Obama campaign prepping lawyers to combat voter suppression; GOP aiming at Election Day fraud
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — President Barack Obama's campaign has recruited a legion of lawyers to be on standby for this year's election as legal disputes surrounding the voting process escalate.
Thousands of attorneys and support staffers have agreed to aid in the effort, providing a mass of legal support that appears to be unrivaled by Republicans or precedent. Obama's campaign says it is particularly concerned about the implementation of new voter ID laws across the country, the possibility of anti-fraud activists challenging legitimate voters and the handling of voter registrations in the most competitive states.
Republicans are building their own legal teams for the election. They say they're focused on preventing fraud — making sure people don't vote unless they're eligible — rather than turning away qualified voters.
Since the disputed 2000 presidential election, both parties have increasingly concentrated on building legal teams — including high-priced lawyers who are well-known in political circles — for the Election Day run-up. The Bush-Gore election demonstrated to both sides the importance of every vote and the fact that the rules for voting and counting might actually determine the outcome. The Florida count in 2000 was decided by just 537 votes and ultimately landed in the Supreme Court.
This year in that state alone, Obama and his Democratic allies are poised to have thousands of lawyers ready for the election and hope to have more than the 5,800 attorneys available four years ago. That figure was nearly twice the 3,200 lawyers the Democrats had at their disposal in 2004.
AP source: Administration, House GOP negotiators fail to resolve document dispute
WASHINGTON (AP) — Obama administration officials and House Republican staff members Tuesday failed to resolve a document dispute that could lead to a precedent-setting contempt of Congress vote Thursday against Attorney General Eric Holder.
A House Republican official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said White House and Justice Department representatives met and showed the GOP staff less than 30 pages of documents related to the aftermath of the botched gun-tracking operation known as Fast and Furious.
The GOP official said the administration also promised to provide hundreds of pages of documents, but only if House Republicans would stop the contempt effort and end their investigation. A House committee currently is looking into administration actions taken after the Justice Department provided inaccurate information to Congress on the gun-tracking operation.
The Justice Department has said the offer of more documents — originally made last week — was not an effort to shut down the investigation but rather an offer to resolve the outstanding subpoena issues and thereby avoid contempt.
The GOP official said the latest document offer was rejected and no further meetings were scheduled.
Police interview tape reveals Jerry Sandusky's son Matt alleging sexual abuse
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Jerry Sandusky's son Matt recalled showering with his future adoptive father as a boy and pretending to be asleep to avoid being touched — memories that surfaced only recently, according to a police interview that details what are the earliest allegations yet of abuse by the former Penn State assistant football coach.
Matt Sandusky, now 33, said the abuse started at age 8, a decade before he was adopted by the once-heralded defensive coordinator, according to the interview, first reported Tuesday by NBC News.
"If you were pretending you were asleep and you were touched or rubbed in some way, you could just act like you were rolling over in your sleep, so that you could change positions," Matt Sandusky said in an excerpt played Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show. His attorneys confirmed the recording's authenticity to The Associated Press.
Jerry Sandusky was convicted last week of 45 counts of abusing 10 boys he met through the charity he founded — the same organization that introduced him to Matt Sandusky, who became his foster child. Jerry Sandusky's principal lawyer did not return messages Tuesday, and another lawyer said only that Matt Sandusky's allegations contradict testimony he gave to the grand jury whose charges put his father on trial.
Matt Sandusky did not reveal any abuse when he was initially questioned as a grand jury witness but did release a statement alleging past abuse as the jury was sequestered in deliberations last week.
Sen. Hatch emphasizes Romney support, work on Finance Committee as Utah voters go to polls
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Over the past two years, GOP primaries have ended the careers of several veteran Republican politicians who were backed by the party's establishment. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch is seeking to avoid the same fate in his first primary challenge since winning office in 1976.
Hatch's race is the premier event as several states hold primaries Tuesday. Among them is New York, where 82-year-old Rep. Charlie Rangel is running for a 22nd term, the first time he's faced voters since the House censured him 18 months ago for failing to pay all his taxes and for filing misleading financial disclosure statements.
Those issues, plus changed demographics in the Democrat's redrawn Harlem district, could pose a re-election challenge for Rangel, who has also faced some health problems. But Rangel told CNN on Tuesday: "I got a clean bill of health. I'm fired up and ready to go."
President Barack Obama declined to endorse Rangel in this election, having suggested in 2010 that the congressman might retire "with dignity." White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday: "I don't think our position on that has changed."
A few months ago, Hatch was considered vulnerable — like his former Republican colleague Robert Bennett, who was booted from the Senate two years ago at the Utah nominating convention, and like six-term Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who lost in last month's Indiana GOP primary.
Turkey warns Syria to keep away from border; NATO stops short of threatening military action
BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey warned Syria on Tuesday to keep its forces away from the countries' troubled border or risk an armed response — a furious reply to the downing of a Turkish military plane last week by the Damascus regime.
NATO backed up Turkey and condemned Syria for shooting down the plane but stopped short of threatening military action, reflecting its reluctance to get involved in a conflict that could ignite a broader war.
Near the capital of Damascus, meanwhile, Syria's elite Republican Guard forces battled rebels in some of the most intense fighting involving the special forces since the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began in March 2011, according to activists.
Assad appeared to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation while addressing his new Cabinet on Tuesday in a statement broadcast on Syrian state TV. He said his country is in a "genuine state of war." Up to now Assad has described the uprising against him as run by terrorists carrying out a foreign agenda.
More than 14,000 people have been killed in the last 15 months. Despite global outrage over the crackdown by the Assad regime, the international response has been focused entirely on diplomacy and sanctions, not intervention, as the violence escalates.
High court ruling on juvenile life sentences offers thousands of inmates a chance at freedom
DETROIT (AP) — The Supreme Court ruling that banned states from imposing mandatory life sentences on juveniles offers an unexpected chance at freedom to more than 2,000 inmates who had almost no hope they would ever get out.
In more than two dozen states, lawyers can now ask for new sentences. And judges will have discretion to look beyond the crime at other factors such as a prisoner's age at the time of the offense, the person's background and perhaps evidence that an inmate has changed while incarcerated.
"The sentence may still be the same," said Lawrence Wojcik, a Chicago lawyer who co-chairs the juvenile justice committee of the American Bar Association. "But even a sentence with a chance for parole gives hope."
Virtually all of the sentences in question are for murder. When Henry Hill was an illiterate 16-year-old, he was linked to a killing at a park in Saginaw County and convicted of aiding and abetting murder.
Hill had a gun, but he was never accused of firing the fatal shot. Nonetheless, the sentence was automatic: life without parole. He's spent the last 32 years in Michigan prisons.
Christian group meeting in Minnesota backs away from espousing 'cure' for homosexuality
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The president of the country's best-known Christian ministry dedicated to helping people repress same-sex attraction through prayer is trying to distance the group from the idea that gay people's sexual orientation can be permanently changed or "cured."
That's a significant shift for Exodus International, the 36-year-old Orlando-based group that boasts 260 member ministries around the U.S. and world. For decades, it has offered to help conflicted Christians rid themselves of unwanted homosexual inclinations through counseling and prayer, infuriating gay rights activists in the process.
This week, 600 Exodus ministers and followers are gathering for the group's annual conference, held this year in a Minneapolis suburb. The group's president, Alan Chambers, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the conference would highlight his efforts to dissociate the group from the controversial practice usually called ex-gay, reparative or conversion therapy.
"I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included," said Chambers, who is married to a woman and has children, but speaks openly about his own sexual attraction to men. "For someone to put out a shingle and say, 'I can cure homosexuality' — that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth."
Chambers has cleared books endorsing ex-gay therapy from the Exodus online bookstore in recent months. He said he's also worked to stop member ministries from espousing it.
Nora Ephron, writer behind 'When Harry Met Sally' and other hits, is very ill, rep says
NEW YORK (AP) — Nora Ephron, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker and director behind such hits as "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle," is very ill, a representative for her publisher said Tuesday.
Nicholas Latimer of Alfred A. Knopf confirmed her condition hours after celebrity columnist and friend Liz Smith published what appeared to be a memorial for the writer.
Smith told The Associated Press that she had spoken to Ephron's son Jacob on Tuesday morning and was told that Ephron was dying. She said when she heard that funeral plans had been arranged, she published the column on the website Women on the Web.
"I was confused because I was told to come to the funeral on Thursday," Smith said. "It's bad enough."
Latimer did not provide any additional information on Ephron's condition.
Mexican doctors successfully remove 33-pound tumor from body of 2-year-old child
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican doctors say they have successfully removed a 33-pound (15-kilogram) benign tumor from the body of a 2-year-old child.
Dr. Gustavo Hernandez says the tumor was heavier than the child who at the time of the June 14 surgery weighed 26 pounds (12 kilograms).
Hernandez said Tuesday the child from the northern state of Durango was born with a lump that eventually covered the right side of his body from his armpit to his hip.
Hernandez says it took doctors at the La Raza Medical Center in Mexico City 10 hours to remove the tumor. Hernandez is the director of pediatrics at La Raza hospital.
He says the boy is recovering and doing well. The doctor also said the operation marked the first time Mexican doctors have removed a tumor bigger than the person carrying it.
University presidents approve college football playoff starting in 2014 season
WASHINGTON (AP) — Playoffs and tournaments long have determined champions of every college sport from baseball to bowling.
The exception was major college football.
That ended Tuesday. Come 2014, the BCS is dead.
A committee of university presidents approved a plan for a four-team playoff put forward by commissioners of the top football conferences.
The new system doesn't go too far, Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger said.