Monday, February 13, 2012

Published:

Obama promising to boost economy while achieving $4 trillion in deficit cuts over next decade

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is sending Congress a new budget that seeks to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade through cuts in government spending and higher taxes on the wealthy. At the same time, he wants to boost spending in key areas such as transportation and education.

The spending blueprint is certain to spark an election-year battle with Republicans, who are vowing to oppose Obama's tax hikes. They contend the president is not doing enough to attack a dangerous deficit problem.

In a fact sheet previewing the budget, the administration sought to cast the debate as a battle to protect the middle class following decades of eroding security and a deep recession.

"We must transform our budget from one focused on speculating, spending and borrowing to one constructed on the solid foundation of educating, innovating and building," the administration said.

Obama was scheduled to speak Monday morning to students at Northern Virginia Community College to highlight the budget's education initiatives.

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Greeks clean up damage after riots engulf Athens over new austerity deal voted in Parliament

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Firefighters doused smoldering buildings and cleanup crews swept rubble from the streets of central Athens on Monday following a night of rioting during which lawmakers approved harsh new austerity measures demanded by bailout creditors to save the nation from bankruptcy.

At least 45 buildings were burned, including one of the capital's oldest restored cinemas, while dozens of stores and cafes were smashed and looted.

The stench of tear gas still hung in the air on Monday morning, chocking passers-by. More than 120 people were hurt in the rioting which also broke out in other Greek cities. Authorities said 68 police needed medical care after being injured by gasoline bombs, rocks and other objects hurled at them, while at least 70 protesters were also hospitalized.

Police arrested at least 67 people, while in several cases they had to escort fire crews to burning buildings after protesters prevented access.

The rioting began Sunday afternoon ahead of a historic vote in Parliament on yet more austerity measures. Lawmakers approved the bill in a 199-74 vote, to the relief of investors who pushed the Athens stock index up 5 percent on Monday.

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Triumph of Adele, tragedy of Whitney dominate Grammy Awards

The splintered music world truly coalesces only one night of 365 for the Grammy Awards, and this year was united in the triumph of recovered British soul singer Adele's trophy haul and the tragedy of Whitney Houston's death.

Adele swept the major honors of song, record and album of the year Sunday for her lost-love epic "21" and its driving single "Rolling in the Deep." She picked up her final two awards after making her first public performance in months after being sidelined for throat surgery. Her total of six Grammys matched Beyonce for most ever by a female act.

After seeming almost sheepish in picking up some of the trophies ("This is ridiculous," she said after winning record of the year), Adele's tears flowed upon winning best album.

"This record is inspired by something that is really normal and everyone's been through it -- just a rubbish relationship," she said. "It's gone on to do things that I can't tell you how I feel about them. It's been the most life-changing year."

The Foo Fighters won five Grammys for music that singer Dave Grohl said was made in his garage, and ceremony no-show Kanye West won four. Indie rockers Bon Iver won best new artist.

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Investigators seek answers to Grammy weekend death of Whitney Houston

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Whitney Houston's life of glorious song and unnerving self-destruction apparently ended in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Grammy weekend, but it could be weeks before investigators know exactly why she died.

Coroner's officials say they will not release any information on an autopsy performed Sunday at the request of police detectives investigating the singer's death. Houston was found in the bathtub of her room, but Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter declined to say anything more about the room's condition or any evidence investigators recovered.

There were no indications of foul play and no obvious signs of trauma on Houston's body, but officials were not ruling out any causes of death until they have toxicology results, which will likely take weeks to obtain. Beverly Hills Police Lt. Mark Rosen said that his agency may release more details Monday about Houston's death, but it will depend on whether detectives feel comfortable releasing any information.

Security holds on autopsy results are used in some high-profile Los Angeles cases, with Michael Jackson's results being withheld for weeks while detectives pieced together the circumstances of his death in June 2009. Toxicology results are frequently necessary before the coroner will release an official cause of death.

A member of Houston's entourage found the 48-year-old singer unresponsive in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, just hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy gala.

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Anti-government extremists or harmless weekend warriors? Midwest militia trial opens in Mich.

DETROIT (AP) -- Seven members of a Midwest militia accused of plotting to overthrow the government are set to stand trial, where jurors will decide whether federal authorities prevented an attack by homegrown extremists or simply made too much of the boasts by weekend warriors who had pledged to "take our nation back."

Opening statements are set for Monday once a jury is seated in the trial of members of the Hutaree militia, who are charged with conspiring to commit sedition, or rebellion, as well as weapon crimes.

Following the March 2010 arrests in southern Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said the time had come for authorities to "take them down." An undercover agent had recorded the group's leader, David Stone, saying the militia needed to "start huntin'" police soon.

But since their capture, only one of nine people charged has struck a plea deal, an unusually low number in a case with so many defendants. Their attorneys have maintained a consistent stance: The anti-government talk was simply colorful yet aimless bluster akin to frustrated pals drowning sorrows around a campfire.

"I'm going to fight it tooth and nail," David Stone's wife and co-defendant, Tina Mae Stone, said during a break in jury selection last week. "It was just a bunch of good ol' boys out to have fun. We did survival stuff. I did it mostly to spend time with my husband. People tell me, 'good luck.' I don't need luck. I've got God on my side."

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New book by JFK intern tells of star-struck 19-year-old's affair with president

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mimi Alford was terrified in 1998 when the Monica Lewinsky scandal turned the word "intern" into a dirty joke, exposing an affair with a president. Her decades-old secret about her trysts with John F. Kennedy was still safe then.

Outed in a 2003 biography and a New York newspaper account, Alford has learned to tell her story and not be ashamed of it -- from the moment she said Kennedy seduced her on her fourth day working at the White House until the affair ended shortly before his death.

In "Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath," published last week by Random House, she writes of her first encounter as a naïve teenager, her "varied and fun" sex life with Kennedy, whom she always called Mr. President.

She was 19 and had no sexual experience when she first went to bed with Kennedy in his wife, Jacqueline's, bedroom. It was June 1962.

"Short of screaming," she writes, "I doubt I could have done anything to thwart his intentions."

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Pakistani PM charged with contempt over graft case, escalating political crisis

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- The Supreme Court charged Pakistan's prime minister with contempt Monday for defying its order to reopen an old corruption case against the president, sharpening a political crisis that has shaken this already volatile country.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could be imprisoned and will likely lose his job. But analysts said the premier seems willing to sacrifice himself for the benefit of his party and his political ally, President Asif Ali Zardari.

The case has distracted the government from dealing with a host of ills facing the nuclear-armed country, including a stuttering economy and a vicious Islamist insurgency.

The political turmoil has also been a problem for the United States because it wants Pakistan to focus on repairing troubled bilateral relations and help negotiate peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Gilani drove himself and his lawyer to court, an apparent attempt to show humility to the judges. Security was tight, with helicopters buzzing through the rainy, overcast sky and hundreds of police blocking roads leading to the court building in the capital, Islamabad.

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How is Mitt Romney like James Bond? Both make use of offshore accounts, and so could you

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Movie super spies James Bond and Jason Bourne use them. So do real-life presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who says he pays his taxes, and untold numbers of Americans who don't. Swiss banks and their secretive counterparts around the globe may sound like the exclusive province of the wealthy, the mysterious or the shady, but anybody can legally open an offshore account.

Wouldn't it be swell to have a cool million stashed away on a sunny Caribbean island?

Here's how to do it:

Step 1: Get a million dollars.

How? There are essentially two ways -- legally or illegally. For those with dirty cash to launder -- drug traffickers, mobsters, smugglers, swindlers and such -- offshore accounts hidden from the law are the obvious choice (skip to Step 5).

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AT&T surprises customers with limits for 'unlimited data' usage; heat is on "5 percenters"

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike Trang likes to use his iPhone 4 as a GPS device, helping him get around in his job. Now and then, his younger cousins get ahold of it, and play some YouTube videos and games.

But in the past few weeks, there has been none of that, because AT&T Inc. put a virtual wheel clamp on his phone. Web pages wouldn't load and maps wouldn't render. Forget about YouTube videos -- Trang's data speeds were reduced to dial-up levels.

"It basically makes my phone useless," said Trang, an Orange County, Calif. property manager.

The reason: AT&T considers Trang to be among the top 5 percent of the heaviest cellular data users in his area. Under a new policy, AT&T has started cutting their data speeds as part of an attempt to manage data usage on its network.

So last month, AT&T "throttled" Trang's iPhone, slowing downloads by roughly 99 percent. That means a Web page that would normally take a second to load instead took almost two minutes.

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James scores 23, Wade 21 as Heat race to 22-point lead at halftime, blow out Hawks 107-87

ATLANTA (AP) -- LeBron James scored 23 points, Dwyane Wade added 21 and the Miami Heat blew out the Atlanta Hawks 107-87 on Sunday night after racing to a 22-point lead at halftime.

The Heat made a big statement in the Southeast Division against the second-place Hawks, leading by as many as 32 in what turned into nothing more than a showcase for Miami's Big Three.

By halftime, Wade already had 21 points, James was rolling along with 14 points and nine rebounds, and Chris Bosh put a double-double in the books with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Heat went to the locker room with a commanding 63-41 advantage, the Hawks having surrendered their most points in a half this season.

Miami won for the 10th time in the last 12 games.

Bosh finished with 14 points and a season-high 16 rebounds. James grabbed 13 rebounds and doled out six assists. Wade had a couple of steals and blocked a shot.