Medical examiner: Powell boys died of 'chop injuries' to head, neck, and smoke inhalation
GRAHAM, Wash. (AP) -- Josh Powell's boys were coming for a visit, and he had preparations to make.
He boxed up their books and toys and took them to a charity. He carried heavy cans of gasoline inside his house and set aside a hatchet.
He thought about what to write in the final emails he'd send out: where people could find his financial accounts, how they could shut off his utilities. He didn't mention his wife, Susan Powell, missing for the past two years.
When the boys finally arrived in a car driven by a social worker Sunday, everything was ready to go. They ran inside to see him. He locked the door before the social worker could reach it.
She could smell the gas, which by now was splashed throughout the home. She called for help. The flames rose.
US closes Syrian embassy, UK ambassador recalled in new Western push to isolate Assad
BEIRUT (AP) -- The U.S. closed its embassy in Syria and Britain recalled its ambassador to Damascus on Monday in a new Western push to get President Bashar Assad to leave power and halt the murderous grind in Syria -- now among the deadliest conflicts of the Arab Spring.
Although the diplomatic effort was stymied at the U.N. by vetoes from Russia and China, the moves by the U.S. and Britain were a clear message that Western powers see no point in engaging with Assad and now will seek to bolster Syria's opposition.
"This is a doomed regime as well as a murdering regime," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told lawmakers as he recalled his country's ambassador from Syria. "There is no way it can recover its credibility internationally."
President Barack Obama said the Syrian leader's departure is only a matter of time.
"We have been relentless in sending a message that it is time for Assad to go," Obama said during an interview with NBC. "This is not going to be a matter of if, it's going to be a matter of when."
Obama orders new sanctions on Iran, aiming to head off any Israeli action to hit nuclear sites
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Targeting Iran's economy, the U.S. ordered tough new penalties Monday to further pinch the country's financial system and encourage Israel to give sanctions more time before any military action against Iran's nuclear program.
The new, stricter sanctions, authorized in legislation that President Barack Obama signed in December, will be enforced under an order he signed only now. They give U.S. banks new powers to freeze assets linked to the Iranian government and close loopholes that officials say Iran has used to move money despite earlier restrictions imposed by the U.S. and Europe.
The action against the Central Bank of Iran is more significant for its timing than its immediate effect. It comes as the United States and its allies are arguing that tough sanctions can still persuade Iran to back off what the West contends is a drive to build a nuclear bomb.
The U.S. and Europe want to deprive Iran of the oil income it needs to run its government and pay for the nuclear program. But many experts believe Iran will be able to find other buyers outside Europe.
The European Union announced last month it would ban the import of Iranian crude oil starting in July. The U.S. doesn't buy Iranian oil, but last month it placed sanctions on Iran's banks to make it harder for the nation to sell crude. The U.S., however, has delayed implementing those sanctions for at least six months because it is worried about sending oil prices higher at a time when the world economy is struggling. Iran exports about 3 percent of the world's oil
LA superintendent: Faculty at school to be removed following allegations against 2 teachers
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The entire faculty at an elementary school where two teachers were arrested on suspicion of lewd conduct will be removed while the school district investigates, the Los Angeles school superintendent told parents Monday.
Superintendent John Deasy told parents and media on Monday night that the Miramonte Elementary School staffers are being replaced because a full investigation of allegations is disruptive and staffers require support to get through the scandal, too.
An entire staff has been trained to come into classrooms at Miramonte to take over teaching for the time being, and there will be a psychiatric social worker in every classroom to help students and staff cope with any issues.
"The last thing I'm worried about is a budget issue," Deasy said. "The Number One thing I'm worried about is the students."
School officials canceled classes at the school on Tuesday and Wednesday as a cooling-off period, said district spokesman Tom Waldman.
Front-runner Romney works to beat back surprising Santorum challenge in next states to vote
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) -- Sensing a possible threat, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized rival Rick Santorum's time in the Senate as "not effective" because of his past support for spending on pork-barrel projects as he worked to fend off an unexpected challenge in the next states to vote.
Santorum countered that Romney "should not be our nominee" because he was "dead wrong on the most important issue of the day" when, as governor, he signed a health care overhaul into law in Massachusetts.
The two sparred from afar one day before Republicans in Colorado and Minnesota hold nominating caucuses, the latest contests in what's become almost a plodding race for the GOP nomination compared to the rapid-fire campaign of last month. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul also are competing but neither was expected to have a breakout performance in either state.
Romney, who won both states four years ago, hopes to extend his winning streak though advisers acknowledged that a first-place finish would be more likely to come by in Colorado than in Minnesota. The Republican Party in Minnesota has become more conservative in recent years and Santorum's strong conservative positions on social issues could resonate with the state's strong contingent of evangelical voters.
Santorum, a Catholic, has a strong anti-abortion record and consistently focuses on the issue. Romney, who once supported abortion rights, has struggled to win over those voters. But in a sign that he's trying to do just that, Romney's campaign on Monday rolled out a petition focusing on religious liberty. The move was intended to challenge a recent Obama administration decision to require hospitals to distribute free birth control, a policy at odds with the religious teachings followed at many Catholic health care facilities.
Warming or resigned to? Tea party activists starting to rally behind GOP front-runner Romney
DENVER (AP) -- Long skeptical of Mitt Romney, tea party activists are either warming up to the GOP presidential front-runner or reluctantly backing him after abandoning hope of finding a nominee they like better.
Whatever the reason, the former Massachusetts governor who is coming off of back-to-back victories in Florida and Nevada now is picking up larger shares of the tea party vote than he did when the Republican nomination fight began. And that fact alone illuminates the struggles of the nearly three-year-old movement to greatly influence its first presidential race.
"We haven't gone away," insisted Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the national Tea Party Express. But, in the same breath, she acknowledged lower expectations and a shift in focus to Senate races over the White House campaign. She also pleaded for patience, saying: "Anybody that thinks we are going to change things in one cycle or two cycles is fooling themselves."
Tea party activists across the country entered their first presidential contest this year expecting to hold major sway over the Republican race following a 2010 congressional election year in which their favored candidates successfully knocked off a string of insiders in GOP primaries in Colorado and elsewhere.
The movement influenced the presidential race early on, with candidates from Romney on down parroting the movement's language and promoting its agenda of restrained spending to curry favor with its adherents.
Nationalism or politics?: Chrysler's 'Halftime in America' ad generates debate about intent
DETROIT (AP) -- People rarely pick a fight with Dirty Harry. But Chrysler's "Halftime in America" ad featuring quintessential tough guy Clint Eastwood has generated fierce debate about whether it accurately portrays the country's most economically distressed city or amounts to a campaign ad for President Barack Obama and the auto bailouts.
The 2-minute ad holds up Detroit as a model for American recovery while idealistic images of families, middle class workers and factories scroll across the screen.
"People are out of work and they're hurting," the 81-year-old Eastwood says in his trademark gravelly voice. "And they're all wondering what they're gonna do to make a comeback. And we're all scared because this isn't a game. The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together. Now, Motor City is fighting again."
Conservatives, including GOP strategist Karl Rove, criticized the ad as a not-so-thinly veiled endorsement of the federal government's auto industry bailouts. Others questioned basing a story of economic resurgence in a city that remains in fiscal disarray, with a $200 million budget deficit and cash flow concerns that have it fending off a state takeover.
But is it political? That depends on who you ask.
Country singer Randy Travis arrested outside Texas church for public intoxication
SANGER, Texas (AP) -- Country singer Randy Travis has apologized after being arrested on a charge of public intoxication outside a North Texas church.
Denton County sheriff's spokesman Tom Reedy says police in the town of Sanger arrested Travis early Monday after spotting a vehicle parked in front of a church and finding an open bottle of wine and Travis smelling of alcohol.
Reedy says Travis, whose hits include "Forever and Ever, Amen," was brought to the Denton County jail about 1:30 a.m. and released six hours later.
The singer, who lives in the small town of Tioga near Sanger, apologized in a statement to The Associated Press "for what resulted following an evening of celebrating the Super Bowl."
Travis, who launches a concert tour Friday, says he's "committed to being responsible and accountable."
Palestinians take step toward unity; Israel warns this closes door to peace talks
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- After months of wavering, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took a decisive step Monday toward reconciliation with the Islamic militant group Hamas, a move Israel promptly warned would close the door to any future peace talks.
In a deal brokered by Qatar, Abbas will head an interim unity government to prepare for general elections in the Palestinian territories in the coming months. The agreement appeared to bring reconciliation -- key to any statehood ambitions -- within reach for the first time since the two sides set up rival Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza in 2007.
Monday's deal, signed in the Qatari capital of Doha by Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, put an end to recent efforts by the international community to revive long-stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the terms of Palestinian statehood. Abbas appears to have concluded that he has a better chance of repairing relations with Hamas, shunned by the West as a terror group, than reaching an agreement with Israel's hardline prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu quickly condemned the Doha deal. "It's either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel. You can't have them both," he said in a warning to Abbas, who has enjoyed broad international support.
In moving closer to Hamas, Abbas risks losing some of that backing and hundreds of millions of dollars a year in aid.
Belichick's decision to let Giants score doesn't pay off but not unique in Super Bowl history
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Bill Belichick gave clear instructions to his defensive unit: Let the runner score.
Playing the odds and inviting critics, the calculating coach of the New England Patriots told his players to get out of the way, open a wide path for Ahmad Bradshaw and give Tom Brady a chance to win the Super Bowl in the final 57 seconds.
Crazy? Not at all.
The strategy failed and the New York Giants won 21-17 on Sunday night. But Belichick was certain it gave the Patriots their best opportunity.