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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday February 6 2008 - (813)

Wednesday February 6 2008 edition
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At Least 22 Killed As Tornadoes Rip Through Southern U.S.
2008-02-06 03:22:57
Tornadoes across four Southern states tore through homes, ripped the roof off a shopping mall and blew apart warehouses in a rare spasm of violent winter weather that killed at least 22 people and injured dozens more.

The twisters that slammed Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky were part of a line of storms that raged across the nation's midsection at the end of a day of Super Tuesday primaries in several states. Candidates including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee even paused their victory speeches to remember the victims.

A spectacular fire erupted at a natural gas pumping station northeast of Nashville, Tennessee, that authorities said could have been damaged by the storms, and an undetermined number of people were reported dead.

A couple and their 11-year-old daughter were killed in their home after a tornado touched down near the center of Atkins, Arkansas, a community of 3,000 along the Arkansas River in the central part of the state where authorities searched in the dark for survivors - or more victims.

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McCain Dominates Big States, But South Keeps Huckabee, West Keeps Romney In Race
2008-02-06 03:22:34
Sen. John McCain move much closer toward the Republican nomination Tuesday by capturing the biggest Super Tuesday states, including California, but failed to knock out his rivals, who deprived him of victories across Republican strongholds in the South and West.

As millions of Republicans went to the polls in 21 states, the senator from Arizona racked up hundreds of delegates on the strength of winner-take-all primaries in the Northeast and elsewhere, but his inability to win in more than half of the states voting Tuesday complicated his hopes of rallying the party behind his candidacy.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee scored a surprising sweep of his native South, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney picked up a number of states in the West but fell short in critical battlegrounds that would have established him as McCain's primary challenger. Huckabee and Romney vowed last night to stay in the race as it moves to Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia on Tuesday.

The multiple-front clash represented a virtual national primary as Republicans voted to choose a standard-bearer, with more states voting at once than in any other GOP nomination battle. McCain appeared poised to emerge with roughly half of the 1,191 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination, a huge one-day take after an epic, year-long fight to define the Republican Party after the George W. Bush administration is gone.

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Britain Sends Fresh Forces To Afghanistan
2008-02-06 03:21:55
A fresh British force with extra firepower is to be sent to Afghanistan as the U.S. intensifies pressure on other European allies in an increasingly urgent attempt to prevent the country from collapsing into civil war.

In what is being described as a "critical week" for NATO's role in Afghanistan, the British move, due to be announced Wednesday, shows that the British government is prepared to maintain a significant military presence there despite severe pressure on its already overstretched army.

All three regular battalions of the Parachute Regiment will provide the backbone of 16 Air Assault Brigade when it takes over in April from the existing U.K. infantry brigade based in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, said  British defense officials. It is believed to be the first time so many paras have been sent on a joint combat mission since the second world war, though the total number of U.K. troops in Afghanistan will remain at about 7,700.

They will be supplied with extra armored vehicles and new Merlin helicopters. However, pressure on the army has meant the brigade has had to scavenge troops from other regiments to fill manpower gaps. The Ministry of Defense is also expected to announce that Britain's 3 Commando Brigade will take over from 16 Air Assault Brigade in six months' time.

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Huckabee Wins West Virginia Republican Primary
2008-02-05 19:00:28
Millions of voters across the country are turning out this Super Tuesday to determine the outcome of what is virtually a national primary for both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.

At stake in 24 states are more than 3,100 convention delegates from both parties, and potentially a lock on the nomination, at least on the Republican side.

By early Tuesday afternoon, one state, West Virginia, favored Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor. At a hard-fought Republican state nominating convention, Huckabee won 18 of the 30 national delegate slots that were up for grabs, with the remaining 12 to be decided in May.

“Other candidates have had bigger budgets,” Huckabee said in a victory speech at the Charleston Civic Center on Tuesday afternoon. “But you know what? I’m almost tied in delegates with those who have spent 10, 15, 20 times what I have. And it kind of tells me something - that it’s time for the people to elect a president, and not just the national media and the pundits.”

The next round of results, from Georgia’s Democratic and Republican primaries, are due after the polls close there at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

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Editorial: Lame-Duck Budget
2008-02-05 18:59:47
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Tuesday, February 5, 2008.

President Bush’s 2009 budget is a grim guided tour through his misplaced priorities, failed fiscal policies and the disastrous legacy that he will leave for the next president. And even that requires you to accept the White House’s optimistic accounting, which seven years of experience tells us would be foolish in the extreme.

With Mr. Bush on his way out the door and the Democrats in charge of Congress, it is not clear how many of the president’s priorities, unveiled on Monday, will survive. Among its many wrongheaded ideas, the budget includes some $2 billion to ratchet up enforcement-heavy immigration policies and billions more for a defense against ballistic missiles that show no signs of working.

What will definitely outlast Mr. Bush for years to come are big deficits, a military so battered by the Iraq war that it will take hundreds of billions of dollars to repair it and stunted social programs that have been squeezed to pay for Mr. Bush’s misguided military adventure and his misguided tax cuts for the wealthy.

The president claimed on Monday that his plan would put the country on the path to balancing the budget by 2012. That is nonsense. His own proposal projects a $410 billion deficit for 2008 and a $407 billion deficit next year. Even more disingenuous, Mr. Bush’s projection for a balanced budget in 2012 assumes only partial funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for 2009, and no such spending - zero - starting in 2010.

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Toxin From Fish Causes Human Illness
2008-02-05 18:59:20
Several outbreaks of ciguatera fish poisoning have been confirmed in consumers who ate fish harvested in the northern Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

The FDA said that fish such as grouper, snapper, amberjack and barracuda represent the most significant threat to consumers. They feed on fish that have eaten toxic marine algae. The toxin is stable in the tissue of living fish and does them no harm. But larger carnivores have higher concentrations of the toxin in their tissues. As a result, the greatest risk of poisoning for humans comes from the largest fish.

Symptoms of ciguatera poisoning include nausea, vomiting, vertigo and joint pain. In the most serious cases, neurological problems can last for months or even years. Several outbreaks of the illness were confirmed in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, the FDA said. Overall, there have been at least 28 reported cases across the country, with the first case being reported in late November.

The fish linked to the illnesses were harvested near the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, an area of 56 square miles in the northwestern Gulf. The FDA recommends that processors not purchase fish harvested near the sanctuary.

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Service-Sector Report Signals U.S. May Be In Start Of Recession
2008-02-05 15:34:48

Stocks plummeted on Wall Street on Tuesday after a business survey provided another strong signal that the United States may be in the early stages of a recession. The Dow Jones industrial average was off 300 points.

The Institute for Supply Management reported that activity in the non-manufacturing sector contracted in January for the first time since March 2003.

The institute’s non-manufacturing business activity index fell from a seasonally adjusted 54.4 in December to 41.9 in January - the lowest level since October 2001. Readings below 50 indicate a contraction. Most economists had been expecting a figure of around 53, signaling a slowdown from December but not a contraction.

“This is an indication for the first time that the bulk of the economy is contracting,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist at MFR. “It is sending people into recession panic mode here.”

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Kansas Supreme Court Blocks Abortion Grand Jury
2008-02-05 15:33:28
The Kansas Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked a grand jury from obtaining patient records from a physician who is one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers.

The grand jury is investigating whether Dr. George Tiller has broken Kansas laws restricting abortion, as many abortion opponents allege. The grand jury subpoenaed the medical files of about 2,000 women, including some who decided against having abortions.

Abortion opponents forced Sedgwick County to convene the grand jury by submitting petitions, the second such citizen investigation since 2006 of Tiller, who has long been at the center of the nation's abortion battle. His clinic was bombed in 1985, and eight years later a woman shot him in both arms.

Tiller's attorneys asked the Supreme Court to quash the grand jury's subpoenas, and the court agreed to block their enforcement until it considers the issue.

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BP Misses Estimates, Plans More Job Cuts
2008-02-05 15:32:51
BP, the British oil giant, announced on Tuesday that it would cut an additional 5,000 jobs by the middle of next year, part of plan by the chief executive, Anthony B. Hayward, to slim management and make the company more efficient.

The company also announced a fourth-quarter profit that missed analyst estimates, but its shares surged after it said it would raise its dividend 31 percent, citing an “increasingly robust” outlook.

Profit in the last three months of 2007 rose 53 percent to $4.4 billion, from $2.88 billion, in the period a year earlier. Excluding gains or losses from holding inventories or one-time items, profit was $4 billion or about 10 percent less than analysts expected.

BP said overall oil and gas production was expected to grow this year, justifying the increase in the dividend, to 13.5 cents a share. “The rise reflected the company’s increasingly robust view of the future and greater confidence in its ability to deliver sustained dividend income to shareholders,” said Hayward.

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With Economy Fitful, Americans Start To Pay As They Go
2008-02-05 03:41:39

For more than half a century, Americans have proved staggeringly resourceful at finding new ways to spend money.

In the 1950s and ’60s, as credit cards grew in popularity, many began dining out when the mood struck or buying new television sets on the installment plan rather than waiting for payday. By the 1980s, millions of Americans were entrusting their savings to the booming stock market, using the winnings to spend in excess of their income. Millions more exuberantly borrowed against the value of their homes.

Now, the freewheeling days of credit and risk may have run their course - at least for a while and perhaps much longer  - as a period of involuntary thrift unfolds in many households. With the number of jobs shrinking, housing prices falling and debt levels swelling, the same nation that pioneered the no-money-down mortgage suddenly confronts an unfamiliar imperative: more Americans must live within their means.

“We don’t use our credit cards anymore,” said Lisa Merhaut, a professional at a telecommunications company who lives in Leesburg, Virginia, and whose family last year ran up credit card debt it could not handle.

Today, Merhaut, 44, manages her money the way her father did. Despite a household income reaching six figures, she uses cash for every purchase. “What we have is what we have,” said Merhaut. “We have to rely on the money that we’re bringing in.”

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U.S. Housing Crisis Casts A Cloud Over Sun Belt
2008-02-05 03:40:42
When residents of Maricopa, Arizona, south of Phoenix, vote in the presidential primaries Tuesday, it will be against a backdrop of vacant storefronts and sprawling, terra-cotta-roofed subdivisions that are studded with for-sale signs as far as the eye can see.

The state government is staring at a billion-dollar shortfall in its $11 billion budget. Forecasters expect a region that grew 7 percent in 2006 to contract this year. Retail sales, which rose 16 percent in 2006, are dropping. Dennis Hoffman, an economics professor at Arizona State University, said he had never seen such a sharp turnabout in 25 years studying the local economy.

To many residents of the Phoenix area, which has long been one of the nation's sunniest economies, the solutions being offered by Washington may be too little, too late.

Formerly booming Sun Belt cities are the epicenters of this economic downturn. Many economists believe that the likes of Phoenix, Las Vegas, Nevada, Miami, Florida, and San Diego, California, are already in recession. A Washington Post-ABC News poll poll released Monday found that the economy and jobs are now the foremost issue in voters' minds nationally. A McClatchy-MSNBC poll released Sunday found that the same was true of likely voters in Arizona's Democratic primary Tuesday. A trip through the suburbs of Phoenix shows why people in these cities, reeling from the popping of the housing bubble, are so anxious.

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Satellite Spotters Glimpse Secrets, Then Tell Them Online
2008-02-05 03:39:18

When the government announced last month that a top-secret spy satellite would, in the next few months, come falling out of the sky, American officials said there was little risk to people because satellites fall out of orbit fairly frequently and much of the planet is covered by oceans.

But they said precious little about the satellite itself.

Such information came instead from Ted Molczan, a hobbyist who tracks satellites from his apartment balcony in Toronto, Ontario, in Canada, and fellow satellite spotters around the world. They have grudgingly become accustomed to being seen as “propeller-headed geeks” who “poke their finger in the eye” of the government’s satellite spymasters, said Molczan, taking no offense. “I have a sense of humor,” he said.

Molczan, a private energy conservation consultant, is the best known of the satellite spotters who, needing little more than a pair of binoculars, a stop watch and star charts, uncover some of the deepest of the government’s expensive secrets and share them on the Internet.

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Clinton Wins 8 States, Leads In Delegates - Obama Wins 13 States
2008-02-06 03:22:45

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won victories over Sen. Barack Obama in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York Tuesday night, giving her presidential campaign a crucial boost. Obama countered by winning of a string of states, including the general election battleground of Missouri, in the seesaw race for the Democratic nomination.

The results ensured that the fierce contest for delegates will continue into critical primaries in Texas and Ohio on March 4, and possibly beyond, in what has become the party's most competitive race in at least a quarter of a century.

Clinton claimed four of the five biggest prizes in Super Tuesday's 22-state Democratic competition. She also captured Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.Those victories helped stem what appeared to be gathering momentum around Obama's candidacy since he won in South Carolina on Jan. 26.

Yet Obama won in more places than his New York rival, racking up victories in his home state of Illinois, as well as in Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and Utah.  His narrow victory in Missouri came after Clinton appeared on the brink of winning there. Only the outcome in New Mexico remained unresolved early Wednesday morning.

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Storms Overseas Carry Contaminants To U.S.
2008-02-06 03:22:17

Seventy-five years ago, aviator Charles Lindbergh turned the controls of his pontoon plane over to his co-pilot, wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh, while flying above Iceland. He thrust a makeshift metal arm holding a sticky glass plate from the cockpit. He wanted to see if the winds high aloft the Earth were as clean as they seemed.

They were not.

Now, with NASA satellites and sampling by researchers around the world, scientists know that great billowing clouds of dust waft over the oceans in the upper atmosphere, arriving in North America from deserts in Africa and Asia. 

Researchers have also found that the dust clouds contain not only harmful minerals and industrial pollutants, but also living organisms: bacteria, fungus and viruses that may transmit diseases to humans. Some say an alarming increase in asthma in children in the Caribbean is the consequence of dust blown from Africa, and predict they will find similar connections in the Southeast and Northwest United States.

Scientists are beginning to look at these dust clouds as possible suspects in transcontinental movement of diseases such as influenza and SARS in humans, or foot-and-mouth disease in livestock. Until recently, epidemiologists had looked at people, animals and products as carriers of the diseases.

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Obama: "Clinton is the Favorite"
2008-02-05 22:59:08

“I still think that Senator Clinton is the favorite. She had 20- to 30-point leads in many of these states. We’ve been closing some ground and my guess is that we’ll have a good night and we’ll probably end up having to split this.”

“But what we do know is over the last couple of weeks we have seen the message that I’ve been delivering about changing how the economy is operating so that it’s not tilted towards the wealthy but working families” has been resonating, Obama said. “I think that the debate that we had about Iraq on Tuesday in Los Angeles, obviously the support that we have gotten from people like Senator Kennedy has generated a lot of energy on the ground.”

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Markets Suffer Steep Losses On Fears Of Recession
2008-02-05 19:00:08
Dow Jones industrial average plunges 359.87 points.

The stock market plummeted Tuesday after a report said that businesses that account for a vast swath of the U.S. economy are now contracting.

The Institute for Supply Management's index of activity at non-manufacturing businesses fell to its lowest level since the 2001 recession. That means that a contraction is underway in industries that represent 90 percent of the U.S. economy, including companies as varied as hotels and restaurants, banks and insurance companies, telecommunications firms and retailers.

That led the stock market to record its steepest one-day fall in nearly a year. The Dow Jones industrial average was off 359.87 points, or 2.85 percent. The 3.05 percent drop in the broader Standard & Poor's 500 was the steepest single-day drop since Feb. 27, 2007. Stock indexes remain above their recent lows last month, however.

"It looks recessionary to me," said Scott Anderson, a senior economist at Wells Fargo & Co., speaking of the survey. "What started in the subprime mortgage market has spread across the economy. We're seeing it show up in Main Street America."

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French Trader Kerviel: 'I Will Not Be The Scapegoat'
2008-02-05 18:59:34
Jerome Kerviel, the employee that the French bank Societe Generale has accused of trading losses that cost it more than $7 billion, emerged in public Tuesday to say that he would not be made the bank’s scapegoat.

Separately, a lawyer for the bank said it was examining Kerviel’s cellphone bills to see if others might have been involved in the fraud.

In brief remarks in his lawyer’s office to a small group of photographers for Agence France-Presse, Kerviel said that, while he took responsibility for booking billions of euros in fictitious trades, “I was singled out by Societe Generale.”

“I am taking my share of responsibility, but I will not be the scapegoat,” said Kerviel.

A spokesman for Elisabeth Meyer, one of Kerviel’s lawyers, confirmed his comments, the first he has made in public since Societe Generale disclosed the trading losses nearly two weeks ago.

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Bush's Budget More Than Doubles U.S. Deficit
2008-02-05 15:35:07
President Bush on Monday submitted a $3.1-trillion budget for the next fiscal year that reflected his strategy for dealing with a costly war and a troubled economy: substantially boost military expenditures, rein in domestic spending - including for Medicare - and more than double the deficit.

The proposal set the stage for a long election-year struggle, drawing sharp criticism from the Democratic majority in Congress as well as a scattering of Republicans concerned about the president's habit of leaving large chunks of the spending out of his annual budget blueprint.

The proposal calls for making permanent Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which have been widely criticized as skewed to the rich and which would begin expiring next year. Doing so would cost Washington more than a half-trillion dollars in forgone revenue over the next five years and more than $2 trillion over the next decade, but the president has argued that they play an important role in stimulating economic growth.

The new budget would increase Pentagon spending by 8.1% - to $518.3 billion, plus add an additional $70 billion to fight terrorism. By some measures, the combination is the 11th consecutive year of defense spending increases.
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Stocks Drop Sharply In Early Trading
2008-02-05 15:34:34
Stock prices fell hard Tuesday morning after a report showed a large drop in the all-important service sector, raising concerns that another key leg of the economy may be giving way.

The Dow Jones industrial average skidded more than 200 points after an index that measures service-sector activity plummeted to 41.9 in January from 54.4 the previous month. Readings above 50 signify growth, while those below 50 point to contraction.

Economists had expected a slight drop-off to 52.5, and the far-sharper decline caught Wall Street off-guard.

"This was a total and complete surprise," said Charles Blood, director of strategy research at Brown Bros. Harriman & Co. in New York. "This is a big deal."

At 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Dow was off 206.15, or 1.6%, to 12,429.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 index sank 23.67 points, or 1.7%, to 1,357.15.
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Intelligence Chief Cites Al-Qaeda Threat To U.S.
2008-02-05 15:33:13
The top American intelligence official said on Tuesday that al-Qaeda is improving its ability to attack within the United States by recruiting and training new operatives. At the same time, he said, the group’s affiliate in Iraq is beginning to send militants to other countries.

That caution came from Michael McConnell, director of national intelligence, as he presented to the Senate intelligence committee an annual report on threats to the United States. The report was released as his testimony began.

“Al-Qa’ida is improving the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.: the identification, training, and positioning of operatives for an attack in the homeland,” he wrote in the 47-page document.

McConnell’s assessment, representing the consensus view of the country’s intelligence agencies, was decidedly mixed.

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An Altar Beyond Olympus For A Deity Pre-Dating Zeus
2008-02-05 15:32:15
Before Zeus hurled his first thunderbolt from Olympus, the pre-Greek people occupying the land presumably paid homage and offered sacrifices to their own gods and goddesses, whose nature and identities are unknown to scholars today.

Archaeologists say they have now found the ashes, bones and other evidence of animal sacrifices to some pre-Zeus deity on the summit of Mount Lykaion, in the region of Greece known as Arcadia. The remains were uncovered last summer at an altar later devoted to Zeus.

Fragments of a coarse, undecorated pottery in the debris indicated that the sacrifices might have been made as early as 3000 B.C., the archaeologists concluded. That was about 900 years before Greek-speaking people arrived, probably from the north in the Balkans, and brought their religion with them.

The excavators were astonished. They were digging in a sanctuary to Zeus, in Greek mythology the father of gods and goddesses. From texts in Linear B, an ancient form of Greek writing, Zeus is attested as a pre-eminent god as early as 1400 B.C. By some accounts, the birthplace of Zeus was on the heights of Lykaion.

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Afghan, Held At Guantanamo, Dies Of Natural Causes
2008-02-05 03:41:15
Abdul Razzaq Hekmati was regarded here as a war hero, famous for his resistance to the Russian occupation in the 1980s and later for a daring prison break he organized for three opponents of the Taliban government in 1999.

Yet in 2003, Hekmati was arrested by American forces in southern Afghanistan when, senior Afghan officials here contend, he was falsely accused by his enemies of being a Taliban commander himself. For the next five years he was held at the American military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he died of cancer on Dec. 30.

The fate of Hekmati, the first detainee to die of natural causes at Guantanamo, who fruitlessly recounted his story several times to American officials, demonstrates the enduring problems of the tribunals at Guantanamo, say Afghan officials and others who knew him.

Afghan officials, and some Americans, complain that detainees are effectively thwarted from calling witnesses in their defense, and that the Afghan government is never consulted on the detention cases, even when it may be able to help. Hekmati’s case, officials who knew him said, shows that sometimes the Americans do not seem to know whom they are holding. Meanwhile, detainees wait for years with no resolution to their cases.

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For Candidates, One Last Push To Win Support ...Unless They Tie, Then There'll Be Other 'Last' Pushes
2008-02-05 03:39:49
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton made a raspy appeal for support Monday in her race against Sen. Barack Obama, even as her aides warned that the Democratic presidential contest will probably drag on for months after today's Super Tuesday voting. Republican Mitt Romney, meanwhile, predicted he would "surprise" those who were expecting Sen. John McCain to be anointed as the GOP nominee in the busiest single day of primaries and caucuses in presidential nominating history.

"I am definitely the underdog," Romney declared during a final day of furious campaigning that included a hastily arranged trip to delegate-rich California. 

With 24 states in play, the leading candidates in both parties scoured targeted states for votes in the hours before the polls were to open. McCain, after a year of unexpected twists that left his candidacy all but dead late last year, hoped to clinch the Republican nomination by carrying California and a swath of Northeastern states.

Democrats were bracing for a less decisive outcome. Advisers to Clinton (New York), once the clear front-runner, were stoic as they envisioned a "lengthy process" that could continue for months, possibly through the Democratic National Convention in late August. Clinton officials also confirmed that she had raised about $13 million in January, compared with $32 million Obama raised in the same period.

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