Romney back to campaign after uneven trip abroad; new feel-good ad released; VP choice soon?
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wrapping up a stumble-marred overseas trip, Mitt Romney pivoted quickly into a three-month stretch to the election on Tuesday with a new feel-good television ad. Aides simultaneously stoked speculation about his vice presidential pick.
The economy was Romney’s primary text abroad as well as at home. "We could probably learn something from what’s happening right here," the former Massachusetts governor said of Polish policies shortly before boarding his chartered jet for the flight back to the U.S.
Advisers accompanying him said he would resume direct criticism of President Barack Obama’s record soon enough, after observing a mini-moratorium while on foreign soil. Yet a new television commercial suggested another immediate priority was to close a likeability gap in the polls.
Shorn of any criticism of Obama, the ad appears designed to introduce Romney to voters in battleground states who know little or nothing about his personal background except what they’ve seen and heard in unflattering commercials aired by Democrats.
In the ad, Romney speaks of his years in private business, in government and as the head of the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City a decade ago and says, "I want to use those experiences to help Americans have a better future."
Romney ignores strong
government role in Poland’s economy as he heaps praise
FACT CHECK: Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney hailed Poland’s economy Tuesday as something akin to a Republican dream: a place of small government, individual empowerment and free enterprise.
While it’s true that Poland is one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies and boasts dynamic entrepreneurs, Romney’s depiction of Poland as a place of small government is debatable. Even 23 years after throwing off a communist command economy, the Polish government continues to have a strong presence in people’s lives: it gives women $300 for each baby they have, doubling that sum for poor families; it fully funds state university educations; and it guarantees health care to all its 38 million citizens.
And while Poland’s economic growth has certainly been impressive in recent years, this is partly the result of economic redistribution in the form of subsidies that have been flowing in from the European Union since it joined the bloc in 2004.
"Rather than heeding the false promise of a government-dominated economy, Poland sought to stimulate innovation, attract investment, expand trade, and live within its means," Romney said in a speech in Warsaw. "Your success today is a reminder that the principles of free enterprise can propel an economy and transform a society."
His comments appeared to be an indirect criticism of President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy as it struggles to recover from one of the worst recessions in decades.
Power grids in India fail in massive, cascading blackout affecting more than 600 million
NEW DELHI (AP) -- Electric crematoria were snuffed out with bodies inside, New Delhi’s Metro shut down and hundreds of coal miners were trapped underground after three Indian electric grids collapsed in a cascade Tuesday, cutting power to 620 million people in the world’s biggest blackout.
While Indians were furious and embarrassed, many took the crisis in stride, inured by the constant -- though far less widespread -- outages triggered by the huge electricity deficit stymieing the development of this would-be Asian power.
Hospitals, factories and the airports switched automatically to their diesel generators during the hours-long cut across half of India. Many homes relied on backup systems powered by truck batteries. And hundreds of millions of India’s poorest had no electricity to lose.
"The blackout might have been huge, but it wasn’t unbearably long," said Satish, the owner of a coffee and juice shop in central Delhi who uses only one name. "It was just as bad as any other five-hour power cut. We just used a generator while the light was out, and it was work as usual."
The crisis was the second record-breaking outage in two days. India’s northern grid failed Monday, leaving 370 million people powerless for much of the day, in a collapse blamed on states that drew more than their allotment of power.
House, Senate negotiators push new round of sanctions against Iran
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new package of severe sanctions on Iran’s energy, shipping and financial sectors gained strong congressional support Tuesday as lawmakers sought to ratchet up the economic pressure in hopes of halting Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
House and Senate negotiators reached agreement late Monday on legislation that builds on the current penalties directed at financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank. The new bill would impose sanctions on anyone who mines uranium with Iran; sells, leases or provides oil tankers to Tehran; or provides insurance to the National Iranian Tanker Co., the state-run shipping line.
Iranian officials quickly criticized the latest round of penalties, labeling the economic pressure "warfare" and promising to retool the country’s oil-dependent economy.
In an election year, U.S. lawmakers were determined to punish Iran while sending a strong signal of support to Israel amid fears about the Iranian threat to the close Mideast ally. In a separate move, President Barack Obama used his executive authority to impose fresh sanctions on foreign banks in China and Iraq that the U.S. says helps Iran evade the penalties.
The move came as Obama’s Republican rival, Mitt Romney, has argued that the president isn’t tough on Iran.
Establishment Dewhurst, tea party-backed Cruz offer vivid contrast in GOP Texas Senate runoff
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- The question for voters in Tuesday’s Texas runoff isn’t whether a Republican will likely succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate, but what kind of Republican? The answer figures to reverberate far beyond the Lone Star State.
In an election representing one of the nation’s most vivid contrasts between the GOP establishment and the tea party, longtime Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst faces a major threat from former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz.
The candidates have few political or even ideological disagreements, but their race has turned increasingly nasty and expensive as they each claim to represent true conservative values while accusing each other of lying.
While Cruz prevented Dewhurst from getting the majority needed to avoid a runoff during the May 29 state primary, the lieutenant governor enjoyed a comfortable margin in a nine-candidate primary two months ago and it appeared he would coast to victory.
Now the battle has come down to the wire.
Besieged Syrian city of Aleppo running low on food and power
BEIRUT (AP) -- Food and cooking gas were in short supply and power cuts plunged homes into darkness as soldiers and rebels battled Tuesday to tip the scales in the fight for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and the current focus of its civil war.
Life for Aleppo’s 3 million residents was becoming increasingly unbearable as a military siege entered its 11th day. While rebels seized two police stations, Syrian ground forces pummeled the opposition strongholds of Salaheddine and Seif al-Dawla in the city’s southwest, activists said. Government helicopters also pounded those neighborhoods.
"The regime couldn’t enter the neighborhoods so they were shelling from a distance with helicopters and artillery," said Mohammed Nabehan, who fled Aleppo for the Kilis refugee camp just across the Turkish border some 30 miles (50 kilometers) away.
Nabehan and others said it was a struggle to find food.
"The humanitarian situation here is very bad," Mohammed Saeed, an activist living in the city, told The Associated Press by Skype. "There is not enough food and people are trying to leave. We really need support from the outside. There is random shelling against civilians," he added. "The city has pretty much run out of cooking gas, so people are cooking on open flames or with electricity, which cuts out a lot."
After a saga that’s lasted years, Drew Peterson trial over death
of third wife gets under way
JOLIET, Ill. (AP) -- The murder trial of former suburban Chicago police sergeant Drew Peterson began Tuesday with dueling explanations of his third wife’s death, clashes over evidence and a teary witness’ description of finding her friend’s body.
Prosecutors gave jurors an account that could have come from a 1940s pulp novel, in which a man does whatever he must -- including murder -- to keep his ex-wife’s hands off his money.
On the other side, Peterson’s attorneys argued the former officer was a victim of something newer: a 24-hour news cycle and cable TV’s talking heads, which together created a media frenzy that did not subside until prosecutors had charged an innocent man.
Peterson, 58, is charged with first-degree murder in the 2004 death of his third wife, 40-year-old Kathleen Savio. He is suspected but not charged in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
The real-life drama inspired a TV movie and attracted national attention, as many speculated whether Peterson used his law-enforcement expertise to get away with Savio’s murder and make 23-year-old Stacy Peterson vanish.
Crop circles appear in Wash.
wheat field not far from nation’s largest hydropower producer
SEATTLE (AP) -- Mysterious crop circles have appeared in an eastern Washington wheat field -- not far from the nation’s largest hydropower producer -- but area farmers preparing for the summer’s harvest find the distraction more amusing than alarming.
"You can’t do anything other than laugh about it," said Cindy Geib, who owns the field along with her husband, Greg. "You just kind of roll with the theory it’s aliens and you’re special because aliens chose your spot."
Friends called the Geibs on July 24 when the pattern of flattened wheat was spotted off Highway 174, about five miles north of the town of Wilbur. The field is about 10 miles south of the Grand Coulee dam, which the Bureau of Reclamation says is the largest hydropower producer in the United States.
The circles resemble a four-leaf clover and remind Cindy Geib of Mickey Mouse ears. The design knocked down about an acre of their wheat. Some of it could be salvaged by combines when the harvest starts in a week or two, she said, but some will be lost.
"Of course, we don’t have alien insurance," she said.