Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Published:

3 GOP primaries Tuesday, but Romney and Obama act as though the fall campaign is all but set

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Republican front-runner Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are trading jabs even before Republicans vote in their latest presidential primaries, a sign that both sides believe the race to decide who will oppose the Democrat this fall is coming to a close.

With GOP primaries Tuesday in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, Romney is set to hold one campaign event before an election night party in Milwaukee. He spent the weekend campaigning across Wisconsin, working to win yet another big industrial state that rival Rick Santorum was counting on to keep his flagging candidacy alive.

"Take the next step here in Wisconsin," Romney urged supporters at his last campaign stop Monday. "I need you to go out and vote. Get your friends."

Obama is treating the former Massachusetts governor as though he's already won the GOP nomination. The president's re-election campaign is running a new TV ad in five swing states attacking Romney by name for the first time -- in this case as a backer of "Big Oil" amid high gasoline prices.

While charging that Obama's version of a perfect world is one with "a big-spending big government," Romney is acting as though his opponents for the nomination no longer matter.

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Students ran, hid behind doors after gunman opened fire at small Christian college in Calif.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- One wounded woman cowered in the bushes after the gunman opened fire on the campus of a small Christian university. One student hid in a locked classroom as the shooter banged on the door. Another heard the shots and ran to safety.

All within an hour Monday, police said, a 43-year-old former student named One L. Goh walked into Oikos University, and began a rampage that left seven people dead and three people wounded, trapped some in the building and forced others to flee for their lives.

It was an "extremely chaotic scene," police Chief Howard Jordan said.

Soon after the shooting, heavily armed officers swarmed the tiny college of fewer than 100 students in a large industrial park near the Oakland airport. For a time, police believed the gunman could still be inside. But he wasn't.

Instead, officers said he apparently drove about three miles from campus before surrendering to officers inside a supermarket.

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Explosion in student loan debt reaching crisis proportions, but largely flying under radar

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal student loan program seemed like a great idea back in 1965: Borrow to go to college now, pay it back later when you have a job.

But many borrowers these days are close to flunking out, tripped up by painful real-life lessons in math and economics.

Surging above $1 trillion, U.S. student loan debt has surpassed credit card and auto-loan debt. This debt explosion jeopardizes the fragile recovery, increases the burden on taxpayers and possibly sets the stage for a new economic crisis.

With a still-wobbly jobs market, these loans are increasingly hard to pay off. Unable to find work, many students have returned to school, further driving up their indebtedness.

Average student loan debt recently topped $25,000, up 25 percent in 10 years. And the mushrooming debt has direct implications for taxpayers, since 8 in 10 of these loans are government-issued or guaranteed.

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US offers $10 million bounty for founder of Pakistani militant group blamed for Mumbai attacks

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- The United States has offered a $10 million bounty for the founder of the Pakistani militant group blamed for the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people, a move that could complicate U.S.-Pakistan relations at a tense time.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed founded Lashkar-e-Taiba in the 1980s, allegedly with Pakistani support to pressure archenemy India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Pakistan banned the group in 2002 under pressure from the U.S., but it operates with relative freedom -- even doing charity work using government money.

The U.S. designated Lashkar-e-Taiba a foreign terrorist organization in December 2001.

But Saeed operates openly in Pakistan, giving public speeches and appearing on TV talk shows. The U.S. also offered up to $2 million for Lashkar-e-Taiba's deputy leader, Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, who is also Saeed's brother-in-law.

The reward for Saeed is one of the highest offered by the U.S. and is equal to the amount for Taliban chief Mullah Omar. Only Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as al-Qaida chief, fetches a higher, $25 million bounty.

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Hit the road: With title back in Kentucky, Cal readies search for another

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Before his confetti-flecked suit gets back from the cleaners, John Calipari will be on the road.

Such is life for a coach who recruits all that NBA-ready talent -- especially when those players get in the habit of bringing championships back to their ol' Kentucky home.

Cal's latest group of one-and-doners doesn't have much left to prove at this level. Despite a rough shooting night by the best of Kentucky's talented freshmen, Anthony Davis, the Wildcats defeated Kansas 67-59 on Monday night to win their eighth national title, and first since 1998.

"What I'm hoping is there are six first-rounders on this team," Calipari said. "I'm fine with that. That's why I've got to go recruiting on Friday."

Among those he could be looking to replace:

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Authorities: 1 man wounded by gunfire in Lexington as thousands celebrate Ky. NCAA win

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- One man was wounded by gunfire early Tuesday in Lexington, numerous small fires were set and dozens were arrested as thousands celebrated Kentucky's win over Kansas to claim another NCAA title, authorities reported.

Battalion Chief Ed Davis of the Lexington Division of Fire and Emergency Services said he saw the shooting as he was filling out paperwork on a wreck involving a fire engine. Davis said he heard yelling about 25 feet away, and one man started shooting at another. He said the gun was fired "quite a few times."

Police Lt. Clayton Roberts said no arrests had been made in the shooting, which happened shortly after 2 a.m. EDT. The gunman disappeared into the crowd and behind some buildings and police could not locate him, Roberts said.

The wounded man, who is in his 30s, was taken to University of Kentucky Medical Center with serious injuries that weren't believed to be life-threatening, Roberts said.

The shooting happened after some people inside a vehicle had words with others who were standing on a sidewalk, Roberts said. He said the people in the car got out, and a person on the sidewalk opened fire with a handgun, hitting a man from the vehicle.

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Obama to rail against House GOP budget plan backed by Romney

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Making a pitch to middle-class voters, President Barack Obama intends to strike back Tuesday at a budget plan promoted by House Republicans, which the White House says will hurt the pocketbooks of working families.

Obama, in a speech to newspaper executives, was expected to sharply criticize a $3.5 trillion budget proposal pushed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which passed on a near-party-line vote last week. The plan has faced fierce resistance from Democrats, who say it would gut Medicare, slash taxes for the wealthy and lead to deep cuts to crucial programs such as aid to college students and highway and rail projects.

Obama's pitch to the middle class came as Republican Mitt Romney looked to solidify his grip on his party's presidential nomination in primary contests in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C. The White House has appeared increasingly focused on Romney, with Obama's campaign criticizing the former Massachusetts governor by name in an energy ad as the president's team seeks to frame the election as a referendum on the economic security of middle-class voters.

White House advisers billed the speech -- to be delivered during The Associated Press luncheon of editors and publishers -- as an important marker for the president as he seeks re-election. Senior administration officials said the address would build upon themes the president delivered in Kansas last fall, in which he called the nation's economic challenges a "make-or-break moment" for the middle class, and in his State of the Union address, in which he laid out his election-year agenda.

Ryan's proposal aims to slash the deficit and the size of government while offering sharply lower tax rates in return for eliminating many popular tax breaks. GOP front-runner Mitt Romney and his Republican rivals have said they would support Ryan's budget plan, which has little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate but lays out the GOP's fiscal priorities.

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Small experimental plane crashes into Fla. supermarket: 5 injured -- 3 of them burned severely

DELAND, Fla. (AP) -- A small experimental plane sputtered and crashed in flames into a supermarket at a Florida shopping center Monday evening, injuring five people and sending frightened shoppers running from the complex, authorities said.

Several people in the Northgate Shopping Center in DeLand dialed 911 around 7:20 p.m. to report the the aircraft had plunged into the complex, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said. Callers said the plane showed signs of trouble moments before it hit the roof of the supermarket of the Florida-based Publix chain.

"A twin-engine experiment aircraft has crashed into the roof of the Publix supermarket," DeLand Police Sgt. Chris Estes told The Associated Press by telephone. "Publix is the only structure to suffer any damage." But he said all the businesses in the complex were closed to make way for emergency crews.

He said the plane had taken off from a nearby municipal airport in DeLand, a Florida city about 20 miles west of Daytona Beach.

The police spokesman added that three people had suffered severe burns and two others had moderate burns but he didn't specify who on the ground or on the aircraft were injured.

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Amphibious houses, floating islands becoming reality as architects design for rising waters

BANGKOK (AP) -- A floating mosque and golf course for the submerging Maldives islands. Amphibious homes in the Netherlands lifted to safety as waters surge beneath them. A hospital perched on 400 stilts to protect patients from Thailand's devastating floods and the encroaching sea nearby.

Around the world architects and city planners are exploring ways mankind and water may be able to coexist as oceans rise and other phenomenon induced by climate change, including extreme, erratic floods, threaten land-rooted living.

With the Dutch at the helm, projects in the cutting-edge field of aqua-architecture are already in place, including a maritime housing estate, floating prison and greenhouses in the Netherlands. An increasing number are coming on stream, and while earlier blueprints appeared to be the stuff of science fiction, advocates say leaps of imagination are still needed given the magnitude of the danger.

"The focus on floating solutions has grown enormously. It has shifted from freak architecture to more sustainable, flexible alternatives," says Dutch architect Koen Olthuis, citing growing support by governments and interest among private investors in Asia and Russia.

"We will have to live with a more watery environment. There is no choice," says Danai Thaitakoo, a Thai landscape architect whose own Bangkok house was swamped last year as the country suffered its worst floods of modern times.

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'Sparkle' trailer featuring Whitney Houston makes debut; producer says its Houston at her best

NEW YORK (AP) -- Viewers got a first glimpse of Whitney Houston's upcoming film Monday when NBC's "Today" show premiered a trailer for the much-awaited release, and a fuller clip debuted on Yahoo! Movies.

A remake of the 1976 original, "Sparkle" stars Houston as the mother of three girls who form a singing group and struggle with fame and drug addiction. The trailer displayed the daughters, including "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks, in performance. Houston is prominent throughout, at one point singing the classic gospel song "His Eye Is on the Sparrow."

She also tells one of her daughters: "I always knew you had the gift. It makes me feel like I did something right. Don't lose it."

Debra Martin Chase, who is a producer of the film, said she had mixed emotions with the trailer's release; the movie is scheduled for release Aug. 17.

"On the one hand, I'm so excited about the movie and we're really happy with how it turned out," she said in a phone interview Monday. "(But) just to have it said yet again that this is Whitney's last performance, it's hard. It's hard."