Romney heads west with the most Republican money, organization -- but also a new verbal gaffe
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican presidential campaign rolled westward Wednesday, Mitt Romney riding herd after his Florida primary victory, Newt Gingrich looking for a new stake and a top party leader insisting the long trail won't necessarily hurt the GOP in the race against President Barack Obama.
Already the television ads were showing up in states that vote next, caucuses in Nevada on Saturday, in Minnesota and Colorado next Tuesday and in Maine the following weekend.
"I'm feeling like we've got a good pathway ahead," Romney declared in a television interview on the day after his Florida triumph.
He is favored in Nevada, where there are 28 Republican National Convention delegates at stake. And, alone among the contenders, appears to have the money to compete aggressively in all the other states as well.
Gingrich decamped from Florida but with prospects considerably dimmer than Romney's.
Ferry carrying 350 people sinks off Papua New Guinea; ships, helicopters attempting rescue
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AP) -- Rescue crews have saved 28 people from the water off Papua New Guinea's northeast coast after a ferry sank Thursday with as many as 350 people on board, officials said.
The MV Rabaul Queen went down when traveling between the coastal towns of Lae and Kimbe after it sent a distress signal early Thursday, PNG's National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) said.
Rescue co-ordinator Captain Nurur Rahman said four merchant ships were diverted to the scene by Australian authorities to help with the rescue.
"They have rescued 28 people who are now on board one vessel," Rahman said.
"I cannot confirm or deny the 350 missing number, it is hearsay. I have not seen the manifest as yet, but it is likely around 300," he added.
Egyptian soccer fans rush field and clash after surprise victory, leaving 74 dead
CAIRO (AP) -- At least 74 people were killed and hundreds injured after soccer fans rushed the field in the seaside city of Port Said Wednesday following an upset victory by the home team over Egypt's top club, setting off clashes and a stampede as riot police largely failed to intervene.
It was a bloody reminder of the deteriorating security in the Arab world's most populous country as instability continues nearly a year after former President Hosni Mubarak was swept out of power in a popular uprising.
The melee -- which followed an Egyptian league match between Al-Masry, the home team in the Mediterranean city, and Al-Ahly, based in Cairo and one of Egypt's most popular teams -- was the worst case of soccer violence in Egypt and the deadliest worldwide since 1996. One player said it was "like a war."
In Cairo, fans angered that another match between Al-Ismaili and Zamalek was halted because of the Port Said violence set fire to the bleachers at the main stadium in the Egyptian capital, authorities said. No injuries were reported, and employees said firefighters extinguished the blaze before it caused much damage.
The clashes and ensuing stampede did not appear to be directly linked to the political turmoil in Egypt, but the violence raised fresh concerns about the ability of the state police to manage crowds. Most of the hundreds of black-uniformed police with helmets and shields stood in lines and did nothing as soccer fans chased each other, some wielding sharp objects and others hurling sticks and rocks.
Panetta: US, NATO combat role in Afghanistan set to end next year; training role through 2014
BRUSSELS (AP) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta laid out the administration's most explicit portrayal of the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan, saying Wednesday that U.S. and other international forces in Afghanistan expect to end their combat role in 2013 and continue a training and advisory role with Afghan forces through 2014.
Panetta's remarks to reporters traveling with him to a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels showed how the foreign military role in Afghanistan is expected to evolve from the current high-intensity fight against the Taliban to a support role with Afghans fully in the lead. The timeline fits neatly into the U.S. political calendar, enabling President Barack Obama to declare on the campaign trail this year that in addition to bringing all U.S. troops home from Iraq and beginning a troop drawdown in Afghanistan, he also has a target period for ending the U.S. combat role there.
It also serves to possibly bridge an apparent gap between France and the rest of the NATO partners of the U.S. on defining the end game in Afghanistan.
All NATO members in November 2010 endorsed a plan to keep forces in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. But France this week appeared to throw that plan into doubt when President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at his side and seemingly in agreement, that NATO end its mission in 2013 -- one year earlier than planned.
Sarkozy also said, however, that France would provide support for the training of Afghan forces beyond 2013, so his approach might not be entirely different from the one Panetta outlined in which allied troops shed their combat role in the second half of 2013 but remain through 2014 to train, advise and assist.
Friending Wall Street? Facebook hopes to raise $5 billion in highly anticipated IPO
NEW YORK (AP) -- Facebook made a much-anticipated status update Wednesday: The Internet social network is going public in a stock offering that could value it at as much as $100 billion, eight years after its computer-hacking CEO Mark Zuckerberg started the service at Harvard University.
That means anyone with some cash will be able to own part of a Silicon Valley icon that quickly transformed from dorm-room startup to cultural touchstone.
If its initial public offering of stock makes enough friends on Wall Street, Facebook will probably make its stock market debut in three or four months as one of the world's most valuable companies. Facebook, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif., hopes to list its stock under the ticker symbol, "FB," on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq Stock Market.
In its regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Facebook Inc. indicated it hopes to raise $5 billion by selling a small percentage of its shares to the public in its IPO. That would be the most for an Internet IPO, easily surpassing the $1.9 billion raised by Google Inc. in 2004. The final amount will likely change as Facebook's bankers gauge the investor demand.
Joining corporate America's elite would give Facebook financial clout as it tries to make its service even more pervasive and expand its global audience of 845 million users. It also could help Facebook fend off an intensifying challenge from Google, which is looking to solidify its status as the Internet's most powerful company with a rival social network called Plus.
Obama goes to Congress with housing plan that would help more borrowers refinance their loans
FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) -- Conceding his earlier housing programs have fallen short, President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed a vast expansion of government assistance to homeowners, aiming to make lower lending rates a possibility for millions of borrowers who have not been able to get out from under burdensome mortgages.
The president's proposal is laden with election-year politics and faces a difficult path in Congress. Obama wants to pay for the estimated $5 billion to $10 billion cost with a fee on the nation's largest banks, a proposal that has failed to win support even when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate.
In addition, its potential impact could be limited by the fact that it would not apply to borrowers who are behind on their home loan payments, those most threatened by foreclosure.
The housing issue, while national in scope, particularly resonates in election battlegrounds such as Nevada and Florida that have faced record foreclosures. Obama himself drew attention to the politics surrounding the issue with a jab at former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, now the front-runner in the Republican presidential contest. Romney in October suggested the foreclosure process should be allowed to "run its course and hit the bottom."
Without naming Romney, Obama said: "It is wrong for anyone to suggest that the only option for struggling, responsible homeowners is to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom. I refuse to accept that, and so do the American people."
Treasure hunter claims he found torpedoed World War II ship that was carrying $3B in platinum
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- A treasure hunter said Wednesday he has located the wreck of a British merchant ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Cape Cod during World War II while carrying what he claims was a load of platinum bars now worth more than $3 billion.
If the claim proves true, it could be one of the richest sunken treasures ever discovered.
But an attorney for the British government expressed doubt the vessel was carrying platinum. And if it was, in fact, laden with precious metals, who owns the hoard could become a matter of international dispute.
Treasure hunter Greg Brooks of Sub Sea Research in Gorham, Maine, announced that a wreck found sitting in 700 feet of water 50 miles offshore is that of the S.S. Port Nicholson, sunk in 1942.
He said he and his crew identified it via the hull number using an underwater camera, and he hopes to begin raising the treasure later this month or in early March with the help of a remotely operated underwater vessel.
'Soul Train' host Don Cornelius remembered for bringing black music, culture to masses
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- "Soul Train" host Don Cornelius was the arbiter of cool, a brilliant TV showman who used his purring, baritone voice to seduce mainstream America into embracing black music and artists.
But the "love, peace, and SOUL!" he wished viewers as he closed each show for decades escaped him as his life descended into marital trouble, illness and, finally, a fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound on Wednesday.
Police said they went to his Mulholland Drive home around 4 a.m. after receiving a call from one of his sons, who became concerned after being contacted by his father. Cornelius, 75, was found shot and was pronounced dead an hour later at a nearby hospital.
Authorities ruled out foul play, but have not found a suicide note and are talking to relatives about his mental state.
To music-hungry viewers, he was a smooth, sharp-dressed man who got them dancing to the hottest tracks going. The pop world's biggest stars recalled him as much more: A cultural groundbreaker who advanced African-American music and culture; a black entrepreneur who overcame racism by strength of will; a visionary who understood rap's emergence but criticized its rawness.
Letterman celebrates 30 years in late-night TV with one of his favorite guests, Howard Stern
NEW YORK (AP) -- As David Letterman and Howard Stern can attest, a 30-year anniversary celebration is a ripe opportunity to cringe at geeky haircuts.
Letterman marked three decades in late-night TV on Wednesday on CBS by bringing Stern, one of his favorite guests, onto his "Late Show." They congratulated each other on age improving their looks.
Then Letterman proved it, displaying a picture of them from when Stern first appeared on the then-NBC show in May 1984. Letterman had a bushy head of hair. Stern had a mustache.
Letterman said about Stern's old picture: "It looks like a guy who was on to talk about a career of writing bad checks."
Stern advised burning the picture but recalled how grateful he had been for the invite.
Angelo Dundee, trainer of Muhammad Ali, dead at 90
Angelo Dundee, the brilliant motivator who worked the corner for Muhammad Ali in his greatest fights and willed Sugar Ray Leonard to victory in his biggest bout, died Wednesday in Tampa, Fla. He was 90.
The genial Dundee was best known for being in Ali's corner for almost his entire career, but those in boxing also knew him as an ambassador for boxing and a figure of integrity in a sport that often lacked it.
He died with his family surrounding him, said son, Jimmy Dundee, but not before being able to attend Ali's 70th birthday bash in Louisville, Ky., last month.
"It was the way he wanted to go," Jimmy Dundee said. "He did everything he wanted to do."
Promoter Bob Arum said he had been planning to bring Dundee to Las Vegas for a Feb. 18 charity gala headlined by Ali. He called Dundee a legend in the sport, someone who worked the corner for some of the greatest fights of the times.