Hitting hard on Medicare: Under fire himself, Romney accuses Obama of raiding popular program
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama in person and in TV advertising Tuesday of cutting Medicare "to pay for Obamacare," launching a strong counterattack to Democratic charges that he and running mate Paul Ryan would radically remake the popular health care program that serves tens of millions of seniors.
The charge drew a blistering response from Obama's campaign, which labeled the ad dishonest and hypocritical.
Obama "has taken $716 billion out of the Medicare trust fund. He's raided that trust fund," Romney said at a campaign stop in Beallsville, Ohio, as he neared the end of a multi-state bus trip punctuated by his weekend selection of a ticket mate.
"And you know what he did with it? He's used it to pay for Obamacare, a risky, unproven, federal takeover of health care. And If I'm president of the United States, we're putting the $716 billion back," he said.
Aides said a commercial containing the same allegation would begin airing immediately in several battleground states, although they declined to provide details.
All politics local: Obama, Romney play to and sometimes get dragged into other folks' issues
OSKALOOSA, Iowa (AP) — The economy, economy, economy, right? Not always in this presidential election.
For some voters in pivotal states, issues such as wind energy tax credits or coal-industry jobs may win the day. Both President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney are talking local topics everywhere they go, showing how a fierce national race can lead the candidates to play to, and in some cases get dragged into, issues affecting voters right down to their doorsteps.
During a three-day bus tour through Iowa, Obama has gone out of his way to highlight Romney's opposition to the renewal of wind production tax credits that have drawn support from Iowa Republicans including Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Charles Grassley. The credits have been in place for 20 years — Grassley authored the bill in the Senate — but are set to expire this year, threatening about 37,000 jobs nationally.
"My opponent wants to end tax credits for wind energy producers. He's said that new sources of energy like wind are 'imaginary,'" Obama said Tuesday. "His running mate calls them a 'fad.'" Obama toured a wind farm in Haverhill, Iowa, inspecting several wind turbines on the property.
Romney, in turn, has painted Obama as being hostile to coal producers, an important job provider in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. "If you don't believe in coal, if you don't believe in energy independence, then say it," Romney said Tuesday in Beallsville, Ohio, standing near a bulldozer filled with coal and hung with a sign that read, "Coal Country Stands with Mitt."
AP IMPACT: Hospital tech's arrest sets off hepatitis scare in 8 states, shows flaws in system
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Radiology technician David Kwiatkowski was a few weeks into a temporary job at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Presbyterian in 2008 when a co-worker accused him of lifting a syringe containing an addictive painkiller from an operating room and sticking it down his pants.
More syringes were found in his pockets and locker. A drug test showed he had fentanyl and other opiates in his system.
In what may be the scariest part of all, authorities say that when he swiped the fentanyl syringe, he left another one in its place, filled with a dummy fluid, ready to be used on a patient.
But Kwiatkowski did not go to jail. No one in Pittsburgh even called the police. Neither the hospital nor the medical staffing agency that placed him in the job informed the national accreditation organization for radiological technicians.
So just days after being fired, he was able to start a new job at a Baltimore hospital. And from there, he went from one hospital to another — 10 hospitals altogether in the four years after he was fired in Pittsburgh. All of them told The Associated Press they had no knowledge of his disciplinary history when they hired him for temporary jobs.
Multiple suicide attackers, motorcycle bomb kill 46 in opposite corners of Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Suicide bombers launched multiple attacks in a remote corner of southwestern Afghanistan near the Iranian border Tuesday, killing dozens of people including shoppers buying sweets for a Muslim holiday and leaving charred and smoldering bits of cookies and dried fruit among the bodies on the ground.
A separate market bombing, this one in northern Afghanistan, brought the overall death toll to 46, most of whom were civilians. It was the deadliest day for Afghan civilians this year.
The attacks in provinces on opposite ends of the country — Nimroz in the southwest and Kunduz in the north — come as Taliban insurgents and their allies step up their assaults in a display of force that often results in civilian carnage. Militants are especially trying to weaken the still-developing Afghan security forces, who are to assume control of security across their homeland in 28 months when most foreign combat troops will have left.
"The Taliban "want to expand their influence — show that they are everywhere," said Afghan political analyst Jawid Kohistani. "They want to show that the Afghan police are not strong enough so they are targeting the security forces and the government."
The scope of the attacks in Nimroz, which has seen relatively few insurgent attacks over the past year, was surprising. The bombings took place in the provincial capital, Zaranj, where militants wearing suicide vests detonated their explosives in various neighborhoods, provincial police chief Musa Rasouli said. At least 25 civilians and 11 police were killed, he said.
Not poor enough: In Fla., Miss., La., Texas, an $11,000 income is too much for Medicaid
MIAMI (AP) — Sandra Pico is poor, but not poor enough.
She makes about $15,000 a year, supporting her daughter and unemployed husband. She thought she'd be able to get health insurance after the Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama's health care law.
Then she heard that her own governor won't agree to the federal plan to extend Medicaid coverage to people like her in two years. So she expects to remain uninsured, struggling to pay for her blood pressure medicine.
"You fall through the cracks and there's nothing you can do about it," said the 52-year-old home health aide. "It makes me feel like garbage, like the American dream, my dream in my homeland is not being accomplished."
Many working parents like Pico are below the federal poverty line but don't qualify for Medicaid, a decades-old state-federal insurance program. That's especially true in states where conservative governors say they'll reject the Medicaid expansion under Obama's health law.
Police: Delaware doctor's waterboarding of daughter may be tied to near-death research
DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware pediatrician who achieved national recognition for his research into near-death experiences involving children may have been experimenting on his 11-year-old stepdaughter by waterboarding her, police said in court documents.
The possible link between Dr. Melvin Morse's research and the waterboarding allegations was revealed in an affidavit for a search warrant for Morse's computers. The document was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
According to the affidavit, Dr. Melvin Morse brought the girl "to a possible near death state from the simulation of drowning."
"This 'waterboarding' that he has performed ... would fall into the area of study he practices," police said in the affidavit. "It is logical that he has therefore written about and/or researched the topic of 'waterboarding.'"
Joe Hurley, an attorney for Morse, said the idea that Morse was experimenting on his own daughter is "the sheerest of speculation."
'Mohawk Guy' shows NASA's changing face, hairstyle; Obama says 'cooler than you used to be'
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Known to the Twitterverse and the president of the United States as "Mohawk Guy" of the Mars mission, Bobak Ferdowsi could be the changing public face of NASA and all of geekdom.
Ferdowsi, whose shaved scalp also features star shapes, is a flight director for the Mars rover Curiosity — a mission that captured the nation's imagination with its odds-defying, acrobatic landing.
And Mohawk Guy isn't the only star. There's also former rock 'n' roller Adam Steltzner, sometimes called "Elvis Guy" because of his pompadour and sideburns.
Steltzner directed the daring landing of the rover and appears in a NASA movie trailer describing why the Aug. 5 Mars landing involved "seven minutes of terror." The movie, posted on YouTube, became a hit.
"You guys are a little cooler than you used to be," President Barack Obama said in a Monday congratulatory phone call to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
AP Interview: US drug czar says prescription tracking helps curb abuse, but Missouri is absent
ST. LOUIS (AP) — While heroin, methamphetamine and even synthetic drugs tend to get much of the attention, the nation's drug czar says prescription drug abuse is far and away the most lethal drug problem in America.
Monitoring programs adopted in 49 states are helping to address the problem of prescription drug abuse, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske said in an interview with The Associated Press. The lone holdout is Missouri, where Kerlikowske plans to be Wednesday to push for such a program.
Kerlikowske called prescription drug abuse an "epidemic." Nearly 21,000 deaths in the U.S. were attributed to prescription drug overdoses in 2009, the most recent year with statistics available.
"The number of deaths as a result of prescription drug use and abuse are greater than heroin and cocaine overdose deaths combined," Kerlikowske said.
Kerlikowske is scheduled to be in the St. Louis suburb of Fenton on Wednesday. Among those meeting with him will be state Sen. Kevin Engler, a Farmington Republican who has unsuccessfully pushed for a state program.
Ron Palillo, actor who played nerdy teen Arnold Horshack on 'Welcome Back, Kotter' dies at 63
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Ron Palillo, the actor best known as the nerdy high school student Arnold Horshack on the 1970s sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter," died Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He was 63.
Palillo suffered an apparent heart attack at his home about 4 a.m., said Karen Poindexter, a close friend of the actor. He was pronounced dead at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.
Palillo was inextricably linked with the character he played from 1975 to 1979 on "Kotter," the hit ABC sitcom, in which title character Gabe Kotter returns to his Brooklyn alma mater to teach a group of loveable wiseguys known as the Sweathogs. Horshack was the nasally teen who yelped, "Oooh, ooh," and shot his hand skyward whenever Kotter posed a question.
The show was a ratings success and pop cultural phenomenon, injecting smart-Alec phrases such as "Up your nose with a rubber hose" into the mainstream and propelling co-star John Travolta to stardom. But the series only lasted as long as a high school education and its end, for Palillo, brought difficulty.
He said he felt exiled throughout the 1980s, unable to find parts, sinking into depression, and rarely venturing from his apartment. When offers did come, he felt typecast as Horshack.
Evangelist Billy Graham, 93, returns home after treatment for bronchitis at NC hospital
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Evangelist Billy Graham is out of a North Carolina hospital following a two-day stay for treatment of bronchitis.
Pulmonologist Daniel Fertel said in a statement Tuesday that the 93-year-old had a quick recovery and responded well to his treatment at Mission Hospital in Asheville.
The doctor said that despite the illness, Graham is remarkably healthy for a man his age.
Graham, who has been working on a new book, returned to his home in nearby Montreat. His staff said he would continue his usual care and physical therapy at home and resume his involvement in ministry and writing projects.