Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Published:

'Everything they said it was': Disarray, millions without power in superstorm Sandy's wake

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The most devastating storm in decades to hit the country's most densely populated region upended man and nature as it rolled back the clock on 21st-century lives, cutting off modern communication and leaving millions without power Tuesday as thousands who fled their water-menaced homes wondered when -- if -- life would return to normal.

A weakening Sandy, the hurricane turned fearsome superstorm, killed at least 50 people, many hit by falling trees, and still wasn't finished. It inched inland across Pennsylvania, ready to bank toward western New York to dump more of its water and likely cause more havoc Tuesday night.  Behind it: a dazed, inundated New York City, a waterlogged Atlantic Coast and a moonscape of disarray and debris -- from unmoored shore-town boardwalks to submerged mass-transit systems to delicate presidential politics.

"Nature," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, assessing the damage to his city, "is an awful lot more powerful than we are."

More than 8.2 million households were without power in 17 states as far west as Michigan. Nearly 2 million of those were in New York, where large swaths of lower Manhattan lost electricity and entire streets ended up underwater -- as did seven subway tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn at one point, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

The New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day from weather, the first time that has happened since a blizzard in 1888. The shutdown of mass transit crippled a city where more than 8.3 million bus, subway and local rail trips are taken each day, and 800,000 vehicles cross bridges run by the transit agency.

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After Sandy, New Yorkers pick up the pieces, adapt to a changed city -- and talk to each other

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stripped of its bustle and mostly cut off from the world, New York was left wondering Tuesday when its particular way of life -- carried by subway, lit by skyline and powered by 24-hour deli -- would return.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the power company said it could be the weekend before the lights come on for hundreds of thousands of people plunged into darkness by what was once Hurricane Sandy.

Bloomberg said it could also be four or five days before the subway, which suffered the worst damage in its 108-year history, is running again. All 10 of the tunnels that carry New Yorkers under the East River were flooded.

In one bit of good news, officials announced that John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark International Airport in New Jersey will reopen at 7 a.m. Wednesday with limited service. New York's LaGuardia Airport remains closed.

Sandy killed 18 people in New York City, the mayor said. The dead included two who drowned in a home and one who was in bed when a tree fell on an apartment. A 23-year-old woman died after stepping into a puddle near a live electrical wire.

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10 Things to Know for Wednesday

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

1. IN SUPERSTORM'S WAKE, A DAZED, INUNDATED NEW YORK

"Nature," says Mayor Bloomberg, assessing the damage to his city, "is an awful lot more powerful than we are."

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Obama forced to defend Democratic turf, as Romney goes after Minnesota, Pennsylvania

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Mitt Romney is suddenly plunging into traditionally Democratic-leaning Minnesota and Pennsylvania, and his GOP allies are trying to put Michigan into play. It's forcing President Barack Obama to defend his own turf -- he's pouring money into television ads in the states and dispatching top backers -- in the campaign's final week.

The question is: Why this Republican move?

GOP efforts in the trio of Rust Belt states could indicate that Romney is desperately searching for a last-minute path to the needed 270 Electoral College votes -- without all-important Ohio. Or just the opposite, that he's so confident in the most competitive battlegrounds that he's pressing for insurance against Obama in what's expected to be a close race.

Or perhaps the Republican simply has money to burn. Use it now or never.

Former President Bill Clinton was dispatched in response on Tuesday. "Barack Obama's policies work better," he declared on the University of Minnesota campus, one of his two stops in a state that offers 10 electoral votes and hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972.

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Anti-regime activists say Syrian regime kills 23 in Damascus suburb in airstrikes, clashes

BEIRUT (AP) -- Airstrikes by Syrian jets and shells from tanks leveled a neighborhood in a restive city near the capital of Damascus on Tuesday, killing 18 people, and at least five rebel fighters died nearby in clashes with regime troops, activists said.

The airstrikes on the city of Douma, northeast of the capital, left residents scampering over a huge expanse of rubble and using their hands to dig up mangled bodies, according to activist videos posted online.

Scenes of vast destruction like those from Douma on Tuesday have grown more common as rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad have made gains on the ground, and Assad's forces have responded with overwhelming air power.

In the past weeks, anti-regime activists say about 150 people have been killed a day in fighting. Since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, they say 35,000 have died.

Tuesday's airstrikes came a day after what activists called the heaviest and most widespread bombing campaign nationwide, on what was to be the final day of an internationally sanctioned truce that never took hold.

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Plethora of circumstances joined forces to darken a flooded and vulnerable New York City

NEW YORK (AP) -- Blame a very high tide driven by a full moon, the worst storm surge in nearly 200 years, and the placement of underground electrical equipment in flood-prone areas for the most extensive storm-related power outage in New York City's history.

It's like what happened at the Fukushima nuclear complex in Japan last year -- without the radiation. At a Consolidated Edison substation in Manhattan's East Village, a gigantic wall of water defied elaborate planning and expectations, swamped underground electrical equipment, and left about 250,000 lower Manhattan customers without power.

Last year, the surge from Hurricane Irene reached 9.5 feet at the substation. ConEd figured it had that covered.

The utility also figured the infrastructure could handle a repeat of the highest surge on record for the area -- 11 feet during a hurricane in 1821, according to the National Weather Service. After all, the substation was designed to withstand a surge of 12.5 feet.

With all the planning, and all the predictions, planning big was not big enough. Superstorm Sandy went bigger -- a surge of 14 feet.

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Sandy shuts down northeast airports; travelers could be stuck for days

Superstorm Sandy grounded more than 18,000 flights across the Northeast and the globe, and it will take days before travel gets back to normal.

According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, more than 7,000 flights were canceled on Tuesday alone. Delays rippled across the U.S., affecting travelers in cities from San Francisco to Atlanta. Some passengers attempting to fly out of Europe and Asia also were stuck.

Authorities closed the three big New York airports because of the storm. New York has the nation's busiest airspace, so cancellations there can dramatically affect travel in other cities.

It was possible that John F. Kennedy airport would re-open for flights on Wednesday, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It wasn't known when the LaGuardia and Newark, N.J. airports would reopen.

Flying began to resume at other airports. Delta restarted flying from Boston and Washington Dulles and Reagan on Tuesday. Airline spokesman Morgan Durrant said it would resume domestic flights from JFK on Wednesday.

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Disney to make new 'Star Wars' movies, buy Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion from George Lucas

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A decade since George Lucas said "Star Wars" was finished on the big screen, a new trilogy under new ownership is destined for theaters after The Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday that it would buy Lucasfilm Ltd. from him for $4.05 billion.

The seventh movie, with a working title of "Episode 7," is set for release in 2015. Episodes 8 and 9 will follow. The trilogy will continue the story of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia beyond "Return of the Jedi," the third film released and the sixth in the saga. After that, Disney plans a new "Star Wars" movie every two or three years. Lucas will serve as creative consultant in the new movies.

"I'm doing this so that the films will have a longer life," Lucas, the 68-year-old creator of the series and sole owner of Lucasfilm, said in an interview posted on YouTube. "I get to be a fan now ... I sort of look forward to it. It's a lot more fun actually, than actually having to go out into the mud and snow."

Disney CEO Bob Iger said Lucasfilm had already developed an extensive storyline on the next trilogy, and Episode 7 was now in early-stage development. He said he talked with Lucas about buying the company from him a year and a half ago, but they didn't decide on a deal until very recently as Lucas set in motion his retirement.

"The last 'Star Wars' movie release was 2005's 'Revenge of the Sith' -- and we believe there's substantial pent-up demand," Iger said.

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News of Disney-Lucasfilm merger sends Twitter abuzz with 'Star Wars' puns

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Movie nerds went nuts on Twitter upon hearing the news Tuesday that Disney was buying Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion. Many were psyched about the prospect of three new "Star Wars" movies, starting with the tentatively titled "Episode 7" in 2015, while others were worried that the Disney empire would ruin the Evil Empire.

Either way, fans had fun thinking up mashups of these two cultural institutions, flooding Twitter feeds with the hashtag "DisneyStarWars." Among the most amusing mixes:

-- When You Wish Upon a Death Star.

-- Finding Greedo.

-- Song of the Sith.

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James leaves with cramps, Heat close out Celtics behind Wade and Bosh, 120-107

MIAMI (AP) -- LeBron James got his ring, then got cramps.

The Miami Heat found a way to beat their biggest rival anyway.

Dwyane Wade scored 29 points, James finished 26 points and 10 rebounds while missing much of the second half, and the reigning NBA champion Heat beat the Boston Celtics 120-107 on Tuesday night in the season opener for both teams.

Ray Allen, in his first game with Miami since leaving Boston over the summer, added 19 points for the Heat, as did Chris Bosh, who had a late flurry that helped Miami prevail.

Rashard Lewis scored 10 for Miami, which saw a 19-point lead trimmed to four in the final minutes before finding a way to close it out -- even while James, last season's MVP of both the regular season and NBA Finals, was in the locker room for the second time because of the cramps.