Nation briefly |

Nation briefly

Big-game hunt: Lions and tigers shot to death in Ohio after owner frees them, kills himself

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) – Sheriff’s deputies shot nearly 50 wild animals – including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions – in a big-game hunt across the Ohio countryside Wednesday after the owner of an exotic-animal park threw their cages open and committed suicide in what appeared to be one last act of spite against his neighbors and police.

As homeowners nervously hid indoors, officers equipped with high-powered rifles and shoot-to-kill orders spread out through fields and woods to hunt down about 56 animals that had been set loose from the Muskingum County Animal Farm by its owner, Terry Thompson, before he shot himself to death Tuesday.

After an all-night hunt that extended into Wednesday afternoon, 48 animals had been killed and six captured alive and taken to the Columbus Zoo, authorities said. The only animals believed still on the loose were a wolf and a monkey.

Those destroyed included six black bears, two grizzlies, a baboon and three mountain lions.

Jack Hanna, TV personality and former director of the Columbus Zoo, defended the sheriff’s decision to kill the animals, but said the deaths of the Bengal tigers were especially tragic. There are only about 1,400 of the endangered cats left in the world, he said.

AP-GfK Poll: Many are open to ousting Obama, but no Republican has pulled away from the field

WASHINGTON (AP) – Americans have yet to find a Republican they’d clearly prefer over President Barack Obama, although half say the president does not deserve re-election.

Among Republicans, the desire to oust Obama is clear, according to a new AP-GfK poll. But it has not resolved divisions over the choice of a nominee. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is reasonably popular, but he has not pulled away from the field.

Former pizza company executive Herman Cain runs close to Romney as the candidate Republicans would most like to see on the ballot, but many Republicans are reluctant to back a man who has never held office. Texas Gov. Rick Perry lags in the poll, which was conducted before Tuesday night’s combative debate in Las Vegas.

In that two-hour forum, several candidates sharply criticized Cain’s tax proposals, and a newly energized Perry hit Romney hard on immigration.

In the poll, Romney was the choice of 30 percent of Republicans, with Cain about even at 26 percent. Perry was preferred by 13 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas topped the list of those in single digits.

On final day of bus tour, Obama teams up with first lady to push aid for veterans

NORTH CHESTERFIELD, Va. (AP) – President Barack Obama teamed up with his popular and personable wife Wednesday on the final leg of a three-day bus trip, seeking to use her broad appeal to rally support for elements of his jobs bill and his re-election campaign.

Michelle Obama’s appearance on her husband’s driving tour through North Carolina and Virginia, two politically important Southern states, comes as she takes a more active role in the 2012 campaign.

Her stated purpose Wednesday was to help the president announce a commitment from several companies to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. The first lady has been leading a national campaign to rally the country around veterans.

But Mrs. Obama is also a not-so-secret weapon for the White House and the Obama presidential campaign. While her husband’s approval ratings have fallen to the mid- to low 40s, the first lady’s poll numbers remain high.

And the president, who can sometimes come off as professorial, is clearly more at ease when his wife is by his side.

As primaries near, the Republican presidential contest is getting personal – and a bit nasty

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Talk about nasty. The bitter, face-to-face sniping at this week’s Republican debate was just a prelude to the coming weeks as Mitt Romney’s rivals seek to tear him down before the leadoff Iowa caucuses.

Increasingly on the defensive, Romney is being hammered on old issues – like an accusation of hiring illegal immigrants to work on his yard – and is creating new openings for everyone from Rick Perry to President Barack Obama.

“You won’t hear a lot of shape-shifting nuance from me,” Perry told Republicans gathered in Las Vegas on Wednesday, hitting Romney anew the day after the two sparred onstage during a debate. “I’m going to give the American people a huge, big old helping of unbridled truth.”

The target was Romney, who over the years has reversed his positions on a series of issues that conservatives champion. And the sharper, more personal tone seems sure to shape the campaign in the next month as Perry looks to undercut the former Massachusetts governor’s standing at the head of the pack.

Obama’s team, too, wasted little time in going after Romney in personal terms.

Parliament gives initial approval to new austerity measures as violence grips Greece

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Hundreds of youths smashed and looted stores in central Athens and clashed with riot police during a massive anti-government rally against painful new austerity measures that won initial parliamentary approval in a vote Wednesay night.

The rioting came on the first day of a 48-hour nationwide general strike that brought services in much of Greece to a standstill, grounding flights for hours, leaving ferries tied up in port and shutting down customs offices, stores and banks.

More than 100,000 people took to the streets of the Greek capital to demonstrate against the austerity bill, which includes new tax hikes, further pension and salary cuts, the suspension on reduced pay of 30,000 public servants and the suspension of collective labor contracts.

Creditors have demanded the meaures before they give Greece more funds from a (euro) 110 billion ($152.11 billion) package of bailout loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. Greece says it will run out of money in mid-November without the (euro) 8 billion ($11 billion) installment.

But Greek citizens said they already are reeling from more than one-and-a-half years of austerity measures.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he wants to scrap current tax laws and impose a flat tax

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Working to distinguish himself from rival Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that he wants to scrap America’s current tax laws and impose a flat tax.

Perry told the Western Republican Leadership Conference he plans to explain the tax proposal when he unveils his broad economic plan in a speech next week.

He called the plan “an economic growth package that will create jobs, create growth and create investor confidence in America again.”

“It starts with scrapping the three million words of the current tax code, and starting over with something much simpler: a flat tax,” Perry said.

“I want to make the tax code so simple that even Timothy Geithner can file his taxes on time,” he joked, referring to the Treasury Secretary and his late payment of $34,000 in payroll taxes last decade.

Okla. judge temporarily blocks new law from taking effect that restricts use of abortion drugs

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – An Oklahoma judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked from taking effect a new law designed to reduce the number of abortions performed in the state by restricting the ways in which doctors can treat women with abortion-inducing drugs.

Oklahoma County District Judge Daniel Owens issued the ruling after a conference call with attorneys for both sides.

The temporary injunction prevents the bill from going into effect on Nov. 1. Passed earlier this year by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin, the measure requires doctors to follow the strict guidelines and protocols authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and prohibits off-label uses of the drugs. It also requires doctors to examine the women, document certain medical conditions and schedule follow-up appointments.

Opponents of the measure say the off-label use of drugs – such as changing a recommended dosage or prescribing it for different symptoms than the drug was initially approved for – is common, and that the measure would prevent doctors from using their best medical judgment.

“We’re thrilled that women in Oklahoma will continue to be able to access medical care that accounts for scientific evidence, sound medical judgment and advancements in medicine,” said Michelle Movahed, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which challenged the law on behalf of Nova Health Systems, a Tulsa-based abortion provider, and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, a nonprofit abortion-rights group.

2 more teens under protection in Pa. basement case; Va. police investigated related ’08 death

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Philadelphia police took two more children into protective custody Wednesday, the latest step in an intense investigation of four people accused of locking disabled adults in a dank basement as part of a Social Security fraud scheme.

Meanwhile, police in Virginia confirmed they investigated the 2008 death of a woman living with the alleged ringleader, Linda Ann Weston, who cleared out of the Norfolk home hours after calling police about the death.

A Virginia death certificate said 39-year-old Maxine Lee died of meningitis but also suffered from a wasting disease.

In Philadelphia, police told reporters that a malnourished niece living with Weston had burn marks suggesting the 19-year-old was burned with a hot spoon and had pellet gun wounds.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before in a living person. It is just remarkable that she is alive,” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said of Beatrice Weston.

Lindsay Lohan taken into custody after judge in Los Angeles revokes her probation

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Lindsay Lohan sported a new accessory Wednesday after a judge revoked her probation: Handcuffs. The actress was taken into custody and escorted from a hearing after Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner revoked her probation because she was ousted from a community service assignment at a women’s shelter.

“There has been violation after violation,” Sautner said.

Bail was set at $100,000, and Lohan’s spokesman Steve Honig said it was immediately posted. It was unclear, however, if Lohan had been released.

“We’re dealing with someone on probation,” said Lohan’s attorney, Shawn Holley. “Most people on probation don’t always do things perfectly.”

A city prosecutor recommended jail time, but Sautner set a Nov. 2 hearing to decide whether Lohan should serve another stint behind bars, where she has been sent four previous times only to be released early due to jail overcrowding.

What about that green blob? Forecasters deal with World Series pressure – the barometric kind

ST. LOUIS (AP) – Nolan Ryan kept tracking the storm, aware the radar showed green blobs moving closer and closer to Rangers Ballpark. Explaining the threat of rain, Big Tex sounded totally in his element.

“There’s a disturbance out in West Texas,” the Rangers president pointed out before a recent playoff game. “I’m not a meteorologist, but they’re talking about the south-to-north line.”

“So does it lose some of its energy?” he said. “I think there’s going to be some heat build-up showers, popup showers.”

Playfully, someone asked Ryan whether he could do that well in front of a map. Kind of like a real-live weatherman.

“You know, if this job doesn’t work out,” the CEO, president and part-owner of the Texas Rangers said, “maybe they could use somebody.”