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Nation & World briefly

Don’t slash military spending, GOP presidential contenders say, but US must cut budget deficit

WASHINGTON (AP) – Republican presidential hopefuls warned in near unanimity against deep cuts in the nation’s defense budget Tuesday night, assailing President Barack Obama in campaign debate but disagreeing over the extent of reductions the Pentagon should absorb to reduce deficits and repair the frail U.S. economy.

The debate ranged widely, from Iran’s threat to develop a nuclear weapon to the anti-terror Patriot Act, the war in Afghanistan, U.S-Pakistan relations and illegal immigrants who have entered the U.S. across the Mexican border. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said some should be allowed to stay, drawing fire from rivals Mitt Romney and Michele Bachman.

On defense spending, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney said nearly $1 trillion in cuts are on the horizon for the Pentagon over the next decade, noting that is the same as the costs for the nation’s new health care law. He blamed Obama for that, adding, “We need to protect America and protect our troops and our military and stop the idea of Obamacare.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was harshly critical of the magnitude of potential cuts saying the Obama administration’s Pentagon chief had called them irresponsible. “If Leon Panetta is an honorable man, he should resign in protest,” Perry said.

Neither Perry nor Romney specified if they support any cuts in the Pentagon’s accounts, but Gingrich and Jon Huntsman, one-time ambassador to China, both indicated the topic should be on the table as budget-cutters look for savings.

FACT CHECK: Hyperbole on terror interrogations and misfire on defense spending in GOP debate

WASHINGTON (AP) – Michele Bachmann did not intend to be taken literally when she told the Republican presidential debate Tuesday that civil-liberties activists have taken over the interrogation of terrorists from the CIA. But even as a rhetorical point, it didn’t hold water.

Her hyperbole on the American Civil Liberties Union was one of the more notable stretches in the national security and foreign policy debate. A look at some of the claims and how they compare with the facts:

BACHMANN: “This is one thing we know about Barack Obama: He has essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU. He’s outsourced it to them. Our CIA has no ability to have any form of interrogation for terrorists.”

THE FACTS: The CIA still has the ability to interrogate terrorists. President Obama formed the High Value Interrogation Group, which includes the FBI, the CIA and the Pentagon. It centralizes expertise so that when a terrorism suspect is caught, everyone with a stake in the issue is involved in the questioning. The CIA also can sit in on interrogations in other countries, asking questions directly or through officials of the host government.

Egypt’s military ruler offers concessions to protesters, who swiftly reject them

CAIRO (AP) – Egypt’s military ruler promised Tuesday to speed up a presidential election to the first half of 2012 and said the armed forces were prepared to hold a referendum on immediately shifting power to civilians – concessions swiftly rejected by tens of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square, who chanted, “Leave! Leave!”

The latest standoff plunged the country deeper into crisis less than a week before parliamentary elections, the first since the ouster nine months ago of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.

In a televised address to the nation, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi rejected all criticism of the military’s handling of the transitional period and sought to cast himself and the generals on the military council he heads as the nation’s foremost patriots. Significantly, he made no mention of the throngs of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square to demand that he step down immediately in favor of an interim civilian council.

Tantawi spoke as protesters fought army soldiers and police for a fourth day in streets leading to the iconic square that was the birthplace of Egypt’s uprising, particularly near the heavily fortified Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police. Nearly 30 people have been killed in the violence, mostly in Cairo, and at least 2,000 have been wounded.

“Our demands are clear,” said Khaled El-Sayed, a protester from the Youth Revolution Coalition and a candidate in the Nov. 28 parliamentary election. “We want the military council to step down and hand over authority to a national salvation government with full authority.”

Obama challenges GOP in New Hampshire: Keep your anti-tax pledges, extend payroll levy cuts

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – President Barack Obama dashed into politically important New Hampshire Tuesday, seeking to steal the spotlight from Republican presidential candidates and challenging GOP lawmakers back in Washington to stand by their anti-tax pledges on one big measure.

He was greeted with a blunt message from Republican contender Mitt Romney, who bought campaign ads telling Obama, “Your policies have failed.”

In his first trip to New Hampshire in nearly two years, the president was confronted by a state that has shifted sharply to the right since his victory here in the 2008 election. The state’s crucial independent voters sided solidly with Republicans in the 2010 midterms, and recent polls suggest Obama would lose to Romney by 10 percentage points here if the election were held today.

Seeking to boost his appeal with independents in this low-tax state, Obama urged Congress to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut due to expire next month. In effect, he dared Republicans – many of whom have signed anti-tax pledges – to vote against an extension, a move the White House says would lead to a $1,000 tax hike on a family making $50,000 a year.

If lawmakers vote “no, your taxes go up. Yes, you get a tax cut,” Obama told the crowd. “Which way do you think Congress should vote?”

Congress faces year-end deadline to preserve benefits for workers, long-term jobless, docs

WASHINGTON (AP) – Congress’ failed deficit-cutting supercommittee has faded away, but the pressure on lawmakers to quickly confront a stack of expensive economic issues is only growing.

Before leaving town for Christmas and New Year’s, lawmakers face decisions on whether to renew payroll tax cuts that have meant an average of nearly $1,000 for more than 120 million families this year. Congress also must determine whether to extend unemployment benefits for millions of long-term jobless Americans.

Without action, both expire Jan. 1.

Also on the list: Whether to prevent a 27 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors that occurs on New Year’s Day. And oh, yes – figuring out how to avoid an embarrassing mid-December government shutdown, something that has become a frequent exercise in today’s bitterly divided Congress.

Protecting the payroll tax cuts, jobless benefits and doctors’ payments could cost $200 billion or more. But faced with a limp economy, the huge federal debt, next year’s presidential and congressional elections, and the supercommittee’s finger-pointing, partisan breakdown, clashes over each are inevitable.

Former PSU discipline officer says football players got favorable treatment

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) – A former Penn State official charged with enforcing discipline at the school said Tuesday that Joe Paterno’s players got in trouble more often than other students, and got special treatment compared to non-athletes.

Vicky Triponey, who resigned her post as the university’s standards and conduct officer in 2007, confirmed that she sent a 2005 email to then-president Graham Spanier and others in which she expressed her concerns about how Penn State handled discipline cases involving football players. The Wall Street Journal published excerpts from the email on Tuesday.

Paterno “is insistent he knows best how to discipline his players … and their status as a student when they commit violations of our standards should NOT be our concern … and I think he was saying we should treat football players different from other students in this regard,” Triponey wrote in the Aug. 12, 2005, email.

“Coach Paterno would rather we NOT inform the public when a football player is found responsible for committing a serious violation of the law and/or our student code,” she wrote, “despite any moral or legal obligation to do so.”

The email surfaced as Penn State is reeling in the aftermath of criminal charges filed this month against Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach accused of molesting eight boys, some on campus, over a 15-year period.

Stay home, maybe skip the turkey: Economy means scaled-back Thanksgiving for many Americans

Some are holding potluck dinners instead of springing for the entire feast. Others are staying home rather than flying. And a few are skipping the turkey altogether.

On this the fourth Thanksgiving since the economy sank, prices for everything from airline flights to groceries are going up, and some Americans are scaling back. Yet in many households, the occasion is too important to skimp on. Said one mother: “I don’t have much to give, but I’ll be cooking, and the door will be open.”

Thanksgiving airfares are up 20 percent this year, and the average price of a gallon of gas has risen almost 20 percent, according to travel tracker AAA. Rail travelers were also affected, with fares on most one-way Amtrak tickets up 2 to 5 percent.

Still, about 42.5 million people are expected to travel, the highest number since the start of the recession.

But even those who choose to stay home and cook for themselves will probably spend more. A 16-pound turkey and all the trimmings will cost an average of $49.20, a 13 percent jump from last year, or about $5.73 more, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which says grocers have raised prices to keep pace with higher-priced commodities.

Texas Supreme Court suspends judge seen in Internet video beating daughter with belt in 2004

McALLEN, Texas (AP) – The Texas Supreme Court has suspended a judge whose beating of his then-teenage daughter in 2004 was viewed millions of times on the Internet.

According to an order signed Tuesday by the clerk of the state’s highest court, Aransas County court-at-law Judge William Adams is suspended immediately with pay pending the outcome of the inquiry started by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct earlier this month.

The order makes clear that while Adams agreed to the commission’s recommended temporary suspension and waived the hearing and notice requirements, he does not admit “guilt, fault or wrongdoing” regarding the allegations. His attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Adams’ now 23-year-old daughter Hillary Adams uploaded the 2004 video of her father beating her repeatedly with a belt.

J. R. Martinez tops Rob Kardashian in all-male ‘Dancing’ finale for mirrorball trophy

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Actor J. R. Martinez scored a come-from-behind victory over Rob Kardashian Tuesday to win the 13th edition of ABC’s hit competition “Dancing With the Stars.”

The Iraq war veteran hoisted the mirrorball trophy with his professional partner, Karina Smirnoff.

Host Tom Bergeron called Martinez an inspiration to the audience.

The all-male finale was set up halfway through the final show when talk show host Ricki Lake was voted off, finishing third. Judges’ scores combined with viewer votes determined the winner.

Judges didn’t provide much extra guidance during the final competition, a samba that the dancers had to perform with little preparation time. The three judges gave both teams perfect 30 scores for their final dances.

Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun wins the NL MVP, beating out the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp

NEW YORK (AP) – Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun won the NL Most Valuable Player Award on Tuesday after helping lead the Brewers to their first division title in nearly 30 years.

The left fielder received 20 of 32 first-place votes and 388 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

“I’m not going to pretend like I wasn’t anxious or nervous because I was,” said Braun, who was sitting on the balcony of his home in Malibu, Calif., when he received the call that he had won. “I was obviously thrilled, excited. It’s honestly difficult to put into words how much this means to me.

Los Angeles center fielder Matt Kemp, who came close to winning the Triple Crown, received 10 first-place votes and finished second with 332 points. Braun’s teammate Prince Fielder finished third with 229 points, and Arizona’s Justin Upton finished fourth with 214 points. Fielder and Upton each received one first-place vote.

St. Louis’ Albert Pujols finished fifth. It was the 11th straight year the three-time MVP was in the top 10 in balloting.