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ROMNEY SAYS HE PAYS US TAXES _ ABOUT 15 PERCENT : FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — His wealth and taxes suddenly a campaign focus, Mitt Romney said Tuesday he pays an effective federal tax rate of about 15 percent. That's far less than if his earnings were wages rather than gains from investments and dividends, and the disclosure under pressure triggered a sharp response from the Democratic White House as well as one of his GOP presidential rivals.

Romney told reporters he also received money from speechmaking before he announced his presidential candidacy early last year "but not very much." He provided no details, but in his financial disclosure statement, released last August, he reported being paid $374,327.62 for such appearances for the 12 months ending last February.

That amount alone would place his income among the top 1 percent of all Americans, and Romney's description of it as a relatively small amount suggested his overall income was far higher.

It's well known that Romney's father was the chairman and president of American Motors, and he himself was a successful businessman and founder of Bain Capital, a private equity firm, where he earned millions. At the same time, his refusal to release his tax returns has been a persistent issue, and one that flared anew in a debate Monday night in which he grudgingly said he might release them in April


REWARD OFFERED IN FATAL BEATING NEAR LIBERTY BELL: PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Investigators pleaded Tuesday for witnesses to come forward and searched for surveillance footage of the men who beat to death a young man they apparently thought was yelling at them — not at the taxi that wouldn't give him and his friends a lift in the city's historic district.

Police are seeking four men and offering a reward in the beating of recent college graduate Kevin Kless, 23, early Saturday after he shouted at the cab while he, his girlfriend and a female friend looked for a ride after leaving a bar, authorities said.

Three men got out of a car behind the cab and started kicking and punching Kless, who fell to the sidewalk, severely injured. The men, who have not been found or identified, may have been acting on the mistaken belief that Kless was yelling at them, according to police.

Police are also seeking the driver of the car, believed to be a maroon sedan.

effort for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is available at /interactives/2011/madison-protests/
GROUPS FILE SIGNATURES TO RECALL WIS. GOV. WALKER: MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Opponents of Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker submitted nearly twice as many signatures Tuesday as required to force a recall election, but still face the challenge of transforming public outrage over his moves against unions into actual votes to oust him from office.

If Walker is worried, he's not showing it: As the petitions were delivered to election officials, Walker was out of state raising money to defend himself and the agenda that has made him a national conservative hero.

The 1 million signatures that United Wisconsin, the coalition that spearheaded the effort along with the Democratic Party, said were collected far exceeds the 540,208 needed and amounts to 23 percent of the state's eligible voters.

Walker was elected in 2010 as part of a national Republican tide, and quickly angered unions and others with aggressive moves that included effectively ending collective bargaining rights for nearly all public workers.

128 LIVE DOGS, 1 CAT FOUND IN U-HAUL IN WEST TENN. : MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Two women were arrested Tuesday when authorities in West Tennessee discovered 128 live dogs, one dead dog and a live cat inside a U-Haul truck and a van during a traffic stop on Interstate 40, officials said.

A West Tennessee Drug Task Force agent found the animals during a stop on I-40 in Fayette County, about 40 miles east of Memphis, said David Lytal, special agent in charge of the task force.

"He could smell the odor," Lytal said.

Lytal says the women told authorities they were taking the animals from California to Virginia, but they did not say why. The driver, Bonnie Sherman, 55, and passenger Pamela King-McCracken, 59, were booked in Fayette County jail on aggravated animal cruelty charges.

OBAMA TO ACCEPT NOMINATION AT CHARLOTTE STADIUM: CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — President Barack Obama plans to accept the Democratic presidential nomination in the open air of Bank of America Stadium on the final day of his party's convention here next summer, repeating a page from his 2008 convention playbook.

Democrats also announced Tuesday that the convention will be shortened from the traditional four days to three to have a day to celebrate the Carolinas, Virginia and the South. That celebration would take place on Monday, Sept. 3, which is Labor Day, at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The convention would run Tuesday through Thursday, with the first two days at the Time Warner Arena and the final day at Bank of America Stadium.

Obama will deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday, Sept. 6. Moving the speech to the 74,000-seat stadium, which is home to the NFL's Carolina Panthers, will allow thousands more activists and others to attend, officials said.

HOUSE GOP CHAIR GOT DISCOUNTED LOAN: WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Republican campaign chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, has been notified that he received a discounted mortgage from the former Countrywide Financial Corp.

Sessions' spokeswoman, Torrie Miller, confirmed that the congressman was told that records show he received the discounts through Countrywide's VIP program.

Sessions becomes the fourth House member — and third Republican — whose records were sent to the House Ethics Committee for further investigation. The ethics panel will likely investigate whether the lawmakers received improper gifts and whether they performed any favorable actions for the lender. The four were notified by the House Oversight Committee.

Two of the Republicans play prominent roles: Sessions, as the person responsible for Republican efforts to maintain their House majority in the November elections and Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of California, who has major influence over the defense budget as chairman of the Armed Services Committee.