New storm bears down on battered NYC, NJ; more power outages, other misery for Sandy's victims
NEW YORK (AP) -- A nor'easter blustered into New York and New Jersey on Wednesday with rain and wet snow, plunging homes right back into darkness, stopping commuter trains again and inflicting another round of misery on thousands of people still reeling from Superstorm Sandy's blow more than a week ago.
Under ordinary circumstances, a storm of this sort wouldn't be a big deal, but large swaths of the landscape were still an open wound, with the electrical system highly fragile and many of Sandy's victims still mucking out their homes and cars and shivering in the deepening cold.
Exactly as authorities feared, the nor'easter brought down tree limbs and electrical wires, and utilities in New York and New Jersey reported that nearly 60,000 customers who lost power because of Sandy lost it all over again as a result of the nor'easter.
"I know everyone's patience is wearing thin," said John Miksad, senior vice president of electric operations at Consolidated Edison, the chief utility in New York City.
As the nor'easter closed in, thousands of people in low-lying neighborhoods staggered by the superstorm just over a week ago were urged to clear out. Authorities warned that rain and 60 mph gusts in the evening and overnight could topple trees wrenched loose by Sandy and erase some of the hard-won progress made in restoring power to millions of customers.
Obama heads back to White House in triumph -- to confront divided government and 'fiscal cliff'
WASHINGTON (AP) -- One day after a bruising, mixed-verdict election, President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner both pledged Wednesday to seek a compromise to avert looming spending cuts and tax increases that threaten to plunge the economy back into recession.
Added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: "Of course" an agreement is possible.
While all three men spoke in general terms, Boehner stressed that Republicans would be willing to accept higher tax revenue under the right conditions as part of a more sweeping attempt to reduce deficits and restore the economy to full health.
While the impending "fiscal cliff" dominates the postelection agenda, the president and Republicans have other concerns, too.
Obama is looking ahead to top-level personnel changes in a second term, involving three powerful Cabinet portfolios at a minimum.
10 Things to Know for Thursday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and stories that will be talked about on Thursday:
1. HOW OBAMA WON
Among other things, the president and his team mobilized a masterful registration and get-out-the-vote operation.
GOP plunges into soul-searching, blaming and intense debate on how to win future campaigns
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Having lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, Republicans plunged Wednesday into an intense period of self-examination, blame-setting and testy debate over whether their party needs serious change or just some minor tweaks.
The fallout will help determine whether the GOP might return to heights approximating the Ronald Reagan years or, as some fear, suffer even deeper losses as the nation's Democratic-leaning Hispanics increase in number.
"The party is clearly in some sort of identity crisis," said Rick Tyler, a past aide to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Hard-core conservatives, furious at President Barack Obama's re-election in the face of a weak economy, called for a wholesale shift to resolutely right positions on social and fiscal matters. Some demanded that party leaders resign.
Establishment Republicans largely shrugged off the tirades. But they split into two main camps themselves, portending potentially lengthy soul-searching, especially in Congress.
China's ruling Communist Party opens congress to begin transfer of leadership
BEIJING (AP) -- China's ruling Communist Party opened a congress Thursday to usher in a new group of younger leaders faced with the challenging tasks of righting a flagging economy and meeting public calls for better government.
The weeklong congress starts a carefully choreographed but still fraught power transfer in which President Hu Jintao and most of the senior leadership will begin to relinquish office to a new slate of leaders for the coming decade headed by the appointed heir, Vice President Xi Jinping.
Delegates filed into Beijing's Great Hall of the People, bedecked with red banners, and the congress was declared open after the national anthem played. The 2,268 delegates are drawn from the 82 million-member party where the real deal-making is done by a few dozen power-brokers behind the scenes, even as China is ever more connected to the world through trade and the Internet.
"We are faced with unprecedented opportunities for developments as well as risks. The party must keep in mind the trust of the people," Hu said in a speech aimed at summarizing successes of the past five years and outlining challenges for the future. "The fight against corruption remains a serious challenge for us."
Coming so soon after President Barack Obama's re-election in the United States, the congress has drawn unfavorable comparisons from politically minded Chinese who have bemoaned how little direct influence they have in choosing their leaders.
Powerful earthquake topples homes and hillsides in Guatemala, killing at least 48 people
SAN MARCOS, Guatemala (AP) -- A 7.4-magnitude earthquake rocked Guatemala on Wednesday, killing at least 48 people in two states as it toppled thick adobe walls, shook huge landslides down onto highways, and sent terrified villagers streaming into the streets of this idyllic mountain town near the border with Mexico. One hundred people were missing, and hundreds were injured.
The quake, which hit at 10:35 a.m. in the midst of the work day, caused terror over an unusually wide area, with damage reported in all but one of Guatemala's 22 states and shaking felt as far away as Mexico City, 600 miles (965 kilometers) to the northwest.
President Otto Perez Molina said at a news conference that 40 people died in the state of San Marcos and eight more were killed in the neighboring state of Quetzaltenango.
San Marcos, where more than 30 homes collapsed, bore the brunt of the temblor's fury.
More than 300 people, including firefighters, policemen and villagers, tried to dig through a half ton of sand at a quarry in the commercial center of town in a desperate attempt to rescue seven people believed buried alive. Among those under the sand was a 6-year-old boy who had accompanied his grandfather to work.
Man behind anti-Muslim film sentenced to 1 year in federal prison for probation violations
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The California man behind an anti-Muslim film that led to violence in many parts of the Middle East was sentenced Wednesday to a year in federal prison for probation violations in an unrelated matter, then issued a provocative statement through his attorney.
The sentence was the result of a plea bargain between lawyers for Mark Bassely Youssef and federal prosecutors. Youssef admitted in open court that he had used several false names in violation of his probation order and obtained a driver's license under a false name. He was on probation for a bank fraud case.
Shortly after Youssef left the courtroom, his lawyer, Steven Seiden, came to the front steps of the courthouse and told reporters his client wanted to send a message.
"The one thing he wanted me to tell all of you is President Obama may have gotten Osama bin Laden, but he didn't kill the ideology," Seiden said.
Asked what that meant, Seiden said, "I didn't ask him, and I don't know."
Pot votes in 2 US states challenge US marijuana policy, portend showdown over drug policy
DENVER (AP) -- First came marijuana as medicine. Now comes legal pot for the people.
Those who have argued for decades that legalizing and taxing weed would be better than a costly, failed U.S. drug war have their chance to prove it, as Colorado and Washington became the first states to allow pot for recreational use.
While the measures earned support from broad swaths of the electorate in both states Tuesday, they are likely to face resistance from federal drug warriors. As of Wednesday, authorities did not say whether they would challenge the new laws.
Pot advocates say a fight is exactly what they want.
"I think we are at a tipping point on marijuana policy," said Brian Vicente, co-author of Colorado's marijuana measure. "We are going to see whether marijuana prohibition survives, or whether we should try a new and more sensible approach."
Jermaine Jackson files to alter famous last name to Jacksun for 'artistic reasons'
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Jermaine Jackson wants to change his name to something a little brighter. He's asking a court to allow him to alter his famous surname and become Jermaine Jacksun.
The older brother of Michael Jackson filed a name change petition on Tuesday in Los Angeles, stating the switch was for "artistic reasons."
The filing doesn't elaborate, but Jackson's friend Steve Dennis, who was speaking on the singer's behalf, said it's not unheard of for artists to change their names. "Phonetically, it changes nothing," he said.
"It is something he has chosen to do, and it's fair to say that you cannot blame this one on the boogie, you've got to blame it on the sunshine," Dennis said, in a play on the Jackson 5 disco hit, "Blame it on the Boogie."
Jackson has been touring with his brothers in recent months and has been promoting his book about his superstar brother titled "You Are Not Alone."
Former Texas football coach Royal dies in Austin, age 88; had Alzheimer's disease
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- A son of Depression-era Oklahoma, Darrell Royal came to Texas to take over a sleeping giant of a football program. Over 20 years, his folksy approach to sports and life, his inventive wishbone offense and a victory in the "Game of the Century" -- where a U.S. president declared his team national champion -- made him an icon of college football.
Royal, who won two national championships and turned the Longhorns into a national power, died early Wednesday at age 88 of complications from cardiovascular disease, school spokesman Bill Little said. Royal also suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
Royal didn't have a single losing season in his 23 years as a head coach at Texas, Mississippi State and Washington. Known for their stout defenses and punishing running attacks, his Texas teams boasted a 167-47-5 record from 1957-1976, the best mark in the nation over that period.
"It was fun," Royal told The Associated Press in 2007. "All the days I was coaching at Texas, I knew this would be my last coaching job. I knew it when I got here."
It almost didn't happen. Royal wasn't Texas' first choice.