Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Published:

Santorum and Romney duel in Ohio, split 6 other Republican Super Tuesday primary states

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney split six states and dueled in an almost impossibly close race in Ohio on a Super Tuesday that stretched from one end of the country to the other in the most turbulent Republican presidential race in a generation.

A resurgent Santorum broke through in primaries in Oklahoma and Tennessee and in the North Dakota caucuses, raising fresh doubts about Romney's ability to corral the votes of conservatives in some of the most Republican states in the country.

Romney had a home-state win in Massachusetts to go with victories in Vermont and in Virginia, where neither Santorum nor Newt Gingrich qualified for the ballot. He also led in early Idaho caucus returns and -- most important -- padded his lead for delegates to the Republican National Convention.

On the busiest night of the campaign season, Ohio was the marquee matchup, a second industrial state showdown in as many weeks between Romney and Santorum. It drew the most campaigning and television advertisements of all 10 Super Tuesday contests and for good reason-- no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying the state in the fall.

After trailing for much of the night, Romney forged ahead in a count that stretched toward midnight. With votes tallied in 91 percent of the state's precincts, he led by about 5,000 votes out of 1.1 million cast.

___

Santorum winning Ohio conservatives in GOP contest, takes slight blue-collar edge over Romney

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rick Santorum was drawing robust support Tuesday from the most conservative voters in Ohio's Republican presidential primary, according to early results of an exit poll of voters. He was also managing a modest lead over rival Mitt Romney among the state's blue-collar voters, whom he has targeted in his drive to slow Romney's march toward the GOP nomination.

Ohio was the most closely watched of the 10 states holding Super Tuesday presidential contests. With many viewing the state as one of Santorum's best chances of emerging as the singular challenger to Romney, the two men were drawing strength from different ideological wings of the party, with Romney faring better with more moderate, less religiously driven voters.

In two states where Santorum triumphed, Oklahoma and Tennessee, he was buoyed by voters who said their choices were influenced by religion, the exit polls showed.

More than two-thirds of voters in both states said a candidate's religious beliefs were an important factor in their decisions. Santorum has frequently spoken about his Catholicism and the role it has played in his life.

On a night on which Santorum and Romney traded victories across the map, there was a potentially ominous sign for the GOP as voters signaled only a lukewarm attachment toward even their own candidate.

___

Obama tells business leaders the nation needs changes in tax laws to help the economy

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama told business leaders Tuesday that the nation needs to reform its tax system to help boost the economy, saying the American people "instinctually understand" that the U.S. needs a more balanced approach to solve its economic problems.

"The economy is getting stronger and the recovery is speeding up. The question now is how do we make sure it keeps going," Obama said to the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of top U.S. corporations.

The president told more than 90 executives that the nation would "have to deal with revenue and that's something that I think the American people instinctually understand, that if we do this in a balanced way, we can solve our problems." He said the nation was not in a similar situation as debt-laden Greece, saying "we don't have to cut by 25 percent and raise taxes by 25 percent."

"These are relatively modest adjustments that can stabilize our economy, give you the kind of business confidence that you need to invest and make sure America wins for the future," Obama said, adding the business community would be an "important voice" in the debate.

Obama outlined his administration's efforts to jumpstart manufacturing, noting that the U.S. auto industry had rebounded following the economic downturn, and noted the passage of trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, and the administration's work to bring Russia into the World Trade Organization.

___

US, Europe set new talks with Iran on nuclear dispute; Obama says time for diplomacy, not war

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alarmed by rising talk of war, the United States, Europe and other world powers announced Tuesday that bargaining will begin again with Iran over its fiercely disputed nuclear efforts. Tehran, for its part, invited inspectors to see a site suspected of secret atomic weapons work.

In Washington, President Barack Obama declared he had been working to avert war with Iran during intensive meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week. Israel, fearing the prospect of a nuclear Iran, has been stressing a need for possible military action, but Obama said sanctions and diplomacy were already working.

The president rebuffed Republican critics, who say his reluctance to attack Iran is a sign of weakness, holding up the specter of more dead Americans in another Mideast war.

"When I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I'm reminded of the costs involved in war," Obama said. "This is not a game. And there's nothing casual about it."

Although Obama's remarks were suffused with American election-year politics -- they came the same day as the biggest batch of Republican primaries to choose his opponent in November -- he spoke for capitals around the world in warning that "bluster" and posturing to appear tough on Iran could edge the world closer to an avoidable war.

___

Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford convicted of bilking $7B from investors in 20-year Ponzi scheme

HOUSTON (AP) -- Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford spent more than 20 years charming investors, who handed him billions of dollars they had spent their lives accumulating through hard work and saving.

Stanford promised them safe investments that would help fulfill their dreams of being able to retire comfortably or pay their children's college tuition. All the while, he was pulling their money out of his Caribbean bank to pay for a string of failed businesses and a jet-setting lifestyle.

Stanford, once considered one of the wealthiest people in the U.S., with a financial empire that spanned the Americas, was convicted Tuesday on charges he bilked investors out of more than $7 billion.

Prosecutors said his business acumen was nothing more than an old-fashioned Ponzi scheme, and jurors convicted him on 13 of 14 charges, including conspiracy, wire and mail fraud. He was acquitted on a single count of wire fraud that accused him of bribing a regulator with Super Bowl tickets.

Stanford looked down when the verdict was read in federal court in Houston, where his financial empire was based. His mother and daughters hugged one another, and one of his daughters started crying.

___

Obama: Quran burning attacks underscore need to end Afghan war

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Amid fresh concerns over the safety of American forces, President Barack Obama on Tuesday said the accidental burning of Qurans in Afghanistan and the retaliatory killings of U.S. troops gave new credence to the need to end the war.

"I think that it is an indication of the challenges in that environment, and it's an indication that now is the time for us to transition," Obama said during a White House news conference.

Obama announced no speeding up of the NATO-backed plan to end combat missions in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, saying "that continues to be the plan." But he said the violence aimed at Americans in Afghanistan that followed the accidental burning of Qurans on a U.S. base was "unacceptable."

Six Americans were killed in retaliatory violence. Obama offered his apologies to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a move that was roundly criticized by his Republican presidential rivals as weak and unnecessary.

From Congress, Obama was getting tugged from another direction. A letter calling for Obama to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan had the backing of 23 senators, mostly Democrats but including two conservative Republicans, Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

___

Special Forces soldier killed trying to save 2 young daughters from NC blaze; girls also die

HOPE MILLS, N.C. (AP) -- A decorated Green Beret leapt from the second-story of his burning home early Tuesday, wrapped himself in a blanket and ran back inside in an attempt to save his two young daughters.

Firefighters recovered the body of Chief Warrant Officer Edward Cantrell on the second floor of his North Carolina home, not far from the remains of 6-year-old Isabella and 4-year-old Natalia.

"He never made it back out," said Debbie Tanna, spokeswoman for the Cumberland County sheriff's office.

Cantrell's wife and the girl's mother, Louise, also jumped from the second floor. She was treated and released from a Fayetteville hospital for smoke inhalation. The family dog, a Rottweiler named Sasha, also survived the fire.

Cantrell was a special forces paratrooper who served six tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Friends and relatives gathered to recover what they could from burned-out house in Hope Mills, a small community about a 20-minute drive from the gates of Fort Bragg.

___

Mystery looms after reclusive 73-year-old twins die within hours, without signs of foul play

When they were young, Patricia and Joan Miller sang and danced for Bing Crosby, troops and their friends.

But as the identical twins grew older, they became less interested in socializing. When people called, the sisters came up with excuses to get off the phone. Without explanation, they stopped sending birthday cards to a childhood friend. And on the rare occasion when they left their home, the two women didn't chat up the neighbors.

Never married and without children or pets, the Miller sisters withdrew into their four-bedroom home in California's South Lake Tahoe, where they were found dead last week at the age of 73. One was in a downstairs bedroom and the other was in the hallway just outside.

It was as if the two sisters, long each other's only companion, could not live without each other, said Detective Matt Harwood with the El Dorado County sheriff's office.

"My perception is one died and the other couldn't handle it," said Harwood, who has been unable to identify any close friends or family members to inform of the sisters' deaths. "It appears purely natural, but we are still trying to piece it all together."

___

Manning, Irsay return to Indianapolis on same plane; Peyton says: 'We'll talk tomorrow'

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Peyton Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay have returned to Indianapolis together on a plane amid reports that the team and the star quarterback will be parting ways.

Manning spoke briefly to a small group of reporters at the Indianapolis airport Tuesday night, but didn't address questions about his future with the Colts.

"We'll see y'all tomorrow," Manning said. "We're good. We'll talk tomorrow. We'll do it all right tomorrow."

Citing anonymous sources, ESPN reported earlier Tuesday that the Colts plan to hold a news conference to announce a long-expected decision that they will release the four-time MVP rather than pay him a $28 million bonus.

___

Veterans with PTSD more likely to get addictive painkillers despite the risks, VA study shows

CHICAGO (AP) -- Morphine and similar powerful painkillers are sometimes prescribed to recent war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress along with physical pain, and the consequences can be tragic, a government study suggests.

These vets are at high risk for drug and alcohol abuse, but they're two times more likely to get prescriptions for addictive painkillers than vets with only physical pain, according to the study, billed as the first national examination of the problem. Iraq and Afghanistan vets with PTSD who already had substance abuse problems were four times more likely to get these drugs than vets without mental health problems, according to the study.

Subsequent suicides, other self-inflicted injuries, and drug and alcohol overdoses were all more common in vets with PTSD who got these drugs. These consequences were rare but still troubling, the study authors said.

The results underscore the challenge of treating veterans with devastating physical injuries and haunting memories of the horrors of war. But the findings also suggest that physicians treating these veterans should offer less risky treatment, including therapies other than drugs, the study authors and other experts say.

Opium-based drugs like morphine and hydrocodone can dull excruciating physical pain. Relatively few veterans are prescribed such drugs. But some doctors likely prescribe them for vets who also have mental pain "with the hope that the emotional distress that accompanies chronic pain will also be reduced. Unfortunately, this hope is often not fulfilled, and opioids can sometimes make emotional problems worse," said Michael Von Korff, a chronic illness researcher with Group Health Research Institute, a Seattle-based health care system. He was not involved in the study.