Name-calling, accusations over welfare work requirements fly among Romney, Obama, White House

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill. (AP) — Republican Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama on Tuesday of ditching a long-standing work requirement for welfare recipients, accusing him of fostering a "culture of dependency" and backing up the charge with a new television commercial.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the allegations were "blatantly dishonest ... hypocrisy knows no bounds." He added that Romney, while serving as Massachusetts governor, had once petitioned the White House to loosen employment rules for those on welfare.

Former President Bill Clinton joined the fray, saying in a statement Tuesday night that the TV ad's assertion was "not true" and that the ad was misleading.

Romney made his accusation in a relatively rare occurrence in the race for the White House — an appearance before voters outside the small group of battleground states likely to settle the Nov. 6 election.

Illinois and its 20 electoral votes are politically safe territory for Obama in the fall. Romney was there for a fundraiser as well as a stop at a manufacturing company, part of the intense competition between the two candidates to stockpile cash for the stretch run to Election Day.


Jared Loughner pleads guilty in shooting rampage that killed 6, wounded Giffords and 12 others

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Jared Lee Loughner agreed Tuesday to spend the rest of his life in prison, accepting that he went on a deadly shooting rampage at an Arizona political gathering and avoiding the prospect of a trial that might have brought him the death penalty.

His plea came after a federal judge found that months of psychiatric treatment made Loughner able to understand charges that he killed six people and wounded 13 others, including his intended target, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Loughner appeared relaxed and focused throughout the two-hour hearing, much of it devoted to a court-appointed psychologist's account of his normal childhood, his teenage depression, his descent into schizophrenia as a young adult and his gradual recovery in prison to the point that she felt he was competent to face charges.

The psychologist and judge did most of the talking, as Loughner looked at them intently and leaned slightly forward with no expression, his arms crossed over his chest. He appeared to show emotion only once — smiling and nodding when the psychologist, Christina Pietz, reported that he formed a special bond with one of the guards at the Springfield, Mo., prison where he has been held.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns noted Loughner's reaction to the prison guard comment when explaining his decision to declare him competent. He said Loughner was "tracking" the day's proceedings well and appeared to be assisting his attorneys in his defense, a break from the past.


Shadowy world of hate rock offers white supremacists way to socialize, recruit and raise money

MILWAUKEE (AP) — When they aren't ranting in Internet forums, many of the nation's white supremacists seek a louder outlet for their extreme views: thunderous, thrashing heavy metal or punk music with lyrics that call for a race war.

Wade Michael Page, the gunman who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin before being killed by police, was deeply involved in the "hate rock" scene — a shadowy world of hundreds of performers in the U.S. and Europe, most of them playing metal or hardcore punk. Some also play country, folk and other genres.

Largely unknown to most Americans, this musical subculture is an integral part of neo-Nazi circles, offering a way for like-minded followers to connect with each other and socialize, recruit new members and raise money for their cause.

"It really was a good political weapon for the agenda," said Jason Stevens, who once fronted a white-power band called Intimidation One in Portland, Ore.

Page once played guitar and bass with Intimidation One, as well as in bands called Definite Hate and End Apathy.


Mo. Republicans nominate Rep. Akin to take on McCaskill; Hoekstra wins GOP bid in Mich. race

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Rep. Todd Akin, who played up his tea party credentials and conservative appeal, broke out from a three-way Missouri Republican primary on Tuesday to earn the right to take on Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, setting up one of the most closely watched Senate races of 2012.

Akin won a contest defined by which candidate was the most conservative. In doing so, he beat out Sarah Palin's candidate of choice, former state treasurer Sarah Steelman, and John Brunner, a businessman who poured more than $7.5 million of his own money into the race.

Meanwhile in Michigan, Republicans selected former Rep. Pete Hoekstra to take on Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in November. Democratic Rep. John Conyers staved off a primary challenge in a slightly redrawn district to advance to November's election, when he will be strongly favored to win a 25th consecutive term in Congress. Rep. Gary Peters defeated Rep. Hansen Clarke in a member versus member Democratic primary also brought on by congressional redistricting.

In another closely watched Missouri race, Rep. William Lacy Clay defeated Rep. Russ Carnahan in a showdown of two of Missouri's most prominent Democratic families. The two were also drawn together because of congressional redistricting.

With primary elections being held in four states Tuesday, Missouri's Republican Senate primary figured to have the most national significance: The GOP needs to net four seats from Democrats to gain control of the Senate and Republicans viewed McCaskill as among their top targets this year.


Civil war mix of Islamists, foreign radicals, sectarian hate fuels fear over post-Assad Syria

KILIS, Turkey (AP) — Standing just a few strides from the Syrian border, an Iraqi was mingling with Syrian rebel units outside their camp here, trying to find one that would take him in and let him fight in the uprising.

"It's an honor for me," said Sheik Abu Abdullah, wearing the white robe, Islamic skullcap and beard common among Islamic hardliners.

The battle-hungry Iraqi is part of a stream of Arab fighters who have been drawn to the rebel cause, adding not only to the growing complexities of Syria's civil war but also deepening the uncertainties of what could follow Bashar Assad's regime.

After the latest blow to Damascus — this week's defection of Syria's prime minister — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that there is an urgent need to plan for what happens afterward if and when the Assad regime falls. She said it is important to ensure that Syrian state institutions remain intact. The hope among U.S. officials is to find a "soft landing" that keeps some degree of stability.

However, few of the imaginable scenarios for post-Assad Syria portend stability after more than 17 months of blood-letting in a country that is more ethnically splintered than Iraq and holds perhaps the greatest international stakes of the Arab Spring.


EYES ON LONDON: Athletics, bumpiness of the balance beam, more words from Usain Bolt

LONDON (AP) — Around the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:



No, the money that Team USA coach Mihai Brestyan handed to the judges on Tuesday wasn't a bribe. It's the cost of appealing a scoring decision.

When Aly Raisman was given a 14.966 on her balance beam routine, Brestyan had to make a snap decision.


Russian prosecutors ask for 3-year sentences for anti-Putin feminist punk rockers

MOSCOW (AP) — Prosecutors on Tuesday called for three-year prison sentences for feminist punk rockers who gave an impromptu performance in Moscow's main cathedral to call for an end to Vladimir Putin's rule, in a case that has caused international outrage and split Russian society.

Some Russians say the three women — who have already been in jail for five months — deserve to be punished for desecrating the Russian Orthodox Church and offending believers. Others insist that they are being punished for their political beliefs. The women, all in their 20s, said their goal was to express their resentment over the church's open support for Putin' rule.

Dressed in homemade ski masks and miniskirts in garish colors, the Pussy Riot band members burst into a nearly empty Christ the Savior Cathedral and spent less than a minute belting out their "punk prayer" before being hustled out by security guards. Their February stunt was part of the protest movement that gathered strength over the winter and has come under increasing pressure since Putin won a third presidential term in March.

Prosecutors portrayed the proposed three-year sentences for the women as lenient, since the hooliganism charges they face carry a maximum sentence of seven years. Prosecutor Alexander Nikiforov said the recommendation takes into account that two of the defendants have young children and that they have good character references.

Putin said last week that the punishment should not be "too severe," triggering speculation that the Kremlin was hoping to resolve the case without appearing weak or causing further anger on either side.


Arkansas police investigate whether handcuffed man fatally shot himself in back of patrol car

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Police in Arkansas are investigating whether a man fatally shot himself in the head as he sat in the backseat of a patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Chavis Carter, 21, died after Jonesboro police stopped a truck in which he was riding July 28 and learned he had an outstanding arrest warrant related to a drug charge. Carter was searched twice, handcuffed and put into the back of the patrol car, according to a police report.

Officers a short time later saw Carter slumped over in the backseat and covered in blood, according to the report, which concluded he had managed to conceal a handgun with which he shot himself. He later died at a hospital, and the report listed his death as a suicide.

Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates said Tuesday it appeared Carter shot himself in the head, but his department is investigating the incident, which the chief described as "very unusual."

"Specifically, how Carter suffered his apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound remains unexplained and investigation ... continues given the unusual nature of this event," the department said in a statement.


NASA rover sends back video and first color picture of landscape; prettier images yet to come

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — NASA's latest adventure to Mars has given the world more than just glimpses of a new alien landscape.

It opened a window into the trip itself, from video footage of the landing to a photo of the rover hanging by a parachute to a shot of discarded spacecraft hardware strewn across the surface. And the best views — of Mars and the journey there — are yet to come.

"Spectacular," mission deputy project scientist Joy Crisp said of the footage. "We've not had that before."

Since parking itself inside an ancient crater Sunday night, the Curiosity rover has delighted scientists with views of its new surroundings, including the 3-mile-high mountain it will drive to. It beamed back the first color picture Tuesday revealing a tan-hued, pebbly landscape and the crater rim off in the distance.

Locale aside, Curiosity is giving scientists an unprecedented sense of what it took to reach its Martian destination. The roving laboratory sent back nearly 300 thumbnails that NASA processed into a low-quality video showing the last 2 1/2 minutes of its white-knuckle dive through the thin Martian atmosphere.


Mick Jagger helps boost Olympics' celebrity count, but A-listers keeping a low profile

LONDON (AP) — Now that's more like it.

Mick Jagger has dropped by Olympic Stadium to watch some track and field, providing relief to celebrity-watchers who worried that the world's biggest sporting event has been a little lacking in star power — off the field, that is.

The Rolling Stones singer, who was photographed Monday chatting with London organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe at the stadium, is not the only A-lister to take in the games. But most are keeping a low profile.

It's as if they know that for this brief period, they're not the stars. The athletes are.

"My advice would be, go on holiday for two or three weeks," PR guru Max Clifford advised celebrities.