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TOP HEADLINES: Romney tells NAACP he'd be better for blacks than Obama

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 | 7:24 p.m. CDT; updated 7:55 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 11, 2012

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

Romney tells NAACP he'd be better for blacks than Obama

HOUSTON — Unflinching before a skeptical NAACP crowd, Mitt Romney declared Wednesday he'd do more for African-Americans than Barack Obama, the nation's first black president. He drew jeers when he lambasted the Democrat's policies.

"If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him," Romney told the group's annual convention. Pausing as some in the crowd heckled, he added, "You take a look!"

"For real?" yelled someone in the crowd.

The reception was occasionally rocky though generally polite as the Republican presidential candidate sought to woo a Democratic bloc that voted heavily for Obama four years ago and is certain to do so again. Romney was booed when he vowed to repeal "Obamacare" — the Democrat's signature health care measure — and the crowd interrupted him when he accused Obama of failing to spark a more robust economic recovery.

"I know the president has said he will do those things. But he has not. He cannot. He will not," Romney said as the crowd's murmurs turned to groans.

GOP-controlled House votes to repeal Obama health law

WASHINGTON — Pressing an election-year point, Republicans pushed yet another bill through the House on Wednesday to repeal the nation's 2-year-old health care law, a maneuver that forced Democrats to choose between President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement and a public that is persistently skeptical of its value.

The vote was 244-185, with five Democrats siding with Republicans.

By Republican count, the vote marked the 33rd time in 18 months that the tea party-infused GOP majority has tried to eliminate, defund or otherwise scale back the program since the GOP took control of the House.

Repeal this year by Congress is doomed, since the Democratic-controlled Senate will never agree.

But Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam said before joining other Republicans in Wednesday's House vote: "Here's the good news. The voters get the last word in November. Stay tuned."

Syrian opposition figure says Syrian ambassador to Iraq has defected

ISTANBUL — The Syrian ambassador to Iraq has defected and is on his way to Turkey, the most senior diplomat to abandon President Bashar Assad during the 16-month-old uprising, a Syrian opposition figure said Wednesday.

Nawaf Fares, a former provincial governor, would be the second prominent Syrian to break with the regime in less than a week. Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, an Assad confidant and son of a former defense minister, fled Syria last week, buoying Western powers and anti-regime activists, who expressed hope that other high-ranking defections would follow.

Appointed to the Baghdad post four years ago, Fares was the first Syrian ambassador to Iraq in 26 years. Like Tlass, he is a member of the privileged Sunni elite in a regime dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect.

"It's certain. Fares has defected. He declared his defection. ... He's moving toward Turkey," said Khaled Khoja, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council who is based in Istanbul. Asked for details, Khoja said the information came from his own sources on the ground in Iraq.

There was no immediate confirmation from either Iraq or Syria. An operator who answered the phone at the Syrian Embassy in Baghdad said there was nobody at the embassy. When asked if the ambassador is currently in Iraq, the operator said he did not know.

Clinton makes historic visit to Laos as US looks to expand its influence

VIENTIANE, Laos — Decades after the U.S. gave Laos a horrific distinction as the world's most heavily bombed nation per person, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged Wednesday to help get rid of millions of unexploded bombs that still pockmark the impoverished country — and still kill.

The U.S. dropped more than 2 million tons of bombs on the North Vietnamese ally during its "secret war" between 1964 and 1973 — about a ton of ordnance for each Laotian man, woman and child. That exceeded the amount per person dropped on Germany and Japan together in World War II.

Four decades later, American weapons are still claiming lives. When the war ended, about a third of some 270 million cluster bombs dropped on Laos had failed to detonate. More than 20,000 people have been killed in Laos since then by ordnance, according to its government, and agricultural development has been stymied.

Clinton, gauging whether a nation the U.S. pummeled in wartime can evolve into a new foothold of American influence in Asia, met with the prime minister and foreign minister, part of a weeklong diplomatic tour of Southeast Asia. The goal is to bolster America's standing in some of the fastest growing markets of the world, and counter China's expanding economic, diplomatic and military dominance of the region.

Clinton said she and Laotian leaders "traced the arc of our relationship from addressing the tragic legacies of the past to finding a way to being partners of the future."

Muslim Bosnians bury 520 newly identified massacre victims

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — The pain that seared Srebrenica 17 years ago burned fresh Wednesday as tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims came to bury their dead in the town whose name is now synonymous with genocide.

In a ceremony broadcast live on television across the country, 520 coffins were placed in the ground as tears flowed like water from family and friends.

On the anniversary of Europe's worst massacre since World War II, 30,000 Muslims traveled to a memorial center in Srebrenica to honor the thousands of Muslim men and boys slaughtered in July 1995 by Serb forces.

Izabela Hasanovic, 27, sobbed over one of the coffins before it was lowered into a freshly dug pit.

"My father, my father is here," she sobbed. "I cannot believe that my father is in this coffin. I cannot accept it!"

Girls ask Teen Vogue to stop digitally altering photos

NEW YORK — Days after a campaign led by a 14-year-old girl secured a promise from Seventeen magazine not to alter body shapes in photographs, more teens protested against Teen Vogue on Wednesday with "Keep it Real" signs and a makeshift red carpet.

About half a dozen girls high-fived each other near the magazine's office in Times Square. They've collected more than 28,000 signatures in just over a week asking Teen Vogue to follow Seventeen's lead in declaring an end to digitally manipulating images.

The girls, affiliated with the protest group SPARK Movement, said Teen Vogue and other magazines read by vulnerable young readers present an unrealistic notion of beauty, threatening their self-esteem and leading to depression and eating disorders.

One of the protest organizers, 17-year-old Emma Stydahar of suburban Croton-on-Hudson, was a Teen Vogue subscriber in middle school.

"I remember looking through these magazines and thinking, 'Oh I wish I had her legs. I wish I had her waist.' It was, like, this is what beautiful is and this is what I look like," she said.


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