Thursday, March 8, 2012

Published:

GOP activists say Romney will be the nominee, but protracted primary may hurt him this fall

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican activists foresee a long, lumbering presidential campaign that almost certainly will nominate Mitt Romney but may leave him weakened in a fall battle against President Barack Obama.

Interviews Wednesday with GOP officials and strategists in several states found no panic or calls for Romney to crank up his criticisms of Rick Santorum to secure the nomination. But they expressed varying degrees of worry that Santorum's and Newt Gingrich's attacks on Romney are inflicting wounds that might not fully heal by Nov. 6.

"The shelf life is 48 hours for a lot of this," including small-bore disputes over policy differences, said Steve Lombardo, a veteran of many GOP campaigns.

"The bigger concern is the negatives the governor has built up on his unfavorable rating," Lombardo said, referring to impressions that Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, waffles on key principles and can't relate to working-class people. "Those can be harder to reverse," he said, and Romney would like to address them without potshots from his own party.

South Carolina Republican Chairman Chad Connelly is more upbeat. He says Romney won't suffer from a protracted nominating process.

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Hunt for missing US troops set to resume in North Korea in another sign of easing tensions

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wounded in both legs and wearing a U.S. Army field coat peppered with bullet holes, 1st Lt. Robert Schmitt led a desperate U.S. hilltop assault against advancing Chinese forces in one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War. He never returned.

The hunt for thousands of fallen American troops like Schmitt, missing from a conflict fought six decades ago, is about to resume in North Korea as tensions ease between the wartime enemies.

A decade of search operations that led to the recovery and identification of 92 troops was suspended seven years ago, with the U.S. citing worries about the security of its personnel. That ended the only cooperation between the militaries of the two nations, which formally remain at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended with a cease-fire and armistice, not a formal peace treaty.

While Washington says the renewed search for remains is a purely humanitarian endeavor, the October resumption agreement, through which North Korea receives millions of dollars in compensation, comes amid intense efforts to coax the impoverished country into nuclear concessions. That culminated last week in a commitment by the North to freeze nuclear activities and allow international nuclear inspections in exchange for food aid.

A U.S. ship already has transported equipment for the searches to North Korea, and a U.S. advance team is due to arrive this month. Searches are expected to begin in April.

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US Surgeon General: More work is needed to keep young people from using tobacco products

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- More work needs to be done to keep young Americans from using tobacco, including creating smoking bans and increasing taxes on tobacco products to deter youth, the U.S. Surgeon General's office said in a report released Thursday.

The report said it's particularly important to stop young people from using tobacco because those who start smoking as teenagers can increase their chances of long-term addiction. They also quickly can develop reduced lung function, early heart disease and other health problems.

More than 80 percent of smokers begin by age 18 and 99 percent of adult smokers in the U.S. start by age 26, according to the 920-page report, which is the first comprehensive look at youth tobacco use from the surgeon general's office in nearly two decades.

"In order to end this epidemic, we need to focus on where we can prevent it and where we can see the most effect, and that's with young people," Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We want to make our next generation tobacco-free, and I think we can."

The report details youth tobacco use, health impacts, and tobacco marketing and prevention efforts in the U.S. Officials hope the information will reinvigorate anti-tobacco efforts and spark public activism in reducing death and disease caused by tobacco use.

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Syrian deputy oil minister defects on YouTube over regime's crackdown, joins anti-Assad camp

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria's deputy oil minister announced his defection in an online video that emerged Thursday, making him the highest ranking official to abandon President Bashar Assad's regime since the country's uprising erupted a year ago.

Abdo Husameddine said he was defecting because of the "brutal" crackdown on dissent which has claimed the life of thousands of Syrians in the past year.

There has been a steady stream of army defections who have joined a group of dissidents known as the Free Syrian Army, now numbering in the thousands, but civilian government officials have remained largely loyal to Assad's regime.

In the video posted on YouTube, Husameddine identified himself as an "assistant" to the oil minister and a member of the ruling Baath Party. Ministers in Syria may have several assistants known as deputies. He is shown wearing a suit and tie and sitting on a sofa at an undisclosed location, reading from a paper.

"I, Abdo Husameddine, deputy oil and mineral resources minister, announce my defection from the regime and resignation from my post ... and declare that I am joining the dignified people's revolution," he said.

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Expert panel: 10-mile evacuation zone may not be adequate for some nuclear power plants

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. should customize emergency plans for each of the nation's 65 nuclear power plants, a change that in some cases could expand the standard 10-mile evacuation zone in place for more than three decades, an expert panel is recommending.

That's one of the lessons to emerge in a 40-page report to be released Thursday -- three days before the one-year anniversary of Japan's nuclear disaster -- from a committee that examined the incident for the American Nuclear Society. The panel includes a former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a fellow at an Energy Department laboratory and seven other nuclear scientists.

The report concludes that U.S. nuclear power oversight is adequate to protect public health and safety but that emergency zones "should not be based on arbitrary mileage designations."

Under rules in force since 1978, communities near nuclear plants must prepare federally reviewed evacuation plans only for those living within 10 miles of the facility. That's because in a severe accident most of the early deaths -- those from radiation sickness, not cancer -- are predicted to occur within the first 10 miles. While that zone can be adjusted during an accident, the panel says emergency plans should account for how each nuclear power plant would react in a disaster before it happens.

"It's a matter of planning," said Michael Corradini, director of the University of Wisconsin's Institute of Nuclear Systems and the panel's co-chair. "For certain types of events and certain severities, they may change how they evacuate, or who would evacuate."

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RT for your biggest fan? For social media-savvy fans, retweet is new version of the autograph

Forget standing in line for hours, hoping for a scribbled, barely legible autograph on a wrinkled piece of paper. Or jockeying for spots behind the dugout, on the off chance a signed ball or batting glove gets tossed your way.

When it comes to souvenirs from your favorite athlete, the retweet is where it's at these days.

Fans have turned Twitter into a digital version of the autograph session, asking -- sometimes begging -- stars from every sport for a shoutout. Oh, sure, some requests are designed to raise the profile of a charitable cause. But most fans are simply looking for a little love from their favorite athletes.

"(at)SHAQ the real superman, can i get a birthday retweet from the most dominant big man of all time?"

"It's my birthday and all I want is for (at)KingJames to tweet me !!

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Review: Beyond better-looking screen, new iPad offers mostly minor upgrades

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- I have grown fond of my iPad 2 during the past nine months. So, I was curious if I would like my tablet computer any less once I saw Apple's new and improved iPad.

The verdict: I won't be abandoning my iPad 2 for its sexier successor anytime soon.

Although Apple Inc.'s latest temptress may turn some heads, the new iPad isn't radically different from last year's model, based on the 15 minutes I was able to spend noodling with the device at the company's product launch Wednesday.

If you don't already own a tablet computer, and want one, then the new iPad will be tough to resist -- if you can afford it. The device, which goes on sale March 16 in the U.S., Canada and 10 other countries, will sell for $499 to $829. If you want to save some money, consider the iPad 2, which Apple will continue making and sell for as low as $399.

The new iPad's alluring screen quality provides the main attraction. A higher-resolution screen called "Retina Display" makes everything -- from vacation pictures to the text on a website -- look crisper. By Apple's calculations, the new iPad offers four times the resolution of its predecessor.

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US activist group launches viral video of vicious African militia, reaching worldwide

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- American filmmakers who reported on wartime atrocities in Africa for a 50-minute work called "Invisible Children" drew more attention than they imagined when their project was released in 2005. They soon founded a nonprofit organization to campaign against the brutality.

The group's new 29-minute video is gaining even more attention, thanks to social media. The work released Monday is part of an effort called KONY 2012 that targets the Lord's Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony, a bush fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Uganda, Invisible Children and (hash)stopkony were among the top 10 trending terms on Twitter among both the worldwide and U.S. audience on Wednesday night, ranking higher than New iPad or Peyton Manning. Twitter's top trends more commonly include celebrities than fugitive militants.

Ben Keesey, Invisible Children's 28-year-old chief executive officer, said the viral success shows their message resonates and that viewers feel empowered to force change. It was released on the website, www.kony2012.com.

"The core message is just to show that there are few times where problems are black and white. There's lots of complicated stuff in the world, but Joseph Kony and what he's doing is black and white," Keesey said Wednesday.

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Decorated Green Beret who died trying to rescue his daughters in NC to be buried at Arlington

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) -- A decorated Green Beret who died trying to rescue his two young daughters from their burning home will be honored with a military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.

Chief Warrant Officer Edward Cantrell died Tuesday, along with 6-year-old Isabella and 4-year-old Natalia. Authorities say he leapt from the second floor of the burning house, wrapped himself in a blanket and ran back inside for his girls.

Lt. Col. April Olsen of the Army Special Forces Command said Wednesday that Cantrell's daughters may be buried with him, though plans for the military funeral are not yet finalized.

Cantrell served a combat deployment to Iraq and five to Afghanistan, returning from the last mission in August. He earned four Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.

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After getting released by Colts, Peyton Manning begins new process of finding another team

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Peyton Manning is getting an early glimpse into life as a free agent.

Hours after a tearful, trying farewell news conference in Indianapolis, Manning flew back to his home in Miami and was immediately peppered with questions about his next landing spot. He'd better get used to it. The scene is likely to play out at every destination he visits until he decides where to play next season.

"I haven't thought about teams and I don't know who is interested, I really don't. This is all new to me," Manning said. "I think my agent has been getting calls at 4 o'clock today since this started. I haven't talked to him because I literally just got off the plane and am ready to start back on my training again because that's what I need to do."

If Manning is healthy, he'll be the hottest commodity to hit the open market in decades: a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with Hall of Fame credentials.

After the Colts decided not to pick up Manning's $28 million bonus, team owner Jim Irsay ended months of speculation by releasing the 14-year veteran and longtime face of the franchise. Indianapolis is likely to find Manning's replacement in April's draft, presumably Stanford's Andrew Luck; the Colts have the first overall pick.