Sunday, March 25, 2012

Published:

In show of force amid standoff with N.Korea, Obama makes symbolic visit to Cold War relic DMZ

OBSERVATION POST OUELLETTE, South Korea (AP) -- Razor-wire close to the border, President Barack Obama on Sunday paid his first visit to the tense zone separating North and South Korea amid new nuclear tensions. He told American troops stationed nearby they are protectors of "freedom's frontier."

Obama shook hands and spoke briefly in the dining hall at a U.S. military camp just outside the 2.5-mile-wide Demilitarized Zone, then walked into the heavily patrolled no-man's land to tour a small post where South Korean forces patrol just 100 yards from the demarcation line.

The president, positioned behind bulletproof glass, peered through binoculars across the line that has bisected the Korean peninsula for 60 years. He spent about 10 minutes at the observation post, looking first toward North Korea, then back to the South.

It was an unmistakable show of force to communist North Korea and its new leader at a time of diplomatic standoff. Obama underscored the Cold War symbolism by making the tour his first order of business ahead of a gathering of world leaders pledged to keep nuclear materials safe. Nuclear-armed North Korea will not attend.

The U.S. is threatening to cancel planned food aid to the North over its announcement that it will launch a long-range rocket next month, news that overshadows the gathering of world leaders committed to nuclear security that Obama will attend in Seoul. Obama was holding bilateral talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak later in the day, followed by a news conference.

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Santorum tells supporters that pundits and numbers are wrong, GOP nomination hardly settled

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum vows to continue his campaign, despite an increasingly steep climb to the nomination.

Santorum won Saturday's GOP primary in Louisiana but didn't narrow the delegate gap. He's urging his supporters to stick with him even as much of the party establishment has coalesced around Romney's increasingly inevitable coronation.

Santorum seems unwilling to acknowledge it will take a dramatic change in momentum to deny Romney his turn as the Republican nominee.

Romney remains far ahead of Santorum, with 568 delegates to 273 delegates, according to The Associated Press' tally. Newt Gingrich follows with 135 and Ron Paul with 50.

None yet has reached the 1,144 delegates it will take to clinch the nomination, keeping Santorum's hopes alive for now.

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US, Turkey and other allies looking into providing Syrian rebels with 'non-lethal' aid

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Seeking to stem the violence in Syria, the U.S. and other key allies are considering providing Syrian rebels with communications help, medical aid and other "non-lethal" assistance.

President Barack Obama discussed the potential aid options Sunday in a lengthy private meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both leaders are in Seoul, South Korea for a nuclear security summit.

Turkey has been a key U.S. partner in international efforts to quell violence in neighboring Syria and push President Bashar Assad to leave power. The United Nations estimates 8,000 people -- many civilian protesters -- have been killed in year-long clashes between forces loyal to Assad and opposition fighters.

Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, said Sunday that communications assistance could be critical to the opposition's efforts.

"It's important to the opposition as they're formulating their vision of an inclusive and democratic Syria to have the ability to communicate," Rhodes told reporters traveling with Obama.

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SKorean officials say NKorea moves rocket to launch site in preparation for launch next month

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea has moved a long-range rocket to a northwestern site in preparation for a launch next month, South Korean officials said Sunday, as Pyongyang pushes ahead with a plan that Washington calls a cover for testing its long-range missile delivery system.

North Korea announced earlier this month that it would launch a satellite into space using a long-range rocket as part of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the April 15 birth of

late President Kim Il Sung. The United States has warned that the launch, slated for mid-April, would jeopardize a recent deal to ship U.S. food aid to the North in exchange for a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests.

The launch is expected to dominate sideline discussions by U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders from nearly 60 countries and international organizations who are gathering in Seoul this week for a two-day nuclear security summit.

Washington says North Korea's rocket launches are a cover to test delivery systems for long-range missiles it hopes to mount with nuclear weapons that could target Alaska and beyond.

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Aide says former Vice President Dick Cheney had heart transplant

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney had a heart transplant Saturday, after five heart attacks over the past 25 years and countless medical procedures to keep him going. Cheney, 71, waited nearly two years for his new heart, the gift of an unknown donor.

An aide to Cheney disclosed the surgery after it was over, and said the ex-vice president was recovering at a Virginia hospital.

"Although the former vice president and his family do not know the identity of the donor, they will be forever grateful for this lifesaving gift," aide Kara Ahern said in a written statement that was authenticated by several of the Republican politician's close associates.

Cheney was recovering Saturday night at the intensive care unit of Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., after surgery earlier in the day.

More than 3,100 Americans currently are on the national waiting list for a heart transplant. Just over 2,300 heart transplants were performed last year, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. And 330 people died while waiting.

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Pope chose Mexico's Catholic heartland for chance to say Mass in shadow of Christ monument

SILAO, Mexico (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI urged Mexico's children to be messengers of peace, then prepared for the highlight of his visit to this violence-troubled country: Sunday's open-air Mass in the shadow of the Christ the King monument, one of the most important symbols of Mexican Catholicism.

Benedict wanted to come to Guanajuato state specifically to see and bless the statue, which Pope John Paul II always wanted to visit but never did, said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

The 72-foot (22-meter) bronze monument of Christ with its outstretched arms serves as a potent reminder to Mexicans of the 1926-1929 Roman Catholic uprising against the government and its anti-clerical laws that prohibited public Masses like the one Benedict will celebrate before an estimated 350,000 people.

Guanajuato state was the site of some of the key battles of the Cristero War, so-called because its protagonists said they were fighting for Christ the King, and this region remains Mexico's most conservatively Catholic.

The statue "expresses an identity of the Mexican people that contains a whole history in relation to the testimony of faith and those who fought for religious freedom at the time," said Monsignor Victor Rene Rodriguez, secretary general of the Mexican bishops conference.

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Attorneys for slain Fla. teen, neighborhood watch captain offer different takes on case

MIAMI (AP) -- Attorneys for the family of Trayvon Martin and the Florida neighborhood watch captain who fatally shot the unarmed teen joined the national chorus of voices calling Saturday for justice in the case.

As demonstrators took to the streets in major cities such as Washington and Chicago to voice outrage over Martin's death, an attorney for the Martin family told board members of the National Association of Black Journalists that federal and local officials have assured the family that the case is a priority.

Meanwhile, an attorney representing the neighborhood watch captain, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, broadly defended his client and said he believes evidence will show that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law was properly applied.

Zimmerman has not been charged in the Feb. 26 shooting that has ignited racial tensions and raised questions about the Sanford police's handling of the case. Martin was black, and Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic.

"Is George a racist? The answer is no, absolutely not. He's not a racist," attorney Craig Sonner said about his client. "The incident that transpired is not racially motivated or a hate crime in any way. It was self-defense."

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Student shot to death on Mississippi State campus; suspects flee as campus is put under alert

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- A student was shot to death at a Mississippi State University residence hall late Saturday night, prompting campus-wide alerts as authorities searched for suspects who fled the scene.

University spokeswoman Maridith Geuder said police received a call about the shooting at Evans Hall around 10 p.m. Saturday. The victim was taken to a hospital where he subsequently died.

Three male suspects fled the building in a blue Crown Victoria. As of early Sunday, no arrests had been made and the campus remained under emergency conditions.

Shortly after the shooting, the university began sending a series of text message alerts to students. Geuder said a team of university officials and police was meeting early Sunday. The team is automatically convened in emergencies under a school policy.

The four-story Evans Hall holds about 300 male students and is located on the north side of campus. The campus of about 20,000 students is located in a rural area in the northeastern part of the state, about 125 miles northeast of Jackson.

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Say Hello! to Pakistan's glamorous side as famous celebrity magazine launches in the country

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistan is better known for bombs than bombshells, militant compounds than opulent estates. A few enterprising Pakistanis hope to alter that perception with the launch of a local version of the well-known celebrity magazine Hello!

They plan to profile Pakistan's rich and famous: the dashing cricket players, voluptuous Bollywood stars and powerful politicians who dominate conversation in the country's ritziest private clubs and lowliest tea stalls. They also hope to discover musicians, fashion designers and other new talents who have yet to become household names.

"The side of Pakistan that is projected time and time again is negative," said Zahraa Saifullah, CEO of Hello! Pakistan. "There is a glamorous side of Pakistan, and we want to tap into that."

But celebrating the lives of Pakistan's most prosperous citizens is not without its critics in a country where much of the population lives in poverty. Advertising one's prosperity could be risky as well since kidnappings for ransom are on the rise and attracting attention from Islamist militants can mean death.

Wajahat Khan, a consulting editor at Hello! Pakistan, said they were cognizant of the sensitivity of publishing a glamour magazine in a conservative Muslim country where many people are struggling and planned to be "socially responsible and culturally aware."

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Ohio State knocks off top seed Syracuse 77-70 to reach Final 4 for first time since 2007

BOSTON (AP) -- Ohio State coach Thad Matta sized up his team in the middle of the season and had it figured for an early loss when the NCAA tournament came around.

The final weekend of March Madness is next, and the Buckeyes will be there.

Jared Sullinger recovered from first-half foul trouble to score 19 points and grab seven rebounds, helping Ohio State beat top-seeded Syracuse 77-70 on Saturday to advance to the Final Four in New Orleans. The second-seeded Buckeyes will play the winner of Sunday's Midwest Regional final between North Carolina and Kansas.

"We're not going down to New Orleans for a vacation. It's a business trip," said Sullinger, who picked up his second foul 6 minutes into the game and did not return the rest of the half. "These guys have played without me before, so they know what they have to do."

Deshaun Thomas scored 14 with nine rebounds for Ohio State (31-7), which led by eight points with 59 seconds to play and held on after the Orange cut it to three. The Buckeyes made 13 of 14 free throws in the final 68 seconds and 31 of 42 from the line in all.