CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — God is back in the Democratic platform and people rooting for President Barack Obama hope the dazzle is back in him.
With war ending, the health care system recast and the creaky economy overshadowing all, Obama takes the stage of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday to appeal for a second term before a huge prime-time audience. He's got several tough acts to follow — his wife Michelle's crowd-swooning speech of a few days ago, former President Bill Clinton's rollicking turn on stage Wednesday night and his own soaring oratory of four years ago.
Clinton, the one-time "comeback kid," offered a rousing defense of Obama's economic stewardship in a speech setting up Obama's moment to come. "He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs," said Clinton — the last president to see sustained growth, in the 1990s. "Conditions are improving and if you'll renew the president's contract, you will feel it."
He also preached bipartisanship and a pullback from politics as "blood sport" — this near the end of back-to-back conventions that feasted on rhetorical red meat and even as he ripped the Republican agenda as a throwback to the past, a "double-down on trickle-down" economics that assumes tax cuts for the wealthy will help everyone down the ladder.
Obama watched Clinton's speech from backstage, then strolled out and embraced him, bringing happy roars from the crowd in his first convention appearance and making for a spirited ending to a trying day for Democrats.
ESSAY: A long, hard look at Obama's reputation as orator — and some surprising conclusions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Barack Obama goes before his convention with a reputation as a great orator.
But is he?
Certainly, there have been moments that soared: his address to the 2004 convention and that moving election night in Chicago. Yet a close look at pivotal moments of his presidency finds that, more often than not, Obama has fallen short as a communicator.
That's the conclusion of one of the leading experts on presidential communications, Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Repeatedly, she asserts, Obama has failed to use the communication power of his office to further his goals and rally the country. So now he goes into his crucial convention speech with high expectations from his successes and yet a mixed record as communicator-in-chief.
Jamieson, a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania, examined six pivotal moments for an article in the next issue of Polity, a political science journal. She found that in five, Obama did not deliver.
US rights group reports evidence of wider CIA use of waterboarding than acknowledged
CAIRO (AP) — Human Rights Watch said it has uncovered evidence of a wider use of waterboarding in American interrogations of detainees than has been acknowledged by the United States, in a report Thursday that details further brutal treatment at secret CIA-run prisons under the Bush administration-era U.S. program of detention and rendition of terror suspects.
The report also paints a more complete picture of Washington's close cooperation with the regime of Libya's former dictator Moammar Gadhafi in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The U.S. handed over to Libya the Islamist opponents of Gadhafi that it detained abroad with only thin "diplomatic assurances" that they would not be mistreated, and several of them were subsequently tortured in prison, Human Rights Watch said.
The 154-page report features interviews by the New York-based group with 14 Libyan dissident exiles. They describe systematic abuses while they were held in U.S.-led detention centers in Afghanistan — some as long as two years — or in U.S.-led interrogations in Pakistan, Morocco, Thailand, Sudan and elsewhere before the Americans handed them over to Libya.
"Not only did the U.S. deliver (Gadhafi) his enemies on a silver platter, but it seems the CIA tortured many of them first, said Laura Pitter, counterterrorism adviser at Human Rights Watch and author of the report.
"The scope of the Bush administration abuse appears far broader than previously acknowledged," she said.
From North Pacific to South China Sea, nationalism stoking bitter Asian island disputes
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — They are mere specks on the map. Many are uninhabited, and others sparsely so by fishermen and seasonal residents. Yet the disputed ownership of these tiny constellations of islands is inflaming nationalist fervor from the cold North Pacific to the tropical South China Sea.
In recent weeks, these long-simmering tensions have returned to a boil, with violent protests in Chinese cities, a provocative island junket by South Korea's lame-duck president, and Japan's government reportedly planning to buy disputed islands from their private owners.
The popular analysis is that the rising tensions are fueled by a regional power shift that has seen China become increasingly assertive with its neighbors in securing claims over potentially resource-rich waters to its south and east. But the growing acrimony may have at least as much to do with domestic political posturing.
"Wrapping yourself up in the national flag gives a very convenient exit for people with other agendas to justify their positions," says political scientist Koichi Nakano of Tokyo's Sophia University.
Nationalism has often been used by China's communist leaders to cover up domestic problems — such as the economic slowdown the country is now facing, not to mention problems with a growing rich-poor divide and official corruption.
CONVENTION WATCH: Obama basks in Clinton's embrace, debt talk, a team of rivals
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Convention Watch shows you the 2012 political conventions through the eyes of Associated Press journalists. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.
The crowd is thinning at the Democratic National Convention, even as the roll call of the states to nominate Barack Obama goes on. Obama has left, headed back to his hotel. And several spots in the arena are now empty as states cast their votes to nominate the president as their party's presidential nominee. Though Obama has officially been nominated by the numbers, the roll call is expected to go on well into the night.
— Sally Buzbee
Small-town movie theaters across US face closure as industry switches from film to digital
CRETE, Neb. (AP) — The Isis Theatre hasn't changed much since it opened 86 years ago in southeast Nebraska, a stone's throw from the grain elevator and railroad tracks that cut through town.
But in the past few years, the movie industry has changed dramatically, and unless the Isis' owner comes up with $85,000 soon to pay for new digital equipment, residents of Crete, Neb., may have to drive 40 miles to Lincoln for a night at the movies.
It's a prospect that owner Thom Reeves doesn't want to ponder, but like thousands of small-theater operators across the country, he hasn't found a way out.
"This is my passion, to give back to the community," Reeves said. "I love this movie theater. I love what it does for the students I have employed there. We love our patrons. It's such a positive experience going on, and we're just a little sad this conversion is hitting us. How do we survive?"
For small-theater owners, the problem is the sudden switch from 35 mm film, an industry standard since about 1910, to digital — a format that's cheaper for both studios and distributors, and doesn't scratch as traditional film will. The switch means theater owners must buy new projection equipment, computers and a sound system.
Changing venues and platform flap distract party as Obama seeks to mitigate risks
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A stirring speech by former President Bill Clinton and a surprise appearance by President Barack Obama seemed — for a moment at least — to take the sting out of back-to-back glitches that upset Obama's carefully scripted convention.
In a matter of hours, Obama's team dealt with a potentially severe weather forecast by moving his Thursday nomination speech to a smaller, inside venue. Under criticism from Republicans, Democrats hurriedly added references to God and Jerusalem to the party platform.
The goal when both unexpected issues arose was to move quickly to minimize risk, lest the president look disorganized and uncertain just a day before he takes the stage to make his case for a second term.
Top Democrats hoped the sight of Clinton and Obama embracing Wednesday night would alleviate any disappointment Democratic loyalists felt about Obama scrapping plans to speak in a 74,000-seat football stadium, choosing a much smaller basketball arena instead. They also were banking on the spectacle of two former presidents drowning out the other spectacle of Democrats scrambling to change the party platform at the last minute.
The severe weather forecast and the platform tussle clearly threw Obama's campaign for a loop.
Police face legal minefield when they implement most contentious part of Ariz. immigration law
PHOENIX (AP) — More than two years after it was signed into law, the most contentious part of Arizona's landmark immigration legislation is expected to finally go into effect following a federal court ruling issue late Wednesday.
But the U.S. Supreme Court has laid a legal minefield that Arizona now must navigate when the critical provision takes effect. The clause, one of the few significant ones that the high court left standing in a June ruling, requires all Arizona police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop while enforcing other laws and suspect are in the country illegally.
While preserving that requirement, however, the Supreme Court explicitly left the door open to arguments that the law leads to civil rights violations. Attorneys would need actual victims to make that case.
Civil rights activists are preparing to scour the state for such victims. Lydia Guzman, who runs Respect/Respeto, a Phoenix group that tracks racial profiling, said volunteers at the organization's call center have already been told to listen for new complaints when the requirement goes into effect.
"We're watching and we're looking for cases," she said.
Powerful quake rattles Costa Rica, but little damage; experts point to depth, building code
CANGREJAL, Costa Rica (AP) — The bulletins were terrifying: a powerful earthquake had struck off the coast of this Central American country, spawning a tsunami warning and bringing fears of widespread catastrophe.
But Costa Rica suffered remarkably little damage from Wednesday's magnitude-7.6 quake — a few blocked highways, some collapsed houses and one death, of a heart attack caused by fright. Officials credited the relatively deep location of the quake and building codes that Costa Rican officials call as strict as those in California and Japan.
The quake was 25 miles (41 kilometers) below the surface. Tremors that occur deep underground tend to be less damaging, but their shaking can be felt over a wider area.
"If it was a shallower event, it would be a significantly higher hazard," said seismologist Daniel McNamara of the U.S. Geological Survey.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 38 miles (60 kilometers) from the town of Liberia and 87 miles (140 kilometers) west of the capital, San Jose.
Romo throws 3 TD passes, Murray runs wild in Dallas' 24-17 win over Giants to open NFL season
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Jason Witten was supposed to stay home. Kevin Ogletree was supposed to be a bit player.
And the replacement officials were supposed to be a fiasco.
Instead, Witten provided the inspiration by playing weeks after lacerating his spleen, third wideout Ogletree made the big plays, and the officials had a mostly quiet night in the NFL's season opener.
The Cowboys waited all year for another shot at the New York Giants, and when they got it Wednesday night, they were relentless in a 24-17 victory that really wasn't that close.
"We executed on offense and defense when we needed to," Tony Romo said after throwing for three touchdowns and 307 yards. "We put them in a hole. Our job was to keep the pedal down, to not let up because you know what kind of team they have over there."