Sunday, February 26, 2012

Published:

'The Artist' earns best-picture Oscar; Streep, Dujardin win lead-acting prizes

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Academy Awards voters have spoken up for "The Artist," the first silent film to triumph at Hollywood's highest honors since the original Oscar ceremony 83 years ago.

The black-and-white comic melodrama took four prizes Sunday, including best picture, actor for Jean Dujardin and director for Michel Hazanavicius. Not since the World War I saga "Wings" was named outstanding picture at the first Oscars in 1929 had a silent film earned the top prize.

The other top Oscars went to Meryl Streep as best actress for "The Iron Lady," Octavia Spencer as supporting actress for "The Help" and Christopher Plummer as supporting actor for "Beginners."

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List of 84th annual Academy Award winners

List of the 84th Annual Academy Award winners announced Sunday:

1. Best Picture: "The Artist."

2. Actor: Jean Dujardin, "The Artist."

3. Actress: Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady."

4. Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, "Beginners."

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Suicide car bomber strikes at entrance to airport in eastern Afghanistan; 9 killed

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A suicide car bomber struck early Monday at the gates of Jalalabad airport in eastern Afghanistan, officials said, killing nine people in an attack insurgents said was revenge for U.S. troops burning Qurans.

The explosion comes after six days of deadly protests in Afghanistan over the disposal of Qurans and other Islamic texts in a burn pit last week at a U.S. military base north of the capital.

American officials have called the incident a mistake and issued a series of apologies. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged calm, saying that Afghans should not let the insurgents capitalize on their indignation to spark violence.

Monday's attack appeared to be a sign that the Taliban are seizing the opportunity to do just that.

The bomber drove up to the gates of the airport -- which serves both civilian and international military aircraft -- shortly after dawn and detonated his explosives in a "very strong" blast, said Nangarhar provincial police spokesman Hazrad Mohammad.

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In Michigan, Santorum rejects Romney's claim of being a solid, consistent conservative

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) -- The question of whether Mitt Romney is conservative enough to deserve the Republican presidential nomination regained center stage in the GOP contest Sunday, with Rick Santorum saying the former Massachusetts governor fails the test.

Santorum urged Michigan voters to turn the race "on its ear" by rejecting Romney in Tuesday's primary in his native state, in which Romney is spending heavily to avoid an upset. Santorum said Romney's record is virtually identical to President Barack Obama's on some key issues, especially mandated health coverage, making him a weak potential nominee.

"Why would we give away the most salient issue in this election?" an impassioned Santorum asked more than 100 people in a remote, snow-covered region of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, said he is the true conservative on fiscal and social issues.

Romney rejected the claims.

"The biggest misconception would be that I'm a guy that comes from Massachusetts and therefore I can't be conservative," Romney told "Fox News Sunday." In his one term as Massachusetts governor, he said, he balanced budgets, reduced taxes, enforced immigration laws, "stood up for traditional marriage" and was "a pro-life governor."

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Military identifies remains of the last American service member unaccounted for in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) -- The U.S military announced Sunday that it has recovered the remains of the last American service member who was unaccounted for in Iraq, an Army interpreter seized by gunmen after sneaking off base to visit his Iraqi wife in Baghdad during the height of the insurgency.

The remains of Staff Sgt. Ahmed al-Taie, who was 41 when militiamen seized him on Oct. 23, 2006, were positively identified at the military's mortuary in Dover, Del., the Army said in a statement released Sunday. Army officials said they had no further details about the circumstances surrounding his death or the discovery of his remains.

Al-Taie's brother, Hathal Al-Taie, told The Associated Press the military officer who visited the family's home to inform them about the remains said they are still in Dover, but that he didn't know the circumstances surrounding his brother's death.

"We have no information right now, not even how the body looks like or when they're going to release him," Hathal Al-Taie said by phone from Ann Arbor, Mich., where the family settled after leaving Iraq for the U.S. when his brother was still a teenager.

Their uncle, Entifadh Qanbar, said he was told by the Army major who informed the family in Ann Arbor that the remains were received at Dover on Feb. 22.

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West dismisses Syrian referendum on constitution as 'farce' meant to justify bloody crackdown

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- The U.S. and its allies dismissed the Syrian regime's referendum on a new constitution Sunday as a "farce" meant to justify the bloody crackdown on dissent.

But voters in government strongholds suggested why some Syrians have not joined the uprising against President Bashar Assad: Loyalty, distrust of the opposition and fear his fall will ignite a civil war.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the poll "a cynical ploy" and urged Syrians who still support Assad to turn against him. A "farce" and a "sham vote" was how German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle described it.

"It's a phony referendum and it is going to be used by Assad to justify what he's doing to other Syrian citizens," Clinton said in an interview with CBS News in Rabat, Morocco.

"The longer you support the regime's campaign of violence against your brothers and sisters, the more it will stain your honor," she added, addressing Assad supporters, especially the military. "If you refuse, however, to prop up the regime or take part in attacks ... your countrymen and women will hail you as heroes."

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Pressure builds to open US sky to civilian drone flights despite safety, privacy concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Heads up: Drones are going mainstream. Civilian cousins of the unmanned military aircraft that have tracked and killed terrorists in the Middle East and Asia are in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird's-eye view that's too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get.

Along with the enthusiasm, there are qualms.

Drones overhead could invade people's privacy. The government worries they could collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground, concerns that have slowed more widespread adoption of the technology.

Despite that, pressure is building to give drones the same access as manned aircraft to the sky at home.

"It's going to be the next big revolution in aviation. It's coming," says Dan Elwell, the Aerospace Industries Association's vice president for civil aviation.

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Democrats play defense on governors' races, but have hopes of winning Wisconsin recall

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats are playing defense in governors' races in 2012, protecting eight seats -- some in conservative states like North Carolina and Montana -- while Republicans are safeguarding just four. But one of those is in Wisconsin, where a recall effort against incumbent Scott Walker has emerged as a national test of the confrontational measures many GOP governors have taken to balance state budgets.

Both parties agree the landscape is quite different than in 2010, where 37 states elected governors at the height of the economic downturn and amid roiling voter anger over government spending and debt. Republicans netted 6 new seats that year, including important presidential bellwether states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. There are currently 29 Republican governors, 20 Democrats and 1 independent.

This year, just 8 seats are up for grabs against a backdrop of a slowly improving national economy and a presidential contest that will draw a broader range of voters. Republicans are casting the contests as a referendum on their own party's leadership in tough times while Democrats are calling it a potential course correction after two years of GOP overreach.

"The public in a number of states in 2010 thought they were sending the message that with new leadership in the governor's office they'd get an accelerated recovery. Instead they got a hard right turn in ideology," said Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in an interview.

O'Malley pointed to Ohio, where voters soundly rejected a ballot measure backed by Republican governor John Kasich to curtail public employee unions, and Florida, where Rick Scott's aggressive budget cuts and remote style helped sink his approval ratings to record lows last year.

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Officials say 3 dead in derailment of Canadian passenger west of Toronto

BURLINGTON, Ontario (AP) -- A Canadian Via Rail passenger train derailed west of Toronto Sunday, killing three railroad employees and injuring dozens of passengers, officials said.

Via Rail spokeswoman Michelle Lamarche said the three people killed were all engineers riding in the cab of the locomotive at the front of the train when it derailed in Burlington, Ontario. A fourth Via worker in the locomotive was injured, she said.

Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring also confirmed that three people died in the accident.

Lamarche said no passengers died but 45 were injured. She said 75 people were on board the train traveling from Niagara Falls to Toronto when the train left the tracks around 3:30 p.m. Sunday within view of a residential area near Aldershot station.

The locomotive crashed on its side into a small trackside building, and at least two passengers car behind it were driven off the tracks into an L-shape. All six cars derailed, a Via official said.

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Kobe Bryant, West hold on to win NBA All-Star game

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The Kevin and Kobe show won it for the West at the NBA All-Star game, holding off LeBron James at the end.

They got an MVP and a scoring record, too.

Bryant scored 27 points, moving past Michael Jordan as the career scoring leader in the game, Kevin Durant had 36 in an MVP performance, and the Western Conference held on for a 152-149 victory over the East on Sunday night.

James and the East cut a 21-point deficit to one in the closing seconds, but weren't able to move in front. James had 36 points and fellow Heat star Dwyane Wade finished with a triple-double.

"With all these great players on the floor, you never know what will happen. Guys making big shots and they cut it down to one. We were up 18 (at halftime)," Durant said.