Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Published:

Obama and Romney vie for support from women after contentious debate; just 20 days left to go

MOUNT VERNON, Iowa (AP) -- One day after their contentious, finger-pointing debate, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney vied aggressively for the support of women voters Wednesday, as they and their running mates charged across nearly a half-dozen battleground states in the close race for the White House with 20 days to run.

Not even Republicans disputed that Obama's debate performance was much stronger than the listless showing two weeks earlier that helped spark a rise in the polls for Romney. The two rivals meet one more time, next Monday in Florida.

The first post-debate polls were divided, some saying Romney won, others finding Obama did. At least some of the voters who asked the questions in the town-hall style encounter remained uncommitted. "If Gov. Romney could actually provide the jobs, that would be a good thing because we really need them," said Nina Gonzalez, a 2008 Obama voter, neatly summarizing the uncertainty confronting voters in a slow-growth, high-unemployment economy.

Obama wore a pink wristband to show support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month as he campaigned in Iowa and then Ohio, and reminded his audience that the first legislation he signed after becoming president made it easier for women to take pay grievances to court.

Romney took no position on that bill when it passed Congress, and his campaign says he would not seek its repeal. But Obama chided him, saying, "That shouldn't be a complicated question. Equal pay for equal work."

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More fun to watch, but was it presidential? In-your-face debating style annoys some viewers

WASHINGTON (AP) -- This is presidential? They bicker, interrupt, talk over the moderator.

To some, the Obama-Romney rematch was squirm-inducing. But shedding some dignity probably won't cost the candidates much. Since both President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney came out swinging, neither was likely to claim a decisive advantage among viewers who thought the debate smacked of the wrong type of reality TV. And many backers who were already lined up on the two sides of the super-heated race were looking for a scrappy face-off.

"In the world of 'The Real Housewives,' everybody needs to turn over a table from time to time," said Evan Cornog, dean of the Communications School at Hofstra University, where Tuesday night's debate took place. "How good that is for the republic, I don't know."

The presidency isn't a person, it's an institution. And Americans traditionally expect presidents seeking re-election to maintain a certain level of decorum. Challengers get more leeway but still are expected to pay deference to the office of chief executive, if not to the man. Maybe that tradition is doomed in a conflict-addicted popular culture where even television cooking shows are "throwdowns."

Can the notion of the dignity of office survive the era of flash analysis, when a phrase like "binders full of women" launches a thousand Internet jokes -- while the debate's still in progress -- and campaigns spin the matchup into attack ads within hours?

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10 Things to Know for Thursday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and stories that will be talked about Thursday:

1. TARGETING A CRUCIAL CONSTITUENCY

A day after Round 2 of their debates, Obama and Romney ramp up efforts to woo women voters.

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Denver police: No suspects yet in killings of 5 people at bar that was set on fire as cover-up

DENVER (AP) -- Denver police said they have no suspects in the killings of five people whose bodies were found at a neighborhood bar after it was set on fire early Wednesday, apparently to cover up the slayings.

Police chief Robert White said there's nothing to indicate the deaths at Fero's Bar & Grill were a murder-suicide, raising the possibility that whoever is responsible is still at large. The victims included one of the bar's owners, a petite 63-year-old described by those who knew her as feisty and hard-working.

"It's very alarming, and that's why it's so important that we investigate it to the fullest," White said.

A police officer on patrol spotted the fire just before 2 a.m., closing time for most Colorado bars. Firefighters found four women and one man dead inside.

The Denver medical examiner said the victims included Young Fero of the Denver suburb of Aurora. State records identify her as one of the bar's owners, although it wasn't immediately clear if she had a business partner.

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Man held in plot to attack Federal Reserve in NYC; suspect tried to detonate fake car bomb

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Bangladeshi man who came to the United States to wage jihad was arrested in an elaborate FBI sting on Wednesday after attempting to blow up a fake car bomb outside the Federal Reserve building in Manhattan, authorities said.

Before trying to carry out the alleged terrorism plot, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis went to a warehouse to help assemble a 1,000-pound bomb using inert material, according to a criminal complaint. He also asked an undercover agent to videotape him saying, "We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom," the complaint said.

Agents grabbed the 21-year-old Nafis -- armed with a cellphone he believed was rigged as a detonator -- after he made several attempts to blow up the bomb inside a vehicle parked next to the Federal Reserve, the complaint said.

Authorities emphasized that the plot never posed an actual risk. However, they claimed the case demonstrated the value of using sting operations to neutralize young extremists eager to harm Americans.

"Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure," said Mary Galligan, acting head of the FBI's New York office. "The defendant faces appropriately severe consequences."

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Violent crimes up by 18 percent, but experts don't see reversal of long crime decline yet

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Violent crimes unexpectedly jumped 18 percent last year, the first rise in nearly 20 years, and property crimes rose for first time in a decade. But academic experts said the new government data fall short of signaling a reversal of the long decline in crime.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported Wednesday that the increase in the number of violent crimes was the result of an upward swing in simple assaults, which rose 22 percent, from 4 million in 2010 to 5 million last year. The incidence of rape, sexual assault and robbery remained largely unchanged, as did serious violent crime involving weapons or injury.

Property crimes were up 11 percent in 2011, from 15.4 million in 2010 to 17 million, according to the bureau's annual national crime victimization survey. Household burglaries rose 14 percent, from 3.2 million to 3.6 million. The number of thefts jumped by 10 percent, from 11.6 million to 12.8 million.

The statistics bureau said the percentage increases last year were so large primarily because the 2011 crime totals were compared to historically low levels of crime in 2010. Violent crime has fallen by 65 percent since 1993, from 16.8 million to 5.8 million last year.

"2011 may be worse than 2010, but it was also the second-best in recent history," said Northeastern University criminology professor James Alan Fox.

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Ryan says Obama's ideas at debate more of the same during campaign stop in battleground Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- President Barack Obama failed to bring any new ideas that could revive the economy during the second presidential debate, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said Wednesday.

Ryan told supporters in the Cleveland area that running mate Mitt Romney followed up a strong first debate with another winning performance.

The Wisconsin congressman said Obama is out of answers and it showed in Tuesday night's debate. "This might be the best President Obama can give us, but it's not what we should settle for," Ryan said.

Later in Columbus, Ryan appeared at an event tailored to display his strength on fiscal issues. Eleven dinner companions at an Italian restaurant on the city's east side peppered him with questions on the federal debt, taxes and Obama's health care law.

"Do you have a whiteboard here?" Ryan quipped with a smile when he was asked to explain how a Romney administration would tackle the deficit.

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Snared by scandal, Lance Armstrong steps down as chairman of Livestrong, loses sponsors

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Already an outcast in cycling after a massive doping report, Lance Armstrong absorbed hits much closer to home Wednesday: to his wallet and his heart.

Armstrong was dumped by Nike, Anheuser-Busch and other sponsors, and he gave up the top spot at Livestrong, his beloved cancer-fighting charity, a week after an anti-doping agency released evidence of drug use by the seven-time Tour de France winner.

Armstrong stepped down as chairman of Livestrong in an attempt to minimize the damage caused by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's report. USADA banned Armstrong from the sport for life and has ordered that his Tour titles be stripped, which could come before the end of the month.

"This organization, its mission and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart," the cancer survivor said in a statement. "Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship."

Minutes later, Nike dropped its personal sponsorship contract with him and issued a blistering statement that the company had been duped by his denials over the years.

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Oh, Dalai! Transcription attributes profanity to Dalai Lama in Ivy League speech on peace

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The Dalai Lama didn't curse at a Brown University event, the college swears -- even if the closed captioning said differently.

A closing comment Wednesday by the Dalai Lama was mistaken for a profanity by the person transcribing his remarks for closed captioning at a speech on peace.

The exiled Tibetan leader urged listeners to share his thoughts with others if they found them interesting. If not, he said, they could "forget."

The closed captioning on a large screen at the Rhode Island Convention Center transcribed the remark as an expletive.

Some in the audience also believed the Dalai Lama, who has a strong accent, had used a profane phrase. Questions have arisen previously over the same comment in other venues.

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Coach quits after being named among john suspects in Maine Zumba studio prostitution scandal

KENNEBUNK, Maine (AP) -- A long-time high school hockey coach whose name appeared on a list of men accused of paying a local Zumba fitness instructor for sex has stepped down, the first known job loss associated with the scandal.

Kennebunk High School coach Donald Hill told school officials he wouldn't seek to renew his contract for next season after 14 years as head coach, school Superintendent Andrew Dolloff said Wednesday. The coach cited personal reasons, Dolloff said.

Police on Tuesday released the names, ages and addresses of 21 men to receive summonses after being accused of engaging a prostitute, and many more names will be released in the coming weeks. A lawyer who's seen the list said more than 150 people are suspected of being johns.

Hill, 52, was listed alongside a former mayor and several businessmen in southern Maine. Men from Massachusetts and New Hampshire also are on the list.

The coach, who's from Old Orchard Beach, a few towns north of Kennebunk, didn't immediately return a cellphone message seeking comment Wednesday. It was unclear if he is married or has a family.