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POSTED March 12, 2012 7:31 p.m.

ROMNEY'S "SOUTHERN" ACCENTS ARE A HIT-AND-MISS TRY: MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Wealthy New Englander Mitt Romney is trying to woo Southern voters with a mix of regional references that sometimes show self-deprecating humor, and sometimes are just plain awkward.

The GOP presidential contender admits that campaigning in Alabama, Mississippi and other Southern states is "a bit of an away game" for him. Unlike Kansas, however, he's campaigning hard in those states, hoping essentially to tie or even steal a victory from more conservative rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

Romney seems torn between trying to be a full-bore (albeit temporary) Southerner and acknowledging his outsider status. In rainy Mobile on Monday, he talked of eating catfish and hunting as he campaigned alongside comedian Jeff Foxworthy, known for his "you might be a redneck" jokes.

As is often the case, Romney showed an engaging side and stiffness, at almost the same time. When the rain-soaked crowd sang "Happy Birthday," Romney exclaimed: "That's a fine Alabama good morning," as if such greetings are somehow different in other states.

NJ GOV: NO REGRET FOR CALLING MAN AN 'IDIOT'’: BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he doesn't regret calling a former Navy SEAL an "idiot" during a heated exchange at a recent public event.

Christie's comment capped off the two-minute exchange with 34-year-old William Brown at a town hall-style event Thursday.

Brown, a former Democratic candidate for state Assembly, challenged the Republican governor's plan to merge two public universities, Rutgers and Rowan. Brown is a law student at the Rutgers-Camden campus who opposes the plan, and he interrupted Christie several times before being escorted out.

Christie defended his comment Monday, saying: "He acted like an idiot. He's an idiot. I don't have any regret about it at all."

Christie says he honors the Mount Laurel man's military service, but that "doesn't give him the right to be a jerk."

SENTENCE STRUCK DOWN IN MILLENNIUM BOMB PLOT: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A terrorist who plotted to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on the eve of the millennium, now halfway through his 22-year sentence, will have to serve longer after an appeals court ruled Monday that the original punishment did not fit a crime that a judge said could have rivaled Sept. 11.

In a 7-4 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the government's appeal and sent the case back to a federal judge in Seattle for resentencing for a third time.

The court, which contains some of the nation's most liberal judges, said Ressam's plot to blow up the airport on New Year's Eve 1999, was "horrific" and intended to intimidate the nation and the world.

MAINE JAIL INMATE BREACHES MAX SECURITY FOR SEX: PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A male inmate in the maximum-security section of a Maine jail has breached security by sneaking into another wing for sex with a female inmate.

The sheriff's office says the 23-year-old man from Biddeford was caught crawling between cell blocks on Friday night as he was returning to his cell at the Cumberland County Jail.

Officials say a video shows how he entered the women's cell block, going through four doors to access the cell of a 25-year-old woman he apparently knew. The two had communicated through the ventilation system and manipulated the locks on their cells.

PANETTA: DEATH PENALTY POSSIBLE IN AFGHAN SHOOTING: ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the death penalty is a consideration as the military moves to investigate and possibly put on trial a U.S. soldier suspected of gunning down 16 Afghans.

In his first public remarks on the incident, Panetta said Monday the shootings must not derail the military mission in Afghanistan, and pressure to do so from political leaders in Kabul and Washington must not alter that course.

He said the U.S. seems to get confronted every other day with challenges that test U.S. leadership and its commitment to the mission.

Panetta shed little light on what may have triggered the weekend massacre, but said officials will use the military justice system, and that capital punishment is possible.

INVISIBLE CHILDREN ANSWERS CRITICS AFTER VIDEO HIT: SAN DIEGO (AP) — The chief executive of a group that produced a wildly popular video about African warlord Joseph Kony answered critics Monday, defending its tactics and spending practices.

"I understand why a lot of people are wondering, 'Is this just some slick, kind of fly-by-night, slacktivist thing?' when actually it's not at all," said Ben Keesey of Invisible Children. "It's connected to a really deep, thoughtful, very intentional and strategic campaign."

In an online video that runs more than eight minutes, Keesey acknowledges the sting of criticism since Invisible Children released the video "Kony 2012" last week, becoming an Internet sensation with nearly 75 million views on YouTube alone. The overnight success has earned the San Diego-based nonprofit organization widespread praise and brought heightened scrutiny.

The group has been criticized for not spending enough directly on the people it intends to help and for oversimplifying the 26-year-old conflict involving the Lord's Resistance Army and its leader, Kony, a bush fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Keesey, 28, said "program expenses" — money that directly benefits their cause — accounted for 80.5 percent to 85.7 percent of total annual spending from fiscal 2007 to 2011. Overhead expenses grew last year largely due to a $330,000 private foundation grant that was designated specifically for operations.

MAN ARRESTED IN 1990 BEHEADING MURDER: NEW YORK (AP) — The pregnant woman's body was found on a rooftop in 1989 after a horrific attack: Her head was missing.

More than two decades later, Veronica Bowen's boyfriend was charged Monday with murdering her out of jealousy, five years before he would kill another of his girlfriends in the city's suburbs.

Already imprisoned for the second slaying, Philip Ward pleaded not guilty to murder in Bowen's death, though prosecutors say he recently confessed to a crime in which he'd long been under suspicion. His lawyer, Franklin Rothman, said the 45-year-old Ward was helping authorities, spurred by a desire to build a better relationship with his and Bowen's two children.

"I killed Veronica Bowen," he told investigators last month at the upstate New York prison where he's serving 20 years to life for killing his subsequent girlfriend, according to prosecutors' court papers.

POLICE: MD. HONOR STUDENT THREATENED RAMPAGE; COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — A University of Maryland honor student who warned on websites he was going to "kill enough people to make it to national news" was arrested after several people reported the online messages to police, perhaps helping to thwart a threatened campus rampage, authorities said.

While the threat was dismissed by some online as harmless, a former student who used to work with campus police took it seriously and first called authorities Saturday night. By Sunday morning, police had set up surveillance on Alexander Song and arrested him on campus.

 

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