Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Published:

Super Tuesday could stamp Romney front-runner, not likely to end GOP race

ATLANTA (AP) -- Voting across 10 states marks the busiest day of the Republican race for president and is expected to determine whether Mitt Romney solidifies his status as party front-runner or faces further threats from his challengers.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are locked in a tight battle for Ohio. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich hopes a big win in Georgia, which he helped represent in Congress for two decades, will give new life to his struggling campaign.

With 419 delegates at stake, Super Tuesday states offer a sizable slice of the 1,144 required to clinch the GOP nomination.

Still, because of the apportionment of delegates based on vote percentage and the different regions the candidates are emphasizing, the race is expected to continue further into March.

Romney, who turned back Santorum in a close contest in Michigan last week, hoped to continue his winning trend. He has won four consecutive contests, including Saturday's Washington caucuses.

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Analysis: Obama gets little traction in urging Israeli leader to refrain from attack on Iran

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ended two days of public posturing on Iran right where they began. Obama wants Israel to refrain from attacking Iran now, and Netanyahu pointedly refused to make that promise.

Obama never made a direct, public appeal to Israel's visiting leader, but his message was clear.

"We do believe that there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue," Obama said Monday before a two-hour meeting with Netanyahu in the Oval Office.

Netanyahu thanked Obama for acknowledging that Israel will make its own choices.

Later, the hawkish Israeli leader answered some of the U.S. arguments for waiting. Iran is already a menace, and would be a worse one with nuclear weapons, Netanyahu told a friendly crowd of American supporters of Israel. And if you think oil process are high because of the threat of a conflict with Iran, try buying gasoline once oil-rich Iran gets the added confidence of being able to bully the world with a bomb, Netanyahu said.

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Commander warns of substantial Syrian chemical, biological weapons; escalating Iran threat

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top U.S. commander in the Middle East will warn Congress on Tuesday against efforts to scale back the Navy's presence in the embattled region, saying threats from Iran and elsewhere will require more ships and maritime missile defense capabilities.

Marine Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, also said Syria has a "substantial" chemical and biological weapons capability and thousands of shoulder-launched missiles. Until now, the U.S. military has largely declined to describe the expanse of weapons that President Bashar Assad's regime has at its disposal.

Mattis laid out his concerns in testimony prepared for Senate and House Armed Services Committee hearings this week. He and Navy Adm. William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, are testifying before the Senate panel Tuesday. The testimony was obtained by The Associated Press.

Mattis' comments come as the Obama administration meets with Israeli leaders this week to discuss the escalating Iranian threat and the possibility of a pre-emptive strike by Israel.

Against a backdrop of roughly $500 billion in Pentagon budget cuts over the next decade, Mattis said the U.S. must use its Navy and special operations forces to maintain a smaller but still strong military presence in the Middle East as the wars in Iran and Afghanistan end.

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Chinese envoy to press Syrian officials for cease-fire as Beijing opposes outside intervention

BEIRUT (AP) -- China's special envoy to Syria is expected to press authorities for a cease-fire to end the country's crisis Tuesday even as Beijing remains firmly opposed to any foreign intervention in the Mideast country.

Li Huaqing, a former Chinese ambassador to Syria, will meet with government officials during his two-day visit. He is not expected to meet figures from the opposition seeking to overthrow authoritarian President Bashar Assad.

China has remained a key Syrian ally throughout the 11-month uprising against Assad. As international condemnation of Assad's deadly crackdown on dissent has grown, China and Russia have protected Syria from condemnation by the U.N. Security Council.

Both countries fear such a resolution could lead to military intervention against Assad, as it did last year against Moammar Gadhafi of Libya.

The Syrian regime agreed Monday to allow visits by two other prominent international emissaries it had previously rebuffed -- former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the new special envoy to Syria, and U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.

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Apple's iPad row reflect mounting trademark troubles in hyper-competitive China market

SHANGHAI (AP) -- iPotato, isock, icouch, istove, i-you-name-it. An Internet search for "i'' words from A to Z will turn up just about any combination you might think up, from all over the world, only a handful of them related to Apple Inc.

Given its penchant for "iproducts," Apple's current troubles in China over the iPad trademark are not its first, and are unlikely to be its last. China's importance as a major consumer market is bringing fresh headaches for companies, and even celebrities, seeking to protect and claim brand names. That's apart from the usual problems with piracy and other infringements.

Financially troubled Proview Electronics Co., a computer monitor and LED light maker, says it registered the iPad trademark in China and elsewhere more than a decade ago and wants Apple to stop selling or making the popular tablet computers under that name. Apple says Proview sold it worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 2009, though in China the registration was never transferred.

The number and variety of such disputes is rising as Chinese companies seek to leverage trademarks to their advantage, either for the sake of acquiring attractive brand names or for financial gain, said You Yunting, a lawyer with the Debund Law Office in Shanghai, which specializes in trademarks and patents.

"This is an era of development and people are paying more attention to brand names now," said You. "China is not good at innovation. I'd say Proview would not be suing Apple if its financial situation was fine."

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US military investigators recommend 4 troops be court-martialed over suicide in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- U.S. military investigators have recommended that four more American troops be court-martialed in connection with the suicide of their fellow infantryman who shot himself in a guard tower in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

The four are among eight U.S. soldiers charged in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, of New York City, who shot himself after what investigators say were weeks of racial slurs, humiliation and physical abuse by his colleagues. Chen, who was of Chinese descent, had only been in Afghanistan for two months when he committed suicide Oct. 3 at a remote base in the south.

So far, U.S. military investigators have recommended that seven of the eight soldiers be court-martialed.

But the final decision on whether they will be court-martialed will be made by their brigade commander and then ultimately the commander of the U.S.-led coalition's southern region.

After arriving in Afghanistan, Chen was subjected to hazing by members of his unit, the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based in Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

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Husband worth up to $250M, Mitt Romney's wife says 'I don't even consider myself wealthy'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mitt Romney's wife says she doesn't consider herself to be wealthy.

In an interview Monday on Fox News, the wife of the Republican presidential front-runner, Ann Romney, was asked about criticism that her husband can seem out of touch with average Americans. His worth has been estimated as high as $250 million.

Mrs. Romney said her struggle with multiple sclerosis has given her compassion for people who are suffering from multiple sclerosis, cancer or other diseases.

"We can be poor in spirit, and I don't even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing," Mrs. Romney said. "It can be here today and gone tomorrow."

She added: "How I measure riches is by the friends I have and the loved ones I have and the people that I care about in my life, and that's where my values are and that's where my riches are."

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AP survey: Economists growing more optimistic about US jobs and growth

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy is improving faster than economists had expected. They now foresee slightly stronger growth and hiring than they did two months earlier -- trends that would help President Barack Obama's re-election hopes.

Those are among the findings of an Associated Press survey late last month of leading economists. The economists think the unemployment rate will fall from its current 8.3 percent to 8 percent by Election Day. That's better than their 8.4 percent estimate when surveyed in late December.

By the end of 2013, they predict unemployment will drop to 7.4 percent, down from their earlier estimate of 7.8 percent, according to the AP Economy Survey.

The U.S. economy has been improving steadily for months. Industrial output jumped in January after surging in December by the most in five years. Auto sales are booming. Consumer confidence has reached its highest point in a year. Even the housing market is showing signs of turning around.

"The economy is finally starting to gain some steam, with consumers and businesses more optimistic about prospects in 2012," said Chad Moutray, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers.

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AP Exclusive: Obama's cross-dressing ex-nanny 'proud' but other Indonesian transgenders abused

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Once, long ago, Evie looked after "Barry" Obama, the kid who would grow up to become the world's most powerful man. Now, his transgender former nanny has given up her tight, flowery dresses, her brocade vest and her bras, and is living in fear on Indonesia's streets.

Evie, who was born a man but believes she is really a woman, has endured a lifetime of taunts and beatings because of her identity. She describes how soldiers once shaved her long, black hair to the scalp and smashed out glowing cigarettes onto her hands and arms.

The turning point came when she found a transgender friend's bloated body floating in a backed-up sewage canal two decades ago. She grabbed all her girlie clothes in her arms and stuffed them into two big boxes. Half-used lipstick, powder, eye makeup -- she gave them all away.

"I knew in my heart I was a woman, but I didn't want to die like that," says Evie, now 66, her lips trembling slightly as the memories flood back. "So I decided to just accept it. ... I've been living like this, a man, ever since."

Indonesia's attitude toward transgenders is complex.

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Lenny Dykstra sentenced to 3 years in California prison in grand theft auto case

SAN FERNANDO, Calif. (AP) -- Disgraced ex-New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra on Monday was sentenced to three years in a California state prison after pleading no contest to grand theft auto and providing a false financial statement.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Ulfig sentenced Dykstra after refusing to allow him to withdraw his plea and said the scam to lease high-end automobiles from dealerships by providing fraudulent information and claiming credit through a phony business showed sophistication and extensive planning.

"He obviously didn't have the money to get the vehicles," Ulfig said. "His conduct was indeed criminal."

Dykstra, 49, has had a series of recent legal troubles and the prison sentence is part of a post-career downward spiral for the stocky slugger known as "Nails" that has included a stint at a sober living facility.

In a rambling and impassioned plea for probation, Dykstra said he has tried to make amends for his past transgressions and said he would be cleared of any wrongdoing had his motion to withdraw his plea been granted.