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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

Nature photographers are flocking to Yosemite National Park hoping to catch a glimpse of a rare phenomenon that happens only in mid-February. That's when the setting sun hits an ephemeral waterfall on El
Capitan at just the right angle, making it appear as if lava is flowing over the top. It lasts for only about two minutes while the earth and sun are optimally aligned.  The spectacle that transforms Horsetail fall is reminiscent of the old firefall of embers that occurred nightly off Glacier Point until 1968. But this natural fire fall had gone largely unnoticed until 1973. Internet chats have spread the word and hundreds of photographers hoping for clear skies will converge until February 24, when the sun's angle changes and it disappears for another year.

Jim Preacher couldn't wait nine more days to become mayor of the tiny town of Norway. So he had a friend climb into Town Hall through an unlocked window and let him in so he could change the locks and take over the town's checkbook. He's even pulled over a state trooper who wrote him a speeding ticket.  The 66-year-old mayor half-heatedly apologizes for bringing bad publicity to the town 50 miles south of Columbia.  But he also leaves no doubt he has big plans to try to save Norway, which hasn't written a budget in years, has lost so much revenue it disbanded its police department and currently uses Preacher to read meters, run its water system and do the rest of the towns business.

President Barack Obama has told Muhammad Ali through a video message that he shocked and inspired the world, and continues to do so today. Obama's message was one of dozens celebrating the icon, delivered to 2,000 people attending a swanky dinner gala last nigh here in Las Vegas to celebrate Ali's 70th birthday and raise funds for brain research. Ali turned 70 last month.

An adviser to President Barack Obama's re-election campaign says GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum went "well over the line" when he questioned Obama's Christian values. Robert Gibbs tells ABC's "This Week" that it's time "to get rid of this mindset in our politics that, if we disagree, we have to question character and faith." Gibbs says the country would be better served if presidential candidates focused instead on the economic challenges faced by the middle class. Santorum said on Saturday that Obama's agenda is tied to "some phony theology" not based on the Bible. Gibbs' forceful rebuke suggests Obama's campaign is taking Santorum more seriously these days as a potential general election challenger.

Newt Gingrich says he and other GOP presidential candidates must win their home-turf contests or face serious questions about continuing in the race. Gingrich tells "Fox News Sunday" that if Mitt Romney loses in Michigan, which is next to vote on Feb. 28, "I don't see what he says the next morning to his donors to stay in the race."   But Gingrich also acknowledges that he must win in Georgia, which votes on March 6 - and the same is true for Rick Santorum and the Pennsylvania primary in April. He says lose and risk becoming "a very, very damaged candidate." Gingrich stopped short of saying he would drop out if he lost Georgia "given the chaos of this race."

If Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination for president, he'll face the urgent task of inspiring the party's conservative core and rallying them to beat President Barack Obama. Judging by his performances so far, he's got his work cut out for him. Even Republicans who think he'll be the nominee worry about whether he can generate the intensity to beat Obama.  Party leaders and activists say Romney has made strides. But, they say, he needs to do more to convince the Republican base that he's running to fundamentally reverse the nation's course. Romney leads in the delegate count for the nomination. But the challenge from former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in Michigan going into the Feb. 28 primary, points to doubts about Romney's ability to ignite the GOP base.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival has announced plans to build a $26.5 million theater in an effort to lure more visitors and provide a greater economic boost to the southern Utah region. Festival organizers say construction of the new 900-seat theater on the Southern Utah University campus in Cedar City is expected to begin in fall 2013 and be completed by 2015. The Deseret News reports most of the money has been raised, but $8.5 million is still needed for the project. Festival founder Fred Adams says as the festival has grown, a larger, more modern theater with a retractable roof has been sought to attract more than the 150,000 visitors who attend each summer and fall. The current open-air Adams Theater has been in use for more than 35 years.
Utah has marked its 10th anniversary of hosting the 2002 Winter Games with a festival featuring interactive booths, a giant screen showing highlights of the event and appearances by current and former Olympic stars. Participants say Saturday's Olympic Sports Festival in Salt Lake City is stirring memories of what they consider a highly successful, entertaining event.  Former volunteer Chris Coombs says some of her favorite times at the 2002 Games involved milling with people from all over the world on Salt Lake City's streets at night. Fraser Bullock, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's No. 2 executive, says the opening ceremonies watched by two billion people around the world remain one of his most vivid memories of the Games. His former boss, Mitt Romney, appeared at the festival.

Santorum have criticized Romney for helping to secure millions in federal earmarks that helped cover Olympic costs. Romney's campaign says most of the money went to provide security in the wake of Sept. 11.

Hundreds of cars are circling central Moscow to demand that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin allow free elections in Russia. As they travel along the wide Garden Ring, which makes a 16-kilometer (nearly 10-mile) loop around the Kremlin, the cars are flying the white ribbons and balloons that have become a symbol of the peaceful anti-Putin protest movement. Sunday's demonstration is taking place two weeks before the presidential election that Putin is expected to win. None of the four challengers to him poses a serious threat, but Putin does need to get a majority of the vote to avoid a runoff. A similar protest in support of Putin drew at least 2,000 cars late Saturday. Putin's supporters have been trying to counter the opposition protests by showing that they too can bring people out onto the street.

The Vatican's new American envoy to Ireland says Pope Benedict XVI has been "relentless and consistent" in seeking to oust child abusers from the priesthood worldwide. Archbishop Charles Brown spoke Sunday at his first public Mass following his arrival in Ireland, a traditionally Catholic land rattled by nearly two decades of pedophile-priest scandals.  The 52-year-old Brown, a Manhattan native, has never been a Vatican diplomat before.He spent a decade working alongside today's pope inside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That powerful Vatican body enforces church policies, including the removal of pedophiles from the priesthood. Ireland accuses the Vatican of undermining several state-ordered probes into the church's cover-up of abuse crimes.

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