Sunday, October 28, 2012

Published:

News Summary: Bailed-out Portugal needs extra effort to cut debt amid recession, unemployment

IMF TAKE: Portugal's financial recovery program is entering a risky phase as it struggles to cut its heavy debt load amid a continuing recession, growing unemployment and mounting opposition to austerity measures.

GOOD NEWS: government's debt-reduction measures have helped allay market concerns about lending money to the ailing country, while it has made good on promises of reforms in return for last year's €78 billion ($100 billion) bailout.

BAD NEWS: "risks to the attainment of the program's objectives have increased markedly," the IMF said, adding that Portugal will need to take further steps to remain on track.

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Obama faces pressure of carrying out presidential duties and campaigning as storm threatens

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama has spent months trying to balance his re-election bid with running the government.

Now, just when his campaign needs him the most, with little more than a week before the election, his official job is beckoning.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney, too, faces questions about how to conduct his campaign as a superstorm charges toward the East Coast. But as president, it's Obama who oversees the federal government's preparations for the looming storm and it's Obama who will bear the responsibility for any missteps.

With that in mind, Obama scrapped some campaign events for Monday, as well as Tuesday morning. He planned to return to the White House Monday afternoon to monitor the storm and the government's response.

"My first priority has to be making sure that everything is in place" to help those affected by the storm, Obama told campaign workers in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday night. He said the storm meant he would "not be able to campaign quite as much over the next few days."

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10 Things to Know for Monday

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

1. THE BIGGEST THREAT FROM THE SUPERSTORM

The water unleashed by a tidal surge amped up by a full moon would threaten the most lives and cause heavy property damage.

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Romney, Obama reshuffle plans for campaign's final week as massive storm approaches

CELINA, Ohio (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama frantically sought to close the deal with voters with precious few days left in an incredibly close race as this year's October surprise -- an unprecedented storm menacing the East Coast -- wreaked havoc on their best-laid plans.

Ever mindful of his narrow path to the requisite 270 electoral votes, Romney looked to expand his map, weighing an intensified effort in traditionally left-leaning Minnesota. Obama sought to defend historically Democratic turf as the race tightened heading into the final week.

Wary of being seen as putting their political pursuits ahead of public safety, the two White House hopefuls reshuffled their campaign plans as the storm approached. Both candidates were loath to forfeit face time with voters in battleground states like Virginia that are likely to be afflicted when Hurricane Sandy, a winter storm and a cold front collide to form a freak hybrid storm.

"The storm will throw havoc into the race," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

Before leaving Washington for Florida Sunday, a day early to beat the storm, Obama got an update from disaster relief officials before speaking by phone to affected governors and mayors.

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A week before Election Day, Obama has an edge in fight for 270 electoral votes needed to win

AMES, Iowa (AP) -- President Barack Obama is poised to eke out a victory in the race for the 270 electoral votes needed to win re-election, having beaten back Republican Mitt Romney's attempts to convert momentum from the debates into support in all-important Ohio, according to an Associated Press analysis a week before Election Day.

While the Democratic incumbent has the upper hand in the electoral vote hunt, Romney has pulled even, or is slightly ahead, in polling in a few pivotal states, including Florida and Virginia. The Republican challenger also appears to have the advantage in North Carolina, the most conservative of the hotly contested nine states that will determine the winner.

While in a tight race with Obama for the popular vote, Romney continues to have fewer state-by-state paths than Obama to reach 270. Without Ohio's 18 electoral votes, Romney would need last-minute victories in nearly all the remaining up-for-grabs states and manage to pick off key states now leaning Obama's way, such as Iowa or Wisconsin.

To be sure, anything can happen in the coming days to influence the Nov. 6 election.

The AP analysis isn't intended to predict the outcome. Rather, it's meant to provide a snapshot of a race that has been stubbornly close in the small number of competitive states all year. The analysis is based on public polls and internal campaign surveys as well as spending on television advertising, candidate visits, get-out-the-vote organizations and interviews with dozens of Republican and Democratic strategists in Washington and in the most contested states.

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Longtime suspect set to be freed in Etan Patz case while new suspect remains in limbo

NEW YORK (AP) -- While prosecutors weigh what to do about a suspect who surprisingly surfaced this spring in the landmark 1979 disappearance case of Etan Patz, the man who was the prime suspect for years is about to go free after more than two decades in prison for molesting other children.

These two threads in the tangled story are set to cross next month, a twist that evokes decades of uncertainties and loose ends in the search for what happened to the sandy-haired 6-year-old last seen walking to his Manhattan school bus stop.

The new suspect, Pedro Hernandez, has been charged with Etan's murder after police said he emerged as a suspect and confessed this spring. But there's no public indication that authorities have found anything beyond his admission to implicate him, and his lawyer has said Hernandez is mentally ill.

The Pennsylvania inmate, Jose Ramos, was declared responsible for Etan's death in a civil court, but the Manhattan district attorney's office has said there wasn't enough evidence to charge him criminally. After serving 25 years on child molestation convictions in Pennsylvania, he's set to be freed Nov. 7, about a week before prosecutors are due to indicate whether they believe there's evidence enough to keep going after Hernandez.

It stands to be a coincidence fraught with anguish for Etan's parents, who brought a successful wrongful death lawsuit against Ramos, and for the former federal prosecutor who went to lengths to pursue him. At the same time, it offers a glimmer of vindication for Ramos, who has denied involvement in the boy's disappearance, though authorities have said he made incriminating remarks about it.

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In civil case, 2 suspects wrongly convicted in 1977 Iowa killing to argue they were framed

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Two black men wrongly convicted in the 1977 murder of a white Iowa police officer hope to prove something they couldn't during trials that sent them to prison for 25 years: that detectives framed them to solve a high-profile case.

During a civil trial that starts Wednesday in Des Moines, Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee will argue that Council Bluffs police officers coerced witnesses into fabricating testimony against them in the killing of John Schweer.

Schweer was found dead while working as the night watchman at a car dealership. Harrington and McGhee, then teenagers from neighboring Omaha, Neb., say detectives used threats against a group of young black car theft suspects to trump up evidence targeting them because of their race and pressure to solve the retired captain's killing.

Despite little physical evidence, Harrington and McGhee were convicted at 1978 trials and sentenced to long prison terms. They were freed in 2003, after the Iowa Supreme Court found that prosecutors committed misconduct in concealing reports about another man seen near the crime scene with a shotgun. The key witnesses had also recanted their testimony, saying they were pressured into implicating the men.

After winning their freedom, they filed lawsuits against prosecutors and officers they blamed for forcing them to spend their adult lives in the Fort Madison prison. Their case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 over the issue of whether suspects have the constitutional right not to be framed by prosecutors. Before justices ruled, Pottawatamie County agreed to pay $12 million to settle claims against two former prosecutors while not admitting wrongdoing.

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After space station trip, Dragon ship splashes down on Earth bearing astronauts' blood, urine

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- An unmanned Dragon freighter carrying a stash of precious medical samples from the International Space Station parachuted into the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, completing the first official shipment under a billion-dollar contract with NASA.

The California-based SpaceX company successfully guided the Dragon down from orbit to a splashdown a few hundred miles off the Baja California coast.

"This historic mission signifies the restoration of America's ability to deliver and return critical space station cargo," Elon Musk, the billionaire founder and head of SpaceX, said in a statement.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden praised the "American ingenuity" that made the endeavor possible.

Several hours earlier, astronauts aboard the International Space Station used a giant robot arm to release the commercial cargo ship 255 miles up. SpaceX provided updates of the journey back to Earth via Twitter.

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Giants win again at Cowboys Stadium, 29-24 in comeback unlike any under Eli Manning

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Eli Manning stood on the New York Giants' sideline in disbelief when it looked as if the Dallas Cowboys had scored a go-ahead touchdown with 10 seconds left.

What was encouraging is what he didn't see: a replay on the giant videoboard that hangs above the field at Cowboys Stadium, where the Giants still have never lost following a wild 29-24 victory Sunday.

Officials reviewed and overturned Dez Bryant's apparent 37-yard touchdown catch, ruling his hand hit out of bounds, and the Cowboys couldn't get into the end zone after the overturned reception.

"I couldn't quite believe they were able to hit a touchdown in that situation. I kind of kept looking for the replay," Manning said. "You know the game was not going to be over until that clock hit zero."

This was the 20th time in Manning's career that the Giants rallied in the fourth quarter to win. And this comeback came after New York blew an early 23-0 lead.

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Water biggest worry from hurricane; NOAA calls storm surge forecast 'worst case scenario'

KENSINGTON, Md. (AP) -- The projected storm surge from Hurricane Sandy is a "worst case scenario" with devastating waves and tides predicted for the highly populated New York City metro area, government forecasters said Sunday.

The more they observe it, the more the experts worry about the water -- which usually kills and does more damage than winds in hurricanes.

In this case, seas will be amped up by giant waves and full-moon-powered high tides. That will combine with drenching rains, triggering inland flooding as the hurricane merges with a winter storm system that will worsen it and hold it in place for days.

Louis Uccellini, environmental prediction chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press that given Sandy's due east-to-west track into New Jersey, that puts the worst of the storm surge just north in New York City, Long Island and northern New Jersey. "Yes, this is the worst case scenario," he said.

In a measurement of pure kinetic energy, NOAA's hurricane research division on Sunday ranked the surge and wave "destruction potential" for Sandy -- just the hurricane, not the hybrid storm it will eventually become -- at 5.8 on a 0 to 6 scale. The damage expected from winds will be far less, experts said. Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters says that surge destruction potential number is a record and it's due to the storm's massive size.