Romney routs Gingrich in Florida, striding closer to GOP nomination; Gingrich pressing on
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Mitt Romney routed Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary Tuesday night, rebounding smartly from an earlier defeat and taking a major step toward the Republican presidential nomination. Gingrich vowed to press on despite the one-sided setback
Romney, talking unity like a nominee, said he was ready to take the Republican helm and "lead this party and our nation." In remarks to cheering supporters, the former Massachusetts governor unleashed a strong attack on Democratic President Barack Obama and said the competitive fight for the GOP nomination "does not divide us, it prepares us" for the fall campaign.
"Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it's time to get out of the way," he declared.
Returns from 98 percent of Florida's precincts showed Romney with 46 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Gingrich, the former House speaker.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had 13 percent, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul 7 percent. Neither mounted a substantial effort in the state.
Women cool to Gingrich, carry Romney to victory in Florida GOP primary, exit poll shows
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Women abandoned Newt Gingrich in droves Tuesday and helped fuel former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's triumph in Florida's Republican presidential primary, according to data from an exit poll of voters.
Romney also drew strength from Florida's legion of older voters, Hispanics and two staples among GOP voters in presidential contests so far -- those looking for someone to defeat President Barack Obama and people focused on the still flagging economy.
While Romney bested the former House speaker narrowly among men, he strongly outdistanced him among women, winning 52 percent to 28 percent. In the three states in which Republicans had already voted for their presidential nominee -- Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- there was relatively little difference in how the sexes divided their votes between the two rivals.
Romney's Florida triumph came after a campaign in which he and his supporters outspent Gingrich on television commercials by nearly 5-1, with many of the ads attacking the former speaker's character. None mentioned Gingrich's three marriages or the charges by his second wife, Marianne, that he asked permission for an open marriage before they were divorced, an allegation Gingrich has denied.
Romney prevailed over Gingrich among women across every category of education and income, underscoring the sweep with which they preferred Romney.
Gingrich says Florida loss shows it's a 2-person race for the GOP nomination, vows to go on
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Trounced in Florida, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Tuesday used the defeat to declare that he alone is the conservative alternative to GOP front-runner Mitt Romney.
Gingrich ignored the fact that the other two candidates in the race -- Ron Paul and Rick Santorum -- chose not to run aggressive campaigns in the state.
"It is now clear that this will be a two-person race between the conservative leader, Newt Gingrich, and the Massachusetts moderate, and the voters of Florida made that clear," Gingrich said following returns that showed him trailing Romney badly.
Gingrich's defiant pledge to continue on against Romney sets the stage for a bitter brawl for the Republican nomination that could last for months. Gingrich supporters Tuesday night hoisted signs that read "46 States to Go."
It was a message, the former House speaker said, to those eager to write his political obituary.
US officials: Release of Taliban prisoners at Gitmo may promote talks; Afghan objections fade
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged Tuesday that the United States may release several Afghan Taliban prisoners from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an incentive to bring the Taliban to peace talks.
Meanwhile, Afghan officials told The Associated Press that a plan to give Afghanistan a form of legal custody over the men if they are released satisfied their earlier objection to sending the prisoners to a third country.
Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper told Congress Tuesday that no decision had been made on whether to trade the five Taliban prisoners, now held at Guantanamo Bay as part of nascent peace talks with the Taliban. He and CIA Director David Petraeus did not dispute that the Obama administration is considering transferring the five to a third country.
U.S. officials and others had previously spoken only vaguely, and usually anonymously, about the proposal to send the prisoners to Qatar, a Persian Gulf country that has asserted a central role in framing talks that might end the 10-year war in Afghanistan. The lead U.S. negotiator trying to coax the Taliban into talks had also publicly acknowledged the possibility of a release, but said there was no final decision.
The prisoners proposed for transfer include some of the detainees brought to Guantanamo during the initial days and weeks of the U.S. invasion that toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001. At least one has been accused in the massacre of thousands of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan, according to U.S. and other assessments, but none are accused of directly killing Americans.
Ground control to Major Newt: Gingrich's moon base, brain science talk not much of an oddity
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich wants to create a lunar colony that he says could become a U.S. state. There's his grand research plan to figure out what makes the human brain tick. And he's warned about electromagnetic pulse attacks leaving America without electricity.
To some people, these ideas sound like science fiction. But mostly they are not.
Several science policy experts say the former House speaker's ideas are based in mainstream science. But somehow, Gingrich manages to make them sound way out there, taking them first a small step and then a giant leap further than where other politicians have gone.
Gingrich's promise that "by the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon" got amped up in a recent debate in Florida, which lost thousands of jobs with the end of the space shuttle program. By then, the lunar base had become a colony and even a potential state, and his moon ideas were ridiculed by rival Mitt Romney.
Returning to the moon and building an outpost there is not new. Until three years ago, it was U.S. policy and billions of dollars were spent on that idea.
Los Angeles elementary school teacher fired, charged with photographing and molesting 23 kids
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Detectives say the elementary school teacher told the children it was a game. Once inside his third-grade classroom, he blindfolded them, gagged them and set cockroaches crawling on their faces.
And then, Mark Berndt photographed them, creating hundreds of images that would eventually lead to his arrest.
On Tuesday, Berndt, 61, was sitting in jail on charges that he committed lewd acts on 23 boys and girls, ages 6 to 10, between 2008 and 2010. None of them complained about Berndt's behavior, authorities said.
Police and school officials only learned of it when a film processor found Berndt's photos more than a year ago. Since the discovery, the school district fired Berndt and police put him under surveillance.
"If it wasn't for the film processor, this could still be continuing today," said Lt. Carlos Marquez of the Los Angeles County sheriff's department.
US, allies urge UN action to end violence in Syria, Russia stands in the way
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Vowing to avoid "another Libya," the U.S. and its allies challenged Russia on Tuesday to overcome its opposition to a U.N. draft resolution demanding that Syrian President Bashar Assad yield power and end the violence that has killed thousands.
"It is time for the international community to put aside our own differences and send a clear message of support to the people of Syria," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the U.N. Security Council in backing an Arab League plan for the country.
Russia, one of Assad's strongest allies, has signaled it would veto any U.N. action against Damascus, fearing it could open the door to eventual international military involvement, the way an Arab-backed U.N. resolution led to NATO airstrikes in Libya.
But Clinton said U.N. action in Syria would not involve military intervention, unlike the NATO-led efforts that resulted in the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi.
"I know that some members here may be concerned that the Security Council is headed toward another Libya," Clinton said. "That is a false analogy."
A 'design miss' in World Trade Center's freight loading area could cost millions of dollars
NEW YORK (AP) -- The agency building the new World Trade Center says a design flaw could add millions of dollars to the cost of the complex's signature tower.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Tuesday that the loading dock under One World Trade Center won't be finished in time for tenants to move their equipment into the 104-story tower. So it's building five temporary loading bays above ground.
A temporary station that was built for the Port Authority Trans Hudson subway is blocking access to the underground loading area. The station can't be dismantled to make way for underground freight areas until crews finish the permanent station.
"Several years ago there was a design miss," Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, told reporters Tuesday. "Should it have been caught? The answer is, probably."
The temporary loading bays will add millions to the cost of One World Trade Center, the glass and steel spire previously known as the Freedom Tower. The building is now 90 stories high.
NASA probe glimpsing at region beyond solar system finds it's different, has less oxygen
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A glimpse beyond our solar system reveals the neighborhood just outside the sun's influence is different and stranger than expected, scientists reported Tuesday.
One oddity is the amount of oxygen. There are more oxygen atoms floating freely in the solar system than in the immediate interstellar space, or the vast region between stars.
Scientists were unsure why, but they said it's possible some of the life-supporting element could be hidden in dust or ice.
"We discovered this big puzzle -- that the matter just outside of our solar system doesn't look like the material inside," said David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.
The discovery came from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft, which launched in 2008 to study the chaotic boundary where the solar wind from the sun clashes with cold gases from interstellar space.
Peyton Manning shadow hangs over Super Bowl, Colts QB says he has no plans to retire
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Peyton Manning isn't ready to discuss retirement yet. The four-time league MVP told a group of reporters Tuesday he doesn't plan to stop playing and that his recovery from a third neck surgery continues to be on schedule.
"My plan hasn't changed," Manning said at a hotel after media day at Lucas Oil Stadium featuring the Giants and Patriots. "I'm on track with what the doctors have told me to do, and I'm doing that. I'm rehabbing hard."
When asked about reports he may soon retire, he responded: "I have no plans on doing that."
Manning's shadow has been looming over the NFL title game for days, and it doesn't show signs of going away anytime soon though he wishes he wasn't such a distraction.
"It's not the way it should be," he said earlier in a taped interview with ESPN. "I really don't think it will be as the week goes on."