Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Published:

Holder: Justice Department will respond 'appropriately' to Texas judge upset by Obama comments

CHICAGO (AP) -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Justice Department will respond "appropriately" to a federal appellate judge in Texas who demanded a letter recognizing the authority of the federal courts to strike down laws passed by Congress.

Holder spoke a day after 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith questioned President Barack Obama's remarks earlier in the week about an "unelected" court possibly striking down the president's health care overhaul. Smith, during oral arguments in a separate challenge to the health law, asked the Justice Department for a three-page, single-spaced letter affirming the federal court's authority.

On Wednesday, Holder acknowledged the courts have "the final say" and defended the president's remarks. He shrugged off a reporter's suggestion that reaction to Obama's comments have become a distraction.

When asked what an appropriate response to Smith would be, Holder said, "I think what the president said a couple of days ago was appropriate. He indicated that we obviously respect the decisions that courts make."

"Under our system of government ... courts have the final say on the constitutionality of statutes," Holder said. "The courts are also fairly deferential when it comes to overturning statutes that the duly elected representatives of the people, Congress, pass."

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Romney questions Obama's candor, says president hopes to hide second-term plans from voters

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mitt Romney unleashed a strong attack on President Barack Obama's truthfulness Wednesday, accusing him of running a "hide-and-seek" re-election campaign designed to distract voters from his first-term record while denying them information about his plans for a second.

Addressing an audience of newspaper editors and publishers, Romney said Obama's recent remarks to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on a second-term arms reduction treaty had called "his candor into question." Romney, the likely GOP opponent for Obama in November, also accused the president of undergoing "a series of election-year conversions" on taxes, government regulation and energy production.

"He does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press," Romney said. "By flexibility, he means that what the American public doesn't know won't hurt him. He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking."

Romney himself has been sharply criticized by Rick Santorum and other Republican rivals for changing his own positions on issues ranging from abortion to climate control as part of an attempt to win the backing of conservative primary voters. Earlier this year, he reversed course on the minimum wage to bring his stance in line with party orthodoxy, saying he no longer believes it should rise along with inflation.

Romney spoke to the Newspaper Association of America and the American Society of Newspaper Editors as the Republican nominee-in-waiting, his standing confirmed by three primary victories Tuesday night in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

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Republicans scurry to make clear they have no interest in becoming vice presidential nominee

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Tag. I'm not it.

Republicans considered to be up-and-comers are scrambling to declare a lack of interest in becoming Mitt Romney's running mate, taking themselves off the still-forming short list of would-be vice presidents. With Romney poised to win the GOP nomination in June, if not earlier, some of the focus has shifted to his pick for the No. 2 spot on the ticket. But no one is rushing forward and many of the top prospects are trying to shut down the conversation before it begins.

"I'm not going to be the vice president," Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday.

"If offered any position by Gov. Romney, I would say no," South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley told The Associated Press a day earlier.

"I've taken myself off the list," former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said recently.

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US stocks fall sharply, following European markets lower, after Spain's weak bond auction

NEW YORK (AP) -- European debt flared again as a worry for Wall Street and drove stocks Wednesday to their worst loss in a month. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 125 points, and the price of gold plunged to its lowest level since January.

It was only the second time this year the Dow has recorded a triple-digit decline. The average gained 8 percent from January through March, its best first quarter since 1998, but has lost 1 percent already in April.

The Dow was down as much as 179 points earlier in the day. It recovered to close down 124.80 at 13,074.75. Only four of the 30 stocks that make up the average rose for the day.

A disappointing auction of government debt in Spain signaled that investor confidence in that country's finances is weakening. Spain announced tax increases and budget cuts last week, which could hurt its economy further.

Bond yields in Spain shot higher, making it more expensive for the country to raise money. Benchmark stock indexes fell 2.8 percent in Germany, 2.7 percent in France and 2.3 percent in Britain.

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APNewsBreak: Police chief confirms nursing program director was intended target in CA shooting

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Police confirmed Wednesday that the nursing program director of the California college where a former student is suspected of going on a shooting rampage was the suspect's intended target.

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told The Associated Press that investigators believe Ellen Cervellon was the person sought by suspect One Goh.

Police said that when Goh was told Cervellon wasn't there at the time, he began shooting in classrooms.

Goh had been upset after dropping out of the nursing program because school officials would not fully refund his tuition, Cervellon said.

Meanwhile, prosecutors filed seven murder charges against Goh. He also was charged Wednesday with three counts of attempted murder and faces a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders that could make him eligible for the death penalty.

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Bombing at Somalia's national theater kills 10, shatters a relative peace in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Two weeks ago, Somalia's National Theater reopened for the first time in 20 years for a concert that drew an audience in festive colors in a city trying to rise above war. A welcoming banner proclaimed: "The country is being rebuilt."

On Wednesday, the theater was turned into a scene of screams, chaos and blood when a suicide bomber attacked another high-profile event, killing 10 people, wounding dozens and shattering a tentative peace in the capital of Mogadishu.

The blast occurred as Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali stood at the podium to deliver a speech. He was unharmed, said government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman, but the president of Somalia's Olympic committee and the head of its soccer federation were among the dead.

The government said a female suicide bomber carried out the attack. The Islamist militant group al-Shabab used its official Twitter feed to claim responsibility for the bombing.

The al-Qaida-linked organization said explosives had been planted in the theater before the event, but an Associated Press journalist at the scene said there was no large blast crater, making a suicide bombing more likely.

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Anti-abortion grandpa sued over alleged aggressive protests outside Washington clinic

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Dick Retta stands outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Washington three days a week, trying to persuade pregnant women not to get abortions. The 80-year-old grandfather has been coming to the clinic for eight years and said he's personally persuaded over 400 women to leave this clinic and others.

Retta says his approach is friendly, gentle and loving. Government lawyers portray him differently, calling him "among the most vocal and aggressive anti-abortion protestors" outside the clinic.

In court documents, they say he routinely follows patients entering the building and yells at them as the clinic door closes. Last year he physically blocked a woman from entering the clinic, shouting at her not to kill her baby, they say.

As a result they sued Retta over last year's incident, using a 1994 law that makes it a crime to intimidate or interfere with someone obtaining reproductive health services. He is one of a handful of people nationwide charged every year under the law. Lawyers for the government and Retta have a meeting before a judge Thursday to see if they can come to an agreement in the case, but it's unclear how likely that is.

"They'd like to get rid of me," said Retta, who acknowledges he's persistent and assertive with his message but denies ever blocking access to the clinic.

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Yahoo laying off 2,000 employees, eliminating 14 percent of workforce to save $375 million

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Yahoo is laying off 2,000 employees as new CEO Scott Thompson eliminates jobs that don't fit into his plans for turning around the beleaguered Internet company.

The cuts announced Wednesday represent about 14 percent of the 14,100 workers employed by Yahoo.

Yahoo estimated it will save about $375 million annually after the layoffs are completed later this year. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company will absorb a pre-tax charge of $125 million to $145 million to account for severance payments. The charge will reduce Yahoo's earnings in the current quarter.

Workers losing their jobs were being notified Wednesday. Some of the affected employees will stay on for an unspecified period of time to finish various projects, according to Yahoo.

The housecleaning marks Yahoo's sixth mass layoff in the past four years under three different CEOs. This one will inflict the deepest cuts yet, eclipsing a cost-cutting spree that laid off 1,500 workers in late 2008 as Yahoo tried to cope with the Great Recession.

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Sarah Palin's guest spot helps keep 'Today' on top as Katie Couric fills in at 'GMA'

NEW YORK (AP) -- Sarah Palin helped "Today" maintain its winning streak against "GMA," even with the appearance of its own guest star Katie Couric.

NBC's "Today" widened its advantage over ABC runner-up "Good Morning America" by 23,000 viewers Tuesday, compared with the day before, according to the Nielsen Co.

"Good Morning America" brought Couric back to morning TV after her many years hosting "Today." Couric, now at ABC, is filling in all week at "GMA." Palin appeared as a "Today" guest co-host on Tuesday.

"Today" drew 5.5 million viewers, while "GMA" had 356,000 fewer people tuning in. On Monday, the gap dividing them was 333,000 viewers.

This morning-show rivalry has intensified as "GMA" chips away at the audience margin that has kept "Today" in first place for 15 years.

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Reds 1B Joey Votto agrees to longest deal in major league history

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Joey Votto got the big payday by staying in a small market, agreeing to a 12-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday that is the longest guaranteed contract in major league history.

The deal adds 10 years to his previous contract and includes a club option for 2024.

After watching NL Central rivals St. Louis and Milwaukee lose their first basemen to big deals in bigger markets, the Reds secured their 2010 National League MVP for more than $200 million, easily eclipsing the package that Ken Griffey Jr. got to return home in 2000 as the largest in Reds' history.

"It's hard to compete with the bigger markets," manager Dusty Baker said before a workout at Great American Ball Park. "You see those guys who have left -- they couldn't come up with a deal -- and they go to bigger markets like New York, L.A., Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Anaheim.

"It means a lot not only for the franchise but also for the city. It means kids can grow up emulating him and pretending to be Joey Votto."