Twisters rip through Midwest, South, killing 12; Branson theater district gets heavy damage
HARRISBURG, Ill. (AP) -- A pre-dawn twister flattened entire blocks of homes in a small Illinois town Wednesday as violent storms ravaged the Midwest and South, killing at least 12 people in three states.
Winds also ripped through the country music mecca of Branson, Mo., damaging some of the city's famous theaters just days before the start of the busy tourist season.
The tornado that blasted Harrisburg in southern Illinois, killing six, was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph.
By midday, townspeople in the community of 9,000 were sorting through piles of debris and remembering their dead while the winds still howled around them.
Not long after the storm, Darrell Osman raced to his mother's home, arriving just in time to speak to her before she was taken to a hospital with a head injury, a severe cut to her neck and a broken arm and leg.
North Korea agrees to suspend some nuclear activities and missile tests, will get US food aid
WASHINGTON (AP) -- North Korea raised hopes Wednesday for a major easing in nuclear tensions under its youthful new leader, agreeing to suspend uranium enrichment at a major facility and refrain from missile and nuclear tests in exchange for a mountain of critically needed U.S. food aid.
It was only a preliminary step but a necessary one to restart broader six-nation negotiations that would lay down terms for what the North could get in return for abandoning its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang pulled out of those talks in 2009 and seemingly has viewed the nuclear program as key to the survival of its dynastic, communist regime, now entering its third generation.
The announcement, just over two months after the death of longtime ruler Kim Jong Il, opened a door for the secretive government under his untested youngest son, Kim Jong Un, to improve ties with the United States and win critically needed aid and international acceptance.
It also opened the way for international inspections for the North's nuclear program, which has gone unmonitored for years.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the agreement, announced at separate but simultaneous statements by the longtime adversaries, was a modest step but also "a reminder that the world is transforming around us."
On to Super Tuesday: Romney, Santorum both claim momentum from narrow Michigan primary result
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A victorious Mitt Romney and runner-up Rick Santorum both claimed satisfaction from the close Michigan primary on Wednesday as they swiftly shifted their duel for the Republican presidential nomination to Ohio and the rest of next week's delegate-rich Super Tuesday contests.
Campaigning in Bexley, Ohio, Romney promised "more jobs, less debt and a smaller government" if he wins the nomination and defeats President Barack Obama in the fall. "Interestingly, the people who said that the economy and jobs were their No. 1 issue, they voted for me, overwhelmingly" in the Michigan primary, he said.
Santorum saw the events of the previous 24 hours differently, having won half of the 30 delegates in his rival's home state primary even though he lost the popular vote. "We had a much better night in Michigan than maybe was first reported," he said, in Tennessee.
While Santorum contended the race to pick an opponent for Democrat Obama was down to two men, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul had other ideas as they set their own priorities for the 10 Super Tuesday contests.
That made Washington's caucuses on Saturday something of a campaign way-station, worth 40 delegates but squeezed in between two big primary nights.
Syria threatens to 'cleanse' rebel district in city of Homs, raising fears of ground invasion
BEIRUT (AP) -- The Syrian regime showed a new determination Wednesday to crush its opponents, vowing to "cleanse" a rebel-held district in the besieged central city of Homs after nearly four weeks of shelling.
Government troops massed outside the embattled neighborhood of Baba Amr, raising fears among activists of an imminent ground invasion that could endanger thousands of residents, as well as two trapped Western journalists, who have been under heavy bombardment.
A Spanish journalist who had been stuck in the area escaped Wednesday to Lebanon, the second foreign reporter to do so since a government rocket attack last week killed two of his colleagues and wounded two others.
The fate of the foreign journalists has drawn attention to Homs, which has emerged as a key battleground between government forces and those seeking to end the regime of authoritarian President Bashar Assad.
The government's increasingly bloody attempts to put down the 11-month uprising have fueled mounting international criticism.
Teenage suspect in fatal Ohio school shooting described as a 'very fine person'
CHARDON, Ohio (AP) -- The teenager suspected in an Ohio school shooting struggled with a broken family and did poorly in school, then appeared to turn himself around once he was taken in by grandparents and began to attend an alternative school, longtime neighbors and friends said Wednesday
To a person, they expressed disbelief at how the quiet but friendly boy could now be a suspect in a shooting that left three people dead and appears to have involved a gun that disappeared from his grandfather's barn.
"T.J. was a very fine person," Carl Henderson, a longtime neighbor of the suspect's grandparents, Thomas and Michelle Lane, said Wednesday. "Nice-looking man, very friendly, spoke to you, carried a conversation with you."
The gun, a .22 caliber revolver, was noticed as missing after Monday's shootings and fits the description of the pistol that reportedly was used to kill three students and wound two others at Chardon High School, said Henderson, a retired police officer and former Geauga County sheriff. He said he has spoken to the grandfather, Thomas Lane, about the gun.
The suspect's grandfather believes the gun is the same, "because the gun was there the day before, in the barn," said Henderson, 74, who says he's been friends with the boy's family for nearly 50 years.
By welcoming a few Iraq war vets to White House, President Obama pays tribute to the many
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With a formal dinner for the few, President Barack Obama on Wednesday paid solemn tribute to the many.
The president who opposed the Iraq war from its outset thanked those who fought its battles by sitting down to a candlelit meal with a small cross section of the million-plus who served there over the past nine years.
Looking out over a sea of dress uniforms sparkling with medals attesting to years of wartime strife, Obama told the gathering: "In a culture that celebrates fame and fortune, yours are not necessarily household names. You are something more: the patriots who served in our name. And after nearly nine years in Iraq, tonight is an opportunity to express our gratitude and to say once more, welcome home."
The faces of war were reflected in the 200 veterans and their guests who gathered in the East Room to dine on aged rib-eye steak, potato croquettes and chocolate crème brulee. They came from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, and spanned generations, gender and all five branches of the military.
There was a 24-year-old sailor from Colorado, Petty Officer 3rd Class Max R. Rohn, who spent just five months in Iraq before losing part of his right leg in a blast. There was a 31-year-old Air Force sergeant from Georgia, J.H. Smith, who deployed to Iraq six times in five years and won the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Romney says he doesn't back Blunt amendment, then reverses, saying question was confusing
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Wednesday he opposed Senate Republicans' effort that critics say would limit insurance coverage of birth control, then reversed himself quickly in a second interview saying he misunderstood the question.
Romney told Ohio News Network during an interview that he opposed a measure by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that was scheduled for a vote Thursday. "I'm not for the bill," Romney said before urging the interviewer to move on.
Romney later said he didn't understand the question.
"Of course I support the Blunt amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception so I was simply -- misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt amendment," Romney later told Howie Carr's radio program in Boston, noting that Blunt is his campaign's point man in the Senate.
Just hours earlier, ONN reporter Jim Heath asked Romney about rival Rick Santorum and the cultural debate happening in the campaign and the legislation proposed by Blunt and co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Navy researchers say they are getting close to making a super-powerful gun for warships
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) -- A super-powerful gun that shoots rounds more than 100 miles away -- at several times the speed of sound -- is being developed for Navy warships.
The weapon is known as an electromagnetic railgun. It consists of parallel rails and uses a magnetic field and electric current, instead of chemicals, to generate energy to fire the rounds, wh.
The Navy said Tuesday an industry-built prototype of the gun is being tested at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in northern Virginia. At this stage, they're focused on measuring the gun's barrel life and structural integrity because it is capable of firing rounds at up to 5,600 miles per hour, or more than seven times the speed of sound. More research and development is needed to over the next five years to ensure the weapon can cool down and handle repetitive fire. The Navy wants to be able to fire 10 rounds a minute.
They're also working to ensure that the roughly 40-pound metal projectile the gun will ultimately fire can withstand the heat and G-forces from the launch and will not disintegrate. And they need to make sure any electronics in the projectile, such as a GPS system, are safe.
Navy researchers said the weapon's high-velocity and range would allow ships to provide support for Marines storming a beach. It could also target enemy ships and provide self-defense against cruise and ballistic missiles.
Davy Jones, heartthrob former lead singer of The Monkees, dies in Fla. of a heart attack at 66
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Davy Jones, the diminutive heartthrob who rocketed to the top of the 1960s music charts by beckoning millions of adoring fans with the catchy refrains of The Monkees, died Wednesday. He was 66.
His publicist, Helen Kensick, confirmed that Jones died of a heart attack near his home in Indiantown. Jones complained of breathing troubles early in the morning and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, said Rhonda Irons, spokeswoman for the Martin County Sheriff's Office.
In a 911 call released Wednesday night, an unidentified woman anxiously pleads, "Ambulance, please, hurry!" His home was about 27 miles from the hospital and a fire rescue unit rushed him to the hospital.
Jones' moppish long hair, boyish good looks and his British accent endeared him to legions of screaming young fans after "The Monkees" premiered on NBC in 1966 as a made-for-TV band seeking to capitalize on Beatlemania sweeping the world.
Aspirations of Beatles-like fame were never fully achieved, with the TV show lasting just two years. But The Monkees made rock 'n' roll history as the band garnered a wide American following with love-struck hits such as "Daydream Believer" and "I'm a Believer" that endure to this day.
Knicks storm back and break it open with their bench to beat Cavaliers 120-103
NEW YORK (AP) -- Jeremy Lin checked back in, triggering the wave of cheers that accompany his every move at Madison Square Garden.
This time, they were for the guys leaving the game.
Lin had 19 points and 13 assists and Carmelo Anthony scored 22, but the New York Knicks turned around this one with their reserves to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 120-103 on Wednesday night.
"I think our second unit did an awesome job," Lin said. "I think we've been talking a lot about our depth and tonight we definitely got to see the depth, and so that's going to be a strength of ours and we need to continue to use that."
Steve Novak had 17 points off the bench as the Knicks turned a 17-point deficit into an easy win, outscoring the Cavs 71-42 in the second half. They capped a 10-5 month, their first 10-win February since going 10-3 in 1996-97.