Monday October 29, 2012

Romney, Obama reshuffle plans for campaign’s final week as storm approaches

CELINA, Ohio (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama frantically sought to close the deal with voters with precious few days left in an incredibly close race as this year’s October surprise -- an unprecedented storm menacing the East Coast -- wreaked havoc on their best-laid plans.

Ever mindful of his narrow path to the requisite 270 electoral votes, Romney looked to expand his map, weighing an intensified effort in traditionally left-leaning Minnesota. Obama sought to defend historically Democratic turf as the race tightened heading into the final week.

Wary of being seen as putting their political pursuits ahead of public safety, the two White House hopefuls reshuffled their campaign plans as the storm approached. Both candidates were loath to forfeit face time with voters in battleground states like Virginia that are likely to be afflicted when Hurricane Sandy, a winter storm and a cold front collide to form a freak hybrid storm.

"The storm will throw havoc into the race," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

Obama, preparing to depart for Florida Sunday, a day early to beat the storm, got an update from disaster relief officials before speaking by phone to affected governors and mayors.


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Failure of latest Syria truce reflects limited effect of international diplomacy

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria’s air force fired missiles and dropped barrel bombs on rebel strongholds while opposition fighters attacked regime positions Sunday, flouting a U.N.-backed cease-fire that was supposed to quiet fighting over a long holiday weekend but never took hold.

The failure to push through a truce so limited in its ambitions -- just four days -- has been a sobering reflection of the international community’s inability to ease 19 months of bloodshed in Syria. It also suggests that the stalemated civil war will drag on, threatening to draw in Syria’s neighbors in this highly combustible region such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

"This conflict has now taken a dynamic of its own which should be worrying to everyone," said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center think tank.

The U.N. tried to broker a halt to fighting over the four-day Eid al-Adha Muslim feast that began on Friday, one of the holiest times of the Islamic calendar. But the truce was violated almost immediately after it was supposed to take effect, the same fate other cease-fires in Syria have met.

Activists said at least 110 people were killed Sunday, a toll similar to previous daily casualty tolls. They include 16 who died in an airstrike on the village of al-Barra in northern Syria’s mountainous Jabal al-Zawiya region.

2 suspects wrongly convicted in 1977 Iowa killing to argue they were framed

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Two black men wrongly convicted in the 1977 murder of a white Iowa police officer hope to prove something they couldn’t during trials that sent them to prison for 25 years: that detectives framed them to solve a high-profile case.

During a civil trial that starts Wednesday in Des Moines, Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee will argue that Council Bluffs police officers coerced witnesses into fabricating testimony against them in the killing of John Schweer.

Schweer was found dead while working as the night watchman at a car dealership. Harrington and McGhee, then teenagers from neighboring Omaha, Neb., say detectives used threats against a group of young black car theft suspects to trump up evidence targeting them because of their race and pressure to solve the retired captain’s killing.

Despite little physical evidence, Harrington and McGhee were convicted at 1978 trials and sentenced to long prison terms. They were freed in 2003, after the Iowa Supreme Court found that prosecutors committed misconduct in concealing reports about another man seen near the crime scene with a shotgun. The key witnesses had also recanted their testimony, saying they were pressured into implicating the men.

After winning their freedom, they filed lawsuits against prosecutors and officers they blamed for forcing them to spend their adult lives in the Fort Madison prison. Their case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 over the issue of whether suspects have the constitutional right not to be framed by prosecutors. Before justices ruled, Pottawatamie County agreed to pay $12 million to settle claims against two former prosecutors while not admitting wrongdoing.

Palestinians vow to press forward with UN recognition, despite Israeli and U.S. objections

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- The Palestinian president is moving forward with his plan to seek upgraded observer status at the United Nations next month, despite American and Israeli threats of financial or diplomatic retaliation, officials said Sunday.

The decision sets the stage for a new showdown between Israel and the Palestinians at the world body, following last year’s attempt by the Palestinians to seek status as a full member state. Although that initiative failed to pass the U.N. Security Council, it caused months of diplomatic tensions with Israel.

"We will go to the U.N. regardless of any threats," said Tawfik Tirawi, a senior member of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. "I expect the Israelis to take punitive measures against us, if we win this status, but this is our choice and we will not retract it."

This year, the Palestinians are seeking "nonmember state" status in the U.N. General Assembly, where passage is assured. The 193-member assembly is dominated by developing nations sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Officials say they are looking for what they call a "quality" majority that includes European countries as well, though Germany and Britain, for instance, have been cool to the Palestinian plan.

While upgraded status would not change the situation on the ground, the Palestinians say the move is still significant. They will ask for international recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

Polls show opposition parties performing strongly in Ukraine’s parliamentary vote

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine’s opposition parties performed strongly in Sunday’s parliamentary vote, according to an exit poll, but President Viktor Yanukovych’s party could still retain control of the legislature as its members are likely to sweep individual races across the country.

The West is paying close attention to the conduct of the vote in the strategic ex-Soviet state, which lies between Russia and the European Union, and serves as a key conduit for transit of Russian energy supplies to many EU countries. An election deemed unfair would likely turn Ukraine further away from the West and toward Moscow.

Opposition parties alleged widespread violations on election day, such as vote-buying and a suspiciously high amount of home voting, but a local election monitor said those violations were isolated. Authorities insisted the election was honest and democratic.

The Fatherland party, led by the jailed charismatic former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the Udar (Punch) of world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko and a nationalist party together received more than 50 percent of the vote on party lists, outnumbering Yanukovych’s Party of Regions and its traditional ally, the Communist Party.

UK media: Rocker Gary Glitter arrested in connection with Savile case

LONDON (AP) -- Police investigating child sex abuse allegations against the late BBC television host Jimmy Savile arrested former glam rock star and convicted sex offender Gary Glitter on Sunday, British media reported, raising further questions about whether Savile was at the center of a broader pedophile ring.

Police would not directly identify the suspect arrested Sunday, but media including the BBC and Press Association reported he was the 68-year-old Glitter.

The musician, whose real name is Paul Gadd, made it big with the crowd-pleasing hit "Rock & Roll (Part 2)," a mostly instrumental anthem that has been a staple at American sporting events, thanks to its catchy "hey" chorus. But he fell into disgrace after being convicted on child abuse charges in Vietnam.

Sunday’s arrest was the first in a widening scandal over Savile’s alleged sex crimes, which started garnering attention earlier this month when a television documentary showed several women claiming that Savile abused them when they were teenagers. Hundreds of potential victims have since come forward to report similar claims to police against Savile, a much-loved children’s TV presenter and disc jockey who died at the age of 84 last year.

Most have alleged abuse by Savile, but some said they were abused by Savile and others. Most claimed they were assaulted in their early teens.