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World briefly on Aug. 28

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POSTED: August 28, 2012 7:45 a.m.

CHAUVIN, La. (AP) — Isaac was on the verge of becoming a full-blown hurricane Tuesday as it rolled over the Gulf of Mexico toward Louisiana, where residents of the low-lying coast left boarded-up homes for inland shelter while people in New Orleans waited behind levees fortified after Katrina.

Forecasters predicted the tropical storm would power up to hurricane strength, which starts at winds of 74 mph, later in the day and be at least a Category 1 hurricane by the time it's expected to reach the swampy coast of southeast Louisiana early Wednesday. The forecast track has the storm aimed at New Orleans, but hurricane warnings extended across 280 miles from Morgan City, La., to the Florida-Alabama state line. It could become the first hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since 2008.

Early Tuesday, Isaac was a large and potent tropical storm packing top sustained winds of 70 mph. The storm system was centered about 125 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River at 5 a.m. EDT and moving northwest at 12 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Although Isaac's approach on the eve of the Katrina anniversary invited obvious comparisons, the storm is nowhere near as powerful as Katrina was when it struck on Aug. 29, 2005. Katrina at one point reached Category 5 status with winds of more than 157 mph, and made landfall as a Category 3 storm.

Still, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warned that Isaac, especially if it strikes at high tide, could cause storm surges of up to 12 feet along low-lying areas including south Lafourche Parish, where hurricane veteran Windell Curole kept a close eye on the levee system he oversees; and in Houma, a city southwest of New Orleans, where people filled up a municipal auditorium-turned shelter.

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Republicans find it's an awkward time for politics as convention opens and Isaac threatens US

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — For the thousands of Republican convention-goers who've been cooling their heels in Tampa, the party is finally on. But with New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast waiting fearfully to see where a massive storm makes landfall, politics has become an awkward enterprise and no one knows what sort of party it will turn out to be.

At least for now, the Republican National Convention will go on Tuesday according to its latest script: delivering Mitt Romney the presidential nomination he fought years to achieve, calling the party to unify around him and setting the stage for the final stretch of the hotly contested campaign to unseat President Barack Obama.

Romney was coming to Tampa on Tuesday, in time to see his wife's speech in the evening, although it was kept a mystery whether he would attend the convention before his big address Thursday night.

The high campaign season opens with Romney and Obama about even in the last of the pre-convention polls, with each candidate possessing distinct and important advantages. The Democrat is the more likable or empathetic leader; the Republican is more highly regarded as the candidate who can restore the economy, the top issue for voters.

Ann Romney's convention speech was designed to speak to that divide. It was an important part of the GOP's effort to flesh out her husband and present him to the nation as more than a successful businessman and the former Republican governor of a Democratic state, Massachusetts.

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WATCHING THE SHOW: Mitt Romney struggles to connect, but can he close the likability gap?

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — If the presidential election were held today, Romney and Obama would be more or less tied, the latest polls show. But on one voter test, Obama has a clear advantage:

Whom would you rather have a beer with?

Or, if you don't drink (as Romney doesn't), whom would you rather have a cup of coffee with? Or take with you on a road trip (with or without your dog)? Or invite over for dinner?

Simply put, there is a likability gap.

This may seem trivial compared to questions like, say, which candidate you think will better revive the economy or safeguard the nation's nuclear weapons. But election after election has demonstrated that how voters feel about their candidate matters. A lot. It buoyed Ronald Reagan and helped sink John Kerry.

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Mexico sect vows to fight to keep public schooling out of its community

NUEVA JERUSALEN, Mexico (AP) — Sprouting out of the corn fields of western Mexico rises a hill crowned with two arches and four towers, marking the gates of an improvised "holy land" that farmers built brick by brick over nearly four decades to mark the only spot they believe will be saved in the coming apocalypse: Nueva Jerusalen, or "New Jerusalem."

The faith of the people who live here is built on messages purportedly passed from the Virgin Mary to a defrocked Catholic priest, an illiterate old woman and a clairvoyant who passed messages from beyond the grave.

In the intervening decades, a cult has sprung around the detailed instructions that Our Lady of the Rosary supposedly left for followers describing where new temples should be built in the labyrinthine compound, and how believers should dress and live. No non-religious music, no alcohol or tobacco, no television, no radio, no modern dress.

But beyond the complex hierarchy of brightly-robed followers, with women wearing purple, red, white or green robes, depending on their "order" or vocation, there is one injunction that has landed the sect in trouble: no public education.

That's at the heart of a confrontation brewing at the complex among the sect's traditionalists, its more reformist members, and the Mexican government.

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7 years after Katrina, New Orleans sees gentrification spreading into old neighborhoods

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — With Isaac bearing down on New Orleans, the city finds itself at a delicate moment in its rebuilding since Hurricane Katrina struck seven years ago.

Private and government investment is fueling the push to overhaul some of the city's troubled but culturally rich neighborhoods near the French Quarter, where poor families are being replaced as wealthier ones move in. While the city's in a boom and even gentrifying, some question whether it will wither the roots that grew the city's distinctive identity.

"New Orleans is becoming a boutique city like San Francisco," said Gary Clark, a politics professor at Dillard University. "You may see black middle class moving in, but with gentrification there's overwhelmingly white individuals of means who become the new urban pioneers."

The number of whites, although smaller than before Katrina, has grown as an overall percentage from 28 percent to 33 percent of the city's population. The city has its first white mayor since the 1970s, while the City Council now has a majority of white members.

On the flip side, blacks say there's danger that their community will be diminished in a city that owes deep cultural and economic debts to its Afro-Caribbean roots. Since the storm the African-American community has shrunk by about 118,500 people, dropping from about 68 percent of the population to about 60 percent.

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CONVENTION WATCH: Finally getting started, Romney on his way, polls tightening

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Around the 2012 Republican National Convention and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details to you:

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TAMPA-BOUND

Mitt Romney will be on the way to Florida on Tuesday — the day his wife's scheduled to give her speech at the Republican National Convention.

The presumptive GOP nominee for president will arrive in Tampa on what's effectively the first day of the convention. Although it was called to order Monday, it was immediately adjourned until Tuesday because of Tropical Storm Isaac.

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Poppa of the Paralympics: Doctor who pioneered rehab methods for spinal patients remembered

LONDON (AP) — The Olympics have Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern games. The Paralympics have Sir Ludwig Guttmann.

Guttmann, a Jewish neurosurgeon who fled Nazi Germany, pioneered athletic competition as therapy for patients with spinal injuries and organized an archery competition for 16 patients at Britain's Stoke Mandeville hospital in 1948. From this humble start have come the Paralympic Games, which this week will bring more than 4,000 athletes from around the world to London.

"The Guttmann story is massive," said Olympic historian Martin Polley. "He was the one who linked rehab to competitive sport."

This month has been Guttmann's moment, what with a BBC film about his life, "The Best of Men," an exhibition at the Jewish Museum in London and his daughter, Eve Loeffler, being named mayor of the athletes village — a sort of ambassador in chief who welcomes the participants for games that start Wednesday and end Sept. 9.

It follows a resurgence of interest in Guttmann, who escaped in the late 1930s and settled in Britain, where his research on treating spinal patients drew the attention of the government. Guttmann began working with injured soldiers at Stoke Mandeville hospital, just north of London, during World War II — a time when suffering a spinal injury was considered a death sentence. Patients were discouraged from moving, leading to secondary infections from bed sores or from pneumonia.

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Ryan opposes new, Obama-backed aid regime that has disaster coffers flush as Isaac bears down

WASHINGTON (AP) — As tropical storm Isaac bears down on the Gulf Coast, there should be plenty of money — some $1.5 billion — in federal disaster aid coffers, thanks, in part, to a new system that budgets help for victims of hurricanes, tornadoes and floods before they occur.

It's a system that Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee-to-be for vice president, had hoped to scrap as a way to make his House GOP budget look smaller by about $10 billion a year. Politely, party elders told him no way, at least for now.

The Obama administration was the driving force behind the new disaster funding scheme and made it part of last summer's hard-fought budget pact, even though President Barack Obama himself had given short shrift to budgeting for disasters prior to a spate of them early last year, including tornadoes that ripped through Missouri and Alabama.

Congresses and administrations, after all, always had been fairly forthcoming with whatever disaster aid was needed after the fact.

The new system means disaster aid will not have to compete with other programs for financing, nor have to rely on less certain ad hoc funding at the height of a crisis.

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Obama campaign courting college students as they return to campus

WASHINGTON (AP) — As college students return to campus, President Barack Obama's campaign will be there waiting for them.

Obama aides sees college campuses as fertile ground for registering and recruiting some of the more than 15 million young people who have become eligible to vote since the 2008 election. As Republicans hold their party convention in Florida this week, the president will make a personal appeal to college voters in three university towns: Ames, Iowa; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Charlottesville, Va.

Obama's victory four years ago was propelled in part by his overwhelming support among college-aged voters, and polls show him leading Republican rival Mitt Romney with that group in this year's race.

But the president faces an undeniable challenge as he seeks to convince young people that he is the right steward for the economy as they eye a shaky postgraduation job market.

Seeking to overcome that economic uncertainty, Obama's campus staffers and volunteers are touting the president's positions on social issues, like gay rights, that garner significant support among young people. Obama has stressed his effort to freeze the interest rates on new federal student loans, a pitch he personalizes by reminding voters that he and the first lady were once buried under a "mountain" of student loan debt after law school.

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Israeli court rejects civil lawsuit brought against military by parents of killed US activist

HAIFA, Israel (AP) — An Israeli court on Monday rejected a lawsuit brought against the military by the parents of a U.S. activist crushed to death by an army bulldozer during a 2003 demonstration, ruling the army was not at fault for her death.

The bulldozer driver has said he didn't see 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, a pro-Palestinian activist, who was trying to block the vehicle's path during a demonstration in the Gaza Strip against the military's demolition of Palestinian homes. The military deemed her March 2003 death to be accidental, but Corrie's parents were not satisfied by the army investigation and filed a civil lawsuit two years later.

Explaining the district court's ruling, Judge Oded Gershon said Corrie "put herself in a dangerous situation" and called her death "the result of an accident she brought upon herself." He said the military conducted a proper investigation, and rejected the Corrie family's request for a symbolic $1 in damages and legal expenses.

Corrie's parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie of Olympia, Washington, did not speak immediately after the verdict, but clasped each other's hands.

Their lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, lamented the court's ruling, saying "the verdict blames the victim."

 

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