Posted: Aug 17, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: Aug 18, 2012 4:02 AM
Pointing to his elderly mother on Medicare, Ryan insists GOP ticket won't hurt seniors
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan is telling seniors they have nothing to worry about when it comes to Medicare and Social Security if his Republican Party wins the White House. Don't believe him? Just ask his 78-year-old mother.
Betty Ryan Douglas was set to campaign Saturday with her son at the world's largest retirement community as the presumptive GOP presidential ticket seeks to blunt withering criticism from President Barack Obama and his allies. The Democratic team charges that Mitt Romney and Ryan would gut programs for older Americans.
Obama planned to dig in on that point in New Hampshire on Saturday with stops in Windham and Rochester. Aides say he will cast the voters' choice as one between two fundamentally different approaches to government's responsibility to its citizens and who pays the bill.
Romney, meanwhile, was set to raise money in Massachusetts while his freshly minted running mate was charging into a potentially dicey audience. Older Americans have often resisted changes in Medicare, the federal health care insurance program for people 65 and older, and for the disabled.
The Romney-Ryan ticket is betting big that voters' worries about federal deficits and the Democrats' health care overhaul have opened the door for a robust debate on the solvency of Medicare, one of the government's most popular and costliest programs. Obama has welcomed the conversation, which has temporarily taken attention from the weak economic recovery.
Having made a risky pick, Romney wants running mate Paul Ryan to play it safe
GLEN ALLEN, Va. (AP) Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney wants running mate Paul Ryan to play it safe.
The nation's most controversial budget architect, Ryan is often described as the intellectual leader of the House Republican caucus. But Romney's Boston headquarters so far, at least seems to prefer that the 42-year-old father of three talks about camping and milking cows instead of the transformational budget proposals that made him a conservative hero.
Ryan, who wrote a plan to overhaul Medicare as chairman of the House Budget Committee, did not use the word "Medicare" with voters over the first four days on the campaign trail. When he finally touched on the health care insurance program for seniors, he did so only in broad strokes after Romney himself first outlined the campaign's talking points.
"We will not duck the tough issues," Ryan declared in Virginia on Friday. "We will lead."
But Ryan has been directed to avoid taking questions from reporters who travel with his campaign and to agree only to a handful of carefully selected interviews. He is known for sketching budget graphs on napkins to explain his ideas, but this week it was Romney who used a white board during a news conference to help detail his own plan and he says it's virtually identical to Ryan's.
Last UN observers still in Syria start leaving ahead of their mission's official ending Sunday
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) A United Nations spokeswoman says the last U.N. observers still in Syria have started to leave the country as their mission officially ends at midnight Sunday.
Juliette Touma tells The Associated Press that the rest of the observers will leave within hours. There are about 100 observers left in Syria a third of the number at the peak of the mission earlier this year.
Their departure comes after the Security Council agreed to end the U.N. mission and back a small new liaison office that will support any future peace efforts.
The U.N.'s top body has acknowledged that international efforts to significantly reduce the violence and end the Syrian government's use of heavy weapons conditions set for the mission's possible extension have failed.
Activist punk rockers get 2 years for anti-Putin church stunt; protests decry grip on dissent
MOSCOW (AP) Three punk rock-style activists who briefly took over a cathedral in a raucous prayer for deliverance from Vladimir Putin were sentenced to two years in prison for hooliganism on Friday, a decision that drew protests around the world as it highlighted the Russian president's intensifying crackdown on dissent.
Protesters from Moscow to New York and musicians including Madonna and Paul McCartney condemned the prosecution of the three women, members of a band called Pussy Riot. Several countries, including the U.S., and even some Kremlin loyalists decried the verdict.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were arrested in March after performing a "punk prayer" in Christ the Savior Cathedral, dancing and high-kicking as they called on the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Putin, who was elected to a third term as Russia's president two weeks later.
Judge Marina Syrova ruled Friday that the band members had "committed hooliganism driven by religious hatred." She rejected the women's arguments that they were protesting the Russian Orthodox Church's support for Putin and didn't intend to offend religious believers.
Putin himself had said the band members shouldn't be judged too harshly, creating expectations that they could be sentenced to time served and freed in the courtroom. This, however, would have left the impression that Putin had bowed to public pressure, something he has resisted throughout his 12 years in power.
Experts say British threat against Ecuadorean Embassy over Assange was a diplomatic blunder
LONDON (AP) It was a warning meant to remind Ecuador that Britain's patience has limits. But as the stalemate over Julian Assange settled, it appeared London's veiled threat that it could storm Ecuador's embassy and drag Assange out has backfired drawing supporters to the mission where the WikiLeaks founder is holed up and prompting angry denunciations from Ecuador and elsewhere.
Experts and ex-diplomats say Britain's Foreign Office, which warned Ecuador of a little known law that would allow it to side-step usual diplomatic protocols, messed up by issuing a threat it couldn't back up.
"It was a big mistake," said former British ambassador Oliver Miles. "It puts the British government in the position of asking for something illegitimate."
Britain's warning was carried in a set of notes delivered to Ecuadorean diplomats Wednesday as they tried to negotiate an agreement over Assange, who has spent nearly two months holed up at the Latin American nation's London mission in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he's wanted over allegations of sexual assault.
The notes, published by Britain on Thursday, said ominously that keeping Assange at the embassy was incompatible with international law. They added: "You should be aware that there is a legal basis in the U.K. the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act which would allow us to take action to arrest Mr. Assange in the current premises of the embassy."
Hall of Fame baseball player Eddie Murray paying $358,000 to settle civil insider-trade case
WASHINGTON (AP) Eddie Murray made big money in baseball with his powerful swing from both sides of the plate.
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, he had some illicit help after leaving the game.
The Hall of Fame slugger has agreed to pay $358,151 to settle federal civil charges of profiting in stock trades by using confidential information passed to him by a former teammate.
The SEC on Friday also announced related charges against James Mazzo, former CEO of Advanced Medical Optics, and businessman David Parker. The SEC said Mazzo provided illegal tips about a planned acquisition of Advanced Medical Optics by Abbott Laboratories in January 2009.
Mazzo passed the information to Murray's former teammate, Doug DeCinces, who tipped off Murray and Parker, the SEC alleges in a civil lawsuit. DeCinces settled the SEC's charges a year ago by agreeing to pay $2.5 million.
Former Texas high school teacher sentenced to 5 years in prison for sleeping with 5 students
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) A former North Texas high school teacher was convicted Friday and sentenced to five years in prison for having sex with five 18-year-old students at her home.
The Tarrant County jury decided on the sentence for Brittni Nicole Colleps, 28, of Arlington after nearly three hours of deliberation. It took jurors less than an hour to find her guilty earlier in the day of 16 counts of having an inappropriate relationship between a student and teacher. The second-degree felony is punishable by two to 20 years in prison per count.
The former Kennedale High School English teacher had sex with the students at her home over two months in 2011, authorities said.
Colleps is married and has three children. She turned herself in after a cellphone video of one encounter that involved multiple students emerged. That video was shown a trial.
Three former students who testified Thursday said that they did not consider themselves victims and did not want to see their former English teacher prosecuted. The three were football and track athletes.
Video from Ark. police doesn't resolve questions about whether handcuffed man shot himself
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) Police video recorded the night a young man was fatally shot in a northeast Arkansas patrol car while his hands were cuffed behind his back hasn't resolved questions about whether he shot himself in the head as officers said.
Jonesboro police released footage to The Associated Press and other news organizations under a Freedom of Information Act request this week. They released more footage Friday amid questions about why the first batch of video appeared to end before the officers found Chavis Carter, 21, slumped over and bleeding in the back of a patrol car on July 28 as described in a police report. Police have said officers had frisked Carter twice without finding a gun.
The second batch of video occurred after Carter was discovered, police said.
"There's still nothing in there about what actually happened with Chavis," Benjamin Irwin, a Memphis-based lawyer representing Carter's family, said Friday before the second batch of video had been released.
The internal police investigation into the shooting has not yet been completed. The FBI has said it is also monitoring the case.
Residents to return home near wildfires in Wash, Calif.; Idaho towns prepare as flames near
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) As hundreds of residents in Washington and California were allowed to return to homes once threatened by major wildfires, people in two rural Idaho towns were told to evacuate as a massive blaze neared.
The towns of Pine and Featherville remained in the path of a 113-square-mile wildfire that has been burning for two weeks.
"It's a very active, very dangerous fire," said fire information officer Steve Till. Crews "were prepared for it but civilians are probably much better not being here."
Till said Friday that projections show the fire could reach the towns within 24 to 36 hours. The blaze has also stranded the tiny town of Atlanta to the north because the roads leading in and out of it were under threat, he said.
Authorities also warned residents to leave ahead of a nearing wildfire in Custer County. The sheriff's office told some residents that if they did not evacuate by Friday evening, officials could not guarantee their safety.
Tropical Storm Helene swirls northward off Mexico's Gulf coast, heading for Saturday landfall
VERACRUZ, Mexico (AP) After forming close to shore, Tropical Storm Helene headed north along Mexico's Gulf coast early Saturday posing a threat to areas where thousands of people were still recovering from flooding spawned last week by Hurricane Ernesto.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Helene sprang up Friday then weakened to barely tropical storm strength by nighttime, but its forecast said the storm could strengthen again before making an expected landfall Saturday.
Helene had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (64.37 kph) and was moving northwest at 7 mph (11 kph) late Friday. It was centered about 65 miles (105 kilometers) east of Tuxpan.
Landfall was predicted for the northern part of Veracruz, a lush coastal state with hundreds of towns and villages sitting along streams and rivers that can swell dangerously in heavy rain. Many were evacuated as Ernesto approached last week, and flood damage made some 10,000 people homeless.
Mexico's government declared a state of emergency in more than 100 population centers in Veracruz and was providing them with emergency aid. The country's national weather service warned of intense rains and winds along the Veracruz and Tamaulipas coasts, with heavy rain, hail and lightning possible.