Biden says rival’s policies are
like a gun; Romney son says he’s tempted to ‘swing’ at Obama
NEW YORK (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday compared his rival’s policies to a gun pointed at Americans, and the GOP nominee’s son said he’s tempted to "take a swing" at President Barack Obama as emotions run high in the closely fought White House race.
The barbs are being delivered with a smile, but their sharpness is a reflection of just how tight the race is 19 days out. Democrats are pushing the accusation that Mitt Romney is being dishonest, with Obama’s refrain since Tuesday’s debate that the GOP nominee is offering "a sketchy deal."
"I don’t think they were just sketchy," Biden said at a rally in Las Vegas. "I think they were Etch-a-Sketchy."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warmed up the crowd in Nevada by saying Romney is "giving used car salesmen a bad name." Reid then introduced Biden as a man "who has shown us his tax returns" -- a contrast to Romney’s refusal to release more than the past two years. His red-meat offering whipped the partisan crowd into whoops and applause as Biden took the stage.
Biden accused GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan of sharing a cynical vision of Americans with Romney.
Scout ‘perversion’ files from
1959-1985 show local officials helped hush up some abuse
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Again and again, decade after decade, an array of authorities -- police chiefs, prosecutors, pastors and local Boy Scout leaders among them -- quietly shielded scoutmasters and others accused of molesting children, a newly opened trove of confidential papers shows.
At the time, those authorities justified their actions as necessary to protect the good name and good works of Scouting, a pillar of 20th century America. But as detailed in 14,500 pages of secret "perversion files" released Thursday by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, their maneuvers allowed sexual predators to go free while victims suffered in silence.
The files are a window on a much larger collection of documents the Boy Scouts of America began collecting soon after their founding in 1910. The files, kept at Boy Scout headquarters in Texas, consist of memos from local and national Scout executives, handwritten letters from victims and their parents and newspaper clippings about legal cases. The files contain details about proven molesters, but also unsubstantiated allegations.
The allegations stretch across the country and to military bases overseas, from a small town in the Adirondacks to downtown Los Angeles.
At the news conference Thursday, Portland attorney Kelly Clark blasted the Boy Scouts for their continuing legal battles to try to keep the full trove of files secret.
Airstrikes in northern Syria
kill at least 43, hammer city recently captured by rebels
BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian warplanes hammered a strategic city captured by rebels, leaving behind scenes of carnage captured Thursday on amateur videos that showed a man holding up two child-sized legs not connected to a body and another carrying a dismembered arm.
Activists said airstrikes over the past two days on opposition targets across Syria’s north have killed at least 43 people.
The city of Maaret al-Numan, located strategically on a major north-south highway connecting Aleppo and Damascus, was captured by rebels last week and there has been heavy fighting around it ever since. Rebel brigades from the surrounding area have poured in to defend the town. Online videos have shown them firing mortars at regime troops, and they claimed to have shot down a government helicopter on Wednesday.
Since it was captured a week ago, the city in northern Idlib province and its surroundings have been the focus of one of the heaviest air bombardments since President Bashar Assad’s military first unleashed its air force against rebels over the summer.
Local activists in the city say warplanes are continuously overhead, and entire villages are largely deserted and peppered with destroyed homes.
Bit by bit, U.S. sees potential
for building a wider Afghan network of anti-Taliban uprisings
AB BAND, Afghanistan (AP) -- Fed up with the Taliban closing their schools and committing other acts of oppression, men in a village about 100 miles south of Kabul took up arms late last spring and chased out the insurgents with no help from the Afghan government or U.S. military.
Small-scale revolts in recent months like the one in Kunsaf, mostly along a stretch of desert south of the Afghan capital, indicate bits of a grass-roots, do-it-yourself anti-insurgency that the U.S. hopes Afghan authorities can transform into a wider movement. Perhaps it can undercut the Taliban in areas they still dominate after 11 years of war with the United States and NATO allies.
The effort in Ghazni Province looks like a long shot. The villagers don’t readily embrace any outside authority, be it the Taliban, the U.S. or the Afghan government.
American officials nonetheless are quietly nurturing the trend, hoping it might become a game changer, or at least a new roadblock for the Taliban. At the same time, they are adamant that if anyone can convince the villagers to side with the Afghan government, it’s the Afghans -- not the Americans.
"If we went out there and talked to them we would taint these groups and it would backfire," said Army Brig. Gen. John Charlton, the senior American adviser to the Afghan military in provinces along the southern approaches to Kabul.
Down Periscope: After 60 years, the print edition of Newsweek is coming to an end
NEW YORK (AP) -- There was a time when the newsweeklies set the agenda for the nation’s conversation -- when Time and Newsweek would digest the events of the week and Americans would wait by their mailboxes to see what was on the covers.
Those days have passed, and come the end of the year, the print edition of Newsweek will pass, too. Cause of death: The march of time.
"The tempo of the news and the Web have completely overtaken the news magazines," said Stephen G. Smith, editor of the Washington Examiner and the holder of an unprecedented newsweekly triple crown -- nation editor at Time, editor of U.S. News and World Report, and executive editor of Newsweek from 1986 to 1991.
Where once readers were content to sit back and wait for tempered accounts of domestic and foreign events, they now can find much of what they need almost instantaneously, on their smartphones and tablet computers. Where once advertisers had limited places to spend their dollars to reach national audiences, they now have seemingly unlimited alternatives.
So on Thursday, when Newsweek’s current owners announced they intended to halt print publication and expand the magazine’s Web presence, there was little surprise. But there was a good deal of nostalgia for what Smith called "the shared conversation that the nation used to have," when the networks, the newsweeklies and a few national newspapers reigned.
Depiction of Beirut in
TV series ‘Homeland’ irks
some in Lebanon, Israel
BEIRUT (AP) -- Militants carrying assault weapons clear the area around a street, shouting in Arabic for people to get out of the way. A jeep pulls up: The world’s No. 1 jihadi has arrived for a meeting with top Hezbollah commanders. On rooftops, U.S. snipers crouch unseen, the kingpin in their crosshairs at last.
The scene, from a recent episode of the hit U.S. Showtime series "Homeland," is supposed to be Beirut. But it is really in Israel, a country similar enough in some areas to stand in for Lebanon, yet a world away in most other respects.
The show about Arab terrorists and American turncoats has inadvertently become a tale of two cities. Some Beirutis are angry because the depiction of their city as swarming with militiamen is misleading and because they see Israel as the enemy. And in Israel, some are peeved that Haifa and even Tel Aviv -- a self-styled nightlife capital and high-tech hub -- apparently appear, to outsiders at least, to be Middle Eastern after all.
Lebanese Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud told The Associated Press on Thursday that he’s so upset about the portrayal of Beirut that he’s considering a lawsuit.
"The information minister is studying media laws to see what can be done," he said.
Ex-Penn State assistant Sandusky asks judge to overturn sex abuse convictions, seeks new trial
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) -- Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky asked a judge on Thursday to overturn his child sexual abuse convictions and grant him a new trial, claiming his lawyers lacked sufficient time to prepare and the statute of limitations for some charges had expired.
Sandusky’s lawyers filed the appeal at the courthouse in Bellefonte where he was sentenced two weeks ago to 30 to 60 years in prison after being convicted of abusing 10 boys, some on Penn State’s campus in State College. They say there wasn’t enough evidence to support convictions.
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said the Sandusky filing was under review.
Sandusky remains in the county jail, awaiting a transfer to a state prison to serve time for 45 criminal counts. Eight young men testified against him in June, describing a range of abuse they said included fondling and oral and anal sex when they were boys.
Sandusky didn’t testify at his trial but has consistently maintained his innocence, and his attorneys have repeatedly said they felt they were rushed to trial and swamped by a mountain of documents prosecutors turned over in the seven-plus months between his arrest in November and the June trial.
Gallup survey: 3.4 percent of US adults are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender
NEW YORK (AP) -- A new Gallup survey, touted as the largest of its kind, estimates that 3.4 percent of American adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
The findings, released Thursday, were based on interviews with more than 121,000 people. Gallup said it is the largest study ever aimed at calculating the nation’s LGBT population.
The report’s lead author, demographer Gary Gates of the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, said he hoped the findings would help puncture some stereotypes about gays and lesbians while illustrating the diversity of their community.
"Contemporary media often think of LGBT people as disproportionately white, male, urban and pretty wealthy," he said. "But this data reveal that relative to the general population, the LGBT population has a larger proportion of nonwhite people and clearly is not overly wealthy."
According to the survey, which was conducted between June and September, 4.6 percent of African-Americans identify as LGBT, 4 percent of Hispanics, 4.3 percent of Asians and 3.2 percent of whites. Overall, a third of those identifying as LGBT are nonwhite, the report said.
Minnesota man convicted of helping send men to Somalia to join al-Qaida-linked group al-Shabab
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A Minneapolis man accused of helping send young men through a terrorist pipeline from Minnesota to Somalia was convicted Thursday on all five terrorism-related charges he faced, including one that could land him in prison for life.
The jury returned its verdict against Mahamud Said Omar after deliberating for about eight hours over two days. Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis did not set a sentencing date.
Omar, 46, nodded quietly as an interpreter gave him the bad news. As he was being led from the courtroom, he held up his hands and smiled at his brothers and other supporters of his in the courtroom gallery.
One of his defense attorneys, Jon Hopeman, said outside of court afterward that Omar will appeal the verdict. He said he plans to scrutinize secretly recorded wiretaps of conversations involving Omar that weren’t made available to the defense team.
Omar, a mosque janitor, was the first man to stand trial in the government’s investigation into what it says was the recruitment of more than 20 men who have left Minnesota since 2007 to join al-Shabab, a U.S.-designated terrorist group linked to al-Qaida that’s blamed for much of the violence that has plagued the East African country.
Texas judge rules for cheerleaders in lawsuit over Bible-themed football banners
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- A judge stopped an East Texas school district on Thursday from barring cheerleaders from quoting Bible verses on banners at high school football games, saying the policy appears to violate their free speech rights.
District Judge Steve Thomas granted an injunction requested by the Kountze High School cheerleaders allowing them to continue displaying religious-themed banners pending the outcome of a lawsuit, which is set to go to trial next June 24, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said. Thomas previously granted a temporary restraining order allowing the practice to continue.
School officials barred the cheerleaders from displaying banners with religious messages such as, "If God is for us, who can be against us," after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained. The advocacy group says the messages violate the First Amendment clause barring the government -- or a publicly funded school district, in this case -- from establishing or endorsing a religion.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Abbott spoke out in support of the cheerleaders on Wednesday. Perry appointed Thomas to fill a vacancy on the 356th District Court, and he is running for election to continue in the post as a Republican.
"The Constitution has never demanded that students check their religious beliefs at the schoolhouse door," Abbott said in a statement issued after the ruling. "Students’ ability to express their religious views adds to the diversity of thought that has made this country so strong."