Thursday, December 6, 2012

Published:

Cost of US presidential race officially passed record $2 billion, finance statements show

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The 2012 presidential election broke the $2 billion milestone in its final weeks, becoming the most expensive in American political history, according to final federal finance reports released Thursday. The reports detailed a last-minute cascade of money from mega-donors and an onslaught of spending by the Obama and Romney campaigns and "super" political action committees.

The final campaign finance tallies filed with the Federal Election Commission included nearly $86 million in fundraising for the losing presidential candidate, Republican Mitt Romney, in the election's last weeks. That final burst brought the Romney campaign's total for the election to above $1 billion. Final fundraising and spending totals for President Barack Obama's victorious drive also topped $1 billion.

Surpassing the $2 billion mark was long expected after an election season dominated by the supercharged competitive pressures that both campaigns faced in mounting massive fundraising blitzes to stoke expensive media ad battles and ground wars. The Obama and Romney campaigns each mobilized competing squads of ultra-wealthy fundraisers, sought aid from free-spending allied super PACs and deployed multimillion-dollar media broadsides and armies of organizers.

The final thrust of fundraising included a massive late surge of $33 million in donations to pro-Romney political committees from a single billionaire, Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson. In all, Adelson and his wife, Miriam, gave Romney and other Republican candidates $95 million during the election season, closing in on the gambling magnate's vow to give $100 million to GOP causes.

The new campaign finance filings covered the final few weeks of the race, when campaign organizations for Romney and Obama, along with a slew of super PACs, raised and spent millions toward the long-expected $2 billion milestone.

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Egypt's president offers nothing to defuse political crisis after 6 die in clashes

CAIRO (AP) -- An angry Mohammed Morsi refused Thursday to call off a referendum on a disputed constitution that has sparked Egypt's worst political crisis in two years, drawing chants of "topple the regime!" from protesters who waved their shoes in contempt.

The Egyptian president's uncompromising stand came a night after thousands of his supporters and opponents fought pitched battles outside his Cairo palace, leaving at least six dead and 700 injured.

Speaking in a nationally televised address, Morsi accused some in the opposition of serving remnants of Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian regime and vowed he would never tolerate anyone working for the overthrow of his "legitimate" government.

That brought shouts of "the people want to topple the regime!" from the crowd of 30,000 Morsi opponents -- the same chant used in the protests that brought down Mubarak.

Morsi also invited the opposition to a "comprehensive and productive" dialogue starting Saturday at his presidential palace, but gave no sign that he might offer any meaningful concessions.

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10 Things to Know for Friday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and stories that will be talked about Friday:

1. EGYPT'S PRESIDENT DIGS IN HIS HEELS

Morsi takes an uncompromising stand in a nationally televised address, while protesters plan another big rally Friday in Tahrir Square.

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Raising Medicare age saves money for taxpayers but could lead to higher premiums for seniors

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans are living longer, and Republicans want to raise the Medicare eligibility age as part of any deal to reduce the government's huge deficits.

But what sounds like a prudent sacrifice for an aging society that must watch its budget could have some surprising consequences, including higher premiums for people on Medicare.

Unlike tax hikes, which spawn hard partisan divisions, increasing the Medicare age could help ease a budget compromise because President Barack Obama has previously been willing to consider it. A worried AARP, the seniors' lobby, is already running ads knocking down the idea as a quick fix that would cause long-term problems. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., doesn't like it either.

But for Republicans seeking more than just tweaks to benefit programs, raising the current eligibility age of 65 has become a top priority, a symbol of their drive to rein in government. If Obama and the GOP can't agree soon on a budget outline, it may trigger tax increases and spending cuts that would threaten a fragile economic recovery.

Increasing the eligibility age to 67 would reduce Medicare spending by about 5 percent annually, compounding into hundreds of billions of dollars over time. But things aren't that simple.

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Mich. lawmakers pass right-to-work legislation; police pepper-spray protesters inside Capitol

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Republicans slammed right-to-work legislation through the Michigan House and Senate Thursday, drawing raucous protests from throngs of stunned union supporters, whose outnumbered Democratic allies were powerless to stop it.

Just hours after they were introduced, both chambers approved measures prohibiting private unions from requiring that nonunion employees pay fees. The Senate quickly followed by voting to impose the same requirement on most public unions.

Although rumors had circulated for weeks that right-to-work measures might surface during the session's waning days, the speed with which the GOP-dominated Legislature acted Thursday caught many onlookers by surprise. Details of the bills weren't made publicly available until they were read aloud on both floors as debate began.

The chaos drew raucous protests from hundreds of union supporters, some of whom were pepper-sprayed by police when they tried to storm the Senate chamber.

Because of rules requiring a five-day delay between votes in the two chambers on the same legislation, final enactment could not take place until Tuesday at the earliest. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who previously had said repeatedly that right-to-work was "not on my agenda," told reporters Thursday he would sign the measures.

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Towns washed away by deadly Philippine typhoon are filled with both resources and risk

NEW BATAAN, Philippines (AP) -- The Philippine government's geological hazard maps show why this farming community was largely washed away by a strong typhoon: "highly susceptible to flooding and landslides." That didn't stop some villagers from rebuilding even with bodies still lying under the mud.

Most of the about 420 people confirmed dead from Typhoon Bopha were killed in the steep valley that includes New Bataan, a town crisscrossed by rivers and cleared from lush hillsides by banana, coconut, cocoa and mango farmers in 1968. Flooding was so widespread here that places people thought were safe, including two emergency shelters, became among the deadliest.

In the impoverished Philippines, the jobless risk life and limb to feed their families and the government can do little beyond warning of the danger.

"It's not only an environmental issue, it's also a poverty issue," said Environment Secretary Ramon Paje. "The people would say, 'We are better off here. At least we have food to eat or money to buy food, even if it is risky.'

"But somehow we would like to protect their lives and if possible give them other sources of livelihood so that we can take them out of these permanent danger zones," Paje said.

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DeMint, tea party instigator and unapologetic conservative, resigning his Carolina Senate seat

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Jim DeMint, patron saint of the tea party and a would-be Republican kingmaker, announced suddenly Thursday he would resign his South Carolina seat to head Washington's conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, a shift that reverberated through a soul-searching GOP.

Just two years into a second, six-year term, DeMint said he would step down on Jan. 1 to helm Heritage while continuing the conservative fight. The 61-year-old lawmaker, known to hurry home to South Carolina nearly every weekend, had signaled that this term would be his last, but his abrupt announcement shocked even his closest Republican colleagues.

"When he told me this morning, I about fell off my couch," said South Carolina's other senator, Republican Lindsey Graham. "I didn't see this coming."

Prizing ideology over electability, DeMint sometimes infuriated fellow Republicans, picking sides in GOP primaries with decidedly mixed results. He had no patience for centrist Republicans, pushing the party to the right while bankrolling candidates with millions from his political action committee, the Senate Conservatives Fund.

In 2010, candidates he ardently supported cost the GOP eminently winnable seats. This year, DeMint had better success.

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Wash. State legalizes marijuana - questions and answers

SEATTLE (AP) -- Marijuana became legal under Washington state law Thursday. So, bong hits and funny brownies for everybody?

Not quite. Pot legalization in the Evergreen State has raised many questions, some that likely won't be answered for a while. Here's a quick primer:

WHO CAN USE MARIJUANA?

Adults over the age of 21 can possess up to an ounce.

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Official: Evidence indicates bodies in wildlife area are 2 Iowa cousins; autopsies pending

EVANSDALE, Iowa (AP) -- Northeast Iowa residents who have been holding out hope that two young cousins missing for five months might be home for Christmas were grappling Thursday with the news that hunters likely found the girls' bodies.

Autopsies by the state medical examiner's office were still under way, but the remains are believed to be those of Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins, who were 10 and 8 when they did not come back from riding their bikes July 13, Black Hawk County sheriff's Capt. Rick Abben said.

The girls' families were stunned by the news that two bodies were found, family friend Sara Curl, who has organized community events to support the families, said Thursday night.

"To be honest we have been trying to keep the positivity going so much this 100 percent blindsided us and it absolutely did them as well," she said. "I don't think that when they were called down there yesterday that they expected to hear the news that they did. so it's really going to take some time to process."

Curl helped organize a vigil for the families Thursday night around a Christmas tree decorated to honor the girls, hoping they would be home for the holiday.

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Peyton Manning paces Broncos to 26-7 lead over Raiders after 3 quarters

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Peyton Manning threw for 297 yards and a touchdown, Knowshon Moreno ran for 60 yards and another score and the Denver Broncos led the Oakland Raiders 26-7 after three quarters Thursday night.

Manning completed 24 of 33 passes to join Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks with 5,000 career completions. Manning reached the milestone in 239 games, while Favre took 221.

Matt Prater also kicked field goals of 43, 34, 33 and 20 yards as the Broncos built a commanding lead over their AFC West rival. Denver (9-3) was going for its eighth straight victory, while the Raiders (3-9) were looking to avoid a sixth straight loss.

Carson Palmer completed 14 of 22 passes for 167 yards, including a short touchdown throw to Darren McFadden for Oakland's only score. Palmer also threw an interception to Champ Bailey and fumbled at his own goal line, leading to 10 points for the Broncos.

Denver converted three straight third downs on its opening drive and took command from the start.