Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Published:

Romney sweeps Wisconsin, Maryland and DC, pushing closer to Republican nomination; hits Obama

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Mitt Romney tightened his grip on the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night, sweeping primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., with time left over to swap charges with President Barack Obama.

"Four more years?" Romney asked sarcastically of the president as supporters cheered in Milwaukee.

He said Obama was "a little out of touch" after spending four years surrounded by the trappings of power and had presided over near-record job losses as well as increases in poverty, home foreclosures, government debt and gasoline prices. In Washington, Obama said things could be worse -- and he predicted they would be if Romney and the Republicans got their way.

The victories enabled Romney to pad his already-wide delegate lead over Republican rival Rick Santorum, who flashed defiance in the face of pressure to abandon his own candidacy in the name of party unity.

Wisconsin was the marquee contest of the night, the only place of the three on the ballot where Santorum mounted a significant effort. Romney's victory there marked his fourth in little more than a month in a belt of industrial states that also included Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois.

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Federal judge troubled by Obama's comments on high court's review of health care law

HOUSTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court judge on Tuesday seemed to take offense to comments President Barack Obama made earlier this week in which he warned that if the Supreme Court overturned his signature health care overhaul it would amount to overreach by an "unelected" court.

The Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling later this year on whether to strike down some or all of the historic health care law.

During oral arguments in Houston in a separate challenge to another aspect of the federal health care law, U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith said Obama's comments troubled a number of people who have read them as a challenge to the authority of federal courts.

"I'm referring to statements by the president in the past few days to the effect, I'm sure you've heard about them, that it is somehow inappropriate for what he termed unelected judges to strike acts of Congress that have enjoyed, he was referring of course to Obamacare, to what he termed a broad consensus and majorities in both houses of Congress," Smith told Dana Kaersvang, an attorney with the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

On Monday, Obama issued a direct challenge to the Supreme Court, saying he didn't believe the high court would take the "unprecedented" step of overturning a law passed by a strong majority of Congress.

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Romney wins rare conservative majority in Maryland; Wisconsin voters see him as likely nominee

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mitt Romney won the Maryland Republican presidential primary broadly and deeply, besting chief rival Rick Santorum among conservatives as well as moderates and emerging as the runaway favorite of those who care most about beating President Barack Obama and fixing the economy. The trend was similar if less convincing in Wisconsin, Tuesday's other big win for Romney, where he made inroads with the right but faced a strong challenge for the votes of the young and evangelicals.

In both states, Romney found a greater degree of success among constituencies that had flocked in past months to the now-fading Santorum. Still, his campaign-long struggle to identify with lower income people and the less educated endures, a gap more meaningful in the general election ahead than in the Republican contests.

Romney's win in Maryland was anticipated: the dimensions of it, perhaps beyond expectations.

For only the fourth time in the long campaign season, Romney won the support of at least 50 percent who called themselves conservative, according to results of an exit poll in Maryland. The only other such races were in Virginia, where Santorum wasn't on the ballot; Nevada, with a large Mormon population; and Massachusetts, where he was governor.

Both states featured stronger Romney showings among evangelicals than he's had in other recent states -- he won about 4 in 10 born-again voters in each state, topping the 31 percent he's won across the 20 states where exit and entrance polls have been conducted this year.

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Reagan couldn't win a GOP primary today, Obama says, accusing Republicans of 'radical vision'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In combative campaign form, President Barack Obama accused Republican leaders on Tuesday of becoming so radical and dangerously rigid that even the late Ronald Reagan, one of their most cherished heroes, could not win a GOP primary if he were running today.

Obama, in a stinging speech to an audience of news executives, had unsparing words for Republicans on Capitol Hill as well as the man he is most likely to face off against in November, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The president depicted the election as a choice between a Democratic candidate who wants to use government to help people succeed and Republicans who would abandon a basic compact with society and let most people struggle at the expense of the rich.

He framed his address around a new House Republican budget plan, saying it represents a bleak, backward "radical vision."

"It is thinly veiled social Darwinism," Obama said to the annual meeting of The Associated Press. "It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who's willing to work for it ... It is a prescription for decline."

Republicans shot back that the president had offered a deeply partisan speech devoid of accountability.

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Dallas-area tornadoes damage neighborhoods, big-rigs and nursing home; more than a dozen hurt

DALLAS (AP) -- Tornadoes raked the Dallas area Tuesday, crumbling a wing of a nursing home, peeling roofs from dozens of homes and spiraling big-rig trailers into the air like footballs. More than a dozen injuries were reported.

Overturned cars left streets unnavigable and flattened trucks clogged highway shoulders. Preliminary estimates were that six to 12 twisters had touched down in North Texas, senior National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Martello said. But firm numbers would only come after survey teams checked damage Wednesday, he said.

In suburban Dallas, Lancaster police officer Paul Beck said 10 people were injured, two of them severely. Three people were injured in Arlington, including two residents of a nursing home who were taken to a hospital with minor injuries after swirling winds clipped the building, city assistant fire chief Jim Self said.

"Of course the windows were flying out, and my sister is paralyzed, so I had to get someone to help me get her in a wheelchair to get her out of the room," said Joy Johnston, who was visiting her 79-year-old sister at the Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. "It was terribly loud."

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport canceled hundreds of flights and diverted others heading its way. Among the most stunning video was an industrial section of Dallas, where rows of empty tractor-trailers crumpled like soda cans littered a parking lot.

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APNewsBreak: Syria says troops begin pullout from calm cities a week ahead of truce deadline

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian troops began pulling out Tuesday from some calm cities and headed back to their bases a week ahead of a deadline to implement an international cease-fire plan, a government official said.

The claim could not immediately be verified and activists near the capital Damascus denied troops were leaving their area. They said the day regime forces withdraw from streets, Syria will witness massive protests that will overthrow the government.

"Forces began withdrawing to outside calm cities and are returning to their bases, while in tense areas, they are pulling out to the outskirts," the government official told The Associated Press in Damascus without saying when the withdrawal began. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

President Bashar Assad agreed just days ago to an April 10 deadline to implement international envoy Kofi Annan's truce plan. It requires regime forces to withdraw from towns and cities and observe a cease-fire. Rebel fighters are to immediately follow by ceasing violence.

Khaled al-Omar, an activist in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, denied that any withdrawal was under way in his area.

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APNewsBreak: Woman knew husband had died when she landed plane with almost empty fuel tank

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- An 80-year-old woman with little flying experience knew her husband had died after he fell unconscious at the controls of a small plane, yet she remained calm as she landed the aircraft at a northeastern Wisconsin airport, her son said Tuesday.

In a phone interview with The Associated Press, James Collins said he's also a pilot and had helped his mother Helen Collins via radio as the Cessna twin-engine plane began running out of gas Monday evening. Another pilot also took to the skies to guide her to the ground at Cherryland Airport, near Sturgeon Bay -- about 150 miles north of Milwaukee.

He said his mother took lessons to take off and land about 30 years ago at her husband's urging, in case something happened to him, but never got her license. She has flown hundreds of hours by his side.

"At one point she didn't even want the wingman to go up," he said. "She said, 'Don't you guys think I could do this on my own? Don't you have confidence in me?' She was calmer than everybody on the ground. She had it totally under control."

They were coming back from their second home in Marco Island, Fla. for Easter, Collins said. His 81-year-old father, John Collins, had a heart attack about seven minutes from landing at Cherryland Airport and had called for her before he became unconscious, Collins said. She had called 911 and that's when everyone came together to help her down.

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Man found dead in burned home among 911 callers confused over Colo. wildfire

DENVER (AP) -- Emergency officials told confused residents not to worry after they reported a fire on the outskirts of Denver, including at least two residents who later were found dead in their burning home, 911 calls released by officials Tuesday showed.

Residents began calling to express concern about the fire and high winds around 2 p.m., and at first dispatchers assured them the heavy smoke and flames were part of a controlled burn that wasn't a threat. Later they acknowledged that there was some trouble with a prescribed burn but told callers that firefighters were at the scene.

Jefferson County sheriff's office spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said sheriff's officials were aware the controlled burn had broken its perimeter that afternoon but she said the agency didn't know the fire had gotten out of control until a local fire department sent a notification at 5 p.m. She said that's when a firefighter first made a suggestion for evacuations.

"We have to listen to what groups in the field are telling us," Kelley said of why evacuations weren't called earlier. "If they're saying there's a controlled burn and the state forest service is on the scene, we don't just create evacuations for a fire that has gone outside the perimeter."

Residents in the mountains are particularly sensitive to smoke in the air, and it wasn't unusual for dispatchers to receive calls about seeing smoke from the controlled burn, Kelley said. The dispatchers' messages to callers changed as the situation changed, she said.

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Burger King to be publicly traded again on NYSE amid brand makeover

NEW YORK (AP) -- Burger King is prettying itself up for a public outing.

The world's No. 2 hamburger chain, which is in the midst of overhauling its menu and stores, says it expects to relist its shares on the New York Stock Exchange within the next three months.

In a deal announced late Tuesday, the New York-based investment firm 3G Capital said it is selling a 29 percent stake in Burger King for $1.4 billion in cash to Justice Holdings Ltd., a London-based shell specifically set up to invest in another company. 3G Capital will keep the remaining 71 percent.

Justice Holding's shares will suspend trading on the London Stock Exchange once the deal is complete. It will then emerge as Burger King Worldwide Inc. and its shares will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Burger King traded under "BKC" between 2006 and 2010 but its new ticker has not yet been determined.

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Perfect! Griner and Baylor beat Notre Dame 80-61 for NCAA title and 40-0 season

DENVER (AP) -- Brittney Griner and Baylor left no doubt they're head and shoulders above any team in the country. In fact, they're perfect.

Griner had 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks to lead Baylor to a dominating 80-61 victory over Notre Dame in the NCAA women's basketball championship on Tuesday night, capping a 40-0 season for the Lady Bears.

"Looking back when we get older, I'm always going to remember this moment, always going to remember confetti falling and being here with my team," Griner said as she and her teammates hugged and celebrated.

They became the seventh women's team to run through a season unbeaten and the first in NCAA history to win 40 games. It was the second national championship for Baylor, which also won a title in 2005.

Baylor did it in a nearly wire-to-wire victory, finishing with a flourish in a season when anything less than bringing a title back to Waco would have been a huge disappointment.