Nation & world briefly Dec. 18
Gingrich tries to fend off rivals’ attacks
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Newt Gingrich tried to quiet unrelenting campaign criticism that he acknowledged had taken a toll as
Mitt Romney stepped up insider attacks Saturday in hopes of regaining front-runner status with the first presidential vote little more than two weeks away.
Gingrich, the former House speaker enjoying a late surge in the polls, pledged to correct what he said were his rivals’ inaccurate claims about him. Romney, the ex-Massachusetts governor looking for a rebound, portrayed Gingrich as a well-heeled lobbyist since his service in Congress and predicted that conservative voters will reject Gingrich as they learn more about his lengthy Washington record.
“I’m going to let the lawyers decide what is and what is not lobbying, but when it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, typically it’s a duck,” Romney said.
With the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3 up for grabs, most candidates are redoubling their efforts heading into the holidays, when voters generally tune out the race.
Gingrich is their prime target. Last week alone, anti-Gingrich ads from a Romney ally outspent Gingrich by an 8-to-1 margin on television.
About 50 protesters arrested in N.Y.
NEW YORK (AP) – Dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested Saturday after they scaled a chain-link fence or crawled under it to get to an Episcopal church-owned lot they want to use for a new camp site.
Protesters used a wooden ladder to scale the fence or lifted it from below while others cheered them on. A man wearing a Santa suit stood on the ladder among others, as they ignored red “Private Property” signs.
As officers made arrests, protesters shouted obscenities and hollered: “Make them catch you!” The group was inside the lot for a short time before being led out by police in single file through a space in the fence. About 50 people were arrested, police said.
“We’re just trying to say that this country has gone in the wrong direction, and we need spaces that we can control and we can decide our future in, and that’s what this is about,” said David Suker, who was among those who scaled the fence.
Before the arrests, several hundred gathered in Duarte Square, a half-acre wedge of a park at the edge of Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood and across the street from the vacant lot. They gathered partly to mark the three-month anniversary of the Occupy movement and partly to demand use of the lot, owned by Trinity Church.
Pentagon chief reassures Libyans
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) – U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said “the torch of freedom” has passed to the Libyan people and he pledged during a historic visit Saturday to Tripoli that the United States will do all it can to help the country move toward democracy.
But he and his Libyan hosts acknowledged the threat of Islamic militants gaining ground in this period of political uncertainty following the ouster and death of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Sexual orientation cited in leak case
FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) – The young Army intelligence specialist accused of passing government secrets spent his 24th birthday in court Saturday as his lawyers argued his status as a gay soldier before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” played an important role in his actions.
Lawyers for Pfc. Bradley Manning began laying out a defense to show that his struggles as a gay soldier in an environment hostile to homosexuality contributed to mental and emotional problems that should have barred him from having access to sensitive material.
Manning is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive items to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, including Iraq and Afghanistan war logs.