Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First Thoughts: What we learned from the GOP race

NBC's Mark Murray joins Daily Rundown guest host Luke Russert to discuss Rick Santorum's decision to suspend his presidential campaign.
What we learned from the GOP race… And three questions we have after it’s now over: Did Romney win because he was a better candidate than in ’08? Or because the field was weaker?... Did Santorum help or hurt the GOP?... And can Romney win over his conservative critics?... What’s next for Newt? He’s staying in the race… Team Obama releases web video with Romney’s “greatest hits” from the primary season… Obama delivers statement on the Romney -- err, Buffett -- Rule at 10:15 am ET, while Romney camp holds conference call at the same time… And Crossroads GPS joins the TV-ad tag team against Obama on gas prices.
Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

Surrounded by members of his family, Republican presidential candidate, former Sen. Rick Santorum announces he will be suspending his campaign during a press conference at the Gettysburg Hotel on April 10, 2012 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

*** What we learned from GOP race: After 32 state contests, 20 debates, some $190 million spent by the candidates, and $50 million in ads by the various Super PACs, the Republican presidential primary race officially ended yesterday when Rick Santorum suspended his campaign. (Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul would disagree, but it's the reality.) So what we did learn? That money and organization still matter. That a lack of money and organization can get you second place (at least in this field). That, despite all of his advantages, there was a conservative resistance to Mitt Romney. That, despite this resistance, Romney was always the GOP's best chance at defeating President Obama. That the nearly yearlong primary race -- remember, the first debate was in May 2011 -- has taken a toll on the party and its presidential candidates. And that, because of it, the conclusion to the primary season couldn't have come at a moment too soon for the GOP.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum announced Tuesday that is suspending his presidential campaign, effectively giving the GOP nomination to Mitt Romney. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

*** Did Romney win because he was a better candidate than in ’08? Or was it simply a weaker field? But the biggest question we have after the past year: Did Romney triumph the GOP nomination because he was better than he was in '08 (when he finished third, behind John McCain and Mike Huckabee)? Supporting this would be his improved debate performances, knocking Rick Perry down in Sept. 2011, and a more comfortable issue terrain (the economy vs. social issues and national security in '08). Or did he win due to extraordinarily weak field? Backing that up would be the quality of his GOP rivals (hello Herman Cain!), his current poll numbers, and his numerous gaffes and unforced errors. We’ll have an answer to this question come November 6.  Many in RomneyWorld believe that what they've pulled off -- convincing a Southern conservative evangelical Christian party to nominate a Northeastern moderate Mormon -- doesn't get enough credit. Of course, they wouldn't use the word "moderate" (at least right now).

*** Did Santorum help or hurt the GOP? Here’s another question: Did Santorum help or hurt the Republican Party in this primary race? As we pointed out a week ago, Santorum accomplished a lot: He won more states than Huckabee did in ’08 and as many as Romney did four years ago; he has the potential to be a significant player in 2016 or 2020; and he repaired some of the damage from his ’06 Senate loss. But you could make the argument that the GOP’s current struggles with female voters and independents can be attributed to some of Santorum’s rhetoric on the trail (calling Obama a “snob” for wanting everyone to go to college, saying that JFK’s 1960 speech on the separation of church and state made him want to “throw up.”). In the general election, we’re going to see Democrats try to make Romney own some of the things that Santorum said. And unfortunately for Romney, he never aggressively differentiated himself from -- or tried to denounce -- that rhetoric. Team Romney believes it's only casual voters who conflate Santorum's comments on women with Romney. And that in time, Romney can fix this.

*** Can Romney win over his conservative critics? And here’s a third question: Can Romney win over the conservatives who’ve been resistant to him? Just check out some of the quotes in today’s New York Times. Tony Perkins: “I just think it’s going to be a much harder lift to take someone who seems like a moderate and try to get conservatives excited about it.” Richard Viguerie: “After having destroyed every conservative that came on the scene, you can’t say ‘You have to line up behind me.’ No, no, no. Conservatives are not going to jump until they hear where Governor Romney wants to take everybody.” And, of course, we weren’t the only ones to notice the folks who endorsed Romney ONLY AFTER Santorum bowed out of the race -- Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Rick Scott, Pat Toomey. In the next couple of months, Romney will have to fight a two-front war -- against Obama and the Democrats and the conservatives who are still kicking and screaming. Romney probably has no choice but to roll the dice that conservatives will rally. The longer he waits to pivot, the harder it will be.

*** And what about Newt Gingrich? He told NBC’s David Gregory that he will stay in the race and focus for the next 10 days on Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and North Carolina. Beyond that, Gingrich said Santorum’s exit clarifies the race. He wants to spend this period defining what the platform should be and what the issues should be. The implication, according to Gregory: He thinks he has more influence staying in right now. But here’s the problem for Gingrich as he stays in the race. He has to battle embarrassing stories like this one: His $500 check bounced in trying to qualify for Utah’s June 26 primary. Gingrich likes to note that he's come back before, even when folks like us referred to him as Bruce Willis' character in the "Sixth Sense." The better comparison might now be to the Japanese soldiers found after WWII in the Pacific who had no idea the war was over.

*** On the trail, per NBC’s Adam Perez: Romney campaigns in Connecticut and Rhode Island… Gingrich is in Delaware… And Paul holds a town hall in Fort Worth, TX.

*** Romney’s greatest hits (by Team Obama): Now that the GOP primary race is officially behind us, the Obama campaign is out with a searing web video reminding voters of what Romney said during it. “Corporations are people, my friend.” “I like being able to fire people.” “I was a severely conservative Republican governor.” Etc. Bottom line, here’s what the next six months are going to look like: Obama and his allies will try to disqualify him, while Team Romney is going to try to make the state of the U.S. economy stick to Obama.

*** Let’s call it by its real name -- the Romney Rule: Another day, another event around the so-called Buffett Rule. At 10:15 am ET from the White House, President Obama will deliver a statement on the Buffett Rule. But let’s cut to the chase: This isn’t the Buffett Rule; it’s the Romney Rule. While this might not poll well with independent voters, as we wrote yesterday, this Democratic drumbeat is a way to make Romney seem out of touch. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has released this press statement on Obama’s upcoming remarks today: “Sadly, an administration that promised it would focus on jobs is wasting yet another day on a political event that won’t take a single person off the unemployment line.” And at the same time Obama will be speaking, the Romney campaign is holding a conference call on the “Obama economy.”

*** Crossroads joins TV-ad tag team against Obama: This is what the next two or three months will look like as Romney begins to fill his general-election campaign war chest: Crossroads GPS, the outside GOP group backed by former George W. Bush political adviser Karl Rove and others, has a new TV ad knocking President Obama on the issue of gas prices. In what Crossroads GPS says is a $1.7 million buy, the ad is airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia. And it's in direct response to an Obama campaign TV ad in these same states -- which was rebutting an earlier ad from a GOP conservative outside group, American Energy Alliance, with ties to the conservative Koch Brothers.
Crossroads GPS, by the way, is NOT a Super PAC. It's a 501c4 organization that DOESN'T have to disclose its donors. The Super PAC which DOES have to disclose its donors is American Crossroads. 

*** Veepstakes watch: The Wall Street Journal writes that there’s growing buzz over Rob Portman… And check out what Paul Ryan said about Romney: “He's kind of a throwback to the '50s.” He later said: “I grew up watching ‘Leave it to Beaver,’ idolizing Mr. Cleaver, Ward Cleaver, and [Romney] has these great attributes, which is he’s a very nice, civil man and he’s very earnest.”

Countdown to the CT, DE, NY, PA, and RI primaries: 13 days

Countdown to Election Day: 209 days

George Zimmerman in custody, will plead not guilty to second-degree murder in Trayvon Martin case

By Reporter
updated 27 minutes ago

George Zimmerman is in custody in Florida and will be charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, authorities announced Wednesday. His attorney said he would plead not guilty.
"We did not come to this decision lightly," Angela Corey, the special prosecutor appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to re-examine the case, said at a news conference in Jacksonville.
Corey had previously said she wouldn't present the case to a grand jury, which took first-degree murder off the table. Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara — who took the case late Wednesday after Zimmerman's previous attorneys withdrew — said Zimmerman would plead not guilty and that he would seek Zimmerman's release on bond Thursday.
"I think he's troubled by the fact the state decided to charge him," O'Mara said "... I would think anyone charged with second-degree murder would be scared."
Corey said she decided last week to seek the charge but needed several days to make sure all details were in order. She said she had informed Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton.
In a brief statement in Washington at a news conference at a gathering of the National Action Network, 

 Fulton said: "We just wanted an arrest, and we got it, and I say thank you. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus."
(The National Action Network is a project of the Rev. Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC-TV's "PoliticsNation," who has played a prominent role in advocating for charges against Zimmerman.)
Ben Crump, the attorney for Martin's parents, said the decision was about "justice, justice and only justice." He said it was important that Zimmerman have a fair trial, even though "we believe in our hearts that he was wrong to kill Trayvon Martin."
Corey refused to discuss details of the case, saying she was committed to protecting the interests of both Martin and Zimmerman.
"So much information on this case has gotten released that should never have been released," she said.
Under Florida law, Zimmerman, 28, must be taken before a judge within 24 hours of his return to Seminole County, where he has acknowledged he shot and killed Martin, 17, in the town of Sanford on Feb. 26. Corey wouldn't say where he was being held to protect his safety.
Scott, who appointed Corey after Seminole County authorities declined to bring charges, said in a statement that the matter "is now in the hands of the judicial system and I am confident justice will prevail."
Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Peruvian, says he shot Martin, who was black, in self-defense after following him in a gated community in Sanford. Police questioned Zimmerman but decided against pressing charges.
The lack of an arrest or charges had sparked protests nationwide, with critics alleging that Zimmerman confronted Martin because of his race. Zimmerman's supporters deny that.

            Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Trayvon Martin's parents say they're thankful there was an arrest but that 'this is just the beginning.' NBC's Ron Allen reports.

The decision whether to arrest Zimmerman was delayed for several weeks because Zimmerman had indicated that he would argue self-defense under Florida's so-called Stand Your Ground law, which shields subjects from prosecution if a judge determines that the shooting was justified to protect life or proerty.
Corey called the law "a tough affirmative defense to overcome," but she said, "If 'Stand Your Ground' becomes an issue, we will fight that affirmative defense."
O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, told reporters that he didn't think Zimmerman could get a fair hearing "today" because "the emotions are just running high in Central Florida."
"I am hoping the hatred settles down," he said.
A federal civil rights investigation is also under way, but U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Justice Department had to meet a "high bar" to bring any charges.
The main federal role is to "support the state in its ongoing investigation," Holder told reporters Wednesday morning in Washington. At the same time, he said, the Justice Department is conducting its "own thorough and parallel investigation" to try to resolve the case "in as fair and complete a way and as quickly as we can."
Kerry Sanders and Pete Williams of NBC News and NBC station WESH of Orlando, Fla., contributed to this report by M. Alex Johnson of

More on the Travyon Martin case from and NBC News:

Communist Party slams Allen West

Allen West speaks at an event. | AP Photo

West's words are 'guilt by association taken to an extreme,' Libero Della Piana says. | AP Photo

A top official of the Communist Party USA on Wednesday ripped Rep. Allen West’s “sad ploy” for claiming that as many as 80 Democratic members of the House are communists.

“I just think it’s an absurd way to cast a shadow over his colleagues. It’s kind of a sad ploy,” Libero Della Piana, a vice-chairman of the national Communist Party, said of the Florida Republican’s charge that about 80 House Democrats were members of the radical party.
“It’s just guilt by association taken to an extreme,” he told POLITICO. He also said there are no members of Congress who are members of the Communist Party – not even avowed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“I think it’s just absurd,” Della Piana said.
In a video clip of the event posted Wednesday, West was responding a question from a constituent asking “What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists?”

“That’s a fair question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party,” West says in the video. He went on to say, “It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus,” according to a West spokesman, Tim Edson.

Della Piana also said that using the term “communist” as slander ran counter to democratic principles.

“We are supposed to live in a political democracy,” he said. “I didn’t know that being a Communist in Congress was off-limits or out of bounds. There aren’t any now and if there were in the future does that mean that the voters don’t have a say? Can’t choose a Communist to be in Congress?”

In fact, charges from the tea party that President Barack Obama and other Democrats were enacting “socialist” policies has led to increased interest in socialism, Della Piana said.

“I think a lot of Americans were opened up the idea of socialism because of the tea party’s attack on it,” he said. “I think they put it back on the agenda. By attacking every policy initiative of the president as socialism, they put it back in the public debate… it wasn’t exactly something the average American was talking about before that.”

Top 10 Allen West lines

Allen West is pictured. | Reuters

On Fox News, West referred to himself as 'the modern day Harriet Tubman.' | Reuters

If Vice President Joe Biden is known as the gaffe veep, just imagine Rep. Allen West.

On Friday West said he doesn’t expect to be tapped for a VP slot, but if he got that call he’d consider it.
In full West flourish, he also told CNN’s Kyra Phillips that he does not know the GOP’s likely nominee, Mitt Romney, very well, but would get to know him.
“Well, you know, I’ve never been out on a dinner date with him if that’s what you’re asking me,” West said. “So I don’t know if I would like him. But I think that we’d have to sit down and discuss things.”

Friday’s lively appearance pales in comparison to some of his more famous moments.

Here’s POLITICO’s look back at the Florida Republican’s 10 most memorable lines:

1. “You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!” — July 19, 2011 in an email to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, where he also called her “the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable” member of the House.

2. “So I’m here as the modern day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people on the Underground Railroad away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility.” — August 17, 2011, on Fox News saying he wants to lead black voters away from the “21st century plantation” of the Democratic Party.

3. “We need to let President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and my dear friend the chairman of the Democrat National Committee, we need to let them know that Florida ain’t on the table. Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America.” — January 28, 2012, speaking at a Lincoln Day Dinner in West Palm Beach for the Peal Beach County GOP. West later backpedaled on his “get the hell out” statement, saying his words had been misinterpreted.

4. “If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the [Democratic] Party because they have an incredible propaganda machine.” — December 15, 2011, linking the Nazi propagandist Goebbels with the Democratic Party while talking to reporters in the Capitol.

5. ”I will drive the car!” — July 26, 2011, after House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy played a clip from the film “The Town” in an attempt get Republicans on board with House Speaker John Boehner’s debt plan. In the clip, Ben Affleck’s character says, “I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is. You can never ask me what it is. You can ask me about it later” and his friend replies, “Whose car are we gonna take?”

6. “No. I like chocolate chip ice cream and I will continue to like chocolate chip ice cream. So there’s no worry about me changing to vanilla. I like to, you know, ride my motorcycle. What do you want me to do? You want me to change my behavior and ride a scooter? I’m not into that.” August 9, 2011, answering the Sun Sentinel’s question, “Should gay people change their behavior and not be gay?”

7. “I must confess, when I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool.” — July 18, 2011, in a post on the website Red County.

8. “I would take these gentlemen over and let them get shot at a few times and maybe they’d have a different opinion.” — May 26, 2011, speaking to the Miami Herald about members of the House who had voted to for a proposal that would have required President Barack Obama to submit a clear timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

9. “I need a bucket.” — Sept. 26, 2011, responding during a radio interview about what he thinks of when Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s name is mentioned.

10. “Pretty woman, walking down the street…” — February 7, 2012, singing Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” at his 51st birthday party.

US says Apple, publishers conspired to fix prices

An Apple Store employee sells Apple's new iPad to a customer at the 5th Avenue Apple Store in New York.

The Justice Department sued Apple Wednesday, alleging the technology giant and five major publishers conspired to push up the prices of e-books and limit retail price competition.
The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court by the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, alleges Apple and the publishers had a common interest in fighting’s practice of selling e-books for as little as $9.99, and decided to work together to raise prices.
The government alleges that Apple and the publishers reached an agreement to stop competing on price, allowing e-book prices to rise significantly. Apple would be guaranteed a 30 percent “commission” on each e-book sold, according to a court document detailing the complaint.
The conspiracy has caused e-book consumers to pay “tens of millions of dollars more for e-books than they otherwise would have paid,” the Justice Department said.
News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers Inc, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster Inc and Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group agreed to settle with the Justice Department. The settlement terms were not immediately disclosed.
The two publishers the Justice Department is proceeding to litigate against are Pearson Plc's Penguin Group and Macmillan, a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH.
The agreement between Apple and the publishers allegedly occurred ahead of the introduction of the iPad in 2010.
“To effectuate their conspiracy, the publisher defendants teamed up with defendant Apple, which shared the same goal of restraining retail price competition in the sale of e-books,” the Justice Department said.
Tom Neumayr, a spokesman for Apple, declined to comment on the lawsuit, but some publishers responded to the allegations, including Macmillan Chief Executive Officer John Sargent.
“Macmillan did not act illegally. Macmillan did not collude,” he said in a letter on the company’s website. Sargent noted that the filing of the lawsuit came after discussions with the government that lasted for months.
“But the terms the DOJ demanded were too onerous,” he continued.
“After careful consideration, we came to the conclusion that the terms could have allowed Amazon to recover the monopoly position it had been building before our switch to the agency model. We also felt the settlement the DOJ wanted to impose would have a very negative and long term impact on those who sell books for a living, from the largest chain stores to the smallest independents.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a press conference that the proposed settlement would give retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble the freedom to reduce e-book prices.
The Justice Department’s complaint mentions an e-mail from an executive at an unnamed publisher that points out that, given Amazon’s bargaining strength, the publishers knew they had to work together to compel the online retailer to raise prices.
“We’ve always known that unless other publishers follow us, there’s no chance of success in getting Amazon to change its pricing practices,” the e-mail said, adding that “without a critical mass behind us Amazon won’t ‘negotiate,’ so we need to be more confident of how our fellow publishers will react.”
The European Union is also investigating allegations of conspiracy to fix the prices of e-books.
Already the world’s most valuable company, Apple’s valuation hit the $600 billion mark for the first time Tuesday. Only one other company -- Microsoft -- has reached that valuation. It rose to that level around the turn of the valuation at the height of the technology stock craze.
Collusion between managers of U.S. firms and other domestic or foreign firms over pricing or other monopolistic actions, is expressly forbidden by the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, the cornerstone of U.S. antitrust policy and can result in imprisonment or substantial fines.
In November 2001, the Justice Department reached a settlement with Microsoft over allegations of anti-competitive actions related to its software.
( is a joint venture of Microsoft and Comcast’s NBC Universal unit.)

West hears cheers, jeers at town-hall meetings in Palm City, Jensen Beach

Allen West makes claim about Democrats in Communist party

MARTIN COUNTY — U.S. Rep. Allen West told about 90 largely supportive Palm City voters Tuesday that locally prioritized federal projects — such as the St. Lucie Inlet dredging — aren't going to matter if Washington officials don't address a mounting deficit.
Later Tuesday evening, a Jensen Beach crowd of 100 with more than 15 protesters greeted the congressman with mixed support, cheers and jeers.
The conservative tea party icon also got in shots at Democrats and President Obama, who spoke Tuesday at Florida Atlantic University. West said Obama was "scared" to have a discussion with him. He later said "he's heard" up to 80 U.S. House Democrats are Communist Party members, but wouldn't name names.
At the first of two campaign town-hall events in Martin County on Tuesday, the Plantation Republican told a New Hope Fellowship Church crowd it'd be disingenuous to pretend he knows everything about the area, but said he supports local projects like inlet dredging. But he contended that big national issues, such as gas prices, turn out to be the most important locally.
"I understand everything about the (St. Lucie) Inlet. I already represent 70 to 75 miles of coastline. Plenty of inlets, plenty of ports. I got it," West said. "I understand about the (St. Lucie) river situation. I understand about (Lake) Okeechobee. But it won't mean a hill of beans if the United States of America goes from $15.6 trillion in debt to $26 trillion in debt."
West then addressed a riled-up crowd of 100 at the Jensen Beach Community Center in his bid for a St. Lucie-Martin-northern Palm Beach congressional district. Occupy Martin County, an anti-tea party group named Credo Super PAC and another anti-West group named Stand Up Florida picketed outside, and shouted out questions and remarks during the event. Supporters responded out loud to naysayers' remarks about divisive topics, from women's abortion rights to proposed Medicare cost-cutting measures.
West and Democrat Patrick Murphy — both fundraisers in the millions — left Broward County to run for the seat. Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder will take on West in a GOP primary as the local candidate, and Democrats Jim Horn of Palm City and Jerry Buechler of Port St. Lucie also are in the running.
Addressing the debt is overwhelmingly important, Crowder said, but there are huge impacts on safety and the economy when the inlet isn't dredged and local projects go unaddressed by the feds.
"We can't be expanding the debt, but you're going to have to have a balance," Crowder said.
West reiterated many conservative stances he recited last week in front of St. Lucie County voters — against leeway for food stamp users, pro-domestic drilling and pro-tax cuts for high earners, for example. He also berated Obama, who spoke in Boca Raton to FAU students about ending millionaire tax breaks.
"I really wish that, standing here before you, was Allen West and President Obama," West said. "We could have a simple discussion. But that ain't ever gonna happen."
"Why not?" an audience member asked.
"Cuz he was too scared!" West responded in a mocking voice.
West said he's met the president once very briefly at a White House holiday party.
Murphy, who just announced his campaign will be headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, said the West statement is just more grandstanding.
"The bottom line is, Allen West is trying to make it in the press with comments that don't even make sense," Murphy said. "He's trying to make headlines, get a rise out of people and not get anything done."

PolitiFact will be fact-checking West's claim about how many -- if any -- Democrats in Congress are Communists.

Read more here:

Congressman says 80 fellow lawmakers are communists

Freshman Rep. Allen West (R-FL) claimed at a town hall meeting that about 80 members of Congress are communists, a remark which has drawn quick fire from opponents.

"I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the democratic party that are members of the communist party," West told supporters at a town hall meeting in Jensen Beach, FL. He was responding to a question by a participant who asked, "what percentage of the American legislature do you think are card carrying Marxists?"

Asked to respond to the comments, West spokeswoman Angela Marvin told NBC News that the Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

"The Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus," Marvin said in a written statement. "The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies."

"The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself," Marvin continued, "These individuals certainly aren't proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom."

West's office also referred to a post on the website for the Communist Party USA where it says they made a mistake by turning "away from our allies in Congress, the Progressive Caucus, and John Conyers" during their fight for a single-payer system being included in Obama's health care law.

This isn't the first time West, whom conservatives cite often as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney, has criticized a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In January of last year, West criticized Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep Keith Ellison (D-MN) as "someone that really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established" because he is a practicing Muslim.

Explainer: Seven deep mysteries of history

Image: Amelia Earhart
FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

What happened to Amelia Earhart?

Amelia Earhart raised the spirits of Depression-era America as she soared into the aviation record books with feats of altitude, distance and endurance. The mood took a gloomy turn, however, when she and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, during a much-heralded attempt to fly around the world. Their fate remains one of aviation's greatest unsolved mysteries.
Theories abound: They ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. They were captured by the Japanese and executed. They survived, and Earhart lived out her life as a housewife in New Jersey.
A prominent theory with tantalizing clues holds that they survived the crash landing and but perished as castaways on Nikumaroro, an uninhabited island in the republic of Kiribati. An expedition to the island in 2010 recovered pieces of a pocket knife and a glass jar that may have belonged to the castaways. If DNA analyses on these and other items match Earhart's, the mystery may finally be resolved.

Clinton helps launch new search for Earhart

  • Where are Cleopatra and Mark Antony buried?

    Image: Kathleen Martinez, director of a Dominican-Egyptian archeological mission
    Orlando Barria  /  EPA

    Excavations underway at a temple near Alexandria, Egypt, may reveal the final resting place of the doomed lovers Cleopatra and Mark Antony. The Egyptian queen and Roman general committed suicide in 30 B.C. following their defeat in the battle of Actium for control of the Roman Empire. But where the lovers were buried is unknown.
    Zahi Hawass, Egypt's top archaeologist, believes the lovers were put to rest in the temple of Taposiris Magna and launched a dig with a Dominican-led team to locate the tomb. "It my opinion, if this tomb is found, it will be one of the most important discoveries of the 21st century because of the love between Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and because of the sad story of their death," he told reporters during a tour of the temple.
    Dominican archaeologist Kathleen Martinez is shown here with an alabaster bust of Cleopatra that was found at the excavation site near Alexandria.

  • Where is Genghis Khan buried?

    Image: The foundation of a Genghis Khan's mausoleum.
    Japan-Mongol Joint Research Team via AP

    Genghis Khan united warring tribes in 1206 and became the leader of the Mongols, creating an empire that eventually stretched from China to Hungary. The famed warrior's tomb, however, has remained a mystery ever since his death in 1227.
    According to legend, his burial party killed anyone who saw the procession. The slaves and soldiers who attended the funeral were also killed. Horses then trampled evidence of the burial, and a river was diverted to flow over the grave, which is thought to lie somewhere near Genghis Khan's birthplace in Khentii Aimag.
    Expeditions to locate the tomb have been aborted due to concerns that the excavations would disturb the site and destroy the soul that serves as its protector. In 2004, archaeologists uncovered Genghis Khan's palace, shown here, and they suspect the tomb lies nearby.

  • Did the Donner family resort to cannibalism?

    Image: James F. Reed and Margret W. Keyes Reed

    The legend is a harrowing tale of survival: A group of pioneers headed for California in 1846 got stuck on a mountain pass in the Sierra Nevada and resorted to cannibalism to survive the winter. But the claims that they feasted on human flesh may have been exaggerated, based on an analysis of bones found in a hearth along Alder Creek, where at least some of the Donner Party passed the time.
    The analysis shored up accounts that the family dog, Uno, was eaten, as well as a steady supply of cattle, deer and horse. No human bones were found at the site. While cannibalism may have occurred, if it did, the bones were treated in a different way. Perhaps the bones were buried. Or perhaps they were placed on the hearth last and have since eroded, according to project scientist Gwen Robbins, a professor of biological anthropology at Appalachian State University.
    Donner Party survivors James Reed and his wife Margaret Reed are shown in this photo from the 1850s.

  • Where is Billy the Kid buried?

    Image: William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, circa 1880.
    Lincoln County Heritage Trust

    Legend holds that outlaw Billy the Kid was gunned down by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881 and buried in Fort Sumner, N.M. A headstone marks his grave, but a controversy has roiled since the 1930s when an Arizona man named John Miller claimed that he was the legendary outlaw. Garrett, he said, shot the wrong man and lied about it. Matters became even more confused a few decades later when a Texan named "Brushy" Bill Roberts came forth and said he was the real Billy the Kid.
    An investigation aims to resolve the case by exhuming the body of Billy the Kid's mother and comparing her mitochondrial DNA to genetic material from the three men. But the investigation is controversial on several fronts. For one, the graves have been moved over the decades and nobody is certain the bodies and headstones match up. In addition, if the real Billy the Kid turns out to be buried in Texas or Arizona, it would kill off a legend that helps draw tourists to the New Mexico gravesite.

  • Christopher Columbus' remains in Spain?

    Image: Alleged tomb of Christopher Columbus, Cathedral of Seville
    Cristina Quicler  /  AP file

    In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue; after he died in 1509, his remains remained on the move. He was originally buried in the Spanish city of Valladolid, but his remains were shipped to the Caribbean island of Hispanola (modern-day Dominican Republic and Haiti) in 1537, in accordance with his will. When the Spanish lost the territory to France in 1795, they shipped Columbus's remains to Cuba, where they stayed until the Spanish-American War prompted their return to Seville in 1898. The tomb is shown here.
    The Dominican Republic, however, says Columbus' remains never left Hispanola. In 1877, a box was uncovered in a Santo Domingo cathedral with an inscription identifying the remains as belonging to the "illustrious and distinguished male Cristobal Colon (Spanish for Christopher Columbus)."
    DNA analysis of bone fragments from the Seville remains and those of Columbus' brother Diego, also buried in the city, are a perfect match. When researchers announced those findings in 2006, they declared that the century-old dispute was resolved. But DNA from the Dominican remains has yet to be studied, leaving the case not quite fully shut.

  • DNA seals fate of Russian czar's kids

    Image: Nicholas II, Prince Alexei
    AP file

    Bolsheviks gunned down Russian Czar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra and their five children in 1918, but for 90 years the whereabouts of two of the children, Prince Alexei (heir to the Russian throne) and a daughter (Maria or Anastasia), remained unknown until 2008. That's when their bones were recovered from a grave near the rest of the Romanov family near Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, about 900 miles east of Moscow.
    The bones from the second grave were burned and drenched in sulfuric acid, presumably to conceal the victims' identities or conditions at death. But scientists were able to examine mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down from mother to children. They also matched up Y chromosome markers from Crown Prince Alexei and Czar Nicholas II.
    Czar Nicholas II, left, and the Crown Prince Alexei, are shown cutting wood in this photo, taken at a Siberian prison months before their murder in 1918.

Race to find Amelia Earhart heats up at the 75-year mark

Image: Jon Thompson

Jon Thompson is on a mission to find the remains of famed aviator Amelia Earhart's plane. And he's not the only one.

updated 4/11/2012 12:21:22 AM ET
Jon Thompson has traveled the world collecting art and artifacts for museum exhibits, has seen the remains of the Titanic on the sea floor and has participated in two unsuccessful missions to find Amelia Earhart.
Now 72 and battling prostate cancer, Thompson is convinced he and a team from deep-sea exploration company Nauticos will finally be successful in finding the Kansas-born aviator's plane, which disappeared with Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan in July 1937. He's among the researchers looking for Earhart as the 75th anniversary of her disappearance approaches, and competition between search parties is fierce.
"Admittedly, it's a needle in a haystack, but with the technology we have employed and the brains we have involved, if we don't find it, no one will," Thompson said.
Theories about what happened to Earhart and Noonan are varied. They disappeared while flying from New Guinea to Howland Island as part of the adventurer's attempt to become the first female pilot to circumnavigate the globe.

This could be the year 

Last month, the International Group for Historic Aircraft, headed by longtime Earhart seeker Ric Gillespie, said a U.S. State Department analysis of an image off the remote island of Nikumaroro, in what is now the Pacific nation of Kiribati, looks like it could be aircraft landing gear. Gillespie's team will return in July to renew its search.
A few months later, Thompson will be a sonar operator on a ship headed by David Jourdan, a deep-sea explorer who used high-tech equipment in 1999 to find the Israeli submarine, the Dakar, which went missing in 1968.
"It seems to be the greatest unsolved mystery of the last century," Thompson said.

            Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A photo taken just three months after Earhart disappeared may provide new evidence of famed aviator’s plight. The group that plans to conduct the deepwater search believes her airplane is still recoverable. NBC’s Chris Jansing reports.

Thompson and Jourdan are among the many historians and researchers who believe Earhart's plane crashed into the ocean, which they say explains why extensive searches shortly after the disappearance failed to uncover remains or debris.
Image: 1937 photo

TIGHAR via Reuters

A close-up view of what researchers say could be the undercarriage of a Lockheed Electra airplane is pictured at the reef at Nikumaroro in this October 1937 photo.

Gillespie's group believes Earhart and Noonan may have managed to land on a reef abutting the atoll, then known as Gardner Island, and survived for a short time. They surmise the plane was washed off the reef shortly after landing and that the wreckage may be in the deep waters nearby. That is what they will look for during their 10-day expedition in July.
Conspiracy theories that Earhart and Noonan were U.S. government agents captured by the Japanese before the World War II have been largely debunked.
Thompson and his group plan to spend two months searching a 400- to 600-square-mile area within 20 miles of Howland Island. It's the final section of an area where research from three institutions suggests the plane could have crashed. Thompson's two previous missions searched about 2,200 square miles nearby.
Students weigh theories Before fall, Thompson will complete proton therapy treatment for prostate cancer at Houston's MD Anderson Cancer Center. He will also work with students at the University of Texas' Cockrell School of Engineering to analyze two theories about Earhart. One investigates how far the plane would glide before sinking based on ocean drifts and other aspects of crashing on water. The other looks at where the aircraft could have flipped and broken on impact if Earhart were too exhausted and weak to operate the machine.

Image: Flight path

A map shows Amelia Earhart's intended flight path and some of the search areas targeted by Jon Thompson and his colleagues.

Vishnu Jyothindran, a senior studying aerospace engineering who is leading the research, is excited by the uncertainty.
"In class, you expect you'll get a question that you can solve with data in the textbook," he said in a statement. "We don't have that guarantee here, and that's unfortunate, but it's also just reality."
If artifacts are found, Thompson already knows what the exhibit would look like. The artifacts would travel on a three-story barge and dock at dozens of North American cities. It would be called "Patience, Persistence, Passion." Visitors would enter an area that looks like Earhart's childhood home, go through a portion showcasing technology that helped find the crash site, and finally go into a place where the aircraft — or a replica of it — would be displayed.
Human remains and any wood would have disintegrated at 18,000 feet, Thompson said. But Earhart's jewelry, helmet and even her leather jacket could still be found.
"I hope we still find it strapped in the seat belt," he says, grinning.

Mysterious dinosaur was about to lay eggs when it died

Gabriel Lio

An artist's reconstruction of the newly discovered, and newly named, theropod dinosaur Bonapartenykus ultimus.

By Managing editor
updated 4/10/2012 4:39:12 PM ET

A mysterious birdlike dinosaur was about to lay her eggs when she perished some 70 million years ago in what is now Patagonia, researchers have found.
The scenario is based on the discovery of two dinosaur eggs lying near the partial skeletal remains of an alvarezsaurid dinosaur, which was a type of small maniraptoran, a group of theropod dinosaurs believed to be the line that eventually led to modern-day birds.
Alvarezsaurids are bizarre among dinosaurs, scientists have said, due to their short, massive forelimbs tipped with a single digit sporting a gigantic claw. The dinosaurs also show highly birdlike skeletons, even though they were flightless.
The team named the dinosaur Bonapartenykus ultimus in honor of Jose Bonaparte, who in 1991 discovered the first alvarezsaurid in Patagonia.

Fernando Novas

One of the Bonapartenykus eggs showing its unique eggshell microstructure, which includes the tiny bumps covering its surface.

The dinosaur eggs were found less than 7.9 inches (20 centimeters) from the partial skeleton and seemed to belong to that individual dinosaur. The researchers ruled out a postmortem mixing that brought the two together. The partial skeleton was also articulated, which would likely not be the case if they had been transferred there after death.
In addition, the researchers didn't find evidence of calcium resorption, which happens in the later stages of embryonic development when embryos suck up calcium for bone growth from the inner lining of the egg, according to study researcher Martin Kundrat of Uppsala University in Sweden.
After various microscopic analyses of the bones and eggs, along with eggshells found in the area, the researchers speculate the two eggs, each about 2.8 inches (7 cm) in diameter, may have been inside the oviducts of the female Bonapartenykus when she died.
"So it looks like we have indirect evidence for keeping two eggs in two oviducts," Kundrat told LiveScience. "They were close to being laid, but the female didn't make it."
When analyzing eggshell fragments, found to belong to B. ultimus, the researchers discovered fossilized fungi; such contamination affects bird eggs today, Kundrat said. "It looks like at the very late stage the eggs could suffer from the same contamination as in common birds," he said during a telephone interview. "It doesn't mean it must kill the embryo, because usually in the embryonic space or inner space it's still protected by a very dense network of organic fibers called the shell membrane."
This mama dinosaur would have lived on Gondwana, the southern landmass in the Mesozoic Era, which lasted from about 251 million to 65 million years ago. (The era is split up into the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.)
The finding, which will be detailed in the June 2012 issue of the journal Cretaceous Research, shows that early alvarezsaurids persisted in what is now South America until latest Cretaceous times, Kundrat said.
Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.