Posted: Mar 23, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: Mar 24, 2012 4:01 AM
Obama returns to world stage, seeking progress on world effort to prevent nuclear terrorism
WASHINGTON (AP) Far from home if not away from election-year politics, President Barack Obama is returning to the threat to American security that he calls the gravest of all: terrorists getting material for a nuclear bomb.
In South Korea, where Obama is headed, the president will join a massive gathering of world leaders whose united goal is to secure nuclear material and prevent it from being smuggled to states or groups intent on mass destruction.
Right across the border but not participating: nuclear North Korea, labeled by the White House as "the odd man out." It is brinksmanship with North Korea and Iran, another nation not invited to the summit, that has dominated much of the nuclear debate and that will cast an unquestionable shadow over talks in Seoul.
Obama's mission over three days in the South Korean capital will be to show progress in pressuring North Korea to change its rogue ways and in approaching a lofty goal of locking down nuclear material around the globe by 2014.
For a president up for re-election, this will be a rare Asia trip devoted to just one country, built around a nuclear security summit that carries his imprint. Obama held the first one in Washington two years ago. This one is considered a status check and a time for nations to offer new and tangible pledges, but no breakthroughs are expected.
Santorum looks for rebound in Louisiana as he chases Romney's delegate lead
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) Rick Santorum is looking to Louisiana for a much-needed rebound as Republican voters go to the polls Saturday in the state's GOP primary.
The former Pennsylvania senator is expected to do well in the contest, just a handful of days after a decisive loss to front-runner Mitt Romney in Illinois on Tuesday.
A win over the former Massachusetts governor would serve as a reminder that Romney still struggles among the GOP's conservative faithful, especially in the South. Santorum beat Romney in primaries in Alabama and Mississippi earlier this month.
But Romney is outpacing Santorum in the race for critical delegates to the Republican National Convention, and he's been beating Santorum in big, industrial Midwestern states.
"I need your vote, and I want the vote of the people of Louisiana so we can consolidate our lead," Romney said Friday while campaigning in Shreveport. He told supporters his campaign wants to focus on "raising the money and building the team to defeat someone that needs to be out of office in 2012 and that's Barack Obama."
It's gotta end sometime: 5 ways GOP can finally settle Romney, Santorum fight for nomination
WASHINGTON (AP) Are we there yet? Not quite. Mitt Romney's two steps forward, one flub back campaign continues its tantalizing progress toward a total victory that always seems just ahead.
Still, the Republican presidential race has got to end sometime, whether it's April or August. Here are five ways to settle this thing:
1. The likeliest route: Romney pulls off a clean win by the time the last state votes in June.
Sure, he's cutting it closer than he'd like, but if Romney keeps up his current pace he can win the necessary majority 1,144 delegates by June 26, if not sooner. Last-chance Utah, where Romney is embraced by a large population of fellow Mormons, would make a poignant wrap-up.
After Louisiana's primary Saturday, 21 states and the District of Columbia have yet to vote, and Romney's about halfway to the magic number, according to The Associated Press delegate count. If he hits his mathematical mark or if his only rival within shouting distance, Rick Santorum, drops out Romney instantly becomes the presumptive nominee and the general election race is on.
How the health care overhaul case will unfold before the Supreme Court
WASHINGTON (AP) The Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments on Monday over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, derisively labeled "Obamacare" by its opponents. A look at how the case will unfold before the court in question-and-answer form:
Q: What's this all about?
A: The Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is Obama's signature domestic achievement. Passed by Congress in 2010, its aim is to provide health insurance to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans, while trying to restrain costs and prevent disruptions to the majority already with coverage. Opponents say the law is unconstitutional; their chief argument is that Congress does not have the power to force unwilling Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine.
Q: When will the court get started?
A: Justices will begin hearing arguments shortly after 10 a.m. EDT Monday, March 26. They will hear six hours of arguments on several different issues on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Pope's presence in Mexico prompts screams, tears, hope for personal, national healing
LEON, Mexico (AP) There was little excitement in Leon in the hours before the pope arrived.
Crowds were thin. Spectators napped under trees. Vendors complained about the low turnout here in the conservative heartland of Mexico's Roman Catholicism.
Then, as Pope Benedict XVI's plane appeared in the shimmering heat of Friday afternoon, people poured from their homes. They packed sidewalks five and six deep, screaming ecstatically as the pope passed, waving slowly. Some burst into tears.
Many had said moments earlier that they could never love a pope as strongly as Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II. But the presence of a pope on Mexican soil touched a chord of overwhelming respect and adoration for the papacy itself, the personification for many of the Catholic Church, and God. Thousands found themselves taken aback by their own emotions.
As a girl, Celia del Rosario Escobar, 42, saw John Paul II on one of his five trips to Mexico, which brought him near-universal adoration.
French Official: Brother of gunman Merah transferred to anti-terrorist headquarters in Paris
PARIS (AP) A police official says the mother of the man accused of killing seven people in a gun rampage in France is set to be released, while his brother has been transferred in police custody to Paris.
The official says Mohamed Merah's mother will be released in the coming hours.
Abdelkader Merah was transferred Saturday to police anti-terrorist headquarters, along with his girlfriend.
The brother had already been questioned several years ago about alleged links to a network sending Toulouse-area youths to Iraq.
Under French law if either of the two continue to be held beyond the weekend, preliminary charges will have to be filed.
Lawmakers, US enforcement agency, favor Hatch Act changes for state, local officials
WASHINGTON (AP) Jon Greiner's election to the Utah Senate caused his firing as Ogden police chief. Philadelphia transit cop Matthew Arlen was barred from a local school board race in Pennsylvania. And New York state port official Terrence Hurley was knocked out of a county race.
All were blindsided by a 1939 law that prohibits federal employees from running in partisan elections but also places the same restriction on state and local government workers whose jobs are connected to federal dollars.
Three committee chairmen in the Senate and one in the House say it's time to update the Hatch Act. Bills in both houses still would prohibit federal employees from participating in partisan political activities, while ending federal prohibitions on state and local government employees seeking elected office.
The changes are enthusiastically supported by the Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency that enforces the Hatch Act.
"Fixing this broken law will cost taxpayers nothing and will demonstrate respect for the independence of state and local elections," said Carolyn Lerner, who runs the office.
Fla. shooting: Teen's friends say he wouldn't have picked a fight; 'that's just not that kid'
MIAMI (AP) Wearing a hoodie. Listening to music and talking on his cellphone. Picking up Skittles for his soon-to-be stepbrother. Friends say that's how they would have imagined 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on a Sunday afternoon.
Starting a fight? Possibly high on drugs and up to no good? No, friends say that description of Martin from the neighborhood crime-watch volunteer who shot and killed the unarmed black teenager doesn't match the young man they knew.
"There's no way I can believe that, because he's not a confrontational kid," said Jerome Horton, who was one of Martin's former football coaches and knew him since he was about 5. "It just wouldn't happen. That's just not that kid."
Martin was slain in the town of Sanford on Feb. 26 in a shooting that has set off a nationwide furor over race and justice. Neighborhood crime-watch captain George Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother is Hispanic, claimed self-defense and has not been arrested, though state and federal authorities are still investigating.
Since his death, Martin's name and photographs in football jerseys, smiling alongside a baby, and staring into the camera in a gray hoodie have been held up by civil rights leaders and at rallies stretching from Miami to New York demanding Zimmerman's arrest.
Space station safe after Russian rocket debris comes too close for comfort
WASHINGTON (AP) A discarded chunk of a Russian rocket missed the International Space Station early Saturday. However, it came close enough to force six astronauts to seek shelter in escape capsules.
NASA says the space junk was barely close enough to be a threat. Had it hit, however, the station could have been dangerous. So the astronauts two Americans, three Russians and a Dutchman woke early and went into two Soyuz vehicles ready to rocket back to Earth just in case.
The debris came closest at 2:38 a.m. EDT. It wasn't noticed until Friday, too late to move the International Space Station out of the way.
This is the third time in 12 years that astronauts have had to seek shelter from space junk.
BracketRacket: Donovan, Pitino square off what's this about everybody Kung fu fighting?
Welcome back to BracketRacket, your one-stop shopping for all things NCAA on tournament game days. Read fast. Football season is just five short months away.
They dress alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike and yes, each has on occasion lost his mind. That's no coincidence. But doing justice to the relationship between Billy Donovan and Rick Pitino requires time and space we just don't have.
It goes back 25 years to tiny Providence College, where Donovan was a fearless 3-point shooter nicknamed "Billy The Kid" and Pitino was a ferociously ambitious young coach. Then they were practically father and son as assistant and coach at mighty Kentucky through the mid-1990s. Now they're the friendliest of rivals at Florida and Louisville, respectively.
If you want the whole story, read AP national writer Eddie Pells here: (http://yhoo.it/GVRurI).
If you just want to get up to speed, watch 15 seconds or so of the intro from the classic TV show "Kung Fu" beginning here: (http://youtu.be/_iaamkUEF_A?t=35s)