Cain rising in polls for GOP presidential nomination
ATLANTA (AP) - Reveling in the national spotlight, Herman Cain is pledging to bolster his fledgling White House campaign.
He'll need to - and quickly - if he has any hope of winning the Republican nomination. The unlikely presidential contender has little campaign organization in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states where voting begins in less than three months. And he hasn't done much else in those places to capitalize on his recent surge in polls.
"We are now going to ramp up," Cain promised this week.
By that he means executing what aides call a 50-state strategy - for a nomination contest that's determined state by state. It's a nontraditional path that other candidates have tried unsuccessfully. Cain's campaign, which can seem almost overwhelmed by the attention that comes with a big rise in polls, argues that competing in the early voting states, while important, is not the only way to win the party's nomination.
His aides note that Barack Obama's 2008 campaign fanned out across the country and was successful. But Obama competed vigorously in the early voting states, too.
Defense chief Panetta warns about cutting military too deeply
WASHINGTON (AP) - Defense leaders and members of Congress drew a line in the sand Thursday, saying the Pentagon must be spared from any budget cuts beyond an initial plan to slash at least $450 billion over the next 10 years.
The military, they said, must not take even deeper cuts - a looming threat if lawmakers fail to agree on $1.2 trillion in federal budget savings by Thanksgiving and instead allow automatic cuts to kick in.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said President Barack Obama shares his view that the Pentagon should be shielded from any additional budget cutting.
Appearing before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pounded home their message that further cuts would create national security risks and devastate the military.
"I don't say that as scare tactics, I don't say it as a threat, it's a reality," Panetta said. He said the initial $450 billion reduction will "take us to the edge" but any more than that would hollow out the force and "badly damage our capabilities for the future."
Obama: Iranian officials must be held accountable for the assassination plot
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama said Thursday that officials at the "highest levels" of the Iranian government must be held accountable for a brazen and bizarre plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States on American soil, insisting leaders of the world will believe the U.S. case without dispute once they absorb the details.
U.S. officials, meanwhile, confirmed the Obama administration has had direct contact with Iran over the allegations. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, met with Iranian officials at Iran's mission to the U.N. on Wednesday - a highly unusual contact for two countries that do not have diplomatic relations.
Obama would not say whether Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, knew of the alleged plan. Yet he called it part of a pattern of "dangerous and reckless behavior" by the Iranian government and said people within that government were aware of a murder-for-hire plot.
The U.S. considers it an attempted act of terrorism.
"We believe that even if at the highest levels there was not detailed operational knowledge, there has to be accountability with respect to anybody in the Iranian government engaging in this kind of activity," Obama said in a news conference tied to the state visit of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
Researchers may have found earliest artist's studio
WASHINGTON (AP) - Researchers in South Africa have discovered what may have been the world's earliest artist's studio. A 100,000-year-old workshop used to mix and store the reddish pigment ochre has been discovered in Blombos Cave on the rugged southern coast near Cape Town. At the same site, scientists have found some of the earliest sharp stone tools, as well as evidence of fishing.
The latest find is reported in Friday's edition of the journal Science. It includes pieces of ochre, grinding bowls, shells for storage and bone and charcoal to mix with the pigment.
Lead researcher Christopher Henshilwood of the University of Bergen, Norway, said the find represents an important benchmark in the evolution of complex human mental processes.
The ochre could have been used for painting, decoration and skin protection, according to the researchers.
The discovery shows that even at that time "humans had the conceptual ability to source, combine and store substances that were then possibly used to enhance their social practices."
Hedge fund exec gets 11 years for insider trading; 'a virus in our business culture'
NEW YORK (AP) - Raj Rajaratnam, the hedge fund billionaire at the center of the biggest insider-trading case in U.S. history, was sentenced Thursday to 11 years behind bars - the stiffest punishment ever handed out for the crime.
"His crimes and the scope of his crimes reflect a virus in our business culture that needs to be eradicated," U.S. District Judge Richard J. Holwell said. "Simple justice requires a lengthy sentence."
The 54-year-old founder of the Galleon Group hedge fund was also fined $10 million and ordered to forfeit $53.8 million in what the judge said were illicit profits from trading on confidential corporate information.
Prosecutors said Rajaratnam made as much as $75 million in all by cultivating a network of friends, former classmates and other tipsters at various companies and investment firms who supplied him with early word on such things as mergers and earnings announcements. In return, they received kickbacks or a chance to get in on the action.
Among the companies he profited from were Google, IBM, Hilton Hotels, Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and Goldman Sachs.
Boehner, Obama talk jobs as Senate GOP offers jobs bill advocating tax overhaul
WASHINGTON (AP) - House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama talked about jobs legislation Thursday in a 10-minute phone call today, the Ohio Republican's office said.
Boehner told Obama that Republicans are willing to address new transportation and infrastructure spending but "in a fiscally responsible way."
The Boehner-Obama conversation took place as Senate Republicans introduced legislation aimed at creating jobs by overhauling the nation's tax laws, cutting business rules and boosting offshore oil exploration.
The GOP bill is called the "Jobs Through Growth Act" and doesn't include a single item in President Barack Obama's jobs legislation, which Senate Republicans killed in a Tuesday night vote.
"They believe that government and spending creates jobs," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "We believe business and growth creates jobs."