Sunday, November 25, 2012

Published:

Syrian rebels capture helicopter air base near the capital Damascus after fierce fighting

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian rebels captured a helicopter base just outside Damascus Sunday in what an activist called a "blow to the morale of the regime" near President Bashar Assad's seat of power, while the bombardment of a village near the capital killed at least eight children.

Activists said the children were killed when Syrian warplanes bombed the village of Deir al-Asafir just outside the Damascus. The village is close to suburbs of the capital that has been witnessing clashes, shelling and air raids between troops and rebels over the past months.

The Britain-based Syrian observatory for Human Rights said the bombardment of the village killed eight children. Another activist group, the Revolution Command Council said 10 children were killed when warplanes struck the village as they played outdoors.

An amateur video showed two girls lying dead in a street while the bodies of two bloodied dead boys were in the back seat of a car parked nearby. Several other wounded children were seen rushed for treatment.

Another video showed the bodies of two dead boys inside what appeared to be a makeshift hospital as others received treatment from injuries while lying on the floor.

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Fire kills at least 112 workers at 8-story Bangladesh garment factory with no emergency exits

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- Fire raced up the floors of a garment factory in Bangladesh, killing at least 112 people, many of them trapped in the eight-story building with no emergency exits where they make clothes for major global retailers.

The factory outside the capital, Dhaka, is owned by Tazreen Fashions Ltd., a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, which makes products for Wal-Mart and other companies in the U.S. and Europe.

Firefighters recovered at least 100 bodies from the factory and 12 more people died at hospitals after jumping from the building to escape, Maj. Mohammad Mahbub, fire department operations director, told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Local media reported that up to 124 people were killed. The cause of the blaze that began late Saturday was not immediately clear, and authorities ordered an investigation.

Army soldiers and border guards were helping keep order as thousands of onlookers and anxious relatives of the factory workers gathered, Mahbub said.

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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 Monday:

1. WHY EGYPT'S PRESIDENT HAS POLARIZED THE NATION

Supporters and opponents of Mohammed Morsi are growing more entrenched in their battle over the Islamist leader's move to assume near absolute powers.

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New Congress: More women and many newcomers, but fewer moderates make getting deals harder

WASHINGTON (AP) -- When the next Congress cranks up in January, there will be more women, many new faces and 11 fewer tea party-backed House Republicans from the class of 2010 who sought a second term.

Overriding those changes, though, is a thinning of pragmatic, centrist veterans in both parties. Among those leaving are some of the Senate's most pragmatic lawmakers, nearly half the House's centrist Blue Dog Democrats and several moderate House Republicans.

That could leave the parties more polarized even as President Barack Obama and congressional leaders talk up the cooperation needed to tackle complex, vexing problems such as curbing deficits, revamping tax laws and culling savings from Medicare and other costly, popular programs.

"This movement away from the center, at a time when issues have to be resolved from the middle, makes it much more difficult to find solutions to major problems," said William Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a private group advocating compromise.

In the Senate, moderate Scott Brown, R-Mass., lost to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who will be one of the most liberal members. Another GOP moderate, Richard Lugar of Indiana, fell in the primary election. Two others, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Olympia Snowe of Maine, are retiring.

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Egypt's political foes grow more entrenched in fight over president's powers

CAIRO (AP) -- Supporters and opponents of Egypt's president on Sunday grew more entrenched in their potentially destabilizing battle over the Islamist leader's move to assume near absolute powers, with neither side appearing willing to back down as the stock market plunged amid the fresh turmoil.

The standoff poses one of the hardest tests for the nation's liberal and secular opposition since Hosni Mubarak's ouster nearly two years ago. Failure to sustain protests and eventually force Mohammed Morsi to loosen control could consign it to long-term irrelevance.

Clashes between the two sides spilled onto the streets for a third day since the president issued edicts that make him immune to oversight of any kind, including that of the courts.

A teenager was killed and at least 40 people were wounded when a group of anti-Morsi protesters tried to storm the local offices of the political arm of the president's Muslim Brotherhood in the Nile Delta city of Damanhoor, according to security officials.

It was the first reported death from the street battles that erupted across much of the nation on Friday, the day after Morsi's decrees were announced. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, identified the boy as 15-year-old Islam Hamdi Abdel-Maqsood.

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AP IMPACT: Despite Sandy's wrath, building gigantic storm barriers no easy sell to New Yorkers

Think Sandy was just a 100-year storm that devastated New York City? Imagine one just as bad, or worse, every three years.

Prominent planners and builders say now is the time to think big to shield the city's core: a 5-mile barrier blocking the entryway to New York Harbor, an archipelago of man-made islets guarding the tip of Manhattan, or something like CDM Smith engineer Larry Murphy's 1,700-foot barrier -- complete with locks for passing boats and a walkway for pedestrians -- at the mouth of the Arthur Kill waterway between the borough of Staten Island and New Jersey.

Act now, before the next deluge, and they say it could even save money in the long run.

These strategies aren't just pipe dreams. Not only do these technologies already exist, some of the concepts have been around for decades and have been deployed successfully in other countries and U.S. cities.

So if the science and engineering are sound, the long-term cost would actually be a savings, and the frequency and severity of more killer floods is inevitable, what's the holdup?

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Fire marshal: Mass. gas company worker punctured pipe, spark ignited blast that hurt 18 people

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- A natural gas explosion that injured 18 people and damaged 42 buildings in Springfield's entertainment district was blamed Sunday on a utility worker who accidentally punctured a high-pressure pipeline while looking for a leak.

State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said the Friday night blast in one of New England's largest cities was caused by "human error." He didn't name the Columbia Gas Co. worker who pierced the pipe while responding to reports of a gas leak.

The worker damaged the underground pipe while using a metal tool to locate the source of the leak, Coan said. A flood of gas then built up in a building that housed a strip club, and some kind of spark touched off the blast, officials said.

Coan said the employee was following older markings on a sidewalk that indicated the location of the gas line. He appeared to be an appropriate distance from the line, but the markings were incorrect and the worker accidentally punctured the pipe.

A message left for a Columbia Gas spokeswoman wasn't immediately returned. Columbia Gas, a subsidiary of public company NiSource Inc., said earlier Sunday that it plans to open a claims center at City Hall on Monday for residents and businesses affected by the explosion.

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A record number of shoppers boosts the first weekend of holiday shopping season

NEW YORK (AP) -- If you make holiday shopping convenient, Americans will come in droves.

It's estimated that U.S. shoppers hit stores and websites at record numbers over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey released by the National Retail Federation on Sunday. They were attracted by retailers' efforts to make shopping easier, including opening stores on Thanksgiving evening, updating mobile shopping applications for smartphones and tablets, and expanding shipping and layaway options.

All told, a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the four-day weekend starting on Thanksgiving, up 9.2 percent of last year, according to a survey of 4,000 shoppers that was conducted by research firm BIGinsight for the trade group. Americans spent more too: The average holiday shopper spent $423 over the entire weekend, up from $398 last year. Total spending over the four-day weekend totaled $59.1 billion, up 12.8 percent from 2011.

Caitlyn Maguire, 21, was one of the shoppers that took advantage of all the new conveniences of shopping this year. Maguire, who lives in New York, began buying on Thanksgiving night at Target's East Harlem store. During the two-hour wait in line, she also bought items on her iPhone on Amazon.com. On Friday, she picked up a few toys at Toys R Us. And on Saturday she was out at the stores again.

"I'm basically done," said Maguire, who spent about $400 over the weekend.

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Rolling Stones mark 50th anniversary with London concert; Mary J Blige, Jeff Beck join in

LONDON (AP) -- The Rolling Stones made a triumphant return to the London stage on Sunday night in the first of five concerts to mark the 50th anniversary of their debut as an American-oriented blues band.

They showed no signs of wear and tear -- except on their aging, heavily lined faces -- as frontman Mick Jagger swaggered and strutted through a stellar two-and-a-half hour show. He looked remarkably trim and fit and was in top vocal form.

The Stones passed the half-century mark in style at the sometimes emotional gig that saw former bassist Bill Wyman and guitar master Mick Taylor join their old mates in front of a packed crowd at London's 02 Arena.

It was the first of five mega-shows to mark the passage of 50 years since the band first appeared in a small London pub determined to pay homage to the masters of American blues.

Jagger, in skin-tight black pants, a black shirt and a sparkly tie, took time out from singing to thank the crowd for its loyalty.

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Rookie Jenkins returns 2 interceptions for TDs, Rams hand Cardinals 7th straight loss

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- No NFL rookie since 1960 and no Rams rookie ever accomplished what cornerback Janoris Jenkins did on Sunday.

The second-round draft pick with off-the-field issues through his college career returned two interceptions for touchdowns and St. Louis dominated the second half to hand the Arizona Cardinals their seventh loss in a row, 31-17 on Sunday.

Arizona rookie Ryan Lindley was intercepted four times in his first NFL start.

Jenkins' returns of 36 and 39 yards emphatically ended the Rams' streak of five straight games without an opponent turnover. The talented defender had slipped to the second round for the Rams after he was booted from the Florida team following a pair of marijuana-related incidents and finished his career at North Alabama.

All that was just history on this big day.