3:57 AM PST, January 31, 2012
Florida primary offers a big prize for winner, with polls showing that’s likely to be Romney
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s time has come.
The state hosts its pivotal primary Tuesday as Mitt Romney seeks to tighten his grip on the Republican presidential nomination.
Newt Gingrich reset the race by scoring an overwhelming victory in South Carolina. But in the 10 days since, the GOP contest has turned increasingly hostile. And the polls have swung decidedly in Romney’s direction.
The former Massachusetts governor enters the day as the heavy favorite in the winner-take-all primary, the final contest in a month of high-stakes elections in which Romney claimed one win and two second-place finishes so far. The path to the Republican nomination — and the right to face President Barack Obama this fall — shifts to a series of lower-profile contests in February.
The polls open at 7 a.m. across Florida, where Romney offered an increasingly optimistic tone while campaigning in recent days.
’Super’ PACs, campaigns set to disclose big donors Tuesday
WASHINGTON (AP) — Get ready to find out who the millionaires are behind this year’s presidential election.
Shadowy outside groups funded by anonymous donors and working on behalf of candidates they support have pummeled Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and others for the past two months by spending millions of dollars on mostly negative TV ads that have had an enormous impact on the fight for the Republican presidential nomination.
Now, for the first time since they started shaping this campaign in earnest, many of those “super” political action committees are set to disclose just who is financing their pseudo-campaign operations. Many took advantage of a change in federal rules that essentially let them shield their donors’ identities until after key primary elections in January. But they still must submit their financial reports to the Federal Election Commission by Tuesday.
Only a handful of donors are known, including Las Vegas billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson. His two checks for $5 million apiece to Winning Our Future, a pro-Gingrich group, essentially kept the former House speaker’s White House campaign afloat at critical junctures just before the South Carolina and Florida primaries.
Bain Capital executives and Romney friends have lined the bank accounts of the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future. Former Bain executive Edward Conrad donated $1 million last spring and Marriott International Inc. CEO J.W. Marriott Jr. gave the group $500,000, seed money spent to successfully hammer Gingrich in Iowa late last year as he started to rise.
Hawaii-based Marine pleads guilty to assault in hazing case, gets 30 days in jail, lower rank
KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (AP) — A Hawaii-based Marine lance corporal accused of hazing in Afghanistan is going to jail for 30 days and will have his rank reduced to private first class for punching and kicking a fellow Marine who killed himself shortly afterward.
Navy Capt. Carrie Stephens, the judge in Lance Cpl. Jacob Jacoby’s special court-martial, handed down the sentence after Jacoby, 21, pleaded guilty to assault.
The Marine admitted he punched and kicked Lance Cpl. Harry Lew of Santa Clara, Calif. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors withdrew charges that Jacoby humiliated and threatened Lew.
Stephens said she found no evidence that Jacoby’s abuse of Lew caused Lew to kill himself, and she didn’t take the suicide into account when determining the sentence.
Two other Marines have also been accused of hazing Lew and face courts-martial.
Officials trying to learn what happened at Illinois reactor that shut down amid power failure
CHICAGO (AP) — Officials are investigating the events surrounding a power failure at a nuclear reactor in northern Illinois, where steam was vented to reduce pressure after it shut down.
After the shut down Monday morning at Exelon Nuclear’s Byron Generating Station, operators began releasing steam to cool the reactor from the part of the plant where turbines are producing electricity, not from within the nuclear reactor itself, officials said. The steam contains low levels of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, but federal and plant officials insisted the levels were safe for workers and the public.
Diesel generators were supplying the reactor with electricity, though it hasn’t been generating power during the investigation into what happened. One question is why smoke was seen from an onsite station transformer, though no evidence of a fire was found when the plant’s fire brigade responded, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng said.
Exelon Nuclear officials believe a failed piece of equipment at a switchyard at the plant about 95 miles northwest of Chicago caused the shutdown, but they were still investigating an exact cause. The switchyard is similar to a large substation that delivers power to the plant from the electrical grid and from the plant to the electrical grid.
The commission declared the incident an “unusual event,” the lowest of four levels of emergency. Commission officials also said the release of tritium was expected.
Splitting Great Lakes, Mississippi may cost up to $9.5 billion, but report says it’s worth it
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Groups representing states and cities in the Great Lakes region on Tuesday proposed spending up to $9.5 billion on a massive engineering project to separate the lakes from the Mississippi River watershed in the Chicago area, describing it as the only sure way to protect both aquatic systems from invasions by destructive species such as Asian carp.
The organizations issued a report suggesting three alternatives for severing an artificial link between the two drainage basins that was constructed more than a century ago. Scientists say it has already provided a pathway for exotic species and is the likeliest route through which menacing carp could reach the lakes, where they could destabilize food webs and threaten a valuable fishing industry.
“We simply can’t afford to risk that,” said Tim Eder, executive director of the Great Lakes Commission, which sponsored the study with the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. “The Great Lakes have suffered immensely because of invasive species. We have to put a stop to this.”
The report’s release is sure to ramp up pressure on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is conducting its own study of how to close off 18 potential pathways between the two systems, including the Chicago waterways. The corps plans to release its findings in late 2015, a timetable it says is necessary because of the job’s complexity and regulatory requirements. A pending federal lawsuit by five states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania — demands quicker action.
“This study shows that hydrological separation is both technically and economically feasible,” said Rep. Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican.
A loss in Florida would challenge Gingrich to engineer yet another comeback in GOP race
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Can Newt Gingrich come back a third time?
If he loses Tuesday in Florida’s primary — polls predict he will —Gingrich will spend the next month trying to prove the answer is yes.
“We were dead in June and July . but we came roaring back and we will again,” Gingrich said at a rally Monday in Tampa.
Still, the former House speaker, who has pledged to fight on until the GOP convention this summer, faces a tough road out of Florida. He plunges next into a scattershot series of state contests where he has little organization and must overcome steep odds to win.
Gingrich was hoping to ride a wave of enthusiasm to a win in Florida and beyond, stoked by his decisive victory in South Carolina. But unless he pulls off an upset win Tuesday, he will have squandered that momentum heading into states that look favorable for leading rival Mitt Romney.
Landowners fight pipeline co.’s eminent domain land grab in Pa.’s Marcellus Shale gas field
LAPORTE, Pa. (AP) — When federal regulators approved a 39-mile natural gas pipeline through northern Pennsylvania’s pristine Endless Mountains, they cited the operator’s assurances that it would make sparing use of eminent domain as it negotiated with more than 150 property owners along the pipeline’s route.
Yet a few days after winning approval for its $250 million MARC 1 pipeline in the heart of the giant Marcellus Shale gas field, the company began condemnation proceedings against nearly half of the landowners — undercutting part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval rationale and angering landowners.
Some of the landowners are now fighting the company in court, complaining that Central New York Oil and Gas Company LLC steamrolled them by refusing to negotiate in good faith on monetary compensation and the pipeline’s location. Their attorneys say CNYOG has skirted Pennsylvania’s eminent domain rules.
The company, a subsidiary of Inergy LP of Kansas City, Mo., insists it’s trying to reach a “fair settlement” with all property owners and wants to be a good neighbor.
The dispute could foreshadow eminent domain battles to come as more pipelines are approved and built to carry shale gas to market in states like Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio.
China’s state TV making huge global expansion, but political fetters remain
BEIJING (AP) — The killing of a South Korean coast guard officer by a Chinese fisherman should have been tailor-made for China’s CCTV News as it embarks on an ambitious plan to become a global network with assertive international coverage.
Instead, according to CCTV employees, the story languished for hours as editors awaited political guidance from above, while would-be competitors such as Qatar’s Al-Jazeera reported extensively on December’s attack.
In charting its growth, CCTV is closely studying other models, especially Al-Jazeera, which rolled out a global English language 24-hour news network five years ago and quickly made a name for itself.
Qatar’s government bankrolled the station as part of its ambitions to parley its massive energy wealth into international influence, much as China is seeking global media stature behooving its booming economy, which now ranks second largest in the world behind the U.S.
But while Al-Jazeera’s access and deep knowledge of the Middle East — and a hands-off approach by its masters — have been its greatest assets, state-run CCTV’s emphatic allegiance to the authoritarian communist state and the party seem to be its biggest liability.
Giants vs. Patriots Super Bowl rematch 4 years in the making
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — That was then. This is now.
That’s what players on the Giants and Patriots are saying about their previous Super Bowl meeting, New York’s 17-14 stunner over the then-unbeaten Patriots four years ago.
To hear them talk, it has little or no relevance to Sunday’s matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Honestly, for us, that ’07 thing was kind of like us coming together as a football team,” defensive end Justin Tuck said Monday when the NFC champions arrived in Indy. “We just said we wanted to kill a dynasty, and that’s what they were. But now, we’ve been here before and we felt as though all that is secondary. We just want to come in here and have our mind focused on playing a great football game, and not really getting caught up in all the hoopla around the game.”
Or the hoopla still attached to the 2007 NFL championship. Replays of David Tyree’s incredible ball-against-helmet catch or Plaxico Burress’ winning TD reception in the final minute seem to be shown around the clock — along with the Giants sacking Tom Brady five times.