Presidential race rumbles into final 4 weeks; Romney talks foreign affairs, Obama raises cash
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Rumbling into its final four weeks, the presidential campaign is playing out on both coasts and multiple fronts, with Republican Mitt Romney seeking stature on foreign affairs and President Barack Obama raising political cash by the millions.
Negative ads, charges of dishonesty and dwindling time are all setting the tone.
Joining celebrities for fundraising in Los Angeles on Sunday, Obama for the first time needled himself over a poor debate performance. But he declared he had the right focus and "I intend to win."
Romney was in Virginia, trying to bury the memories of his fumbled trip abroad this summer and knock Obama back on national security. "Hope is not a strategy," he said in excerpts of a Monday speech at the Virginia Military Institute.
The campaigns already had eyes on the next debate, the sole faceoff between Vice President Joe Biden and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, which will grab attention as the Thursday night showdown nears. The election hangs as ever on persuadable voters in fewer than 10 states, with Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Florida all set for candidate visits this week.
Hugo Chavez's socialist rule endorsed by re-election in Venezuela
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- President Hugo Chavez put to rest any doubts about his masterful political touch in winning a third consecutive six-year term after a bitterly fought race against a youthful rival who has galvanized Venezuela's opposition.
The state governor who lost Sunday's presidential vote, Henrique Capriles, had accused the flamboyant incumbent of unfairly leveraging to his advantage Venezuela's oil wealth to finance his campaign as well as flaunting his near total control of state institutions.
Capriles also narrowed Chavez's margin of victory to his smallest yet in a presidential contest. This time, the former army paratroop commander who led a failed 1992 coup won 55 percent of the vote against 45 percent for Capriles, with 98 percent of the vote counted.
In 2006, Chavez's margin of victory was 27 points.
Nevertheless, the populace endorsed once again Chavez's stated aim of converting Venezuela into a socialist state.
'Fearless Felix' set to skydive from 23 miles up, breaking record and perhaps sound barrier
ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) -- Experienced skydiver and extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner hopes to take the leap of his life on Tuesday, attempting the highest, fastest free fall in history.
If he survives, the man dubbed "Fearless Felix" could be the first skydiver to break the sound barrier. If he doesn't, a tragic fall could be live-streamed on the Internet for the world to see.
Rigged with cameras, the 43-year-old former military parachutist from Austria is scheduled to jump from a balloon-hoisted capsule 23 miles near Roswell on Tuesday morning. He wants to break the record set in 1960 by Joe Kittinger, who jumped from an open gondola at an altitude of 19.5 miles. Kittinger's speed of 614 mph was just shy of breaking the sound barrier at that height.
Baumgartner, who has been preparing for the jump for five years, has made two practice runs from the Roswell area, from 15 miles high in March and 18 miles in July.
And while he and his team of experts recognize the worst-case scenarios -- including "boiling" blood and exploding lungs -- they have confidence in their built-in solutions. Those solutions are something NASA is watching closely. The space agency is interested in the potential for escape systems on future rocket ships.
10 years after Bali, Indonesian terror attacks on rise, but militants showing less skill
BALI, Indonesia (AP) -- Ten years after terrorist attacks at two Bali nightclubs killed more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists, Indonesia has won international praise for its counterterrorism efforts. Militant organizations have been fractured and many of their charismatic leaders have been killed or jailed.
But an Associated Press analysis shows the number of strikes within the country has actually gone up, especially since 2010, when radical imams called on their followers to focus on domestic targets rather than Westerners. The more recent attacks have been conducted with less expertise, and the vast majority of victims have been Indonesians.
"It turns out that the terrorism problem in Indonesia is not finished yet," said Maj. Gen. Tito Karnavian, a former counterterrorism official recently appointed police chief of Papua province. "The quality of their attacks has decreased, but the quantity has increased."
Since Oct. 12, 2002, when the Bali attacks killed 202 people -- including 88 Australians and seven Americans -- there have been four major terror strikes targeting Westerners in Indonesia, resulting in 45 deaths. The last was in 2009, when attacks on the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta killed seven people.
That compares to 15 attacks against security forces, local authorities, Christians and some moderate Muslims in just the past two years. Those have left at least 10 police officers dead.
Spring freeze, drought leave corn maze, orchard operators worried about fall tourism season
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Devastating spring freezes and a historic drought have stripped some charm from rustic fall destinations, leaving some corn too short to create mazes, orchards virtually devoid of apples and fall colors muted.
Extreme weather has forced agritourism ventures in the heart of the country to scramble to hold onto their share of an industry that generates hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
Pat Schaefers, who runs Schaefers Corn Maze near Lollie, Ark., hopes visitors to the farm's two mazes won't mind that the corn is just 6 to 8 feet this fall -- up to 4 feet shorter than the wall of corn families and school groups normally pay to get lost and turned-around in.
"It's just not up to par," she said of the corn in her two mazes. "It's not anything like it's been in past years."
Yet Schaefers was one of the lucky ones. Even though the corn in her 30 acres of mazes is shorter than normal, she was able to open them for a seventh year thanks to a summerlong irrigation effort at the 1,000-acre farm she owns with her husband, Bob.
Ryan exceedingly polite on VP quest, apologizes to voters for inconveniencing them
DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) -- Paul Ryan is sorry you couldn't get into his event here. He feels badly you had to wait for him to arrive at the county fairgrounds in Virginia. He wants to meet you but he promises he won't disrupt business by staying too long at your New Hampshire restaurant.
Oh, and please, he says, take a seat.
Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin and Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, is a model of unassuming, Midwestern courtesy, and that will be on display later this week when Ryan debates Vice President Joe Biden.
With a relaxed and polite style, Ryan easily does what the top of the GOP ticket -- Romney -- struggles to do: connect with voters on a personal level while engaging in retail politicking.
When Romney campaigns alongside the No. 2 on the ticket, Ryan's casual attitude and, well, simple tone seem to soften Romney's sometimes awkward stature and bracingly formal approach. It's a dynamic that would probably play out if the pair won the White House. Should Romney lose the race this year, the ease at which Ryan works a crowd would be an asset if he chose to seek the presidency himself someday.
Advocates bash cities in tourist mecca of Orange County for laws they say target homeless
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) -- Army veteran Don Matyja was getting by alright on the streets of this city tucked in Southern California suburbia until he got ticketed for smoking in the park. Matyja, who has been homeless since he was evicted nearly two years ago, had trouble paying the fine and getting to court -- and now a $25 penalty has ballooned to $600.
The ticket is just one of myriad new challenges facing Matyja and others living on the streets in Orange County, where a number of cities have recently passed ordinances that ban everything from smoking in the park to sleeping in cars to leaning bikes against trees in a region better known for its beaches than its 30,000 homeless people.
Cities have long struggled with how to deal with the homeless, but the new ordinances here echo what homeless advocates say is a rash of regulations nationwide as municipalities grapple with how to address those living on their streets within the constraints of ever-tightening budgets. The rules may go unnoticed by most, but the homeless say they are a thinly veiled attempt to push them out of one city and into another by criminalizing the daily activities they cannot avoid.
There's been a sharp uptick in the past year in the number of cities passing ordinances against doing things on public property such as sitting, lying down, sleeping, standing in a public street, loitering, public urination, jaywalking and panhandling, said Neil Donovan, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.
"It definitely is more pervasive and it is more adversarial. I think in the past we found examples of it but it's not simply just growing, but it's growing in its severity and in its targeted approach to America's un-housed," said Donovan, who compared it to a civil rights issue.
Russian celebrates Putin's 60th birthday in a fanfare of celebrations
MOSCOW (AP) -- Kremlin officials like to insist Russian President Vladimir Putin does not care for big birthday bashes and said he was spending his 60th on Sunday quietly celebrating with close friends and family in his home city, St. Petersburg. However, the president's supporters didn't appear to receive the memo, and so the day saw an unprecedented exhibition of Putin-idolatry reminiscent of some of the world's oddest cults of personality.
Much of it, like it the fawning, up-close-and-personal profile on Kremlin-friendly television channel NTV, looked like propaganda. Some of the praise was so extreme as to appear almost like a subtle form of satire on Putin's heroic representations in state media. And some Putin opponents used the occasion to poke fun.
Here is a brief look at ways Putin's 60th birthday was marked:
Union chief: US border agent apparently opened fire on fellow agents, killed in return fire
PHOENIX (AP) -- The head of the U.S. Border Patrol agents' union says the agent killed last week in a shooting in southern Arizona apparently opened fire on two colleagues thinking they were armed smugglers and was killed when they returned fire.
The two sets of agents approached an area where a sensor had been activated early Tuesday from different directions and encountered each other in an area of heavy brush, National Border Patrol Council president George McCubbin said.
Agent Nicholas Ivie apparently opened fire first and wounded one of the other agents but was killed in the return fire.
"I don't know what it was he saw or heard that triggered this whole event," McCubbin said. "Unfortunately it resulted in his death and another agent injured."
Acting Cochise County Sheriff Rod Rothrock confirmed the scenario but would not say if Ivie was the first to shoot, saying that was up to the federal agencies involved.
Brees passes for TD in record 48th straight game and Saints beat Chargers 31-24
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Drew Brees got suspended coach Sean Payton in the building, broke a prestigious NFL passing record and led New Orleans to a desperately needed first win of the season.
For one memorable night, at least, the entire beleaguered Saints organization and its frustrated fans could celebrate a special moment in football history and recapture that winning feeling that had become commonplace before an offseason overshadowed by the NFL's bounty investigation.
Brees broke Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas' half-century-old record by throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game, and the Saints defeated the San Diego Chargers 31-24 on Sunday night.
"I guess you really couldn't have written a better script for tonight," Brees said. "To break the record, to get the win, and the fashion in which we won -- really a complete team effort all the way around.
"The amazing thing about a record like this is it spans over the course of four seasons and hopefully we can keep it going to for a while," Brees said. "There are so many people that are a part of this."