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WORLD NEWS IN BRIEF: Romney, Santorum seek votes in Puerto Rico

Sunday, March 18, 2012 | 6:10 p.m. CDT

Here are top national and world stories from The Associated Press.

Puerto Rico votes; Romney, Santorum campaign in Illinois, Louisiana

WASHINGTON — The GOP presidential race veered offshore to Puerto Rico, where 20 delegates were in stake in Sunday's primary but residents cannot vote in the general election.

While fighting for votes in the U.S. territory, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum already shifted their focus to upcoming primaries in Illinois and Louisiana. Front-runner Romney held a sizable edge in delegates, cash and campaign organization, but Santorum hoped for a drawn-out nomination fight through the summer that would deny Romney the clincher and set up a contested party convention in August.

"One of the great blessings I've had in every political campaign is people underestimate me, people underestimate what God can do," Santorum told a church audience in Louisiana.

Romney and Santorum criticized each other from afar as they looked ahead to Tuesday's primary in Illinois and Louisiana's contest on Saturday. GOP rivals Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul both remained in contention, too, but seemed overshadowed by the Romney-Santorum rivalry.

Many seem willing to cut Afghan shooting suspect some slack

He is accused of the kind of crime that makes people shiver, the killing of families in their own homes under cover of night, the butchery of defenseless children. Under normal circumstances, Americans would dismiss such an act as worthy of only one response: swift and merciless punishment.

Not so in the case of Robert Bales — at least, not for some Americans.

So far, many seem willing to believe that a 10-year U.S. military veteran, worn down by four tours of combat and perhaps suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, simply snapped. That somehow there must be, if not an excuse, at least an explanation.

Exactly what set off the Army sergeant accused of massacring 16 civilians in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province is far from clear. But already, organizations and individuals with differing agendas have portrayed Bales as the personification of something that is profoundly broken, and have seized on his case to question the war itself or to argue that the American government is asking too much of its soldiers.

Fate of health care law lies with GOP-appointed Supreme Court justices

WASHINGTON — Here's a thought that can't comfort President Barack Obama: The fate of his health care overhaul rests with four Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices.

His most sweeping domestic achievement could be struck down if they stand together with Justice Clarence Thomas, another GOP appointee who is the likeliest vote against.

The good news for Obama is that he probably needs only one of the four to side with him to win approval of the law's crucial centerpiece, the requirement that almost everyone in this country has insurance or pays a penalty.

Lawyers with opposing views of the issue uniformly agree that the four Democratic-appointed justices, including Obama's two picks, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, will have no trouble concluding that Congress did not overstep its authority in adopting the insurance requirement that is aimed at sharply reducing the now 50 million people without insurance.

On the other side, Thomas has made clear in several cases that he does not take an expansive view of Congress' powers.

Israeli officials agree with US that Iran hasn't decided on nuclear bomb

JERUSALEM — Despite saber-rattling from Jerusalem, Israeli officials now agree with the U.S. assessment that Tehran has not yet decided on the actual construction of a nuclear bomb, according to senior Israeli government and defense figures.

Even so, there is great concern in Israel about leaving Iran "on the cusp" of a bomb — explaining why Israel continues to hint at a military attack on Iran's nuclear installations before it moves enough of them underground to protect them from Israel's bombs.

Israel's leaders have been charging in no uncertain terms for years that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Though officials say they accept the more nuanced American view, they warn that it is just a matter of semantics, because an Iran on the verge of being able to build a bomb would still be a danger.

The United States is playing up its assessment that Iran has not made its final decision in a public campaign to persuade Israel to call off any attack plan and allow the increasingly harsh sanctions against Iran time to persuade Tehran to back down.

Check out the full story.

Yemen: More than 2,000 killed in yearlong turmoil

SANAA, Yemen — More than 2,000 people have been killed in a year of political turmoil that led to the resignation of Yemen's longtime president, the government disclosed Sunday. The figure is much higher than human rights groups estimated.

The government released its first casualty figures on a day when crowds of protesters were marking one year since a particularly bloody day, when dozens were killed.

Yemen's Ministry of Human Rights said the figure of at least 2,000 includes both unarmed protesters and military defectors, as well as more than 120 children. It also said 22,000 people were wounded over the past year.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International estimated earlier this year that 200 protesters had been killed in the uprising.

The government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down as president last month after more than three decades in power, never released casualty figures.

Occupy demonstrator says fellow protesters were beaten during arrests

NEW YORK — An Occupy Wall Street protester says police gave demonstrators little warning before kicking them out of a New York City park overnight and that officers beat several of them during the arrests.

The protester, Chris Casuccio, was at Manhattan's Zuccotti Park on Saturday, where demonstrators chanted and held impromptu meetings to mark the six months since the movement against economic inequality started.

Police moved in around 11:30 p.m. Detective Brian Sessa says the protesters were arrested after they started breaking the park rules against setting up tents.

Police say 73 people were detained. It was unclear how many were still in custody Sunday. Police say they have no information about whether protesters were beaten.

Workers were hosing down the park Sunday as a handful of protesters watched from outside metal police barricades.

'AP News Minute'

Here are today's top stories from The Associated Press, summarized in about a minute.


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