Thursday November 1, 2012

Airports and stock exchange return, but NYC still struggles 2 days after killer storm

NEW YORK (AP) -- Flights resumed, but slowly. The New York Stock Exchange got back to business, but on generator power. And with the subways still down, great numbers of people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan in a reverse of the exodus of 9/11.

Two days after Superstorm Sandy rampaged across the Northeast, killing at least 63 people, New York struggled Wednesday to find its way. Swaths of the city were still without power, and all of it was torn from its daily rhythms.

At luxury hotels and drugstores and Starbucks shops that bubbled back to life, people clustered around outlets and electrical strips, desperate to recharge their phones. In the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, a line of people filled pails with water from a fire hydrant. Two children used jack-o’-lantern trick-or-treat buckets.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that parts of the subway would begin running again Thursday, and that three of seven tunnels under the East River had been pumped free of water, removing a major obstacle to restoring full service.

"We are going to need some patience and some tolerance," he said.

Obama devotes day
to storm response; furor erupts over Romney auto ads

BRIGANTINE, N.J. (AP) -- President Barack Obama soberly toured the destruction wrought by superstorm Sandy on Wednesday in the company of New Jersey’s Republican governor and assured victims "we will not quit" until cleanup and recovery are complete. Six days before their hard-fought election, rival Mitt Romney muted criticism of Obama as he barnstormed battleground Florida.

Forsaking partisan politics for the third day in a row, the president helicoptered with Gov. Chris Christie over washed-out roads, flooded homes, boardwalks bobbing in the ocean and, in Seaside Heights, a fire still burning after ruining about eight structures.

Back on the ground, the president introduced one local woman to "my guy Craig Fugate." In a plainspoken demonstration of the power of the presidency, Obama instructed the man at the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a 7,500-employee federal agency, to "make sure she gets the help she needs" immediately.

Despite the tour and Romney’s own expressions of sympathy for storm victims -- a break on the surface from heated campaigning -- a controversy as heated as any in the long, intense struggle for the White House flared over the Republican challenger’s new television and radio ads in Ohio.

"Desperation," Vice President Joe Biden said of the broadcast claims that suggested automakers General Motors and Chrysler are adding jobs in China at the expense of workers in the bellwether state. "One of the most flagrantly dishonest ads I can ever remember."

From wrath of nature to wrath of children: Storm forces Halloween postponement for many

NEW YORK (AP) -- Seventh-grader Samantha Bertolino was especially proud of her Halloween costume this year. She was going to be a vampire, and she really had it together this time: The black dress, the spider-web earrings, fake blood, white face paint, and some cool, sparkly clip-on nails.

But the costume will stay in the closet for a while: Samantha’s town of Ridgefield, Conn., has postponed Halloween due to the ravages of Superstorm Sandy. The town is planning to reschedule, pending the success of cleanup efforts.

But it won’t be the same, Samantha says: "It’s kind of like trying to reschedule Christmas. You can’t really do that."

From the wrath of nature to the wrath of young children: From Maryland to Kentucky to Maine, Halloween festivities were being canceled or postponed. And a debate emerged: Should we be celebrating, anyway, in the face of the devastation? Or is celebrating just the right thing to do for antsy kids who’ve been cooped up at home (and out of school) for days?

Perhaps the most high-profile postponement was that of New York’s huge parade in Greenwich Village, with its outlandish floats and millions of revelers, mainly adults. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s police were simply too taxed with Sandy’s aftermath. (Trick-or-treating, the mayor said, could go ahead as long as caution and good judgment were used.)

Who would end political gridlock? Romney has best
shot, poll suggests

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Just about everybody agrees Washington is a gridlocked mess. But who’s the man to fix it? After two years of brawling and brinkmanship between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans, more voters trust Mitt Romney to break the stalemate, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows.

Romney’s message -- a vote for Obama is a vote for more gridlock -- seems to be getting through. Almost half of likely voters, 47 percent, think the Republican challenger would be better at ending the logjam, compared with 37 percent for Obama.

With the race charging into its final week, Romney is pushing that idea. He increasingly portrays himself as a get-things-done, work-with-everybody pragmatist, in hopes of convincing independent voters that he can overcome Washington’s bitter partisanship. The AP-GfK poll shows the race in a virtual dead heat, with Romney at 47 percent to Obama’s 45 percent, a difference within the margin of sampling error.

At a rally Wednesday in Coral Gables, Fla., Romney recounted how he worked with the Democratic-led Legislature as governor of Massachusetts and insisted he would find common ground with Democrats in Washington, too: "We can’t change course in America if we keep attacking each other. We’ve got to come together and get America on track again."

Obama made his own show of bipartisanship Wednesday, touring superstorm Sandy devastation alongside Republican Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey. A major Romney supporter, Christie has been praising Obama’s "outstanding" response to the natural disaster.

Court considers whether drug-sniffing dogs pass the smell test in criminal probes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Can you trust what a dog’s nose knows? Police do, but the Supreme Court considered Wednesday curbing the use of drug-sniffing dogs in investigations following complaints of illegal searches and insufficient proof of the dog’s reliability.

Justices seemed concerned about allowing police to bring their narcotic-detecting dogs to sniff around the outside of homes without a warrant and seemed willing to allow defense attorneys to question at trial how well drug dogs have been trained and how well they have been doing their job in the field.

"Dogs make mistakes. Dogs err," lawyer Glen P. Gifford told the justices. "Dogs get excited and will alert to things like tennis balls in trunks or animals, that sort of thing."

But Justice Department lawyer Joseph R. Palmore warned justices not to let the questioning of dog skills go too far, because they also are used to detect bombs, protect federal officials and in search and rescue operations. "I think it’s critical ... that the courts not constitutionalize dog training methodologies or hold mini-trials with expert witnesses on what makes for a successful dog training program," he said.

"There are 32 K-9 teams in the field right now in New York and New Jersey looking for survivors of Hurricane Sandy," Palmore added. "So, in situation after situation, the government has in a sense put its money where its mouth is, and it believes at an institutional level that these dogs are quite reliable."

Clinton seeks shakeup of Syrian opposition
in new bid to rally country against Assad

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) -- The Obama administration said Wednesday it would push for a major shakeup in Syria’s opposition leadership so that it better represents those dying on the front line, can rally wider support and resist attempts by extremists to hijack the revolution against the Assad regime.

Speaking to reporters in Croatia’s capital, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the administration was suggesting names and organizations that should feature prominently in any new rebel leadership that emerges from talks starting next week in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

She dismissed the Syrian National Council, a Paris-based group of regime opponents who have lived in exile for decades, saying its leadership days are over, even if it could still play a role. The council was viewed with suspicion by rebels who stayed in Syria and fought the regime of President Bashar Assad.

"This cannot be an opposition represented by people who have many good attributes but have in many instances not been inside Syria for 20, 30 or 40 years," Clinton said. "There has to be a representation of those who are on the front lines fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom. And there needs to be an opposition leadership structure that is dedicated to representing and protecting all Syrians."

The shift in policy reflects as much the failure of the SNC to win widespread political legitimacy as the Obama administration’s desire to be seen playing a leading role in shaping an opposition capable of winning the support of frightened Syrian minority groups and replacing Assad.

Europe takes on Google, looking to Brazil as a model for doing without the Internet giant

PARIS (AP) -- European news organizations bleeding money and readers are trying to avoid extinction by asking governments in France, Germany and Italy to step in and charge Google for using their content in its search results -- something the Web giant has always done for free.

Critics -- including, unsurprisingly, Google -- say the strategy is shortsighted and self-destructive, and the search engine warns it will stop indexing European news sites if forced to pay. But publishers advocating a "Google tax" aimed at benefiting their industry point to the example of Brazil, where their counterparts abandoned the search engine and say repercussions have been minimal.

The dispute underscores a fundamental question facing media agencies around the world: Who should benefit from links to online content that is costly to produce and yet generates a fraction of the ad revenue that once allowed newspapers to flourish?

Europe has tried to sidestep Google before. Six years ago, then-French President Jacques Chirac unveiled plans for Quaero (Latin for "I search") as the answer to U.S. dominance of the Internet. The multi-platform search and operating system was supposed to work with desktop computers, mobile devices and even televisions.

Despite millions spent to develop Quaero, it went nowhere.