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TOP HEADLINES: Obama presses for stability from Europe

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 | 8:31 p.m. CDT

Here are today's top stories from The Associated Press.

Obama presses for stability from Europe

LOS CABOS, Mexico — Needing an economic boost, President Barack Obama is trying to land assurances that Europe is closing in on a financial crisis response that will calm the markets and keep the continent's woes from undermining the world. As he presses European leaders to drum up economic demand, they want promises the United States won't plunge off a fiscal cliff by year's end.

Obama, as leader of the giant but struggling U.S. economy, remains central to the Group of 20 summit talks wrapping up Tuesday in this coastal resort region. But it is the European members gathered here, led by Germany and its chancellor, Angela Merkel, who carry both the power and responsibility to stabilize a euro zone reeling from debt, banking and political problems.

Obama was immersed in a second day of talks before meeting separately with Chinese President Hu Jintao and holding a news conference. He was to be back in Washington by the early hours of Wednesday, where a re-election campaign and a slumping U.S. jobs market await him.

The leaders gathered on the Mexican coast seemed intent on sending the right signals to jittery markets and unhappy electorates. Merkel told reporters Tuesday that the European leaders present made a unified statement that they were willing to tackle their problems.

"From the side of the European Union we argued unanimously and collectively that we are determined to solve the crisis, and to do it in a mix of fiscal consolidation, growth initiatives, and deepening of European cooperation," she said. "That reached very attentive ears here."

Tax boosts, spending cuts loom in January unless parties broker deal

WASHINGTON — A budget showdown for the ages could begin after this year's election and stretch well into 2013 — despite the threat that an impending half-trillion-dollar avalanche of tax increases and spending cuts might rekindle a national recession.

The reason: an unprecedented collision of high-stakes fiscal decisions, coming at a time of intense partisanship, a teetering economy, record federal deficits and, possibly, a new president.

Campaigning for the White House and Congress will make substantive action all but impossible before the elections. And agreement may be nearly as tough during a post-election, lame duck session in November and December, barring a European financial meltdown or Middle East oil supply crisis that demands an immediate response by lawmakers.

"I don't know how a Congress that can't agree on anything in two years is all of a sudden going to come together with the administration in the last 45 days of the year to solve the problem," said Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio.

No one can confidently predict the outcome of the battle over what many are calling the "fiscal cliff." Much depends on whether President Barack Obama defeats Republican challenger Mitt Romney in November and which party controls Congress.

CIA releases declassified documents from 9/11 file

WASHINGTON — In the months before the terrorist attacks of September 2001, the CIA unit dedicated to hunting Osama bin Laden complained it was running out of money, and analysts considered the likelihood of catching the terror leader to be extremely low, according to government records published Tuesday.

The declassified documents, dated between 1992 and 2004, are heavily blacked out and offer little new information about what the U.S. knew about the al-Qaida plot before 2001. Many of the files are cited in the 9/11 Commission Report, published in 2004. The commission determined the failure that led to 9/11 was a lack of imagination, and U.S. intelligence agencies did not connect the dots that could have prevented the attacks.

Though few new details are revealed in the documents, the files offer more historical context for the years surrounding the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.

The National Security Archive obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request and published them on its website Tuesday. The archive is a private group seeking transparency in government.

An April 2000 document from the CIA's bin Laden unit alluded to a budgetary cash crunch that was cutting into the agency's efforts to track the terror leader.

Romney stays mum on status of Rubio in vice presidential race

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney is staying mum on whether Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising star in Republican politics, has been cut from his short list of potential running mates.

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee told Fox News on Tuesday that "a number of people are being vetted," but that only two people — he and a senior adviser — know who's on the list.

"Even Ann doesn't know," Romney said of his wife. "We talk about the possible people that I might select. But in terms of actually who is being vetted, that is something only two people know. And Beth Myers doesn't talk."

The comments came amid reports by ABC News and The Washington Post that the charismatic Rubio isn't being vetted for vice president. The news distracted from Tuesday's release of Rubio's memoir and the final day of Romney's six-state bus tour, which ended in Michigan Tuesday.

The Florida Democratic Party pounced on the flap, blasting a message to reporters titled: "Rubio fails preliminary review in Veepstakes."

Issa wants documents; Holder wants end to contempt citation

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder wants a House panel to drop plans to try to hold him in contempt of Congress, and the panel's chairman wants more Justice Department documents regarding Operation Fast and Furious, a flawed gun-smuggling probe in Arizona.

Holder and Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, scheduled a private face-to-face meeting in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday in an effort to resolve their dispute over the investigation of Fast and Furious by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that Issa chairs. The committee was scheduled to vote Wednesday on a contempt citation against the attorney general for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents.

Holder has said he is prepared to turn over material detailing how the department arrived at the conclusion that federal agents engaged in a risky tactic called gun-walking. It resulted in hundreds of weapons purchased at gun shops in Arizona ending up in Mexico, many of them at crime scenes. Initially, the department denied that gun-walking had taken place.

Relying on the tactic, federal agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives abandoned their usual practice of intercepting all weapons they believed to be illicitly purchased. Instead, the goal of gun-walking was to track such weapons to high-level arms traffickers, who had long eluded prosecution, and to dismantle their networks.

Gun-walking has long been barred by Justice Department policy, but federal agents in Arizona experimented with it in at least two investigations during the George W. Bush administration before Fast and Furious. These experiments came as the department was under widespread criticism that the old policy of arresting every suspected low-level straw purchaser was still allowing tens of thousands of guns to reach Mexico. A straw purchaser is an illicit buyer of guns for others.

Authorities: Texas dad won't face charges in fatal beating

SHINER, Texas — A young Texas father who beat to death with his fists a man molesting his 5-year-old daughter will not be charged, authorities said Tuesday, as they released a dramatic 911 tape of the dad frantically pleading to send help before the man died.

A Lavaca County grand jury Tuesday declined to indict the 23-year-old father in the death of Jesus Mora Flores, 47, who was killed June 9 on a family ranch so remote that the father is heard profanely screaming at a dispatcher who couldn't locate the property.

"Come on! This guy is going to die on me!" the father yells in the 911 tape. "I don't know what to do."

Becoming increasingly frazzled, the father at one point tells the dispatcher he's going to put the man in his truck and drive him to a hospital before sheriff's deputies finally arrive.

The Associated Press is not identifying the father in order to protect the daughter's identity. The AP does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Southern Baptists elect first African-American president

NEW ORLEANS — The Southern Baptist Convention voted Tuesday to elect its first African-American president in one of its biggest steps yet to reconcile the 167-year-old denomination's troubled racial past and appeal to a more diverse group of believers.

The Rev. Fred Luter Jr. was unopposed in being elected by thousands of enthusiastic delegates on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the nation's largest Protestant denomination in his hometown of New Orleans.

Pastor David Crosby of First Baptist New Orleans nominated Luter, calling him a "fire-breathing, miracle-working pastor" who "would likely be a candidate for sainthood if he were Catholic."

Crosby recalled how Luter built the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church from a tiny congregation to a megachurch of nearly 8,000 before the buildings were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Members of Luter's mostly black church came to worship at Crosby's mostly white church, and the pastors worked together for 2 1/2 years as Luter rebuilt Franklin Avenue. Today, with a Sunday attendance of 5,000, Luter's church is once again the largest Southern Baptist church for attendance in the state.

Florida doctors remove spear from teen's skull

MIAMI — Doctors in Miami have successfully removed a spear accidentally shot through a teenager's skull during a spearfishing trip.

Yasser Lopez, 16, was in serious condition Tuesday at Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center.

The spear gun accidentally fired as it was being loaded. Lopez was hospitalized June 7 with three feet of the spear protruding from his forehead.

Doctors say the spear entered the teen's head two inches above his right eye and came out the back of his skull. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue tools were used to cut the spear so the teen could be X-rayed.

The rest of the spear was removed in a three-hour surgery. Doctors told reporters Monday that the spear missed all the main blood vessels in the brain. They said Lopez doesn't remember the accident.


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