Wednesday, April 4, 2012

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Analysis: Obama sends Romney a message: The game is on even if you aren't ready

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Reality smacked Mitt Romney in the face twice in a 24-hour span.

President Barack Obama used the power of the presidency to ring the general election's opening bell, declaring this week in no uncertain terms that he and his mammoth organization are ready to take on Romney -- whether the presumptive GOP nominee is ready or not.

And despite what he may say, Romney is not.

The former Massachusetts governor, who won three more primaries Tuesday and is on track to claim his party's presidential nomination in June if not before, is facing a challenge of historic proportions. Just one Republican -- Ronald Reagan -- has defeated a Democratic incumbent president in the last century. And Romney faces an incumbent with five times more staff, 10 times more money, and the world's greatest bully pulpit.

Using that platform Tuesday, the president criticized Romney by name, telling news executives at the annual meeting of The Associated Press that his likely general election opponent supported a "radical" Republican budget plan he characterized as "thinly veiled social Darwinism." He accused Republican leaders of becoming so extreme that even Reagan, one of the party's most cherished heroes, would not win a GOP primary today.

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FACT CHECK: Obama accuses Republicans of moving right, ignores his own political drift

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Few would quarrel with President Barack Obama's point that the Republican Party has drifted to the right in recent years, disavowing ideas it once embraced -- even created. But making that case in a major campaign speech, Obama ignored realities in his own Democratic ranks.

For one, it was opposition from coal-state Democrats that sank cap-and-trade legislation to control greenhouse gas emissions, not just from those arch-conservative Republicans.

For another, if Republicans have moved to the right on health care, it's also true that Obama has moved to the left. He strenuously opposed a mandate forcing people to obtain health insurance until he won office and changed his mind.

Obama's speech to news executives Tuesday at the annual meeting of The Associated Press was perhaps his most aggressive dressing down of the Republicans yet this campaign season. Mitt Romney, his likely GOP rival for the presidency, speaks to news leaders Wednesday.

Several points in Obama's address gave an incomplete accounting to his audience. Here are some of his statements and how they compare with the facts:

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Oakland mourns victims of deadly rampage at Christian college where suspect was expelled

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Civic and religious leaders pleaded for an end to violence in Oakland after seven people were gunned down at a small Christian college by a suspect who police say was angry about being expelled and teased for his poor English skills.

Several hundred friends, family and community members gathered for a multicultural prayer vigil Tuesday night to mourn the victims of the nation's biggest campus shooting since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

Six students and a receptionist were killed and three others were wounded when the gunman went on a shooting rampage Monday morning at Oikos University, an Oakland school founded to help Korean immigrants adjust to life in America and launch new careers.

"Only God knows the meaning of the suffering we endure," Dr. Woo Nam Soo, the university's vice president, said in Korean during the church service. "In this unbearable tragedy and suffering, only God can create something good out of it."

Shortly after the deadly shooting spree, police arrested 43-year-old nursing student One Goh at a supermarket a few miles from campus.

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

DENVER (AP) -- Sam Lucas was among the first to begin calling 911 about a wildfire burning near his home on the outskirts of Denver.

But the dispatcher, having already answered a handful of calls about the fire, cut Lucas off to tell him it was a controlled burn and that the forest service was on the scene.

"We got 79-mile-an-hour winds out there and they got a controlled burn?" Lucas said on the 911 call, one of 130 calls over a total of 10 hours that were released Tuesday.

When the dispatcher says yes, he replies "Oh wonder. Thank you."

Lucas hung up, and within an hour, he and his wife were dead.

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Culture change? Medical groups identify 45 tests and treatments doctors should avoid ordering

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Old checklist for doctors: order that test, write that prescription. New checklist for doctors: first ask yourself if the patient really needs it.

Nine medical societies representing nearly 375,000 physicians are challenging the widely held perception that more health care is better, releasing lists Wednesday of tests and treatments their members should no longer automatically order.

The 45 items listed include most repeat colonoscopies within 10 years of a first such test, early imaging for most back pain, brain scans for patients who fainted but didn't have seizures, and antibiotics for mild- to-moderate sinus distress.

Also on the list: heart imaging stress tests for patients without coronary symptoms. And a particularly sobering recommendation calls for cancer doctors to stop treating tumors in end-stage patients who have not responded to multiple therapies and are ineligible for experimental treatments.

Dr. Christine Cassel, president of the American Board of Internal Medicine, said the goal is to reduce wasteful spending without harming patients. She suggested some may benefit by avoiding known risks associated with medical tests, such as exposure to radiation.

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Power outages persist, shelters open around Dallas after burst of tornadoes upend North Texas

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- The tornado hurtled toward the nursing home. Physical therapist Patti Gilroy said she saw the swirling mass barreling down through the back door, after herding patients into the hallway in the order trained: walkers, wheelchairs, then beds.

"It wasn't like a freight train like everybody says it is," said Gilroy, who rounded up dozens to safety at Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. "It sounded like a bomb hit. And we hit the floor, and everybody was praying. It was shocking."

A destructive reminder of a young tornado season Wednesday left thousands without power and hundreds of homes pummeled or worse Wednesday, after the National Weather Service said as many as a dozen twisters touched down in a wrecking-ball swath of violent weather that stretched across Dallas and Fort Worth. Despite the intensity of the slow-moving storms, as of late Tuesday no fatalities or serious injuries had been reported, though there were several less serious injuries.

The exact number of tornadoes Tuesday wasn't expected to be known until surveyors fanned across North Texas, looking for clues among the debris that blanketed yards and rooftops peeled off slats.

The Red Cross put a preliminary estimate of damaged homes at 650. In the southern Dallas suburb of Lancaster, where damage was especially widespread, around 150 people remained in a shelter Tuesday night.

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Loud explosions, clashes break out in Syria as government says it has begun troop pullout

BEIRUT (AP) -- Loud explosions reverberated across the central Syrian city of Homs and clashes were reported in several areas across the country Wednesday, just hours after the government said it has started to withdraw troops from some cities in compliance with an international cease-fire plan.

Activists said a 50-year-old man and his younger brother were killed by soldiers who opened fire on their car from a machine gun mounted on a tank in the country's north.

A Syrian government official said Tuesday evening that troops had started pulling out from some calm cities and heading back to their bases, a week ahead of a deadline to implement U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's truce plan.

"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 Annan's 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.

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Vietnamese rhino-horn obsession threatens world populations; prices reach $55K per kilogram

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- Nguyen Huong Giang loves to party but loathes hangovers, so she ends her whiskey benders by tossing back shots of rhino horn ground with water on a special ceramic plate.

Her father gave her the 4-inch (10-centimeter) brown horn as a gift, claiming it cures everything from headaches to cancer. Vietnam has become so obsessed with the fingernail-like substance it now sells for more than cocaine.

"I don't know how much it costs," said Giang, 24, after showing off the horn in her high-rise apartment overlooking the capital, Hanoi. "I only know it's expensive."

Experts say Vietnam's surging demand is threatening to wipe out the world's remaining rhinoceros populations, which recovered from the brink of extinction after the 1970s thanks to conservation campaigns. Illegal killings in Africa hit the highest recorded level in 2011 and are expected to worsen this year.

This week South Africa called for renewed cooperation with Vietnam after a "shocking number" of rhinos have already been reported dead this year.

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Students pepper-sprayed while protesting pricey courses at college trustees meeting

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) -- Campus police pepper-sprayed as many as 30 demonstrators after Santa Monica College students angry over a plan to offer high-priced courses tried to push their way into a trustees meeting, authorities said.

Raw video posted on the Internet Tuesday evening showed students chanting "Let us in, let us in" and "No cuts, no fees, education should be free."

Students were angry because only a handful were allowed into the meeting, and when their request to move the meeting to a larger venue was denied, they began to enter the room, said David Steinman, an environmental advocate who is running for Congress as a Green Party candidate.

Two officers were apparently backed up against a wall, and began using force to keep the students out of the room. Steinman said both officers used pepper spray.

"People were gasping and choking," Steinman said.

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

DENVER (AP) -- Brittney Griner's place in women's basketball history is secure.

Blocking layups, snagging rebounds, hitting shots over two and three helpless defenders, she towered over the competition all season long to earn player of the year and outstanding player of the NCAA tournament honors.

She was simply dominant in adding national champion to her resume on Tuesday night.

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

"Brittney Griner, whether she won today or not, will go down in the history of the women's game as, if not the greatest post player, one of the greatest," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I'm so glad she has that ring now."