Sunday, October 14, 2012

Published:

Arlen Specter, longtime Senate moderate and architect of 1-bullet theory in JFK death, dies

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- For most of his 30 years as Pennsylvania's longest-serving U.S. senator and prominent moderate in Congress, Arlen Specter was a Republican, though often at odds with the GOP leadership.

He helped end the Supreme Court hopes of former federal appeals Judge Robert H. Bork, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan. Decades later, he was one of only three Republicans in Congress to vote for President Barack Obama's economic stimulus.

His breaks with his party were hardly a surprise: He had begun his political career as a Democrat and ended it as one, too.

In between, he was at the heart of several major American political events. He rose to prominence in the 1960s as an assistant counsel to the Warren Commission, developing the single-bullet theory in President John F. Kennedy's assassination. He came to the Senate in the Reagan landslide of 1980 and was a key voice in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of both Bork and Clarence Thomas.

Specter died Sunday died at his home in Philadelphia from complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, said his son Shanin. He was 82. Over the years, Specter had fought two previous bouts with Hodgkin lymphoma, overcome a brain tumor and survived cardiac arrest following bypass surgery.

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Obama, Romney skip campaigning Sunday to focus on preparing for next debate, Tuesday in NY

BURLINGTON, Mass. (AP) -- As Mitt Romney's campaign claimed new momentum in the race for the White House, President Barack Obama's political advisers on Sunday promised the incumbent would unleash his more aggressive side in Tuesday's debate to prevent their Republican rival from delivering another "magical and theatrical performance."

Obama and Romney hunkered down in private debate preparation for much of the day as aides offered a pre-debate sparring match on television.

They disagreed on much, but agreed that Romney bested Obama in their first meeting nearly two weeks ago -- a performance that shifted the direction of a race that had favored the president but has since tightened in national and battleground state polls.

"He knows Mitt Romney had a better night at the first debate," Obama spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said of the president. "The American people should expect to see a much more energized President Obama."

Ed Gillespie, senior adviser to the Romney campaign, quipped that the former Massachusetts governor would be prepared regardless of Obama's adjustments: "The president can change his style. He can change his tactics. He can't change his record."

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10 Things to Know for Monday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:

1. ARLEN SPECTER WAS NO STRANGER TO CONTROVERSY

Pennsylvania's moderate senator changed parties twice, stood up to party leadership and developed the single-bullet theory in the JFK assassination.

2. WHAT IT'S LIKE TO TRAVEL FASTER THAN SOUND

Record-breaking skydiver Felix Baumgartner says it's "hard to describe because you don't feel it" after his 833.9 mph jump from 24 miles above Earth.

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Daredevil skydiver breaks sound barrier in record 24-mile leap over New Mexico desert

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) -- In a giant leap from more than 24 miles up, a daredevil skydiver shattered the sound barrier Sunday while making the highest jump ever -- a tumbling, death-defying plunge from a balloon to a safe landing in the New Mexico desert.

Felix Baumgartner hit Mach 1.24, or 833.9 mph, according to preliminary data, and became the first person to reach supersonic speed without traveling in a jet or a spacecraft after hopping out of a capsule that had reached an altitude of 128,100 feet above the Earth.

Landing on his feet in the desert, the man known as "Fearless Felix" lifted his arms in victory to the cheers of jubilant friends and spectators who closely followed his descent in a live television feed at the command center

"When I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you do not think about breaking records anymore, you do not think about gaining scientific data," he said after the jump. "The only thing you want is to come back alive."

A worldwide audience watched live on the Internet via cameras mounted on his capsule as Baumgartner, wearing a pressurized suit, stood in the doorway of his pod, gave a thumbs-up and leapt into the stratosphere.

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AP PHOTOS: Skydiver breaks speed of sound in 24-mile-high jump

Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner became the first skydiver to break the speed of sound in a 24-mile-high jump from a balloon on Sunday, reaching 833.9 mph in a free fall that lasted some 9 minutes.

Landing on his feet in the New Mexico desert, the man known as "Fearless Felix" lifted his arms in victory to the cheers of onlookers and friends.

"When I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you do not think about breaking records anymore, you do not think about gaining scientific data," he said after the jump. "The only thing you want is to come back alive."

"Sometimes we have to get really high to see how small we are," an exuberant Baumgartner told reporters outside mission control after safely returning to Earth.

Here's a gallery of photos from Baumgartner's leap into the record books.

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Human rights group accuses Syrian air force of dropping cluster bombs on its own people

BEIRUT (AP) -- The Syrian regime was accused Sunday of dropping cluster bombs -- indiscriminate scattershot munitions banned by most nations -- in a new sign of desperation and disregard for its own people.

The international group Human Rights Watch cited amateur video and testimony from the front lines in making the allegation against the government of President Bashar Assad.

Syria and Turkey, meanwhile, declared their skies off-limits to each other amid mounting cross-border tensions in Syria's 19-month-old conflict, now a civil war. Turkey is an outspoken backer of rebels trying to oust Assad.

The weekend's mutual ban on overflights is part of Turkey's increasingly assertive stance toward Syria that has stirred concerns about a regional conflagration. In the past two weeks, Turkey has retaliated for stray Syrian shells and mortar rounds, intercepted a Syrian passenger plane on suspicion it carried military equipment, and -- according to a Turkish newspaper Sunday -- sent more warships to naval bases north of the Syrian coastline.

Inside Syria, rebel fighters and regime forces have been locked in a bloody stalemate for weeks, with rebels holding large rural stretches in the heavily populated western area, but unable to dislodge Assad's troops from urban centers. During the summer, the regime escalated shelling and airstrikes on rebel-held neighborhoods.

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At CDC, scientists fight fungus blamed for meningitis outbreak linked to steroid injections

ATLANTA (AP) -- Scattered across the carefully landscaped main campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the staff on the front lines fighting a rare outbreak of fungal meningitis: A scientist in a white lab coat peers through a microscope at fungi on a glass slide. In another room, another researcher uses what looks like a long, pointed eye dropper to suck up DNA samples that will be tested for the suspect fungus.

Not far away in another building is the emergency operations center, which is essentially the war room. There's a low hum of voices as employees work the phones, talking to health officials, doctors and patients who received potentially contaminated pain injections believed to be at the root of the outbreak. Workers sit at rows of computers, gathering data, advising doctors and reaching out to thousands of people who may have been exposed. Overall, dozens of people are working day and night to bring the outbreak under control. More than 200 people in 14 states have been sickened, including 15 who have died.

There is a sense of urgency -- people are dying, and lives could be saved if those who are sickened get treated in time. But it's not a race against a fast-spreading illness like avian flu or SARS -- or even the fictional virus the CDC fails to unravel in the popular TV series "The Walking Dead." Unlike those outbreaks, this strain of meningitis isn't contagious and doesn't spread between people. It is likely isolated to the contaminated steroid, produced by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.

"This is a very unusual infection," said Dr. John Jernigan, a CDC medical epidemiologist who is leading the clinical investigation team for the outbreak response. "So, treatment recommendations, diagnostic recommendations are all going to be new, and we're learning as we go on this one."

Meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, is not uncommon. But it is usually caused by bacteria, and it is very unusual to see it in patients with normal immune systems, Jernigan said. This strain is caused by a fungus that is common in dirt and grasses -- people routinely come into contact with it without getting sick -- but it has never before been identified as the cause of meningitis.

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Space shuttle Endeavour arrives at Los Angeles museum after 12-mile trip across city

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It was supposed to be a slow but smooth journey to retirement, a parade through city streets for a shuttle that logged millions of miles in space.

But Endeavour's final mission turned out to be a logistical headache that delayed its arrival to its museum resting place by about 17 hours.

After a 12-mile weave past trees and utility poles that included thousands of adoring onlookers, flashing cameras and even the filming of a TV commercial, Endeavour arrived at the California Science Center Sunday to a greeting party of city leaders and other dignitaries that had expected it many hours earlier.

Endeavour was still inching toward a hangar on the grounds of the museum mid-Sunday afternoon.

"It's like Christmas!" said Mark Behn, 55, a member of the museum ground support team who watched the shuttle's snail-like approach from inside the hangar. "We've waited so long and been told so many things about when it would get here. But here it is, and it's a dream come true."

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Sanchez's pitching, missed call by ump help Tigers beat Yankees 3-0 for 2-0 lead in ALCS

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Detroit Tigers got a big boost from Anibal Sanchez's arm. They got a helping hand from an umpire, too.

The reward: a commanding 2-0 lead in the AL championship series, and a trip home with their ace ready to start.

Sanchez shut down a Yankees lineup minus injured Derek Jeter, Detroit scored twice after an admitted missed call by an ump and won without any extra-inning drama, beating New York 3-0 Sunday.

"He was terrific," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "This is a tough place to pitch with a tough lineup and a short porch. And a whole bunch of left-handed hitters, it is not easy. That was quite a feat."

New York starter Hiroki Kuroda pitched perfect ball into the sixth inning to keep pace with Sanchez. But Robinson Cano and the slumping Yankees hitters were no match for the 28-year-old right-hander a day after its captain broke his ankle in the 12th inning of a 6-4 loss.

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Aaron Rodgers sets career and ties franchise mark with 6 TDs in 42-24 rout of Texans

HOUSTON (AP) -- Aaron Rodgers set a career high and tied a franchise record with six touchdown passes, three to Jordy Nelson, and the Green Bay Packers routed the previously unbeaten Houston Texans 42-24 on Sunday night.

James Jones caught two touchdown passes for the Packers (3-3). Tom Crabtree had the other one, a 48-yarder that Rodgers threw just before taking a hit from Houston linebacker Brooks Reed.

Rodgers completed 24 of 37 passes for 338 yards. He tied Matt Flynn's game record for TD passes, set in last year's regular-season finale against Detroit.

The Texans (5-1) came in with the league's third-ranked defense. Arian Foster scored two touchdowns for Houston.