Campaign-closing appeal? Obama sums up his case as early voters begin locking in their choices
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — President Barack Obama pledged to create many more jobs and "make the middle class secure again" in a campaign-closing appeal on Thursday — more than five weeks before Election Day — to voters already casting ballots in large numbers.
Republican Mitt Romney, focusing on threats beyond American shores, accused the commander in chief of backing dangerous cuts in defense spending.
"The idea of cutting our military is unthinkable and devastating. And when I become president we will not," declared the challenger, struggling to reverse a slide in opinion polls.
Romney and Obama campaigned a few hundred miles apart in Virginia, 40 days before their long race ends. They'll be in much closer quarters next Wednesday in Denver — for the first of three presidential debates on the campaign calendar and perhaps the challenger's best remaining chance to change the trajectory of the campaign.
In a race where the economy is the dominant issue, there was a fresh sign of national weakness as the Commerce Department lowered its earlier estimate of tepid growth last spring. Romney and his allies seized on the news as evidence that Obama's policies aren't working.
Israel's Netanyahu says world must act against Iran; draws "red line" to prevent nuke
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — In his most detailed plea to date for global action against Iran's nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday the world has until next summer at the latest to stop Iran before it can build a nuclear bomb.
Netanyahu flashed a diagram of a cartoon-like bomb before the U.N. General Assembly showing the progress Iran has made, saying it has already completed the first stage of uranium enrichment.
Then he pulled out a red marker and drew a line across what he said was a threshold Iran was approaching and which Israel could not tolerate — the completion of the second stage and 90 percent of the way to the uranium enrichment needed to make an atomic bomb.
"By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage," he said. "From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb."
Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat, citing Iranian denials of the Holocaust, its calls for Israel's destruction, its development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish state and its support for hostile Arab militant groups.
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:
1. CLINTON, NETANYAHU DISAGREE ON IRAN STRATEGY
The U.S. secretary of state hopes diplomacy can avoid the military action the Israeli leader urges.
GOP challenges Obama on explanation of 9/11 attack in Libya; White House says it's politics
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans lashed out at President Barack Obama and senior administration officials over their evolving description of the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, a late campaign-season broadside challenging the veracity and leadership of an incumbent on the upswing.
Desperate to reverse the apparent trajectory of the White House race, Republicans sense a political opportunity in Obama's reluctance to utter the words "terrorist attack" as well as the varying explanations emerging from the administration about the assault in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Talk of Watergate-style scandal, stonewalling and cover-up echoed in the GOP ranks on Thursday, from the head of the party to members of Congress to Mitt Romney's campaign staff. This full-throated criticism comes five days before the first debate between Obama and Romney, with Republicans determined to cast the president as dishonest and ineffectual on both foreign and domestic policy.
"Amid Middle East turmoil and six weeks before the election, President Obama refuses to have an honest conversation with the American people," Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party, wrote in an article for the website Real Clear Politics. "The country deserves honesty, not obfuscation, from our president."
Republicans say the administration has been slow to call the assault a terrorist attack and has criticized its initial insistence that the attack was a spontaneous response to the crude anti-Islam video that touched off demonstrations across the Middle East.
GOP fires consulting firm after 108 questionable voter registrations in Palm Beach County
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans on Thursday fired a vendor suspected of submitting 108 questionable new voter registrations in Florida's Palm Beach County, ground zero for disputed ballots in 2000's presidential race.
The Republican Party of Florida used Virginia-based Strategic Allied Consulting to help register and turnout voters in Florida, one of a shrinking handful of states President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are contesting. The Florida state party had paid the firm more than $1.3 million so far, and the Republican National Committee used the group for almost $3 million of work in Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia.
"We have zero tolerance for any threat to the integrity of elections. When we were informed of an alleged incident we immediately cut all ties to the company," RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer said.
The state party similarly sought to distance itself from the firm and its main operative, Nathan Sproul.
"We immediately informed the Republican National Committee that we were terminating the contract with the voter-registration vendor we hired at their request because there is no place for voter-registration fraud in Florida," state Republican Party Executive Director Mike Grissom said in a statement.
Los Angeles federal judge orders man behind anti-Muslim film jailed for probation violations
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday determined a California man behind a crudely produced anti-Islamic video that inflamed parts of the Middle East is a flight risk and ordered him detained.
Citing a lengthy pattern of deception, U.S. Central District Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal said Nakoula Basseley Nakoula should be held after officials said he violated his probation from a 2010 check fraud conviction.
"The court has a lack of trust in this defendant at this time," Segal said.
Nakoula had eight probation violations, including lying to his probation officers and using aliases, and he might face new charges that carry a maximum two-year prison term, authorities said.
After his 2010 conviction, Nakoula was sentenced to 21 months in prison and was barred from using computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.
Conn. man shoots masked teen dead outside worried neighbor's home, finds out it's his son
NEW FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) — A man fatally shot a masked teenager in self-defense outside his neighbor's house during what appeared to be an attempted late-night burglary and then discovered it was his son, state police said.
Police identified the dead boy as 15-year-old Tyler Giuliano, who was shot at about 1 a.m. Thursday in New Fairfield, a town along the New York line just north of Danbury.
A woman who was alone in the house believed someone was breaking in and called the teen's father, who lives next door, and he grabbed a gun and went outside to investigate, police said.
The father confronted someone wearing a black ski mask and black clothing and then fired his gun when the person went at him with a shiny weapon in his hand, police said.
When police officers arrived, the father was sitting on the grass next to the woman's home and the teen was lying in the driveway with gunshot injuries. The teen was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Scientists: NASA Mars rover uncovers signs of ancient streambed near equatorial landing site
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The NASA rover Curiosity has beamed back pictures of bedrock that suggest a fast-moving stream, possibly waist-deep, once flowed on Mars — a find that the mission's chief scientist called exciting.
There have been previous signs that water existed on the red planet long ago, but the images released Thursday showing pebbles rounded off, likely by water, offered the most convincing evidence so far of an ancient streambed.
There was "a vigorous flow on the surface of Mars," said chief scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology. "We're really excited about this."
The discovery did not come as a complete surprise. NASA decided to plunk Curiosity down inside Gale Crater near the Martian equator because photos from space hinted that the spot possessed a watery past. The six-wheeled rover safely landed Aug. 5 after a nail-biting plunge through the Martian atmosphere. It's on a two-year, $2.5 billion mission to study whether the Martian environment could have been favorable for microbial life.
Present day Mars is a frozen desert with no hint of water on its radiation-scarred surface, but geological studies of rocks by previous missions suggest the planet was warmer and wetter once upon a time.
Talk show host Michael Savage leaving airwaves for a while after legal victory with employer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Savage's talk show left the airwaves Thursday after the conservative host won a legal battle with his longtime employer, although his attorney said discussions with new networks are already under way.
Savage posted a message on his website Thursday evening under the headline "Free at Last!" that said he was free to work with any station or network from now on. He said he "will not be heard on the radio for some time."
His attorney Daniel Horowitz said Savage left Talk Radio Network after obtaining a favorable ruling in arbitration Thursday afternoon.
More than 8 million people listen to Savage's show each week, placing him behind only Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity in ratings, according to the magazine Talkers. The immediate effect that his abrupt departure would have on companies that advertise on his show was unclear.
An email sent to Oregon-based Talk Radio Network was not immediately returned. Savage's bio and name already have been removed from the company's website.
Regular refs welcomed back by fans, who watch Ravens put 23-16 beating on winless Browns
BALTIMORE (AP) — The regular NFL officials returned to work Thursday night, and the fans gave them a warm welcome back before bestowing their loudest cheers upon the Baltimore Ravens, who never trailed in a 23-16 victory over the winless Cleveland Browns.
Joe Flacco went 28 for 46 for 356 yards, threw one touchdown and ran for another. Cary Williams returned an interception 63 yards for a score near the end of the third quarter to give the Ravens (3-1) a 13-point lead.
And still, the game wasn't decided until a pass by Cleveland rookie Brandon Weeden sailed out of the end zone as time expired. The kept the Browns (0-4) the only winless team in the AFC.
Unlike the controversial ending of the Green Bay-Seattle game on Monday night, which heightened negotiations to get the regular refs back, this game ended without an argument.