LONDON (AP) — With the Olympics Games as a backdrop, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney met Thursday with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, beginning a day of meetings with Britain's most powerful people. The likely GOP nominee sought to send a message that he recognizes the close bonds between the U.S. and its top ally — and to project an image of leadership.
"We have a very special relationship between the United States and Great Britain," Romney told NBC News in an interview in London on the first day of a weeklong overseas trip that will also take him to Israel and Poland. "It goes back to our very beginnings — cultural and historical."
Romney's first official appearance during a campaign swing intended to highlight longtime U.S. alliances was with Blair. He was slated to meet later in the day with current Prime Minister David Cameron.
Blair hosted Romney at his private office few blocks off Hyde Park. The former Labour Party prime minister now serves as a special envoy to the Middle East for the British government. The two discussed the Olympics and exchanged pleasantries at the beginning of a planned half-hour meeting.
Romney then met with Ed Miliband, the current leader of the Labour Party. Before that session, Miliband invited two reporters from what he called "my side" to ask questions, although Romney declined to take questions from American journalists. Romney again cited the "special relationship" between the two countries and praised Britain for its military commitment in Afghanistan.
Report: Movie shooting suspect sent notebook to school describing assaults
DENVER (AP) — As reports emerged of a suspicious package sent to a university the suspect in the Colorado theater shooting once attended, the first memorial service was held for a victim of the massacre.
The University of Colorado Denver said Wednesday that the U.S. Postal Service delivered the package Monday, and it was immediately investigated and turned over to authorities within hours.
It wouldn't confirm its contents or whether it was sent by former neuroscience graduate student James Holmes. However multiple media outlets, citing unnamed sources, reported Holmes sent a notebook with drawings and descriptions of an attack.
Fox News' website was among those reporting the notebook was in a package addressed to a psychiatrist at the school. It was unclear if Holmes, 24, had had any previous contact with the person. The neuroscience program that he withdrew from on June 10 included professors of psychiatry.
Holmes is accused of opening fire on a theater showing the new Batman movie, killing 12 people and injuring 58. He is due to hear the charges against him at a court hearing scheduled Monday.
3 hospitals wipe out, limit medical bills for Colorado movie theater shooting victims
DENVER (AP) — Some of the victims fighting for their lives after being wounded in the movie-theater shooting rampage may face another challenge when they get out of the hospital: enormous medical bills without the benefit of health insurance.
Members of the public, along with Warner Bros., the studio that released the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," have contributed nearly $2 million to help victims, though it's not clear how much of that will cover medical expenses. One family is raising money on its own online.
And three of the five hospitals treating victims said Wednesday they will limit or completely wipe out medical bills.
Some of the victims, however, still face a long recovery ahead and the associated medical costs — without health insurance. There's no exact count of how many of them don't have insurance but statistics suggest many of them might not be covered.
Nearly one in three Coloradans, or about 1.5 million, either have no health insurance or have coverage that is inadequate, according to a 2011 report by The Colorado Trust, a health care advocacy group.
Gun violence shifts to forefront of campaign, but Obama and Romney offer few new positions
WASHINGTON (AP) — Days after the mass shootings in Colorado, guns shifted to the forefront of the presidential campaign as President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney engaged in their most extensive discussions on the issue since the tragedy.
Obama, in a speech to an African-American group Wednesday in New Orleans, embraced some degree of additional restrictions on guns. He acknowledged that not enough had been done to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of criminals and pledged to work with lawmakers from both parties to move forward on the matter.
Romney said in a television interview that changing the nation's laws would not prevent gun-related tragedies. But he mistakenly said many weapons used by the shooting suspect in Aurora, Colo., were obtained illegally, despite the fact that authorities allege that the firearms used to kill 12 people and injure dozens more were purchased legally.
Neither candidate strayed significantly in their remarks Wednesday from their previously held positions on gun violence. But their pointed comments revived a debate — if perhaps only briefly — that has steadily faded to the background in national politics and been virtually non-existent in the 2012 campaign.
The White House in particular has faced fresh questions since the shootings about whether Obama, a strong supporter of gun control as a senator from Illinois, would make an election-year push for stricter measures.
Penn State trustees: Harsh sanctions better than 4-year 'death penalty' NCAA had floated
Penn State's trustees may not like the NCAA's unprecedented sanctions against the university's football program, but they say the alternative — the so-called "death penalty" — would have been worse.
In their first joint statement since Penn State was hit with a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl game ban, reduced football scholarships and the forfeiture of 112 wins, trustees said Wednesday the NCAA punishment was "unfortunate" and "difficult."
University spokesman David La Torre said the potential for a four-year ban on playing football was floated during discussions between Penn State President Rodney Erickson and NCAA officials.
The trustees met with Erickson on the subject at a State College hotel Wednesday and afterward issued their statement.
The penalty hasn't been used since the NCAA suspended Southern Methodist University for the 1987 season. SMU then sat out the '88 season on its own and has never fully recovered its status in college football.
EYES ON LONDON: A little bet on the side, London arrival notes and a big torch day
LONDON (AP) — Around the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:
High stakes between Britain and Australia this Olympics.
Britain's Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson and his Australian counterpart, Sports Minister Kate Lundy, have a side bet on which country will win the most the gold medals at the Olympics.
Congress is a stage: Senate passes tax cuts for all but rich, rejects GOP's tax cuts for all
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has debated, sniped and voted on the politically fraught issue of tax cuts, and next week it'll be the House's turn. Still, Americans won't know until after the November elections how much more of their paychecks will go to the government next year.
Turning both houses of Congress into a campaign stage on one of the defining issues of the presidential and congressional races, Republicans and Democrats are putting each other on record over which Americans, if any, should receive an extension of former President George W. Bush's income tax cuts.
The Senate got the ball rolling Wednesday with surprise debates and passage of a Democratic bill fashioned on President Barack Obama's proposal to extend the income tax cuts to all but the wealthiest Americans through 2013. It passed even though the measure stands no chance of surviving the Republican-led House. Meanwhile, the Senate rejected a GOP amendment to extend the cuts to all taxpayers. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, intends to bring up that measure in his chamber next week.
So the matter was a nearly certain stalemate even before Democratic leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell abruptly agreed to vote on two measures, spent the day accusing each other of playing politics and the last 20 minutes trying to get the last word.
"We know this is about the election," McConnell said. At one point he resolved to let Reid close the debate but then changed his mind to dispute a point.
Millions in Pakistan suffer mental scars from militant violence, but few get help
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Liaqat Ali is a victim of one of Pakistan's worst bombings, but his injuries are not visible to the naked eye.
The 47-year-old government clerk and part-time lab assistant was walking home through the grounds of a hospital in the northwest city of Peshawar in the fall of 2009 when he stumbled upon the carnage left by the blast. Scores of bodies were packed into vehicles. Bleeding survivors with missing limbs and severe burns were scattered everywhere.
He has suffered from severe depression and anxiety ever since and is dependent on antidepressants to make it through the day so he can provide for his wife and four children.
Ali's plight has become increasingly common in Pakistan's northwest — the main Taliban sanctuary in the country — where psychiatrists estimate millions are suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological illnesses after years of militant attacks, army offensives and U.S. drone strikes.
Many don't receive treatment, largely because of an acute shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists.
Welcome to Britain, now stand in line: Etiquette tips for an enjoyable Olympics
LONDON (AP) — Welcome to Britain! The line forms to the right. Here are some tips for Olympic visitors hoping to get the most out of their experience.
WHEN IN DOUBT, QUEUE
For many visitors, their first experience of the great British tradition of lining up will be at Heathrow Airport. Europe's busiest air hub has been making headlines over the past few months for its long waits at immigration. Officials promise the problem has been fixed for the games, but — fear not — visitors will have plenty of other opportunities to stand in line at post offices, bus stops, subway stations and the entrances to the Olympic Park.
British lines are usually orderly, often elaborate and full of gallows humor. Be patient and don't try to barge ahead — all attempts at queue-jumping will be met by glares and furious tut-tutting.
Bieber paparazzo faces criminal charges related to high-speed freeway pursuit for photos
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities are using a new California law to charge a paparazzo photographer in connection with a high-speed chase of Justin Bieber earlier this month.
The Los Angeles City Attorney's office on Wednesday filed four misdemeanor charges against Paul Raef, 30, including reckless driving with the intent to capture pictures for commercial gain, reckless driving, failure to obey a peace officer and following another vehicle too closely.
Paparazzi pursuit of celebrities has long been identified as a risk in Los Angeles.
"It's Hollywood. There are a huge number of celebrities and there's a lot of money paid for these pictures," said attorney Harland Braun, who has defended cases involving paparazzi and who said he has had to fend off photographers chasing his celebrity clients.
"Unfortunately, innocent people get caught up in these chases," he said. "I think the law is a good thing."