Thursday October 11, 2012

It was just one debate: Obama seeks to reassure Democrats campaign still in his favor

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to reassure hand-wringing Democrats in the wake of his lackluster first debate, declaring, "I got this."

Party loyalists, in Washington and in battleground states, are fretting that Obama’s campaign has been slow to rebound after his debate last week against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. They’re worried that the Democratic ticket isn’t being aggressive enough in blocking Romney’s new pivot to the political center. And they fear Romney’s recent effort to show a softer side gives him an opening with female voters, who are crucial to the president’s re-election prospects.

"I’m not feeling very positive," said Awilda Marquez, a prominent Democrat in Colorado. "I know that it’s only the first debate, but he can’t seem to change the relentless negative coverage. Romney has been able to take control."

Her nervousness was echoed by other Democrats in interviews across the country just before the next opportunity to get the Obama campaign back on track -- Vice President Joe Biden’s debate Thursday against Republican Paul Ryan.

Obama’s campaign, seeking to address some of the concerns, launched a fresh critique of Romney Wednesday for saying he wouldn’t pursue abortion-related legislation as president.


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Obama aides accused the Republican of "hiding" his positions of earlier in the year in order to gain women’s votes.

Republicans hammer State officials on Libya attack, insist Benghazi security was inadequate

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Four weeks before the election, Republicans used a politically charged House hearing to confront State Department officials about security at the U.S. consulate in Libya and assail the Obama administration’s early response to the killing of the ambassador and three other Americans there.

GOP lawmakers refused to accept the department’s explanation Wednesday that protection judged adequate for the threat was overwhelmed by an unprecedented assault in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

They also rejected Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy’s explanation that officials were relying on the best intelligence available in characterizing the attack afterward as stemming from a protest over an anti-Islam Internet video rather than a deliberate, planned act of terrorism.

A top State official acknowledged she had declined to approve more U.S. security as violence in Benghazi spiked, saying the department wanted to train Libyans to protect the consulate.

"I made the best decisions I could with the information I had," said Charlene R. Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security.

Supreme Court justices cast doubt on Texas program that looks at race in college admissions

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court justices sharply questioned the University of Texas’ use of race in college admissions Wednesday in a case that could lead to new limits on affirmative action.

The court heard arguments in a challenge to the program from a white Texan who contends she was discriminated against when the university did not offer her a spot in 2008.

The court’s conservatives cast doubt on the program that uses race as one among many factors in admitting about a quarter of the university’s incoming freshmen. The liberal justices appeared more supportive of the effort.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote could be decisive, looked skeptically on Texas’ defense of the program. "What you’re saying is what counts is race above all," Kennedy said. He has never voted in favor of an affirmative action program but has voiced support for diversity in education.

Twenty-two-year-old Abigail Fisher, the rejected student who sued, was among the hundreds of spectators at the arguments. Also in attendance was retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who wrote the majority opinion in a 2003 case that upheld the use of race in college admissions.

Turkey forces Syrian jet to land
at Ankara airport as tensions between neighbors mount

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkish jets on Wednesday forced a Syrian passenger plane to land at Ankara airport on suspicion that it might be carrying weapons or other military equipment, amid heightened tensions between Turkey and Syria that have sparked fears of a wider regional conflict.

The Syrian Air jetliner was traveling from Moscow when it was intercepted by F16 jets as it entered Turkish airspace and was escorted to the capital’s Esenboga Airport, the state-run TRT television reported.

Hours later, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Airbus A320 with 37 passengers and crew would be allowed to leave, but its cargo had been confiscated.

"There are elements ... that are not legitimate in civilian flights," the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Davutoglu as saying. He did not provide details but said authorities continued to examine the cargo.

Davutoglu earlier told Turkey’s TGRT television that the plane was intercepted on suspicion it was carrying illicit cargo to Damascus.

Taliban shooting of teenage peace activist sparks outrage in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Schools shut their doors in protest and Pakistanis across the country held vigils Wednesday to pray for a 14-year-old girl who was shot by a Taliban gunman after daring to advocate education for girls and criticize the militant group.

The shooting of Malala Yousufzai on Tuesday in the town of Mingora in the volatile Swat Valley horrified Pakistanis across the religious, political and ethnic spectrum. Many in the country hoped the attack and the outrage it has sparked will be a turning point in Pakistan’s long-running battle against the Taliban, which still enjoys considerable public support for fighting U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

Top U.S. officials condemned the attack and offered to help the girl.

A Taliban gunman walked up to a bus taking children home from school and shot Malala in the head and neck. Another girl on the bus was also wounded. Pictures of the vehicle showed bloodstained seats where the girls were sitting.

Malala appeared to be out of immediate danger after doctors operated on her early Wednesday to remove a bullet lodged in her neck. But she remained in intensive care at a hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar, and Pakistan’s Interior Minister said the next 48 hours would be crucial.

Thousands of confidential student, faculty records breached at Northwest Florida State College

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The confidential information of nearly 300,000 students, faculty and employees at a Florida Panhandle college have been accessed by computer hackers in a massive security breach, education officials said Wednesday.

A breach that at first involved employees at Northwest Florida State College was much larger than suspected and now potentially involves student records from across the state, state and college officials said.

The Department of Education said hackers stole 200,000 records including names, Social Security numbers and birthdates for any student statewide who was eligible for Florida’s popular Bright Futures scholarships for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.

"We speculate this was a professional, coordinated attack by one or more hackers," said Northwest Florida State College President Ty Handy in a memo that went out to employees on Monday.

The hackers also stole more than 3,000 employee records, including some that contained confidential financial information. Some 76,000 records containing personal identification information from students who attended the college was also hacked.