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World briefly for Oct. 27

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POSTED: October 27, 2012 9:31 a.m.

BLOOMSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Douglas Jumper choked up as he described the long, slow recovery in his central Pennsylvania town from last year's historic flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee — and contemplated the possibility of yet more damage from an approaching storm.

"I'm tired. I am tired," Jumper, who turned 58 on Saturday, said through tears. "We don't need this again."

Jumper's town of Bloomsburg, and much of the Eastern Seaboard, was in the path of a rare behemoth storm barreling north from the Caribbean. Tropical Storm Sandy was expected to make landfall early Tuesday near the Delaware coast, then hit two winter weather systems as it moves inland, creating a hybrid monster storm that could bring nearly a foot of rain, high winds and up to 2 feet of snow.

Experts said the storm could be wider and stronger than Irene, which caused more than $15 billion in damage, and could rival the worst East Coast storm on record.

Jumper's first floor took on nearly 5 feet of water last year, and he was busy Friday moving items from his wood shop to higher ground. Across the street, Patrick and Heather Peters pulled into the driveway with a kerosene heater, 12 gallons of water, paper plates, batteries, flashlights and the last lantern on Wal-Mart's shelf.

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AP poll: Majority of Americans express negative view of blacks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first black president, an Associated Press poll finds, as a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not.

Those views could cost President Barack Obama votes as he tries for re-election, the survey found, though the effects are mitigated by some Americans' more favorable views of blacks.

Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly.

In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

"As much as we'd hope the impact of race would decline over time ... it appears the impact of anti-black sentiment on voting is about the same as it was four years ago," said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who worked with AP to develop the survey.

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Obama, Romney campaign with an eye on weather forecast as storm charges toward battlegrounds

WASHINGTON (AP) — With an eye on the weather forecast, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney are launching a 10-day sprint to the finish line in a contest increasingly about momentum vs. math.

A huge storm barreling toward the East Coast — and some battleground states — had both campaigns adjusting their travel schedules and canceling events. Even at this critical juncture of the campaign, neither side wanted to risk the appearance of putting politics ahead of public safety.

The president was pressing on with a campaign trip Saturday to New Hampshire, while Romney was blitzing through Florida.

But an email announcing that Vice President Joe Biden's Saturday rally in coastal Virginia Beach, Va., stated that the change was "being taken out of an abundance of caution to ensure that all local law enforcement and emergency management resources can stay focused on ensuring the safety of people who might be impacted by the storm."

Romney canceled a rally in Virginia Beach that was planned for Sunday, and aides said they were also considering scrapping two other events elsewhere in the state. None of Obama's campaign stops had been canceled, but he did adjust his travel schedule slightly. The campaign moved up his planned Monday departure for Florida to Sunday night to beat the storm.

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Truth has no expiry date: 6 decades on, Belgium finally investigates political assassination

BRUSSELS (AP) — The story goes that when Prince Baudouin took the oath to succeed his father after years of tumult over the monarchy, Communist leader Julien Lahaut shouted from the crowd: "Long Live the Republic!"

A week later, two men turned up at Lahaut's door in Belgium's coal and steel heartland and shot him four times with a Colt 45 revolver at point blank range. The killers sped away by car into the gathering darkness and were never caught.

If ever a murder had the hallmarks of a political assassination, the August 1950 slaying was it. But, who was behind it? And why? It's a murder mystery swallowed up in the fog of Cold War politics. Now, 62 years later, the Belgian government has approved fresh funds to solve the crime, convinced the moral implications echo down to this day.

The probe is part of a historical reckoning in which Belgium is revisiting several buried crimes, citing a "duty to remember." They include the involvement of authorities in the persecution of Jews during the Nazi era and government links to the assassination of Congolese prime minister Patrice Lumumba in 1961.

It's up to silver-haired historian Emmanuel Gerard to crack the Lahaut case.

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FBI tip leads French police to nab Seattle real-estate developer, wife sought in US indictment

PARIS (AP) — An FBI tip helped French police track down and arrest an 87-year-old real-estate developer and his wife wanted by U.S. authorities — more than a year after the couple quietly settled near an Alpine lake, French officials said Friday.

French police arrested former Seattle real estate developer Michael Mastro and his wife, Linda, on Wednesday at their apartment in the town of Doussard near Lake Annecy. A day later, U.S. authorities handed them a 43-count grand jury indictment on charges of money laundering and bankruptcy fraud — including allegedly lying about the whereabouts of two huge diamonds valued together at $1.4 million as part of a bankruptcy proceeding.

Patrice Guigon, a regional state prosecutor based in nearby Chambery, said the couple will remain in custody until a judge rules Nov. 7 on their lawyer's request for their provisional release. U.S. authorities have 60 days in which to present a formal extradition request. He said the couple had not yet met with American consular officials.

The arrests were made possible after the FBI informed French authorities that Michael Mastro had sought a reimbursement from his U.S. insurance provider for medical care he received in France, according to Julien Duhamel, a judicial police chief in Annecy.

"That led us to an address that was no longer valid, but was still pretty recent," he said by phone. "After investigating in the neighborhood, we were able to pretty easily find their current address." Duhamel said his office first learned of the case sometime in mid-October.

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Rare protest bond between Islamists and liberals emerges from Kuwait's political turmoil

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — For Kuwait's embattled rulers, clashes earlier this week with anti-government protesters were more than just a sign tensions may be mounting. The crowds themselves showed the widening nature of the Gulf nation's political crisis: Stirrings of a rare alliance of convenience between liberals and Islamists against Kuwait's Western-backed leadership.

While it's not the first time Middle East protests have brought together political foes — Cairo's Tahrir Square last year and Iran's postelection unrest in 2009 had a full spectrum of voices — Kuwait's tiny size means that the coalescence of such varied groups could make for an opposition that punches far above its own weight.

Despite the rising unrest, the ruling family appears in no imminent danger of an Arab Spring-style revolt such as Bahrain's 20-month-old Shiite Muslim-led uprising against the Sunni monarchy.

But the emerging alliance underscores the complicated challenges for Kuwait's ruling family as the oil-rich country moves toward Dec. 1 parliamentary elections.

Simultaneous pressure from liberals and Islamist conservatives could push Kuwait deeper into a political morass that has already disrupted the economy and raised questions about stability in one of Washington's most critical military footholds in the region.

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Analysis: Leadership changes in Asia set to shape policy of next US president

WASHINGTON (AP) — Changes could be in store for U.S.-Asian relations, but that has little to do with presidential race. Lost in the backbiting between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney over China is that they generally agree on their approaches to Asia. But whoever wins the Nov. 6 vote will have to deal with a region in flux — and figure out how to keep simmering tensions from boiling over.

Leadership changes are imminent in East Asia's dominant economies — China, Japan and South Korea — in the midst of territorial disputes that could spark conflict. The new leaders who emerge will be crucial in setting the tone for relations with the next occupant of the White House.

Just two days after the U.S. election, China begins its once-in-a-decade Communist Party Congress that will usher in a new crop of party leaders. Japan within months is expected to hold elections, as the popularity of the country's seventh prime minister in seven years sinks. And in December, South Korea holds presidential elections that are likely to set it on a more conciliatory track in its relations with North Korea.

How the U.S. gets on with China affects the entire region. Many Asian countries look to China as their main trading partner, but they regard the longstanding U.S. security presence as a defense against China's rapid military buildup.

Xi Jinping, who will take the party helm and be anointed China's president in March, is a largely unknown quantity. Some suggest his elite background, military ties and confident air might portend a more assertive hand in foreign policy than the incumbent, Hu Jintao.

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Internal emails shed light on close relationship between VP nominee Ryan, Wisconsin's governor

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Rising political stars and personal friends, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker worked quietly behind the scenes to coordinate public policy, avoid each other's limelight and steer clear of political minefields that would haunt their campaigns, according to more than 1,000 pages of internal emails obtained by The Associated Press. But there was at least one pointed snub between them, too.

Ryan and Walker, both in their early 40s, have made Wisconsin a focus of the political universe. In June, Walker became the first governor to defeat a high-profile recall election. Ryan, the congressman from Janesville, Wis., ascended the national political stage in August when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney picked him as his running mate. In the presidential race Wisconsin is a battleground state, one of a handful that will determine who moves in — or stays in — the White House.

The emails reviewed by the AP offered an unusual, behind-the-scenes glimpse of the interpersonal relationship between Ryan and Walker. Although as a congressman Ryan's emails are exempt from disclosure under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, messages sent by Ryan or his aides to Walker or the governor's staff are subject to Wisconsin's open records law. The week after Ryan was tapped as Romney's vice presidential candidate, the AP requested all such emails since Walker was elected in November 2010. It received 1,037 pages of them late Friday.

The day after Walker won his recall election, Ryan tried to call Walker to congratulate him. Was there a better phone number?

"He has his cell, but not able to get through often," wrote Ryan's scheduler, Sarah Peer. In another message, she wrote: "Yeah, they call each other frequently. I think Paul just wants to speak with him right away, which might not be a possibly (sic) at this time."

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US recovery remains tepid as economy expands at 2 percent pace, too slow to stir much hiring

WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest snapshot of economic growth shows the U.S. recovery remains tepid.

Growth in the July-September quarter climbed slightly but was still too weak to stir significantly more hiring. The pace of expansion rose to a 2 percent annual rate from 1.3 percent in the April-June quarter, led by more consumer and government spending.

Voters who are still undecided about the presidential election aren't likely to be swayed by Friday's mixed report from the Commerce Department.

"For the average American, I don't think changes in quarterly GDP" make a big difference in their perception of the economy, said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. "It's certainly good for the president that the number is not bad because that would resonate."

With 11 days until the election, the economy is being kept afloat by a revitalized consumer and the early stages of a housing recovery. But more than three years after the Great Recession ended, the nation continues to struggle because businesses are reluctant to invest, and slower global growth has cut demand for American exports.

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Vogelsong, Giants try to boost World Series edge over Tigers at chilly Comerica Park

DETROIT (AP) — Frost coming off their breath, Pablo Sandoval and the San Francisco Giants finished their workout at Comerica Park, headed back to the clubhouse and pulled off their hooded sweatshirts and parkas.

Halfway to a championship, they weren't about to let a little chill bother them.

"The cold weather, obviously we're going to have to deal with," pitcher Ryan Vogelsong said Friday. "But it's the World Series."

The Giants take a 2-0 lead over the Detroit Tigers into Game 3 on Saturday night, with Vogelsong set to start against Anibal Sanchez.

Vogelsong has been a postseason ace so far this month, going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts. Facing temperatures that could drop into the low 30s was hardly a problem for him.

 

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