Sunday, March 18, 2012

Published:

Puerto Rico votes; Romney, Santorum campaign in next-up primary states of Illinois, Louisiana

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The GOP presidential race veered offshore to Puerto Rico, where 20 delegates were in stake in Sunday's primary but residents cannot vote in the general election.

While fighting for votes in the U.S. territory, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum already shifted their focus to upcoming primaries in Illinois and Louisiana. Front-runner Romney held a sizable edge in delegates, cash and campaign organization, but Santorum hoped for a drawn-out nomination fight through the summer that would deny Romney the clincher and set up a contested party convention in August.

"One of the great blessings I've had in every political campaign is people underestimate me, people underestimate what God can do," Santorum told a church audience in Louisiana.

Romney and Santorum criticized the other from afar as they looked ahead to Tuesday's primary in Illinois and Louisiana's contest on Saturday. GOP rivals Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul both remained in contention, too, but seemed overshadowed by the Romney-Santorum rivalry.

"This is a primary process where somebody had a huge advantage, huge money advantage, huge advantage of establishment support and he hasn't been able to close the deal and even come close to closing the deal," Santorum said of Romney. "That tells you that there's a real flaw there."

___

Many seem willing to cut Afghan shooting suspect some slack; 'good guy in the wrong place'

He is accused of the kind of crime that makes people shiver, the killing of families in their own homes under cover of night, the butchery of defenseless children. Under normal circumstances, Americans would dismiss such an act as worthy of only one response: swift and merciless punishment.

Not so in the case of Robert Bales -- at least, not for some Americans.

So far, many seem willing to believe that a 10-year U.S. military veteran, worn down by four tours of combat and perhaps suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, simply snapped. That somehow there must be, if not an excuse, at least an explanation.

Exactly what set off the Army sergeant accused of massacring 16 civilians in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province is far from clear. But already, organizations and individuals with differing agendas have portrayed Bales as the personification of something that is profoundly broken, and have seized on his case to question the war itself or to argue that the American government is asking too much of its warriors.

On the website of Iraq Veterans Against the War, organizer Aaron Hughes declared that Afghan war veterans "believe that this incident is not a case of one 'bad apple' but the effect of a continued U.S. military policy of drone strikes, night raids, and helicopter attacks where Afghan civilians pay the price." Those veterans, he wrote, "hope that the Kandahar massacre will be a turning point" in the war.

___

Fate of health care law lies with 4 GOP-appointed Supreme Court justices; Obama needs 1 to win

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Here's a thought that can't comfort President Barack Obama: The fate of his health care overhaul rests with four Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices.

His most sweeping domestic achievement could be struck down if they stand together with Justice Clarence Thomas, another GOP appointee who is the likeliest vote against.

But the good news for Obama is that he probably needs only one of the four to side with him to win approval of the law's crucial centerpiece, the requirement that almost everyone in this country has insurance or pays a penalty.

Lawyers with opposing views of the issue uniformly agree that the four Democratic-appointed justices, including Obama's two picks, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, will have no trouble concluding that Congress did not overstep its authority in adopting the insurance requirement that is aimed at sharply reducing the now 50 million people without insurance.

On the other side, Thomas has made clear in several cases that he does not take an expansive view of Congress' powers.

___

Israeli officials agree with US that Iran hasn't decided on bomb, but fear its potential

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Despite saber-rattling from Jerusalem, Israeli officials now agree with the U.S. assessment that Tehran has not yet decided on the actual construction of a nuclear bomb, according to senior Israeli government and defense figures.

Even so, there is great concern in Israel about leaving Iran "on the cusp" of a bomb -- explaining why Israel continues to hint at a military attack on Iran's nuclear installations before it moves enough of them underground to protect them from Israel's bombs.

Israel's leaders have been charging in no uncertain terms for years that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Though officials say they accept the more nuanced American view, they warn that it is just a matter of semantics, because an Iran on the verge of being able to build a bomb would still be a danger.

The United States is playing up its assessment that Iran has not made its final decision in a public campaign to persuade Israel to call off any attack plan and allow the increasingly harsh sanctions against Iran time to persuade Tehran to back down.

The concern -- which is widely shared in Israel as part of a complex calculation -- is of an Iranian retaliation that might spark regional conflict and send oil prices soaring, at a time when the world economy is already struggling and U.S. presidential elections loom.

___

Santorum, hoping to become 2nd Catholic US president, struggles to win over GOP Catholics

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- At El Sendero De La Cruz evangelical church, Rick Santorum sought prayers along with votes. He told the San Juan congregation that he felt "very blessed" to be with people of faith and said he can withstand the demands of campaigning because of the many people like them he meets while running for president.

"The first thing they almost always say to me, 'I'm praying for you,'" Santorum said. "It works."

It's the kind of spirit-infused language that is helping Santorum connect with evangelical Republicans, who have fueled his strong showing in state after state. Yet, in one of the more puzzling developments among many in the GOP contest, he's nowhere near as successful with his fellow Roman Catholics.

Across all states where Republican primary voters were asked their religion in exit polls, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, trounced Santorum among Catholics, with an average margin of victory above 20 percentage points. Even in Southern states, where Romney has struggled, Catholics broke his way.

On Sunday, overwhelmingly Catholic Puerto Rico was holding its primary.

___

Yemen: More than 2,000 killed in yearlong turmoil, many times estimates of rights groups

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- More than 2,000 people have been killed in a year of political turmoil that led to the resignation of Yemen's longtime president, the government disclosed Sunday. The figure is much higher than human rights groups estimated.

The government released its first casualty figures on a day when crowds of protesters were marking one year since a particularly bloody day, when dozens were killed.

Yemen's Ministry of Human Rights said the figure of at least 2,000 includes both unarmed protesters and military defectors, as well as more than 120 children. It said 22,000 people were wounded over the past year.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International estimated earlier this year that 200 protesters had been killed in the uprising.

The government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down as president last month after more than three decades in power, never released casualty figures.

___

Alternate juror in Rutgers webcam spying case disagrees with verdict on anti-gay intimidation

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) -- An alternate juror in the trial of a former Rutgers University student convicted in a webcam spying episode that ended in his gay roommate's suicide said he disagrees with the verdict.

James Downey told The Record (http://bit.ly/FQAmks) newspaper on Saturday that he wouldn't have voted to convict Dharun Ravi on any charges related to allegations that his actions were motivated by anti-gay bias.

Prosecutors said Ravi set up his webcam in his dorm room and watched Tyler Clementi kissing another man on Sept. 19, 2010, then tweeted about it and excitedly tried to catch Clementi in the act again two days later. A half dozen students were believed to have seen the live video of the kissing; no video was taken the second time.

As an alternate, the Woodbridge Township resident heard all the testimony but did not participate in deliberations. The jury, which returned its verdict Friday, was unanimous in finding Ravi guilty of all 15 charges, including invasion of privacy and anti-gay intimidation.

Ravi wasn't charged with causing or contributing to his roommate's death. Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge days after his intimate encounter with the other man. The case stirred a national conversation about anti-gay bullying and teen suicide and illustrated the dangers of technology in the hands of people who have grown up with the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

___

Marijuana legalization backers puzzling over how to keep stoned drivers off the road

DENVER (AP) -- Angeline Chilton says she can't drive unless she smokes pot. The suburban Denver woman says she'd never get behind the wheel right after smoking, but she does use medical marijuana twice a day to ease tremors caused by multiple sclerosis that previously left her homebound.

"I don't drink and drive, and I don't smoke and drive," she said. "But my body is completely saturated with THC."

Her case underscores a problem that no one's sure how to solve: How do you tell if someone is too stoned to drive?

States that allow medical marijuana have grappled with determining impairment levels for years. And voters in Colorado and Washington state will decide this fall whether to legalize the drug for recreational use, bringing a new urgency to the issue.

A Denver marijuana advocate says officials are scrambling for limits in part because more drivers acknowledge using the drug.

___

Occupy demonstrator says fellow protesters were beaten during arrests in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) -- An Occupy Wall Street protester says police gave demonstrators little warning before kicking them out of a New York City park overnight and that officers beat several of them during the arrests.

The protester, Chris Casuccio, was at Manhattan's Zuccotti Park on Saturday, where demonstrators chanted and held impromptu meetings to mark the six months since the movement against economic inequality.

Police moved in around 11:30 p.m. Detective Brian Sessa says the protesters were arrested after they started breaking the park rules against setting up tents.

Police say 73 people were detained. It was unclear how many were still in custody Sunday. Police say they have no information about whether protesters were beaten.

Workers were hosing down the park Sunday as a handful of protesters watched from outside metal police barricades.

___

Brown hits 3 free throws in final 10.6 seconds as NC State holds off Georgetown 66-63 in NCAAs

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- It's been a long time since North Carolina State was mentioned in the same breath with the elite programs in the nation -- let alone its own state.

Now, a new coach and a new attitude have the Wolfpack faithful harkening back to the glory days of David Thompson and Jim Valvano.

Lorenzo Brown hit three free throws in the final 10.6 seconds and North Carolina State returned to the round of 16 with a 66-63 upset of third-seeded Georgetown in the NCAA tournament on Sunday.

"When I went to Alabama as the head coach at the age of 33, John Wooden told me one time, he said, 'Coach, don't give them too much too fast. They might start expecting that every year,'" first-year Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said with a grin.

Then, with impeccable timing, he added: "Well, we failed in that category already."