HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) — Two alphas in the fight of their lives, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney sparred with passion and grit in a debate that previewed the closing arguments of a campaign that keeps circling back to bedrock questions about which candidate can do more to strengthen the fragile economy.
Fresh off their latest encounter and with just three weeks left in the race, the candidates fan out in all directions Wednesday to pitch their tuned-up messages directly to voters on some of the campaign's most treasured turf: Romney in Virginia, Obama in Iowa. Vice President Joe Biden is westward bound for Colorado and Nevada; GOP running mate Paul Ryan returns to all-important Ohio.
It was a re-energized Obama who showed up for Tuesday's town hall-style debate at Hofstra University, lifting the spirits of Democrats who felt let down by the president's limp performance in the candidates' first encounter two weeks ago.
But Romney knew what was coming and didn't give an inch, pressing his case even when the arguments deteriorated into did-not, did-too rejoinders that couldn't have done much to clarify the choice for undecided voters.
Tuesday's debate was the third installment in what amounts to a four-week-long reality TV series for Campaign 2012. Romney was the clear victor in the series debut, Biden aggressively counterpunched in the next-up vice presidential debate, and the latest faceoff featured two competitors determined to give no quarter.
Analysis: Obama, Romney tell voters: Trust me, not the other guy, to get the economy moving
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney teed up the last three weeks of the presidential election as a question of which man voters can trust to improve the economy.
If the undecided voters who questioned the two men in Tuesday's fast-paced debate are an indication, then the Nov. 6 contest may turn on whether like-minded Americans decide to stick with a disappointing-but-progressing president, or gamble on a challenger who swears he knows how to create jobs, but provides few details to shore up the claim.
Obama, vastly more animated than in his first debate, accused Romney of misleading voters about his record on China, the U.S. auto industry and U.S. energy production.
"What Governor Romney said just isn't true," Obama said in one of several exchanges in which he practically called his opponent a liar. He was referring to Romney's description of the 2009 bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, when Romney opposed the heavy infusion of federal funds to help the companies survive bankruptcy.
Obama used similar language to describe Romney's assessment of U.S. oil production, and the president's immigration policies.
FACT CHECK: Facts take some hits in rough-and-tumble presidential debate
WASHINGTON (AP) — In the rough-and-tumble of a town hall-style presidential debate, the facts took something of a beating Tuesday night.
Mitt Romney wrongly claimed that it took 14 days for President Barack Obama to brand the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya a terrorist act. Obama yet again claimed that ending the Afghanistan and Iraq wars makes money available to "rebuild America," even though it doesn't.
A look at some of their claims:
OBAMA: The day after last month's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, "I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime."
ROMNEY: "I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror."
Rights group accuses Libyan militias of carrying out 'mass executions' of Gadhafi loyalists
CAIRO (AP) — Libyan rebels appear to have "summarily executed" scores of fighters loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, and probably the dictator himself, when they overran his hometown a year ago, a human rights group said Wednesday.
The report by Human Rights Watch on alleged rebel abuses that followed the October 2011 capture of the city of Sirte in the final major battle of the eight-month civil war is one of the most detailed descriptions of what the group says were war crimes committed by the militias that toppled Gadhafi, and which still play a major role in Libyan politics today.
The 50-page report, titled "Death of a Dictator: Bloody Vengeance in Sirte," details the last hours of Gadhafi's life on Oct. 20, 2011, when he tried to flee the besieged city. The longtime leader's convoy was struck by NATO aircraft as it tried to escape and the survivors were attacked by militias from the city of Misrata, who captured and disarmed the dictator and his entourage.
Misrata was subjected to a brutal weeks-long siege by Gadhafi's forces that killed hundreds of residents, and fighters from the city became among the regime's most implacable foes. HRW says it seems the Misratans took revenge against their prisoners in Sirte.
"The evidence suggests that opposition militias summarily executed at least 66 captured members of Gadhafi's convoy in Sirte," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch.
After Pandit's exit, speculation grows that Citigroup could get smaller yet
NEW YORK (AP) — The incredible shrinking bank may have to shrink more.
In the hours after Tuesday's surprise announcement that Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit was stepping down, speculation was rife, and facts scant, about what lay ahead for the nation's third-largest bank.
But one possibility given high odds by financial analysts: More cost-cutting, more shrinking and more focus on boring, traditional banking, like making loans.
"It's going to get a lot smaller," said Gerard Cassidy, a long-time banking analyst at RBC Capital Markets. "You've got to shrink to make big money."
In the nearly five years since Pandit took over as CEO, he shed businesses and cut jobs. Staff fell from 375,000 when he took over to 262,000.
A Chinese woman reaches outer space, but there's no space for women in China's elite politics
BEIJING (AP) — A glance at history suggests it's easier for a Chinese woman to orbit Earth than to land a spot on the highest rung of Chinese politics.
In June, a 33-year-old air force major marked a major feminist milestone by becoming the first Chinese woman to travel in space. With a once-a-decade leadership transition set to kick off Nov. 8, many now are waiting to see if another ambitious Chinese female, State Councilor Liu Yandong, can win one of the nine spots at the apex of Chinese power.
Liu is a smiley 67-year-old with a degree in chemical engineering and a penchant for pearls and red lipstick. Her portfolios include education, sports and cultural affairs. Experts say she is well-connected and state media paints her as a diligent civil servant with a human touch. In May, she donned scrubs and stroked the forehead of a hospitalized teacher who lost her legs pushing two students away from an oncoming bus.
"You are so young, so beautiful," state media quoted Liu as telling the teacher, Zhang Lili. "From now on, you can call me big sister."
Leadership transitions only happen once a decade in China. This year, Liu is the only female with an outside chance of landing a position at the top, and if she does, she will have made history. But rocketing into space seems simple compared to busting into the boys' club of Chinese politics.
Armed posse patrols Oregon timber country in place of sheriff's patrols
O'BRIEN, Ore. (AP) — There's no room in the county jail for burglars and thieves. And the sheriff's department in a vast, rural corner of southwest Oregon has been reduced by budget cuts to three deputies on patrol eight hours a day, five days a week.
But people in this traditionally self-reliant section of timber country aren't about to raise taxes to put more officers on the road. Instead, some folks in Josephine County, larger than the state of Rhode Island, are taking matters into their own hands — mounting flashing lights on their trucks and strapping pistols to their hips to guard communities themselves. Others have put together a virtual neighborhood watch, using Facebook to share tips and information.
"I believe in standing up for myself rather than waiting for the government to do something for me," said Sam Nichols, a retired marina manager.
Nichols has organized a posse of about a dozen fed-up residents who have started patrolling the small community of O'Brien, which has about 750 residents.
"We call ourselves the CAC Patrol, Citizens Against Crime," he said.
In aiding Syrian rebels, Sunni Muslim town in Lebanon deepens rift with Shiite neighbors
ARSAL, Lebanon (AP) — This Lebanese border town has become a safe haven for war-weary Syrian rebels, a way station for wounded fighters and home to hundreds of frightened Syrian refugee families.
Residents of Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town of 40,000, say they have strong motives to help those trying to topple Syria's regime: they themselves were harassed and abused by it during three decades of de facto Syrian control of Lebanon.
But in siding with the rebels, many of them fellow Sunnis, Arsal is also deepening rifts with its Shiite Muslim neighbors in the Bekaa Valley that runs along Lebanon's eastern border with Syria. Large areas of the scenic valley are controlled by Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite militia that is supporting and — according to the U.S. and the Syrian opposition — also fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.
For now, Lebanon's rival political and religious groups have largely tried to keep a lid on domestic tensions stoked by the conflict next door, with collective memories here still scarred by Lebanon's own 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. But any major escalation in Syria or miscalculation by the combatants' Lebanese supporters could ignite Lebanon's explosive sectarian mix.
Unlike some parts of Lebanon, the Bekaa has not been hit so far by sectarian violence linked to the bloodshed in Syria, although a drive along the valley's bustling main thoroughfare and the string of towns that line it, shows where the region's Shiite and Sunni loyalties lie.
Verlander shuts down punchless Yankees; Detroit 1 win from AL pennant after 2-1 victory
DETROIT (AP) — Justin Verlander and Detroit's stellar starters are on quite a roll — no matter who is in the opposing lineup.
Verlander took a shutout into the ninth inning and the Tigers held on to beat New York 2-1 Tuesday night for a 3-0 lead in the AL championship series. Yankees manager Joe Girardi changed his batting order again, benching Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher in an effort to snap his team out of an untimely hitting funk.
No such luck.
"I have seen a lot of teams shuffle around a lot of lineups when I am out there, so it doesn't really faze me one way or the other if those guys are in there or not," Verlander said. "I just need to come up with the game plan to face the certain guys that I am going to face. I can't say I was surprised, but that's Girardi's decision, not mine."
Phil Coke gave up consecutive singles with two outs in the ninth before striking out postseason star Raul Ibanez for his second save in two games. Detroit can complete a sweep and earn its second pennant in seven years Wednesday night when Max Scherzer pitches against Yankees ace CC Sabathia.
Maine prostitution case casts shadow over men with names similar to those charged
KENNEBUNK, Maine (AP) — The first batch of men charged with being clients of a woman accused of turning her Zumba dance studio into a brothel included a former mayor and men from more than a dozen towns in Maine, as well as one each from Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
After initial confusion caused by the release of names without ages or addresses, a judge on Tuesday granted a request for additional information about the first 21 names out of what's believed to be more than 150 men accused of paying a fitness instructor for sex.
The list included former South Portland Mayor James Soule, who didn't return calls to his home and business, and didn't answer his door.
Others on the list included a lawyer and a real estate appraiser. The men ranged in age from 34 to 65.
The town had been awaiting the release of the list since 29-year-old Alexis Wright was charged this month with engaging in prostitution in her dance studio and in an office across the street and secretly videotaping many of her encounters. Police said she kept meticulous records suggesting the sex acts generated $150,000 over 18 months.