Monday November 5, 2012

Obama closer to 270-vote threshold, but Romney
with path in handful of
still-close states

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- President Barack Obama enters the final hours of the 2012 campaign with an edge in the hunt for the 270 electoral votes needed to win and more ways to reach that magic number. Yet the race is remarkably close in at least six states that could go either way, giving Republican Mitt Romney hope that he can pull off a come-from-behind victory.

If the election were held now, an Associated Press analysis found that Obama would be all but assured of 249 votes, by carrying 20 states that are solidly Democratic or leaning his way -- Iowa, Nevada and Pennsylvania among them -- and the District of Columbia. Romney would lay claim to 206, from probable victories in 24 states that are strong Republican turf or tilt toward the GOP, including North Carolina.

Up for grabs are 83 electoral votes spread across Colorado, Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin. Of those, Republicans and Democrats alike say Obama seems in a bit better shape than Romney in Ohio and Wisconsin, while Romney appears to be performing slightly better than Obama or has pulled even in Florida and Virginia.

The AP’s analysis is not meant to be predictive, but instead to provide a snapshot of a race that has been extraordinarily close from the outset. The analysis is based on interviews with more than a dozen Republican and Democratic strategists in Washington and in the most contested states; public polls; internal campaign surveys; early vote figures; spending on television advertising; candidate travel; and get-out-the-vote organizations.

Both Republicans and Democrats say Tuesday’s election has tightened across the board the homestretch. Many factors are adding to the uncertainty, including early vote tallies, Election Day turnout and the impact of Superstorm Sandy in the East. There’s no telling the impact of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, who’s on the ballot in 48 states, including all the battlegrounds, or Virgil Goode, an ex-congressman from Virginia who’s running on the Constitution Party ticket.

Cold weather compounds the misery in storm-stricken areas; victims
seek solace in church

NEW YORK (AP) -- Storm victims went to church Sunday to pray for deliverance as cold weather settling in across the New York metropolitan area -- and another drenching in the forecast -- added to the misery of people already struggling with gasoline shortages and power outages.

Hundreds of parishioners in parkas, scarves and boots packed the pews and stood in the aisles for Mass at a chilly Church of St. Rose in storm-ravaged Belmar, N.J., where the floodwaters had receded but the streets were slippery with strong-smelling mud. Firefighters and police officers sat in the front rows and drew applause.

Roman Catholic Bishop David O’Connell said he had no good answer for why God would allow the destruction that Superstorm Sandy caused.

But he assured parishioners: "There’s more good, and there’s more joy, and there’s more happiness in life than there is the opposite. And it will be back. And we will be back."

With temperatures dipping into the 30s overnight and close to 700,000 homes and businesses in New York City, its northern suburbs and Long Island still without electricity six days after the storm, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that many homes are becoming uninhabitable and that tens of thousands of people are going to need other places to stay.

On hard-hit Connecticut shoreline, flooding from Sandy leaves Gold Coast residents shaken

WESTPORT, Conn. (AP) -- The floodwaters churned by Superstorm Sandy damaged waterfront homes along Connecticut’s southwest coast, and turned the charming center of tony Westport into a ghost town, with sandbags lining streets of flooded-out boutique shops.

A fire at the height of last week’s storm destroyed three Greenwich mansions, and hundreds of Fairfield homeowners waited days for water to recede so they could return to their homes.

While Connecticut was spared the destruction seen in New York and New Jersey, many communities along the shoreline -- including some of the wealthiest towns in America -- were struggling with one of the most severe storms in generations.

For some living along Connecticut’s vaunted "Gold Coast," the effects of Sandy and earlier storms were enough to reconsider life on the waterfront.

"We feel traumatized and displaced," said Jessica Levitt, the mother of two young children while waiting last week for the waters to subside in Fairfield, in a neighborhood of modest and more expensive homes. "Everyone is walking around with these blank looks on their faces. Nobody knows where to go and what to do."

Activists say Syrian rebels capture oilfield in country’s east after 3-day battle

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian rebels firing mortars and rocket-propelled grenades captured an oilfield in the country’s east on Sunday after three days of fierce fighting with government troops protecting the facility, activists said.

The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said rebels overran the Al-Ward oilfield in the province of Deir el-Zour near the border with Iraq early Sunday. About 40 soldiers were guarding the facility that the rebels had been pounding for the past three days, he said, adding that opposition fighters also captured several regime troops.

Oil was a major source of revenue for the cash-strapped regime of President Bashar Assad before the European Union and the United States imposed an embargo on Syria’s crude exports last year to punish the government for its brutal crackdown on protesters early on in the uprising.

"This field used to supply the regime with fuel for its tanks and our aim was to stop these supplies," Omar Abu Leila, an activist in Deir el-Zour, told The Associated Press by telephone. He said there was heavy fighting recently near the oil facility that is located just east of the city of Mayadin.

Both activists said the rebels shot down a fighter jet near the oil field Sunday. It was not clear if the warplane was taking part in fighting in the area.

Pittsburgh zoo official: Young boy dies after falling into wild dog exhibit and being mauled

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A young boy visiting the Pittsburgh zoo with his mother and friends was killed Sunday when he fell about 14 feet off a deck into an exhibit that’s home to a pack of African painted dogs, who pounced on the boy and mauled him, zoo officials said.

It’s not clear whether he died from the fall or the attack, said Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

When the boy fell, other visitors immediately told staff members, who responded along with Pittsburgh police. Zookeepers called off the dogs, and seven of them immediately went to a back building. Three more eventually were drawn away from the boy, but the last dog wouldn’t come into the building, and police had to shoot him, Baker said.

"It’s clear that the dogs did attack the child, but whether he died of the attack or the fall has yet to be determined," Baker said.

The dogs are about as big as medium-sized domestic dogs, 2 to 21Ž2 feet high and 37 to 80 pounds, according to the zoo. African wild dogs are also known as cape hunting dogs, spotted dogs, and painted wolves. They have large, rounded ears and dark brown circles around their eyes and are considered endangered.

Authorities: Atlanta police helicopter crashes amid search for missing boy, killing 2 officers

ATLANTA (AP) -- A low-flying police helicopter scanning a bustling neighborhood not far from downtown Atlanta for a runaway 9-year-old boy suddenly plummeted to the ground and exploded, killing both officers on board but leaving those on the ground unharmed.

Federal authorities are investigating what caused the aircraft to descend into power lines, knocking out electricity to some residents nearby in the district filled with shopping plazas, fast food restaurants and homes. The boy was found safely a couple of hours after the helicopter crashed late Saturday night. Atlanta police spokesman Officer John Chafee said Sunday that the boy ran away after being scolded by his mother and was later found wandering on a city street.

The two officers were identified Sunday afternoon as pilot Richard J. Halford, 48, of Lithia Springs, who had been with the department for 26 years, and Shawn A. Smiley, 40, of Lithonia, a tactical flight officer who joined the department two years ago.

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner praised the two officers as public servants who died honorably in the search for the missing boy. Both men were fathers. Smiley had three children under the age of 10.

"Every day, they provided air support for our officers, assisting in major events and searches for suspects and missing persons," Turner said in a news release. "Their value to our citizens and our officers on the street is incalculable."

Apple paid only 1.9 percent income tax on $36.8 billion in earnings outside US in fiscal 2012

Apple Inc. paid an income tax rate of only 1.9 percent on its earnings outside the U.S. in its latest fiscal year, a regulatory filing by the company shows.

The world’s most valuable company paid $713 million in tax on foreign earnings of $36.8 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 29, according to the financial statement filed on Oct. 31. The foreign earnings were up 53 percent from fiscal 2011, when Apple earned $24 billion outside the U.S. and paid income tax of 2.5 percent on it.

The tech giant’s foreign tax rate compares with the general U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent.

Apple may pay some income taxes on its profit to the country in which it sells its products, but it minimizes them by using various accounting moves to shift profits to countries with low tax rates. For example the strategy known as "Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich," routes profits through Irish and Dutch subsidiaries and then to the Caribbean.

Other multinational corporations also use such tax techniques, which are legal.