thousands of people stranded in a besieged neighborhood despite warnings from regime troops of land mines and booby traps.
Two days after they fought their way into the rebel stronghold of Baba Amr, government forces shelled several other neighborhoods of the city, the country's third largest with about 1 million people. They included districts where many of Baba Amr's residents had fled, activists said.
The Syrian regime has said it was fighting "armed gangs" in Baba Amr, which has become a symbol of the nearly year-old uprising against President Bashar Assad's authoritarian rule. The revolt has killed more than 7,500 people, according to the U.N.
The Local Coordination Committees activist network said mortars slammed into the districts of Khaldiyeh, Bab Sbaa and Khader.
Abu Hassan al-Homsi, a doctor at a makeshift clinic in Khaldiyeh, said he treated a dozen people who were wounded, most lightly.
Campaigning in Ohio, Rick Santorum pushes social agenda and worries some supporters
LIMA, Ohio (AP) -- Rick Santorum sees an America in need of more than economic recovery, warning Saturday that the nation's inattention to conservative social values is "damning people."
"Folks if we know what works, why don't we talk about what works? Why don't we encourage it in our schools? Why don't we encourage it in our culture?" the Republican presidential candidate asked hundreds of people gathered at the Allen County Lincoln Day dinner. "Why are we damning people? Why are we condemning them to a life just because we won't talk about -- we'll talk about childhood obesity until the cows come home. But we won't talk about one of the great underlying causes of childhood obesity, which is the instability of the community, the neighborhood and the family."
Campaigning across Ohio this weekend, the former Pennsylvania senator has been calling for fewer children born out of wedlock and fewer single-parent families. He argues that communities where mothers raise children by themselves have less freedom than those where two-parent families are the norm.
The comments underscore Santorum's commitment to social issues, which helped define his 16-year congressional career and distinguish his candidacy from that of rival Mitt Romney. Despite a pro-choice past, Romney is now just as socially conservative as his opponent on paper, but the former Massachusetts governor has almost singularly focused on the economy while campaigning.
By contrast, Santorum's views on morality sometimes overshadow his prescriptions for the nation's economy. And some Republicans -- even among the hundreds waving signs at Santorum's rally in Blue Ash Saturday morning -- fear he's gone too far.
2 trains collide in Poland, with at least 8 people killed and dozens more injured
WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Two trains collided head-on in southern Poland late Saturday, killing at least eight people and injuring around 50 in what appears to be one of the worst rail disasters in the country in recent years, officials said.
Both trains were traveling on the same track but toward each other and collided head-on, Andrzej Pawlowski, a member of the board of the state railway company PKP, said in an interview on the all-news station TVN24. He said one of the trains, which was traveling south from Warsaw to Krakow, should not have been on the track. The other train, headed from the eastern city of Przemysl to Warsaw, was on the correct track, Pawlowski said.
It wasn't immediately clear how the southbound train ended up on the wrong track. Maintenance work was being carried out on one of the tracks where the collision occurred, in the small town of Szczekociny.
Polish media broadcast images of white and green train cars that were twisted and appeared to be knocked off the tracks.
"Everything indicates that this is one of the most serious railway catastrophes of recent years in our country," Transport Minister Slawomir Nowak told TVN24 in a telephone interview. "There are people who have died, there are many injured people."
Sister of Jeffrey Dahmer victim calls Milwaukee walking tour of serial killer's haunts 'evil'
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The sister of one of Jeffrey Dahmer's 17 victims joined others in protesting a Milwaukee walking tour of the serial killer's haunts Saturday, calling out to tour organizers that they were "just as evil" as Dahmer himself.
Janie Hagen's brother, 25-year-old Richard Guerrero, disappeared in 1988 and was one of the first young men Dahmer is known to have murdered. On Saturday, Hagen criticized the new walking tour as merely an attempt to make money by turning her brother's murder into macabre entertainment.
"This whole thing opens up a lot of old wounds, a lot of painful memories," Hagen said while holding a sign calling tour-organizer Bam Media and Marketing heartless. "It's that same hurt all over again."
The new walking tour of places where Dahmer trolled for victims drew attention this week after criticism prompted online deal-maker Groupon to take down a promotion for discounted tickets. But Bam Media said it would not cancel what it calls a legitimate exploration of criminal history.
Hagen was one of about 20 protesters who followed the first small tour group of four customers Saturday. The protesters chanted, "Stop the tour," but generally kept their distance.
Police say 3-year-old Alaska girl died after being locked in frigid bedroom with sister
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- A 3-year-old girl from America's northernmost community died and her younger sister suffered hypothermia after their mother and the mother's boyfriend left them in a locked bedroom with a window open to a temperature of minus 30 degrees to air out the room because the girls wet their beds, authorities said.
The mother, 28-year-old elementary teacher Esther G. Edwards-Gust, was apparently on the lam Saturday, a day after she and 29-year-old Richard Tilden Jr. were indicted in the child's death. Tilden was in custody.
The couple shared a home with Edwards-Gust's 1- and 3-year-old daughters in the Inupiat Eskimo community of Barrow.
Police say the two girls last month were trapped overnight in their bedroom with a window open to temperatures that dropped to 30 degrees below zero. Both children were diagnosed with extreme hypothermia and flown to an Anchorage hospital, where the 3-year-old died.
Tilden later told authorities he'd been drinking the night before and opened the bedroom window to air out the room because the girls wet their beds, according to court documents. He also said the door's latch was broken, making it impossible for anyone inside the room to open it.
Marshall scores 20, No. 6 North Carolina tops No. 4 Duke 88-70 to win ACC title
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Kendall Marshall had 20 points and 10 assists, and No. 6 North Carolina beat No. 4 Duke 88-70 on Saturday night to win the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title.
Tyler Zeller had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Harrison Barnes added 16 points for the Tar Heels (27-4, 14-2). They never trailed, and for the second straight year they rolled in a winner-take-all season finale with the ACC tournament's top seed on the line.
North Carolina shot 54.5 percent, built a 45-28 rebounding advantage and sent Duke to its deepest halftime deficit ever at Cameron Indoor Stadium -- 24 points -- while winning its seventh straight since last month's loss to the Blue Devils.
Mason Plumlee had 17 points, brother Miles Plumlee added 16 points and 11 rebounds and freshman Austin Rivers -- the hero of that last meeting -- had 15 points for the Blue Devils (26-5, 13-3).
But Duke -- which erased a 10-point deficit in the final 2½ minutes to win the first matchup, then rallied from 20 down in the second half to beat North Carolina State -- couldn't come up with another improbable escape and instead had its seven-game winning streak snapped.