Saturday, October 27, 2012

Published:

Superstorm could impact 60 million people in US; coastal residents told to get out of the way

SHIP BOTTOM, N.J. (AP) -- Forget distinctions like tropical storm or hurricane. Don't get fixated on a particular track. Wherever it hits, the rare behemoth storm inexorably gathering in the eastern U.S. will afflict a third of the country with sheets of rain, high winds and heavy snow, say officials who warned millions in coastal areas to get out of the way.

"We're looking at impact of greater than 50 to 60 million people," said Louis Uccellini, head of environmental prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As Hurricane Sandy barreled north from the Caribbean -- where it left nearly five dozen dead -- to meet two other powerful winter storms, experts said it didn't matter how strong the storm was when it hit land: The rare hybrid storm that follows will cause havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.

"This is not a coastal threat alone," said Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "This is a very large area."

President Barack Obama was monitoring the storm and working with state and locals governments to make sure they get the resources needed to prepare, administration officials said.

___

Part hurricane, part nor'easter and all trouble: That's what threatens 60 million Americans

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The storm that is threatening 60 million Americans in the eastern third of the nation in just a couple of days with high winds, drenching rains, extreme tides, flooding and probably snow is much more than just an ordinary weather system. It's a freakish and unprecedented monster.

How did it get that way?

Start with Sandy, an ordinary late summer hurricane from the tropics, moving north up the East Coast. Bring in a high pressure ridge of air centered around Greenland that blocks the hurricane's normal out-to-sea path and steers it west toward land.

Add a wintry cold front moving in from the west that helps pull Sandy inland and mix in a blast of Arctic air from the north for one big collision. Add a full moon and its usual effect, driving high tides. Factor in immense waves commonly thrashed up by a huge hurricane plus massive gale-force winds.

Do all that and you get a stitched-together weather monster expected to unleash its power over 800 square miles, with predictions in some areas of 12 inches of rain, 2 feet of snow and sustained 40- to 50 mph winds.

___

A Giant step: 2nd straight shutout leads San Francisco over Tigers 2-0 for 3-0 Series lead

DETROIT (AP) -- Nothing is stopping them -- not even the Triple Crown winner at the plate with the bases loaded.

Armed and accelerating, the San Francisco Giants became the first team to throw consecutive World Series shutouts in nearly a half-century, blanking Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers 2-0 on a chilly Saturday night for a commanding 3-0 lead.

No team has ever blown such a huge margin in the World Series. And with the way Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum and the Giants are pitching, it seemed unlikely the Tigers would even score a run, yet alone win a game.

Gregor Blanco hit an RBI triple and trotted home on Brandon Crawford's single in the second inning, and that was ample for the Giants. Timely hits, combined with another dominant effort on the mound and sharp defense put them close to their second title in three years.

After playing a nearly perfect Game 3, the Giants will turn to Mr. Perfect Game himself -- ace Matt Cain -- to try for a sweep Sunday against Max Scherzer.

___

AP PHOTOS: Big waves and boarded windows, images of East Coast superstorm preparations

Hurricane Sandy is kicking up big waves along South Carolina as it heads north, where forecasters say it will likely hit two winter weather systems, creating a hybrid monster storm.

The governor of Delaware has issued a mandatory evacuation for the state's coastal areas, with other states prepared to follow suit.

Residents in the storm's path are boarding up windows and stocking up on supplies before Sandy's predicted landfall early Tuesday near the Delaware coast.

Here's a look at AP photos of the storm and preparations so far in the U.S.:

___

Juggling politics and storm prep, Romney woos early votes in Florida as Obama seeks NH support

LAND O'LAKES, Fla. (AP) -- Juggling politics and storm preparations, Mitt Romney dangled a plea for bipartisanship before early voters in Florida on Saturday as Barack Obama worked to nail down tiny New Hampshire's four electoral votes. Both campaigns scrambled to steer clear of a most unlikely October surprise, a superstorm barreling up the East Coast.

With just 10 days left in an extraordinarily tight race, Hurricane Sandy had both campaigns ripping up carefully mapped-out itineraries as they worked to maximize voter turnout and avoid any suggestion that they were putting politics ahead of public safety.

The campaigns pressed every possible angle in search of advantage -- even paying attention to punctuation.

Obama's campaign signs for months have said: "Forward." Now they say: "Forward!"

Romney, who has been striking a more moderate tone as he courts women and independents in the campaign's home stretch, campaigned across Florida with a pledge to "build bridges" with the other party.

___

Pakistan reaches out to old Afghan enemies in move that could aid Taliban peace deal

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistan has increased efforts to reach out to some of its biggest enemies in Afghanistan, a significant policy shift that could prove crucial to U.S.-backed efforts to strike a peace deal in the neighboring country.

The target of the diplomatic push has mainly been non-Pashtun political leaders who have been at odds with Pakistan for years because of the country's historical support for the Afghan Taliban, a Pashtun movement.

Many of the leaders fought against the Taliban when the fundamentalist Islamic group seized control of Afghanistan in the 1990s with Pakistan's help, and have accused Islamabad of maintaining support for the insurgents following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 -- allegations denied by the government.

Many experts agree that Pakistan continues to see the Taliban as an ally, albeit a shaky one, in countering the influence of archenemy India in Afghanistan. But they also say Islamabad no longer believes the insurgents can take over the country or wants them to, a common misperception in the West.

"A Taliban victory on the other side of the border would give a huge boost to domestic militants fighting the Pakistani state," said Zahid Hussain, a journalist who has written extensively about Islamabad's war against the Pakistani Taliban.

___

Rubio leaves Romney campaign swing after daughter, 12, in accident; in fair condition

LAKEWOOD CREST, Fla. (AP) -- The 12-year-old daughter of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was in fair condition Saturday evening at Miami Children's Hospital after she was airlifted there following a golf-cart accident in a gated community, the senator's office said.

The Republican senator was notified of the accident while coming off stage after a rally with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney Saturday afternoon.

The senator campaigned with Romney at two Florida rallies on Saturday and was scheduled to attend a third before being picked up by a state police cruiser along Romney's motorcade route.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant wrote in an email late Saturday that Amanda, who is the senator's oldest daughter, was in "fair condition" after the afternoon accident.

"While visiting with classmates, she was a passenger on a golf cart involved in a collision in a private gated community," Conant wrote. "She was airlifted to Miami Children's Hospital with a head injury. She has been admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit."

___

Witnesses: Libya consulate attack seemed planned, may have used anti-Islam film as cover

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- It began around nightfall on Sept. 11 with around 150 bearded gunmen, some wearing the Afghan-style tunics favored by Islamic militants, sealing off the streets leading to the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. They set up roadblocks with pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, according to witnesses.

The trucks bore the logo of Ansar al-Shariah, a powerful local group of Islamist militants who worked with the municipal government to manage security in Benghazi, the main city in eastern Libya and birthplace of the uprising last year that ousted Moammar Gadhafi after a 42-year dictatorship.

There was no sign of a spontaneous protest against an American-made movie denigrating Islam's Prophet Muhammad. But a lawyer passing by the scene said he saw the militants gathering around 20 youths from nearby to chant against the film. Within an hour or so, the assault began, guns blazing as the militants blasted into the compound.

One of the consulate's private Libyan guards said masked militants grabbed him and beat him, one of them calling him "an infidel protecting infidels who insulted the prophet."

The witness accounts gathered by The Associated Press give a from-the-ground perspective for the sharply partisan debate in the U.S. over the attack that left U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. They corroborate the conclusion largely reached by American officials that it was a planned militant assault. But they also suggest the militants may have used the film controversy as a cover for the attack.

___

Too close to call: Romney banks on momentum, Obama focuses on math in race's final full week

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) -- One final jobs report before Election Day and the big storm threatening the East Coast loom large as President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney head into the final full week of campaigning in a race polls show is extraordinarily close.

Democrats claim math is on the president's side. Republicans insist Romney's got the momentum.

"We're seeing more and more enthusiasm, and more and more support," a confident Romney says in messages to supporters, arguing that his performances in the three presidential debates has reinvigorated his campaign and created a national movement.

Obama is banking on his get-out-the-vote efforts in the most competitive states. He's also making personal appeals as he encourages Americans to stick with him for a second term. During a whirlwind tour last week through some of the most pivotal states, he said, "After all these years, you know me. You know I mean what I say."

In pursuit of the 270 electoral votes for victory, each nominee is starting to make his closing arguments. The goal is to win over the narrow slice of undecided, independent voters, moderates and women in particular, and to persuade supporters to vote on Nov. 6, if not earlier in the many states where voting is under way. Roughly one-third of the electorate will have voted before Election Day.

___

UN-backed Syria truce unravels as Assad troops, rebels return to war of attrition

BEIRUT (AP) -- A Syrian warplane flattened a three-story building, suspected rebels detonated a deadly car bomb and both sides traded gunfire in several hotspots across the country Saturday, activists said, leaving a U.N.-backed holiday truce in tatters on its second day.

The unraveling of the cease-fire marked the latest setback to ending Syria's civil war through diplomacy. Foreign military intervention is unlikely, raising the grim prospect of a drawn-out war of attrition between President Bashar Assad and those trying to topple him.

The proposed four-day truce during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha had been a long shot from the start since international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi failed to get solid commitments from all combatants. Fighting dropped off in the first hours of the cease-fire Friday, but by the end of the day, activists said 151 people had been killed in bombings and shootings, a standard daily toll in Syria.

On Saturday, the first regime airstrike since the start of the truce reduced a three-story building in the Arbeen suburb of the capital, Damascus to rubble, killing at least eight men, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which compiles reports from activists.

In the remote eastern town of Deir el-Zour, assailants detonated a car bomb near a military police compound, then opened fire at those rushing to the scene, killing a total of eight people and causing extensive damage, the Observatory said. Syrian media denied there were casualties. The attack bore the hallmarks of Jabhat al-Nusra, a radical rebel-allied Islamic group that has rejected the cease-fire.