MANCHESTER, NH (AP) - Mitt Romney eagerly pocketed an endorsement from two-time New Hampshire primary winner John McCain on Wednesday and bid to convert a single-digit victory in Iowa into a Republican presidential campaign juggernaut. Unimpressed, Newt Gingrich ridiculed the former Massachusetts governor as a liberal turned moderate now masquerading as a conservative.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum sought to rally conservatives to his side after coming achingly close to victory in Iowa, saying he "hoped to surprise a few people just like we did" in the campaign's first contest.
"This is a wide-open race still," added former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who skipped the Iowa caucuses in hopes of making his mark in next Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary.
Romney is the odds-on favorite to win the New Hampshire primary, though, and it is unclear how much campaign cash any of his rivals has available to try to slow or even stop his momentum. Additionally, in a measure of his establishment support, the former governor announced he would campaign with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Thursday, as he was joined by McCain in New Hampshire.
"The time has arrived for Republicans to choose a presidential nominee, a new standard bearer who has the ability and determination to defeat President Obama," said McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, and a man with a demonstrated appeal to the state's independent voters.
Obama says he won't take 'no' for an answer; names consumer watchdog by recess appointment
SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) - Defying Republican lawmakers, President Barack Obama on Wednesday barreled by the Senate and installed a national consumer watchdog on his own, provoking GOP threats of a constitutional showdown in the courts. Setting a fierce tone in the election-year fight for middle-class voters, Obama said: "I refuse to take 'no' for an answer."
Obama named Richard Cordray, a respected former attorney general of Ohio, to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, after giving up on hopes for a confirmation vote in the Senate. The appointment means the agency is able to oversee a vast swath of lending companies and others accused at times of preying on consumers with shady practices.
In political terms, Obama's move was unapologetically brazen, the equivalent of a haymaker at Republicans in the Senate who had blocked his nominee. Acting right after Tuesday's presidential caucuses in Iowa, which showered attention on his opponents, Obama sought to make a splash as the one fighting for the rights of the little guy.
Presidents of both parties long have gotten around a stalled confirmation by naming a nominee to a job when the Senate is on a break through a process known as a recess appointment.
But Obama went further by squeezing in his appointment during a break between rapid Senate sessions this week, an unusual move that the GOP called an arrogant power grab.
Getting serious scrutiny after Iowa showing, Santorum on defense for past statements, votes
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - Facing fresh scrutiny after he nearly defeated Mitt Romney in Iowa's lead-off caucuses, Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum on Wednesday defended votes and statements that are earning him a second look for the wrong reasons.
Santorum, a former senator and House member, finished eight votes behind Romney in Iowa's contest and arrived here to questions about his support for home-state spending projects known as earmarks and for a recent comment about black people that has been criticized as being racially insensitive. He also sought to explain previous statements that likened same-sex relationships to bestiality.
"My Catholic faith teaches that it's actions that are the problems, not necessarily someone's feelings," Santorum said in a CNN interview. "One can have desires to do things that we believe are wrong, but it's when you act out on things, that's the problem."
Santorum, who spent much of the last year toiling as an also-ran in the polls, found a late surge in Iowa. He tapped into social conservatives' networks and visited every corner of the state.
An uphill climb greets Santorum in New Hampshire and South Carolina, where he is scrambling to piece together an organization. At the same time, he is explaining his resume to voters who are seeing it for the first time.
Gingrich campaigns in NH with a tougher tone in his criticism of Iowa winner Mitt Romney
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich pummeled front-running rival Mitt Romney as "a moderate Massachusetts Republican to the left of the vast majority" of their party, displaying a tough new tone in New Hampshire after a disappointing performance in Iowa's caucuses.
Gingrich launched a blistering attack on Romney in what is essentially the home turf of the former Massachusetts governor, who owns a house here.
The former House speaker said Romney had run a Senate race "to the left" of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and had transformed into a moderate to run for governor. What's more, Gingrich said, Romney was once an independent who repudiated Reagan-Bush policies and voted for "liberal" Paul Tsongas in his 1992 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
And Gingrich disputed the idea that Romney is the most electable candidate in the GOP field, arguing that three out of four Republicans rejected him in Iowa.
"The fact is, Gov. Romney has a very limited appeal in a conservative party," he said.
Police kill eighth-grader after he refuses to drop pellet gun that looked like real weapon
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Police shot and killed an eighth-grader in the hallway of his middle school Wednesday after the boy brandished what looked like a handgun and pointed it at officers. It turned out to be a pellet gun that closely resembled the real thing.
The 15-year-old "had plenty of opportunities to lower the gun and listen to the officers' orders, and he didn't want to," Interim Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez said.
Shortly before the confrontation, the boy had walked into a classroom and punched a random boy in the nose for no apparent reason. Police did not know why he pulled out the weapon.
"We think it looks like this was a way to bring attention to himself," the police chief said.
The boy, identified as Jaime Gonzalez, did not threaten students or teachers, and no one else was hurt.
Landslide kills 25 in southern Philippines; more than 100 believed still buried
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Philippine officials say a landslide in the southern Mindanao region has killed at least 25 people and that more than 100 others remain buried in the rubble.
Compostela Valley provincial Gov. Arturo Uy says the landslide hit a small-scale mining area in Pantukan township before dawn Thursday. The disaster occurred in a region where devastating flash floods triggered by a tropical storm killed more than 1,250 people last month.
Army Lt. Col. Camilo Ligayo says about 120 soldiers were heading to the area to help dig for survivors and bodies.
Uy says miners and their families had been warned of the high risks. Some residents in the area were forced to evacuate after a landslide killed about 20 people last April near the site of Thursday's slide.
German man charged with arson in New Year's weekend fires that terrorized Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A German man was charged Wednesday with 37 counts of arson in connection with a rash of fires that terrorized Los Angeles over the New Year's weekend.
Harry Burkhart, 24, was charged with 28 counts of arson of property and nine counts of arson of an inhabited structure, District Attorney Steve Cooley said.
The complaint alleged the arson was caused by the use of a device designed to accelerate the fire. Court documents revealed an incendiary device was placed under the engine area of cars.
More charges could be filed when Burkhart returns to court for arraignment on Jan. 24. He was ordered held on $2.85 million bail and could face several dozen years in prison if convicted.
"The amount of harm he did to the psyche of the citizens of these particular communities and all of Los Angeles County, I think it merits a life term," Cooley said.
Former Conn. advertising exec gets 70 years in prison for abducting ex-wife, burning down home
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A prominent former advertising executive declared that he has hired an "assassin" to kill his ex-wife just before being sentenced Wednesday to 70 years in prison for holding her hostage for more than 13 hours and burning down the Connecticut home they once shared.
Richard Shenkman, 62, was sentenced in Hartford Superior Court, where a jury convicted him in October of 10 charges including kidnapping, arson, assault and threatening. He faced a potential of nearly 80 years in prison.
Shenkman and his ex-wife, Nancy Tyler, were in the middle of divorce-related court hearings when he abducted her from her office's parking garage in downtown Hartford on July 7, 2009, and forced her at gunpoint to drive about nine miles to the home in South Windsor.
Authorities said Shenkman and Tyler were due in court for a divorce-related hearing later that morning, and he was supposed to turn over the house to her or face jail time for contempt of court.
Tyler testified that Shenkman threatened to kill her, fired a gun near her head and threatened to blow up the house. She escaped unharmed during a standoff with police, and he was arrested after running out of the burning house.
Zooey Deschanel files for divorce from Death Cab for Cutie frontman in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Zooey Deschanel has filed for divorce from her rocker husband of two years.
The actress filed for divorce in Los Angeles on Dec. 27 from Ben Gibbard, citing irreconcilable differences. The former couple announced they had broken up in November.
The 31-year-old actress stars in the Fox sitcom "New Girl" and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance. Gibbard is the lead singer of the rock band Death Cab for Cutie, which released the album "Codes and Keys" in May.
Deschanel and Gibbard were married in September 2009 and have no children together.
Deschanel's publicist has said that the couple's split was "amicable."
Northern Calif. scientists say parasitic fly could explain collapse of honey bee colonies
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - Northern California scientists say they have found a possible explanation for a honey bee die-off that has decimated hives around the world: A parasitic fly that hijacks the bees' bodies and causes them to abandon hives.
Scientists say the fly deposits its eggs into the bee's abdomen, causing the infected bee to exhibit zombie-like behavior by walking around in circles with no apparent sense of direction. The bee leaves the hive at night and dies shortly thereafter.
The symptoms mirror colony collapse disorder, in which all the adult honey bees in a colony suddenly disappear.
The disease is of great concern, because bees pollinate about a third of the United States' food supply. Its presence is especially alarming in California, the nation's top producer of fruits and vegetables, where bees play an essential role in the $2 billion almond industry and other crops.
The latest study, published Tuesday in the science journal PLoS ONE, points to the parasitic fly as the new threat to honey bees. It's another step in ongoing research to find the cause of the disease.