Jan 16, 2012 10:20 AM by AP
WASHINGTON (AP) - It's the end of the road for Jon Huntsman.
The Republican presidential candidate is expected to pull out of the race today and back front-runner Mitt Romney.
Huntsman, who served as President Barack Obama's ambassador to China, had counted on New Hampshire to make him a legitimate challenger to Romney -- but he could do no better than third.
Campaign officials say Huntsman will endorse Romney because he believes Romney is the best candidate to beat Obama in November. Campaign manager Matt David said Sunday that Huntsman will announce his withdrawal at an event in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
NEW: Santorum accuses pro-Romney PAC of lying in SC
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Republican Rick Santorum is calling on GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney to call off a political action committee he says is blatantly lying about the former Pennsylvania senator's record on felon voting rights and spending.
Campaigning for Saturday's South Carolina primary, Santorum said at a news conference Monday that the attacks by the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future are a "smear campaign."
The group is airing ads in the state accusing Santorum of backing voting rights for felons. Santorum supports allowing felons who have completed their sentences to apply to have their voting rights restored, the law in most states.
The ads and automated telephone calls also accuse Santorum of supporting earmark spending in Congress. Santorum noted that among the earmarks he sought were for medical research and weapons system projects.
Tax cut talks focus on budget cuts, new fees
WASHINGTON (AP) - Familiar arguments could again echo through the halls of Congress as lawmakers return from a three week holiday break to consider extending a tax cut with one eye on the November election.
There are opposing ideas for extending an average $20-a-week Social Security payroll tax cut through the end of 2012 without adding to the government's long-term debt.
Republicans would cut federal employee benefits. President Barack Obama would raise fees for airline passengers and eliminate Saturday mail delivery. Democrats in Congress would charge employers higher premiums for federal pension guarantees.
The argument from Democrats for taxing the wealthy may still be useful as campaign fodder, but not so much in a practical sense.
Health care remains part of the equation. Negotiators are trying to find $39 billion in cuts elsewhere to prevent a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors under an outdated 1997 formula.
UPDATE: Obamas, others around country to observe MLK day
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama and his family will be among those around the country who will honor the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
The Obamas plan to participate Monday in a community service project in Washington to honor King's memory.
Monday also marks the first King holiday where visitors can celebrate King at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which was dedicated last year.
The new memorial, which opened in August, celebrates the ideals King espoused. Quotations from his speeches and writings conjure memories of his message, and a 30-foot-tall sculpture depicts King emerging as a "stone of hope" from a "mountain of despair," a design inspired by a line of his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
Ship rescue ops suspended off Tuscany in rough sea
ROME (AP) - Rescue crews say a rescue operation on a cruise ship that ran aground and capsized off Tuscany has been suspended after the Costa Concordia shifted a few inches (centimeters) in rough seas.
Fears are mounting that if the ship shifts significantly, the 500,000 gallons of fuel may begin to leak into the pristine waters around the island of Giglio.
Fire department spokesman Luca Cari said the ship had shifted a few centimeters vertically and horizontally Monday because of the seas. He said an underwater search for 16 people still unaccounted for from the 4,200 on board was suspended immediately.
Six people were killed when the ship ran aground Friday. Costa has said the captain, who has been jailed, made an unauthorized deviation from the ship's planned course.
Iran makes arrests in killing of nuclear scientist
TEHRAN,Iran (AP) - An Iranian news website is reporting several suspects have been arrested over last week's killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist.
Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, said the suspects are being interrogated, and the investigation is continuing. He talked to Iran's state Arabic language TV channel Al-Alam, and his comments were carried on the Tabnak.ir site.
Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, an official in Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, was killed in an explosion Wednesday after attackers attached a bomb to his car in Tehran.
Iran accused the U.S., Britain and Israel of involvement.
Washington denied any role in the assassination, and London condemned the killing of civilians. Israel has not commented publicly.
The West believes Iran is building nuclear weapons. Iran denies that.
Greece upbeat ahead of debt inspectors' return
ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Greece's government spokesman says the country is optimistic it can complete negotiations for a second bailout that stalled last week as it prepares for debt inspectors to return to Athens.
Pantelis Kapsis said Monday the mission heads of inspectors from the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission would arrive next week. The technical teams will begin work in Athens Tuesday.
Negotiations on a bond swap deal with private creditors that is crucial to avoid default were suspended last week amid disagreements over the interest rates of the new bonds. The talks are expected to resume this week, probably on Wednesday. The deal is a key part of the $166 billion second bailout.
MISSING MONTANA TEACHER
UPDATE: FBI seeks help finding Montana teacher's body
The FBI plans to hold a news conference at midday Monday on the arrest of two Colorado men in connection with the disappearance of a Montana teacher.
The briefing is scheduled for noon central time in Williston, N.D., where 47-year-old Lester Vann Waters Jr. and 22-year-old Michael Keith Spell are being held. They're from Parachute, Colo.
Forty-three-year-old Sherry Arnold of Sidney, Mont., hasn't been seen since Jan. 7 when she went for an early morning run and is presumed dead.
The FBI is asking property owners in Williams, McKenzie and Mountrail counties of North Dakota and in extreme northeastern Montana, to check vacant farmsteads for signs of disturbed soil where she might be buried.
The only clue publicly released is that one of Arnold's shoes was found along her route.
FOOTBALL PLAYOFF SHOOTING
2 shot in Ga. parking lot after football argument
DULUTH, Ga. (AP) - Authorities say an argument over an NFL playoff game led to the shooting of two men in the parking lot of a restaurant in suburban Atlanta.
Gwinnett County Police charged 31-year-old Donald Ray Ayro with assault charges for the shooting of 30-year-old Christopher Middleton and 30-year-old Corey Adams in the parking lot of an Applebee's in Duluth on Saturday.
Adams told WSB-TV that he and a friend were rooting for the San Francisco 49ers when a New Orleans Saints fan took offense. Adams said the fan opened fire when he and two others left the bar about an hour later.
Middletown was shot in the abdomen and was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center in critical condition. Adams suffered a minor graze to the head and was treated on the scene.
Snowshoer missing on Mount Rainier since Saturday
ASHFORD, Wash. (AP) - National park rangers and volunteers plan to resume the search at daylight for a snowshoer who's been missing since Saturday on Washington state's Mount Rainier.
Sixty-six-year-old Yong Chun Kim, of Tacoma, became separated from a hiking club when he slid down a slope and said he would meet them farther down the trail. He was reported missing when he failed to meet the group back at Paradise.
A park spokeswoman says 45 people and three dog teams took part in Sunday's search. Rangers heard from a backcountry camper who reported seeing snowshoe tracks on Saturday.
Kim is described as an experienced snowshoer, but he was not equipped to stay out overnight in the blizzard conditions on the mountain.