Posted: May 25, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: May 26, 2012 4:01 AM
In risky business of running for president, Romney, Obama largely playing it safe
WASHINGTON (AP) In the risky business of running for president, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are largely playing it safe.
For all the small daily dramas of the 2012 campaign, there's a risk-averse dynamic playing out: Neither candidate has been making bold new policy proposals or displaying a free-wheeling personal style. So far, at least.
Part of that is just who they are: Obama always has been known for his cool demeanor, and Romney has discipline built into his corporate pedigree.
Neither of them has the swagger of former President George W. Bush, the renegade streak of 2008 GOP nominee John McCain or the rapscallion's grin of former President Bill Clinton.
But Obama and Romney are men who know how to gamble: Obama decided to run for president after just two years in the Senate, launched an ambitious health care overhaul effort while the economy was still on shaky ground, and gave the "go" order on the Osama bin Laden raid. Romney entered politics after a career in private equity, where risk is part of the job description.
Activist put death toll in central Syrian region at over 90, many women and children
BEIRUT (AP) Activists have raised the number of those reportedly killed by regime forces in a district of central Syria to more than 90.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that more than 90 people had been killed in the Houla area in the last 24 hours.
A local activist giving his name as Abu Yazan reached via Skype said 12 people died in shelling and 106 were killed when pro-regime thugs known as shabiha stormed the area.
That death toll is one of the highest for any single event since the popular uprising against Bashar Assad began in March 2011. The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians.
The U.N. said Saturday a team of observers was heading to the area.
Contrasting images painted of NJ man charged in 1979 murder of New York City boy Etan Patz
NEW YORK (AP) The anniversary of the day 6-year-old Etan Patz vanished on his way to school dawned with his suspected killer in police custody, but it ended with a muddled portrait of the man who confessed to strangling the little boy and dumping his body in the trash.
A former neighbor who knew Pedro Hernandez as a teenager says he was someone you wouldn't want to cross a reserved but "pent-up" young man. But the pastor of his church says Hernandez, now 51, is simply a shy and timid man who faithfully attends Sunday services.
Now on suicide watch at Bellevue Hospital, Hernandez was arraigned Friday via video link from a hospital ward on a charge of murder. His court-appointed lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, told the judge that Hernandez is bipolar, schizophrenic and has a "history of hallucinations, both visual and auditory."
Hernandez, who was a teenage convenience store clerk at the time Etan went missing, now lives in Maple Shade, N.J. He was arrested Thursday after making a surprise confession in a case that has bedeviled investigators for 33 years. Hernandez told police he lured Etan into the basement of a convenience store with a promise of a soda, choked him to death, then stuffed his body in a bag and left it with trash on the street a block away.
The legal proceeding lasted only about four minutes. Expressionless, wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, Hernandez didn't speak or enter a plea.
Protests in Myanmar against power outages test the patience of government and activists
BANGKOK (AP) Protests in Myanmar over persistent power shortages have provided a test of how the country's elected but military-backed government will respond to rising expectations sparked by the past year's democratic reforms.
Small demonstrations over the last week in Myanmar's two largest cities and several towns could be seen as an indicator of the new openness under President Thein Sein, who has overseen the country's emergence from decades of authoritarian rule and diplomatic isolation.
From another point of view, the peaceful protests which have been limited to a few hundred people serve as a reminder of the early stages of past unrest. Previous uprisings have started as small affairs sparked by complaints over the economy and then snowballed into large-scale challenges to authority.
In 2007, the former military regime used force to put down the so-called Saffron Revolution led by Buddhist monks. That rebellion began as small, localized protests over fuel price hikes.
"Protests like this in Myanmar always have the potential to escalate and lead to political unrest," said Trevor Wilson, a former Australian envoy to Myanmar who now teaches at Australian National University. "It is hard to predict how these protests might develop."
More Americans to travel for Memorial Day, cheaper gasoline gives them some spare change
NEW YORK (AP) More Americans will hit the road this holiday weekend than a year ago. And they'll have a bit more money to spend thanks to lower gas prices.
Memorial Day kicks off the summer travel season, and since pump prices never reached $4 or $5 a gallon, as feared, economists says travelers are likely to dine out or shop more once they pull off the road.
About 30.7 million people will drive more than 50 miles for Memorial Day trips, according to auto club AAA. That's 400,000 more than last year, a jump AAA attributes to improvement in the economy and consumer attitudes. The number of holiday travelers grows to 34.8 million when you include planes, trains and other means of transportation.
A drop in gas prices encouraged Americans to spend more at restaurants and bars in April. And that trend could continue over the holiday. Pump prices are down 27 cents since their peak in early April, to $3.67 a gallon, where they're likely to stay this weekend, predicts Tom Kloza, the chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. That's 12 cents cheaper than last year. Over the weekend, U.S. drivers will burn about 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline and spend $144 million less on gas than last year.
Restaurants, movie theaters and retailers hope some of that savings goes to them. Just last month, AAA and IHS Global Insight, the firm that analyzed the AAA study, were expecting travelers to spend less on entertainment, dining and shopping on vacation and devote more time to family and friends. .
Gunman arrested after he kills 2 people and wounds 7 others in southern Finland shootings
HELSINKI (AP) An 18-year-old gunman killed two people and wounded seven others in what appeared to be a random shooting in a southern Finnish town, police said Saturday.
Officers arrested the suspect near Hyvinkaa, some five hours after he fired several shots from a low rooftop at people gathered outside a restaurant just before 2 a.m. (2300 GMT Friday), said Detective Chief Inspector Markku Tuominen.
The suspect, a local man from Hyvinkaa, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the capital, Helsinki, did not resist arrest, Tuominen said.
"The man was found with two weapons ... including a hunting rifle," Tuominen said, adding that police knew of no possible motive pending an investigation.
The gunman killed an 18-year-old woman and an 18-year-old man, as well as critically wounded a 23-year-old female police officer who arrived at the scene soon after Hyvinkaa police received an alert.
For something so simple, pasta is serious business in Italy where good food is a way of life
ROME (AP) They twirled, they sniffed, they slurped, they chewed.
The dozen housewives who gathered in a Rome hotel on a recent afternoon took their work terribly seriously, rating plates of pasta for chewiness, saltiness, gumminess or done-ness that perfect balance known as "al dente," or firm to the bite.
Pasta is serious business in Italy, and the recent blind taste test organized by the world's biggest pasta maker drove home that an awful lot of thought goes into making the simple combination of durum wheat semolina and water from which Italy's national dish is made.
"The simpler it is, the more testing it takes," said Stefania Fochi, in charge of consumer testing for market leader Barilla, which organized the taste test.
Pasta sales worldwide have grown steadily over the past three years, to euros 22.3 billion last year, according to Euromonitor research. In Italy, however, sales have fallen steadily over that same timeframe as the economy suffers and stores are forced to offer discounts. National pasta sales dropped to euros 2.7 billion last year from euros 3.1 billion in 2009 meaning spaghetti makers in these days of austerity need to try harder to keep their customers loyal.
Tropical storm warnings for Southeast coast from Florida to SC; holiday system strenghtens
MIAMI (AP) Tropical storm warnings have been issued for the Southeast coast from north Florida to South Carolina as a cluster of thunderstorms was gathering strength early Saturday and expected to become Tropical Storm Beryl over the Memorial Day weekend.
The National Weather Service said that the storm's maximum sustained winds were at 45 mph. But they are expected to increase as the storm moves over the waters of the Atlantic.
The system was about 285 miles (460 kilometers) from Charleston, S.C., at 2 a.m. and swirling toward the Southeast coast.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for the Volusia/Brevard County line in Florida to Edisto Beach, S.C., and watches from Edisto Beach to the Santee River. The storm is expected to eventually move southwest and the Georgia coast and northern Florida could see heavy rains starting Sunday and into next week.
Higher than normal tides will be crashing against the Southeastern coast and may cause flooding. Heavy rain is forecast and dangerous surf was expected along the coasts of northeastern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina over the holiday weekend.
Morocco hosts world music festival while imprisoning dissident artists
RABAT, Morocco (AP) Morocco's glittering Mawazine international music festival wraps up this weekend with performances by Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, after nine days of showcasing the North African kingdom's cool factor even as dissident Moroccan musicians are imprisoned for their anti-establishment lyrics.
The 11-year-old "Rhythms of the World" festival in the capital Rabat has always highlighted Morocco's contradictions as the country spends millions to lure top world artists to perform at generally free concerts, while much the country remains mired in poverty.
In past years the festival has been attacked by Islamists for inviting gay performer Elton John in 2010 and by activists for the cost of attracting Shakira and other high profile acts in 2011, but this year the theme of protest is freedom of expression.
Just a week before the festival began, Human Rights Watch slammed Morocco for sentencing a rapper to a year in prison for lyrics deemed insulting to police a common theme in rap music elsewhere in the world.
"Morocco hosts one famous international music festival after another each spring, but meanwhile it imprisons one of its own singers solely because of lyrics and images that displease the authorities," Sarah Leah Whitson, Mideast director of the group said in a statement. "Morocco should be known as a haven for world music, not for locking up singers with a political message."
Rookie Henrique scores early in OT as Devils beat Rangers 3-2 to advance to Cup finals
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Moments after sending the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 2003, Adam Henrique skated to the corner and waited to be mobbed by his teammates.
It's become a common occurrence for the 22-year-old who spent last season in the minor leagues. He notched the series winner in double overtime against Florida in Game 7 in the opening round, and did it again on Friday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, sending the rival New York Rangers packing for the season along the way.
And, oh, how sweet it was for the Devils.
The memory of missing the playoffs last season and the ghost of an 18-year-old wound were wiped out with a sweep of this rolling rookie's stick.
Henrique scored off a wild scramble in front at 1:03 into overtime and the Devils eliminated the Rangers 3-2 to advance to the Cup finals against the Los Angeles Kings.