Monday, March 5, 2012


Obama says force an option against Iran, but will try to talk Israel out of striking now

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says he doesn't want war but insists he would attack Iran if that was the only option left to stop that nation from getting a nuclear weapon.

"Loose talk of war" only plays into Iran's hands, Obama said Sunday. On Monday, he will try to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to slow quickening pressure among many in his hawkish government to attack Iran's disputed nuclear development sites. Obama is trying to avert an Israeli strike that could come this spring, and which the United States sees as dangerously premature.

The president is expected to tell Netanyahu in private at the White House that although the U.S. is committed to Israel's security it does not want to be dragged into another war. Obama is unlikely to spell out U.S. "red lines" that would trigger a military response, despite Israeli pressure to do so.

U.S. officials believe that while Tehran has the capability to build a nuclear weapon, it has not yet decided to do so. They want to give sanctions time to pressure Iran to give up any military nuclear ambitions. Israel says the threat is too great to wait and many officials there are advocating a pre-emptive strike.

Obama did not directly call on Israel to stand down, and made a point of saying Israel should always have the right to defend itself as it sees fit.


Republican hopefuls sprint to Super Tuesday, with Ohio a neck-and-neck race

CANTON, Ohio (AP) -- The stakes enormous, Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were making last-minute appeals to woo Ohioans in a Rust Belt state where polls show a neck-and-neck race just one day before the Super Tuesday primary.

Ten states across all regions of the country will hold GOP nominating contests Tuesday, presenting a critical test of momentum and organization for the GOP hopefuls in what's become a prolonged battle for the right to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in November.

In an interview Sunday with The Associated Press, Santorum said Romney's inability to wrap up the nomination, despite an enormous financial advantage, "raises a lot of questions in people's minds whether this is the man who can unite the party and be effective as a foil against Obama." He suggested that the GOP nomination may not be settled until this summer's party convention.

In Knoxville, Tenn., Romney didn't mention his GOP rivals, instead quoting verses from the theme song to Davy Crockett and exhorting the hundreds who showed up to vote for him Tuesday.

Romney and Santorum both were to campaign across Ohio on Monday. While Romney has a significant advantage in northeastern states like Vermont and Massachusetts and Santorum sees advantages in conservative states like Oklahoma, Ohio is a critical battleground that also has a history as a key general election swing state.


Death of Ind. baby dropped in field by tornado brings toll to 39 as survivors pick up pieces

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Fifteen-month-old Angel Babcock seemed to be the miracle survivor of a deadly tornado that killed her parents and two siblings when she arrived Friday night at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, Ky. Though critically injured, she was opening her eyes, and hospital workers said that was a hopeful sign.

But the New Pekin, Ind., girl's condition deteriorated Saturday as her brain swelled, chief nursing officer Cis Gruebbel said. As the day went on, Angel's eyes ceased to move, and there was no sign of brain activity. Medical staff told her family there was nothing more they could do.

Angel's death Sunday ended a hopeful tale for survivors in the Midwest and South and brought to 39 the number of people killed by the storms that devastated five states.

As residents picked through the rubble and made plans to bury their dead, they also began trying to find a semblance of normalcy as officials continued to assess the damage.

The National Weather Service in Louisville, Ky., said the tornado that struck New Pekin measured an EF-3 on the enhanced Fujita scale, while another tornado that struck nearby Henryville, Ind., measured an EF-4 and packed winds of 175 mph.


International observer group says 'serious problems' in Russian presidential election

MOSCOW (AP) -- The head of the major international election observer mission in Russia says there were "serious problems" in the vote that returned Vladimir Putin to the presidency.

Tonino Picula said in a statement Monday that "there was no real competition, and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt."

Picula headed the short-term observer mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

A brief synopsis of the mission's findings did not address Russian independent observers' contentions that there were widespread cases of people casting multiple ballots, but said the election "process deteriorated during the vote count, which was assessed negatively in almost one-third of polling stations observed."

The Central Elections Commission says Prime Minister Putin, who was president in 2000-2008, got more than 63 percent of the nationwide vote, but the independent Russian elections watchdog Golos says incomplete reports from its observers of individual polling station counts indicate he hovered perilously close to the 50-percent mark needed for a first-round victory.


Officials: 106 dead in Yemen fighting between al-Qaida and army; 55 troops taken prisoner

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Military officials say the death toll from fighting in southern Yemen between army troops and al-Qaida militants has risen to 106, with another 55 soldiers taken prisoner.

They said Sunday's battle in Abyan province left 78 soldiers and 28 militants killed and wounded scores from both sides. Medical officials confirmed the latest death toll.

Speaking on Monday, the military officials said the militants took hostage another 55 troops during the surprise attack against army bases just outside Abyan's provincial capital of Zinjibar.

The captives were paraded late on Sunday through the streets of Jaar, a nearby town that has been under al-Qaida's control for nearly a year.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.


Relatively light sentences challenge image of Guantanamo's tough tribunals

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) -- The military tribunals held at this isolated U.S. outpost have been lambasted as kangaroo courts, heavily weighted in favor of the prosecution. But most of the convictions so far have led to lighter than expected sentences.

Legal experts note, with some caveats, that all but one of the seven convictions at what are known as military commissions, including a plea bargain finalized Wednesday for a former Maryland man, have resulted in lower sentences than those routinely handed out in U.S. civilian courts for similar offenses.

"There is no evidence, zero, none, zip, that the justice delivered in military commissions is harsher than the justice delivered in federal court," said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow and terrorism specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"And there is a fair bit of evidence, based admittedly on a very limited universe of military commissions cases to date, that the quality of justice is more lenient," said Wittes, one of the founders of the influential Lawfare blog.

Some critics challenge the whole concept of the military trials and note that a majority of the 171 prisoners never will be charged with a crime, let alone face trial, despite the fact that most were captured more than a decade ago.


Officials: Gang of gunmen kills 25 police in early morning shooting spree in western Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) -- A gang of gunmen disguised in military-style uniforms and carrying forged arrest warrants killed 25 police Monday, then hoisted the battle flag of al-Qaida in a carefully planned early morning shooting spree in western Iraq, officials said.

The killings began with an attack on a suburban checkpoint and the kidnapping of two police commanders from their homes in the western Iraqi city of Haditha around 2 a.m. It ended with the gang disappearing into the desert in this latest bloody strike against Iraq's security forces.

At least one of the attackers was killed in a raid that lasted about a half-hour.

"We consider this attack as a serious security breach and we believe that al-Qaida or groups linked to it are behind this," said Mohammed Fathi, spokesman for the governor of Iraq's western Anbar province where Haditha is located.

Iraqi officials described a systematic plot to kill police in Haditha, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, with attackers disguising themselves in military uniforms and driving cars painted to look like Iraqi interior ministry vehicles.


AP source: Holder will address targeted killings of overseas Americans who pose threat to US

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Five months after the CIA sought out and killed an American-born cleric and al-Qaida operative in Yemen, Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to explain how the U.S. can legally kill U.S. citizens on foreign soil.

According to the official, Holder plans to say in a major speech on Monday at Northwestern University law school in Chicago that lethal force is legal under a Sept. 18, 2001, joint congressional resolution.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted a week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks authorizes the use of all necessary force in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.

The official said Holder also will address how the Obama administration reformed military commissions and how both the Obama and the George W. Bush administrations have successfully used civilian courts to convict and sentence terrorists. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the contents of the speech haven't been released.

In recent months, the Obama administration has engaged in an internal debate about how much to reveal about the legal justification for the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.


New Mexico crews try to reach child's body in hole; Amber Alert canceled for 4-year-old boy

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) -- Crews are trying to reach a child's body, believed to be that of a missing 4-year boy, discovered wedged into a deep and narrow hole in the backyard of a southern New Mexico home.

Carlsbad police said Sunday that they are fairly sure it's the body of Samuel Jones, who was reported missing from his home next door Saturday.

An Amber Alert that had been in effect for him was canceled Sunday night.

"We have reports of one missing child, and this child is right next door to the missing child's house," Carlsbad police spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Moyers said, while adding that authorities cannot be positive the body is Samuel's until the body is retrieved.

Recovery efforts began Sunday afternoon, with a large tracked excavator on scene along with metal shoring typically used in pipeline construction projects.


A 7th advertiser backs away from Limbaugh's show after he calls law student 'slut'

NEW YORK (AP) -- A flower company is the seventh advertiser to pull its ads from conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh's radio program in reaction to his derogatory comments about a law student who testified about birth control policy.

ProFlowers said Sunday on its Facebook page that it has suspended advertising on Limbaugh's program because his comments about Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke "went beyond political discourse to a personal attack and do not reflect our values as a company."

The six other advertisers that say they have pulled ads from his show are mortgage lender Quicken Loans, mattress retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, software maker Citrix Systems Inc., online data backup service provider Carbonite and online legal document services company LegalZoom.

ProFlowers had said on Twitter that posts it received about Limbaugh's remarks affected its advertising strategy. ProFlowers is an online flower delivery service.

Limbaugh called the 30-year-old Fluke a "slut" and "prostitute" last week after she testified to congressional Democrats in support of national health care policies that would compel employers and other organizations, including her university, to offer group health insurance that covers birth control for women.