Tuesday October 9, 2012

Romney starts strong in Florida, North Carolina in fight to cut Obama’s early voter advantage

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mitt Romney’s campaign is working hard to chip away at President Barack Obama’s advantage among early voters, and there are signs the effort is paying off in North Carolina and Florida, two competitive states that the Republican nominee can ill afford to lose. Obama is doing better in Iowa, another battleground state important to both candidates.

Obama dominated early voting in key states four years ago, giving him a big advantage over Republican John McCain before Election Day even arrived. In Colorado, Florida, Iowa and North Carolina, Obama built up such big leads among early voters that he won each state despite losing the Election Day vote, according to voting data compiled by The Associated Press.

Romney’s campaign won’t predict victory among early voters this year. But a top campaign official is adamant that Romney will not let Obama build insurmountable leads among early voters in key states.

"They’re not going to run up the same margins as they did four years ago," said Rich Beeson, political director for the Romney campaign. "It just isn’t going to happen."

Early voting for the presidential election has started in more than 30 states -- much of it by mail, though some in person -- and some important numbers are starting to dribble in. No votes will be counted until Nov. 6. However, North Carolina, Florida and Iowa report the party affiliation of people who have cast ballots. Other states will follow.

Syria’s cross-border salvos send a message to Turkey, West to keep away

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria’s cross-border attacks on Turkey in the past week look increasingly like they could be an intentional escalation meant to send a clear message to Ankara and beyond, that the crisis is simply too explosive to risk foreign military intervention.

With Turkey eager to defuse the crisis, the spillover of fighting is giving new life to a longshot political solution, with the Turks floating the idea of making President Bashar Assad’s longtime vice president, Farouk al-Sharaa, interim leader if the president steps aside.

A military option -- which would involve foreign powers that already have expressed a deep reluctance to getting involved in the crisis -- is still not on the table, analysts say, despite six consecutive days of Turkish retaliation against bombardment from inside Syria.

"Syria is aware that Turkey cannot go a step further," said Ali Tekin, assistant professor of International Relations at Ankara’s Bilkent University. "The Turkish people don’t want a war and there are no vital national interests at stake to warrant a war. Syria sees this."

The Syrian conflict has taken a prominent role in the U.S. presidential election at a time when the U.S. and its allies have shown little appetite for getting involved.

U.S. panel warns against doing business with China tech giants due to national security threat

WASHINGTON (AP) -- American companies should avoid sourcing network equipment from China’s two leading technology firms because they pose a national security threat to the United States, the House Intelligence Committee warned Monday.

The panel said in a report that U.S. regulators should block mergers and acquisitions in this country by Huawei Technologies Ltd. and ZTE Corp, among the world’s leading suppliers of telecommunications gear and mobile phones.

Reflecting U.S. concern over cyber-attacks traced to China, the report also recommends that U.S.government computer systems not include any components from the two firms because that could pose an espionage risk.

"China is known to be the major perpetrator of cyber-espionage, and Huawei and ZTE failed to alleviate serious concerns throughout this important investigation. American businesses should use other vendors," the committee’s chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich, told a news conference. He said the Chinese companies could not be trusted with access to computer networks that support everything from power grids to finance systems.

The recommendations are the result of a yearlong probe, including a congressional hearing last month in which senior Chinese executives of both companies denied posing a security threat and being under Beijing’s influence.

Austrian’s skydive over N.M. more than a stunt; jump from 23 miles up could aid astronauts

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) -- Skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s attempt at the highest, fastest free fall in history Tuesday is more than just a stunt.

His planned 23-mile dive from the stratosphere should provide scientists with valuable information for next-generation spacesuits and techniques that could help astronauts survive accidents.

Jumping from more than three times the height of the average cruising altitude for jetliners, Baumgartner hopes to become the first person to break the sound barrier outside of an airplane. His team has calculated that to be 690 mph based on the altitude of his dive.

His medical director Dr. Jonathan Clark, a NASA space shuttle crew surgeon who lost his wife, Laurel Clark, in the 2003 Challenger accident, says no one knows what happens to a body when it breaks the sound barrier.

"That is really the scientific essence of this mission," said Clark, who is dedicated to improving astronauts’ chances of survival in a high-altitude disaster.

Texas mother to be sentenced for gluing her toddler’s hands to wall; faces life prison term

DALLAS (AP) -- The mother of a woman accused of beating her 2-year-old daughter and gluing her hands to a wall says she too was abused by the defendant.

The mother of Elizabeth Escalona testified Monday that she was assaulted several times by her daughter as she was growing up. Nevertheless, Ofelia Escalona says she still loves her daughter and has been caring for her children since December.

A doctor testified earlier that the child’s mother had beaten the girl so badly that she suffered significant brain trauma and bleeding.

Police say Elizabeth Escalona was mad about potty training problems.

Escalona pleaded guilty July 12 to injury to a child. A sentencing hearing for the 23-year-old began Monday. She faces up to life in prison. A state district judge will decide her punishment.