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May 5, 2012 at 6:00 PM   |   Comments

Obama kicks off re-election bid in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 5 (UPI) -- President Obama Saturday kicked off his re-election campaign in Ohio, reigniting some of the enthusiasm that swept him to victory in 2008.

Obama, now 50 and bearing some scars from his first term, appeared Saturday on the campus of Ohio State University to launch the latest phase in his re-election bid.

"It's still about hope. It's still about change. It's still about ordinary people who believe in the face of great odds that we can make a difference in the life of this country. Because I still believe, Ohio," Obama told a crowd of 14,000 at Schottenstein Center in Columbus.

"I still believe we are not as divided as our politics suggest. I still believe we have more in common than pundits tell us. We're not Democrats or Republicans, but Americans first and foremost."

Obama slammed the Republican policies he said were responsible for the recent recession and said likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, would take the country backward.

"Governor Romney doesn't get that maximizing profit through whatever means necessary might not always be good for the average American," Obama said before flying to a second rally at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

The Democrat's goal, analysts say, is to revive his image as a crusader for "change" that resonated so well among college-age voters four years ago.

"I think even though people are a little more tired and he's got a little more gray, he's still got the fire and he's still got the drive," a former Obama senior administration official told The Hill. "He's just going to need to excite and inspire voters just as much as he did last time if we're going to pull this off."

The newspaper said Obama will portray himself as being more in tune with the middle class than Republican Mitt Romney and will contrast his record and plans against Romney's agenda.

"Now Romney has to put his record and his agenda up against the president's, and we look forward to that debate," said senior Obama political adviser David Axelrod.

The Republican camp conceded Obama is a skilled campaigner who will be in his element this weekend; however, they said his own record over the past four years has been a failure and will be a significant handicap.


Rally cheers shutdown of last Japan nuke plant

TOKYO, May 5 (UPI) -- Protesters Saturday cheered the shutdown of the last operational nuclear reactor in Japan and urged the government not to allow them to be restarted.

Hokkaido Electric shut off its reactor at the Tomari power plant on Hokkaido for mandated maintenance Saturday, making a total of 50 reactors that have been switched off with no restart date scheduled.

The New York Times said the Tomari shutdown means Japan is running without nuclear power for the first time in 42 years.

About 300 protesters rallied at the Trade Ministry in Tokyo Saturday not only to cheer the shutdown but also to demand the shutdowns be made permanent. Activists say the nuclear disaster caused by last year's tsunami was proof enough Japan should rely on other forms of energy.

"I want all reactors to be scrapped, and I'm going to live 10 -- no, 20 -- years to see that through," said 81-year-old Tadao Sakuma.

The Japanese government has thus far been reluctant to give up on nuclear power. Although it has refused to allow any of the reactors to go back online, it also has been conducting a series of stress tests to determine whether the individual power plants could withstand a repeat of the huge quake and tidal wave that crippled the Fukushima plant north of Tokyo.


French presidential vote tightens up

PARIS, May 5 (UPI) -- Final polls in France showed a late surge in favor of President Nicolas Sarkozy as voters cast their ballots in Saturday's second-round runoff election.

Sarkozy had consistently trailed Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in the race, but the tide appeared to change late this week in the wake of Wednesday's nationally televised debate between the two.

Britain's The Guardian said Saturday Hollande remains the front-runner but has lost his double-digit lead in the polls and urged his supporters Friday not to take victory for granted.

"I don't want to be a killjoy, but don't make what could be the fatal mistake of thinking that the game is already over," he said. "I have to tell you that I am sure of nothing."

Although the reasons for Sarkozy's late gains were unclear, The Guardian noted Hollande has been successfully painting the incumbent as a pal of the upper crust while he is more of a man of the people.

The newspaper said Socialists in Paris predicted a big celebration at the famed Bastille should Hollande win Saturday.

"If Hollande wins, people will automatically gravitate towards the Bastille without even being told," one member of the Socialist Party said. "The place is very symbolic and it would be perfectly natural to celebrate victory there ... if we win, that is."


Sept. 11 defendants act up in Gitmo court

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, May 5 (UPI) -- A U.S. military judge said a reputed al-Qaida terrorist had to be placed in restraints Saturday for his hearing at the Guantanamo prison in Cuba.

Walid bin Attash had to be hauled into court strapped to a chair for what the judge, U.S. Army Col. James Pohl, said were unspecified behavioral problems prior to his arraignment on charges related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Attash was one of five defendants to appear before Pohl in a hearing The Miami Herald said had its share of discipline issues. The newspaper said it was the first public appearance since 2009 by the defendants, who are accused of organizing the brazen attacks that left nearly 3,000 people dead.

Accused mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, dressed in a turban and sporting a large reddish beard, refused to answer the judge's questions, the Herald said. Co-defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh stood up and began chanting prayers. The courtroom guards did not make any effort to force him to stop and sit down.

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