Abortion debate highlights differences between Romney, Ryan
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan found themselves dragged into a debate Wednesday over hot-button social issues and answering for differences between their personal positions on abortion, just days before a national convention aimed at showing a unified Republican party. The discussion lingered while President Barack Obama and Romney tangled from afar over issues like education and the deficit.
The GOP ticket dealt with a renewed focus on abortion in the wake of comments about "legitimate rape" from Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, remarks that have caused an uproar and generated demands from Romney and party leaders for the congressman to quit the race.
The questions over abortion overshadowed events by Romney and Ryan in the battleground states of Iowa, North Carolina and Virginia -- three states which Obama carried in 2008 -- ahead of next week's Republican convention in Tampa, Fla. Obama rallied supporters in Nevada, the state with the nation's highest unemployment rate of 12 percent, before heading to New York for a basketball-themed fundraiser.
Since selecting Ryan as his running mate, Romney has faced questions about how his policy positions differ from those espoused by Ryan, the architect of a controversial budget blueprint that would dramatically alter Medicare. On abortion, Romney does not oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest or if it will save the mother's life, while Ryan does oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest.
Ryan, in an interview with a Pennsylvania TV station, emphasized Romney's role at the top of the ticket, saying he was proud of his record on the social issue. "I stand by my pro-life record in Congress. It's something I'm proud of. But Mitt Romney is the top of the ticket and Mitt Romney will be president and he will set the policy of the Romney administration," he said.
Akin ascended in politics on his own, cares little about pressure from GOP establishment
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Until this week, Rep. Todd Akin was virtually unknown beyond his suburban district, associated more with his deep religious convictions than any legislative achievements.
Long before his comments about women's bodies and "legitimate rape" made him a potential flashpoint in the fall campaign, Akin was a favorite among home-schooling organizations and conservative church groups in the area where his relatives have lived for generations. He seldom authored bills or sought wider recognition.
Now Akin could help shape the national political debate in a Senate race that leaders of his own party figure he can't win, and they're worried he'll drag down other Republicans with him. But if Akin's 12 years in Congress have proven anything, it's that pressure from the party establishment carries little weight with him.
"He's never been popular among Republicans, and Todd Akin doesn't care," Saint Louis University political science professor Ken Warren said. "The best you can say for Todd is that he's a very principled guy. He believes what he believes, and he's not going to compromise those principles just to be in the mainstream."
The 65-year-old, six-term congressman ascended in Missouri politics largely on his own. He grew up on a farm outside St. Louis, earned an engineering degree and went to work at now-bankrupt Laclede Steel Co., which his great-grandfather started. He and his wife, Lulli, settled on land in St. Louis County owned by Akin's father. Each Independence Day he would dress in colonial attire as the family hosted a party for the neighborhood.
Obama mocks Akin as having missed science class, says remarks signal 'desire to go backwards'
NEW YORK (AP) -- President Barack Obama is mocking Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri for his remarks about a woman's body being able to avoid pregnancy during what Akin called a "legitimate rape."
Obama tells a group of donors in New York that the Republican congressman from Missouri "somehow missed science class" even though he sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
Obama says Akin's remarks are representative of what Obama called "the desire to go backwards instead of forwards and fight fights that we thought were settled 20 or 30 years ago."
Akin has refused calls from within the GOP to drop his bid to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. He made the remarks in a TV interview last Sunday while defending his opposition to abortion in all circumstances.
Assad influence in Lebanon declining as Syrian civil war shakes Beirut's ties with Damascus
BEIRUT (AP) -- The Syrian civil war has spilled over into Lebanon, bringing with it sectarian street clashes, mob violence and general government paralysis in Beirut.
But it was the dramatic arrest earlier this month of a former Lebanese government minister and prominent supporter of Syria's embattled president that has suggested the conflict may be causing Lebanon to slip further away from Damascus' long domination.
The bloodshed in Syria has drawn Lebanon deeper into the unrest -- a troubling sign for a country that has gone through its own 15-year civil war and has an explosive sectarian mix as well as deep divisions between pro- and anti-Syrian factions, many of which are armed.
The chaos could give Sunni Muslim fighters in northern Lebanon more leeway to establish supply lines to the rebels inside Syria in their battle to oust President Bashar Assad.
Tensions and intermittent fighting in the northern Lebanon city of Tripoli continued Wednesday following two days of clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groups that killed at least six people and wounded more than 70.
Firefighters gain upper hand against huge wildfire that destroys 50 buildings in N. California
MANTON, Calif. (AP) -- A huge wildfire in California is just the latest destructive blaze to stretch resources across the West during a fire season that has been one of the worst in years.
The fires have left some states with thin budgets to scramble to get people, planes, bulldozers and other tools on fire lines to beat back the flames.
And that's with about a third of the annual wildfire season remaining.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, the nation as of Wednesday had seen 42,927 wildfires this year, which burned just over 7 million acres.
While the number of fires is down from the 10-year average of 54,209 as of Aug. 22, the acreage was well above the average of 5.4 million acres, said Don Smurthwaite, a NIFC spokesman.
Lawyers for ex-Penn State president call sex abuse report claims 'blundering,' 'indefensible'
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Ousted Penn State president Graham Spanier and his lawyers attacked a university-backed report on the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal on Wednesday, calling it a "blundering and indefensible indictment" as they fired a pre-emptive strike while waiting to hear if he'll be charged in the case.
Lawyer Timothy Lewis called Louis Freeh, the former FBI director and federal judge behind the report, a "biased investigator" who piled speculation on top of innuendo to accuse Spanier in a cover-up of early abuse complaints.
"The Freeh report, as it pertains to Dr. Spanier, is a myth. And that myth ... ends today," Lewis said at a downtown Philadelphia news conference.
Spanier did not attend. But he told media outlets in stories published hours later that he never understood the early complaints about Sandusky, who this year was convicted of molesting 10 boys, to be sexual.
"I'm very stunned by Freeh's conclusion that -- I don't think he used the word 'cover-up'; but he uses the word 'concealed,'" Spanier told The New Yorker magazine. "Why on earth would anybody cover up for a known child predator? Adverse publicity? For heaven's sake! Every day I had to make some decision that got adverse publicity."
NJ police: Drug user who recently got custody of toddler son decapitates him, kills herself
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) -- The 911 call from Chevonne Thomas was rambling and incoherent, but authorities said she made one thing clear: Her 2-year-old son had been stabbed, and "I did it."
What police found at her Camden rowhouse early Wednesday was even more horrifying. Thomas had decapitated her son and placed his head in the freezer.
The 33-year-old mother later fatally stabbed herself after hanging up on emergency dispatchers, a violent end to a troubled life.
Thomas only recently regained custody of son Zahree after allegedly leaving the boy unattended in a car, telling police she had smoked marijuana laced with the hallucinogenic drug PCP and blacked out in a nearby park.
Distraught family members who arrived at the scene late Wednesday morning, shocked expressions on their faces, declined to comment. Some neighbors described strange behavior by Thomas, who had just moved to the street from elsewhere in the city. Others saw no evidence of problems.
New immune-system disease found in Asians; causes AIDS-like symptoms in people without HIV
Researchers have identified a mysterious new disease that has left scores of people in Asia and some in the United States with AIDS-like symptoms even though they are not infected with HIV.
The patients' immune systems become damaged, leaving them unable to fend off germs as healthy people do. What triggers this isn't known, but the disease does not seem to be contagious.
This is another kind of acquired immune deficiency that is not inherited and occurs in adults, but doesn't spread the way AIDS does through a virus, said Dr. Sarah Browne, a scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
She helped lead the study with researchers in Thailand and Taiwan where most of the cases have been found since 2004. Their report is in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
"This is absolutely fascinating. I've seen probably at least three patients in the last 10 years or so" who might have had this, said Dr. Dennis Maki, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Federal judge strikes down Nevada's "none of the above" voting option
RENO, Nev. (AP) -- A quirky Nevada law that Republicans feared could siphon votes from a disgruntled electorate and sway the outcome of close presidential and U.S. Senate races in the state was struck down Wednesday by a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Robert Jones said the state's decades-old ballot alternative of "none of the above" was unconstitutional because votes for "none" don't count in the final tallies that determine winners.
The ruling came at the end of a lively hearing where the judge challenged both sides in the legal arguments with hypothetical questions and ramifications of possible rulings he was considering.
In the end, he struck the option down altogether for both federal and statewide races, and refused to grant a stay while his decision is appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Secretary of State Ross Miller said his office would pursue "an immediate and expedited appeal to protect the long-standing public interest of the 'none of these candidates' option."
Chris Sale sails to 15th victory as White Sox complete sweep of Yanks with 2-1 win
CHICAGO (AP) -- Chris Sale struck out 13 in 7 2-3 stellar innings to get his 15th victory, Alex Rios hit a go-ahead homer and the Chicago White Sox beat the New York Yankees 2-1 on Wednesday night to complete a three-game sweep in the meeting of division leaders.
Sale (15-4) outpitched New York's Phil Hughes, allowing one walk and three hits, including Derek Jeter's solo homer in the sixth -- the Yankee star's third homer in as many nights. Addison Reed worked the ninth for his 23rd save in 26 chances.
New York's loss and Tampa Bay's victory over Kansas City reduced the Yankees' lead in the AL East to three games, their smallest since before play on June 26.
The win gave the White Sox their first three-game sweep of the Yankees at home since 1991, the year U.S. Cellular Field (then known as new Comiskey Park) opened.
Jeter hit his 13th homer to tie the game 1-1 in the top of the sixth. But Rios responded in the bottom half with his 20th homer to put Chicago ahead.