Obama criticizes Romney, who counters economy is ‘bumping along the bottom’
MIAMI (AP) -- President Barack Obama cast Mitt Romney on Thursday as an out-of-touch challenger for the White House and an advocate of education cuts that could cause teacher strikes to spread from Chicago to other cities. The Republican countered that the U.S. economy "is bumping along the bottom" under Obama, and he predicted victory in the fall.
The two men eyed each other across hotly contested Florida, a state with 29 electoral votes, more than any other battleground in the close race for the White House.
"When you express an attitude that half the country considers itself victims, that somehow they want to be dependent on government, my thinking is maybe you haven’t gotten around a lot," the president said. That was in response to a question about Romney’s recent observation that 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax and believe they are victims and entitled to an array of federal benefits.
Obama spoke at a town hall-style forum aired by the Spanish-language television network Univision.
For his part, Romney was eager to move past that controversy, which has knocked him off stride. He disclosed plans for a three-day bus tour early next week through Ohio with running mate Paul Ryan and sought to return the campaign focus to the economic issues that have dominated the race all year.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Images of angry mobs in Arab cities burning American flags and attacking U.S. diplomatic posts suggest the Muslim world is no less enraged at the United States than when President George W. Bush had to duck shoes hurled at him in Baghdad.
But more than three years after President Barack Obama declared in Cairo that he would seek "a new beginning" in U.S.-Muslim relations, a closer look reveals strides as well as setbacks.
One U.S.-led war is over and another is receding, although there are questions about whether America has made lasting gains in Afghanistan. The Arab Spring revolution, a spontaneous combustion that happened independent of Western influence, has given people new power and hope as well as democratic elections the U.S. supports.
But peace between Israel and the Palestinians is nowhere in sight, Iran is seen as a menace and broad mistrust with America is still deep and explosive across much of the Muslim world.
As nations across North Africa and the Middle East move chaotically toward democracy, they and Washington have settled into a wary, redefined relationship. Obama is not ready to call Mohammad Morsi, the popularly elected Egyptian president, an ally, and the democratically elected Iraqi president, Nouri al-Maliki, has dismissed U.S. demands that he stop Iran from using Iraqi airspace to fly weapons to Syria for use against anti-government rebels.
IUDs, implants are best birth control methods for teen girls, doctors group says
CHICAGO (AP) -- Teenage girls may prefer the pill, the patch or even wishful thinking, but their doctors should be recommending IUDs or hormonal implants -- long-lasting and more effective birth control that you don’t have to remember to use every time, the nation’s leading gynecologists group said Thursday.
The IUD and implants are safe and nearly 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, and should be "first-line recommendations," the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in updating its guidance for teens.
Both types of contraception are more invasive than the pill, requiring a doctor to put them in place. That, and cost, are probably why the pill is still the most popular form of contraception in the U.S.
But birth control pills often must be taken at the very same time every day to be most potent. And forgetting to take even one can lead to pregnancy, which is why the pill is sometimes only 91 percent effective.
An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a small, T-shaped piece of plastic inserted in the uterus that can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years. An implant is a matchstick-size plastic rod that releases hormones. It is placed under the skin of the upper arm and usually lasts three years.
House Republicans hail inspector general’s report on Fast and Furious as step forward
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans eagerly joined the Justice Department’s inspector general in taking the agency to task Thursday for its bungled gun-trafficking probe in Arizona that allowed hundreds of weapons to reach Mexican drug rings.
At a committee hearing, Democrats fought an uphill battle as the committee’s Republicans, led by its chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, wrapped themselves in the findings of Inspector General Michael Horowitz about Operation Fast and Furious.
Horowitz faulted the Justice Department for misguided strategies, errors in judgment and management failures in a gun-tracking operation that he said disregarded public safety.
"There needs to be supervision; there needs to be oversight," and law enforcement operations like Operation Fast and Furious need to be referred from the start to "the highest levels" of the department, Horowitz testified. His report faulted midlevel and senior officials for not briefing Attorney General Eric Holder much earlier.
Issa declared that Horowitz’s 471-page report, released Wednesday, "is a huge step forward toward restoring the public faith in the Department of Justice."
Pakistan: new ads by U.S. Embassy condemn anti-Islam film and feature Obama
ISLAMABAD (AP) -- U.S. Embassy advertisements condemning an anti-Islam video appeared on Pakistani television on Thursday in an attempt to undercut anger against the United States, where the film was produced. Hundreds of youths, however, clashed with security officials as they tried in vain to reach the embassy in Islamabad amid outrage in many countries over the film’s vulgar depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.
The ads reflected efforts by the U.S.government to distance itself from the video in a country where anti-American sentiment already runs high. Violence linked to the movie has left at least 30 people in seven countries dead, including the American ambassador to Libya. Two people have died in protests in Pakistan.
In recent days, the decision by a French satirical magazine to release cartoons crudely depicting the prophet has added to the tension, as may the upcoming issue of the German satirical magazine Titanic. The magazine’s co-editor Martin Sonneborn said it was up to readers to decide whether the cover of an Arab wielding a sword actually depicts the Prophet Muhammad.
Most outrage appears linked to the amateurish movie, which portrays the prophet as a fraud, womanizer and child molester.
The television ads in Pakistan feature clips of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during press appearances in Washington in which they condemned the video. Their words were subtitled in Urdu.
Regime airstrikes on gas station kill at least 30 people in northern Syria, activists say
BEIRUT (AP) -- Regime airstrikes hit a gas station in northern Syria Thursday, setting off a fiery explosion that killed at least 30 people and wounded dozens, opposition activists said. Amateur video showed thick black smoke engulfing the scene.
Earlier Thursday, a Syrian military helicopter crashed near the capital of Damascus, and Syria’s Information Ministry said the helicopter went down after its rotor accidentally clipped the tail of a Syrian passenger plane with 200 people on board. The larger aircraft landed safely at Damascus International Airport and no one was hurt, the ministry said.
The airstrikes and the close call in the sky underscored the growing turmoil and violence in Syria. The country is embroiled in a civil war between forces fighting for President Bashar Assad and those trying to topple him. More than 23,000 people have been killed in the 18-month conflict, according to activists.
In recent weeks, Assad’s regime has stepped up airstrikes in northern Syria in an attempt to dislodge rebels from areas they control there. Activists said Thursday’s air attack hit near the town of Ain Issa, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Turkey. A day earlier, rebel fighters had seized control of a border crossing north of the town.
Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that witnesses counted at least 30 bodies and that dozens of people were wounded. Another group, the Local Coordination Committees, which gathers information from a network of activists across Syria, put the death toll at 55.
Ohio Amish breakaway group leader, followers convicted in beard-cutting attacks
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Sixteen Amish men and women were convicted Thursday of hate crimes for a series of hair- and beard- cutting attacks on fellow sect members in a religious dispute that offered a rare and sometimes lurid glimpse into the closed and usually self-regulating community of believers.
A federal jury found 66-year-old Samuel Mullet, the leader of the breakaway group, guilty of orchestrating the cuttings last fall in an attempt to shame mainstream members of his community who he believed were straying from their beliefs. His followers were found guilty of carrying out the attacks, which terrorized the normally peaceful religious settlement that aims to live simply and piously.
Prosecutors and witnesses described how sons pulled their father out of bed and chopped off his beard in the moonlight and how women surrounded their mother-in-law and cut off two feet of her hair, taking it down to the scalp in some places.
The defendants face prison terms of 10 years or more. Prosecutors say they targeted hair because it carries spiritual significance in their faith.
All the defendants are members of Mullet’s settlement that he founded in eastern Ohio near the West Virginia panhandle. The Amish eschew many conveniences of modern life, including electrical appliances and automobiles, and embrace their centuries-old roots.
Police investigating allegations of sex abuse by ex-employees of Tulsa megachurch
TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A 17,000-member megachurch deep in Oklahoma’s Bible Belt has been rattled by allegations that five employees waited two weeks to report the rape of a 13-year-old girl in a campus stairwell, allegedly by a church worker.
Tulsa police say the girl is among at least three victims of alleged sex crimes by two former employees of Victory Christian Center who face criminal charges. A child crimes investigator says more victims could surface as police continue to investigate.
Authorities, however, fear some parishioners in the large, tight-knit south Tulsa congregation may choose to pray about the allegations rather than provide concrete evidence.
Police said this week that the worldwide ministry’s pastor and co-founder, Sharon Daugherty, whose daily broadcasts are beamed via satellite to more than 200 countries, knew about the abuse allegations, but trusted ministry employees to follow in-house policies on reporting such incidents.
Former church employee Chris Denman, 20, was arrested Sept. 5 for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl in a stairwell before a church service on Aug. 13. He also is charged with molesting a 15-year-old girl sometime between Aug. 13 and Aug. 17. He has pleaded not guilty and faces an Oct. 11 preliminary hearing, court records show.
Milwaukee woman convicted of killing pregnant mother and trying to steal her fetus
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A Milwaukee woman was convicted Thursday of killing a pregnant woman and trying to steal her full-term fetus last year.
A jury of six men and six women deliberated for about an hour before convicting Annette Morales-Rodriguez, 34, of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the October 2011 deaths of the mother and fetus. She faces a mandatory life sentence when she is sentenced Dec. 14, although a judge could allow for the possibility of parole. Wisconsin doesn’t have the death penalty.
Prosecutors said Morales-Rodriguez faked a pregnancy, panicked as her supposed due date approached and then lured 23-year-old Maritza Ramirez-Cruz to her house. There, she attacked her and used an X-Acto knife to cut the fetus out, according to the criminal complaint.
Ramirez-Cruz died of blood loss and asphyxiation, and her fetus, a boy, died as a result of her death, authorities say.
Morales-Rodriguez’s defense attorneys didn’t deny that she attacked Ramirez-Cruz. But they argued that the deaths of the mother and fetus weren’t intentional because Morales-Rodriguez didn’t intend for anyone to die.
Grainy black-and-white video shows moment pedestrian claims Lindsay Lohan’s car hit him in N.Y.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Grainy surveillance footage released Thursday shows Lindsay Lohan’s car driving toward a man who says she hit him outside a nightclub and kept going, but the blur used to conceal witnesses’ faces partially obscures the scene.
The black-and-white video, released by police, shows Lohan’s Porsche turning from a Manhattan street onto an alley around 12:20 a.m. Wednesday as Jose Rodriguez passes in front of the car and apparently is struck. Rodriguez, a 34-year-old restaurant worker from Jersey City, N.J., stays on his feet and walks after the car as it drives away.
Rodriguez called 911 and was hospitalized with a knee injury. He said he was coming from his job at a restaurant inside the nearby Maritime Hotel when he was struck and was in a lot of pain. He criticized Lohan and her entourage.
"They acted like I was nothing," he told the Daily News. "That no one could touch her because she was so rich and powerful."
The 26-year-old actress later was arrested as she left the nightclub at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, police said. No alcohol was involved, they said.