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World briefly for Oct. 25

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POSTED: October 25, 2012 7:30 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — What gender gap?

Less than two weeks out from Election Day, Republican Mitt Romney has erased President Barack Obama's 16-point advantage among women, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. And the president, in turn, has largely eliminated Romney's edge among men.

Those churning gender dynamics leave the presidential race still a virtual dead heat, with Romney favored by 47 percent of likely voters and Obama by 45 percent, a result within the poll's margin of sampling error, the survey shows.

After a commanding first debate performance and a generally good month, Romney has gained ground with Americans on a number of important fronts, including their confidence in how he would handle the economy and their impressions of his ability to understand their problems.

At the same time, expectations that Obama will be re-elected have slipped: Half of voters now expect the president to win a second term, down from 55 percent a month earlier.

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Young adults moving out of state at highest rate since housing boom; biggest gain in 13 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — Their lives on hold for years, young adults are now making big moves in the fledgling economic recovery, leaving college towns or parents' homes and heading out of state at the highest rate since the height of the housing boom.

New census data released Thursday offer a detailed look at U.S. migration as mobility begins to revive after sliding to a record low last year.

The latest numbers show that young adults 25-29 are the primary out-of-state movers; they had the biggest gain in 13 years as they struck out on their own to test the job market in urban, high-tech meccas such as Washington, D.C.; Denver; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and Austin, Texas.

In contrast, groups that showed some of the most movement in the housing boom of the last decade (2000-2010) — working professionals, families and would-be retirees — are still mostly locked in place, their out-of-state migration levels stuck at near lows due to underwater mortgages and shrunken retirement portfolios.

The demographic shifts, which analysts say could continue for many more years, are once again rejiggering the housing map.

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Campaign's focus on jobs pushes climate change, guns, gay rights, immigration to sidelines

WASHINGTON (AP) — Of the roughly 50,000 words spoken in this month's three presidential debates, none were "climate change," ''global warming" or "greenhouse gas."

Housing was discussed in the first debate, but the word "foreclosure" was mentioned in none. Nor was gay marriage.

The 2012 presidential campaign, not just the debates, has focused heavily from the start on jobs, pushing other once high-profile issues to the sidelines. It dismays activists who have spent decades promoting environmental issues, gay rights, gun control and other topics, sometimes managing to lift them to the top tiers of national attention and debate.

With fewer than half of Americans believing that human activity contributes to global warming, according to Pew Research, President Barack Obama talks far less about climate change than he did four years ago. When he locked up the Democratic nomination in June 2008, he said future generations would recall "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

Obama hasn't come close to making such claims in recent months.

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Windows 8 is make-or-break moment for Microsoft CEO after years of lackluster performance

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer can't afford to be wrong about Windows 8.

On Thursday in New York, Microsoft will unveil a dramatic overhaul of its ubiquitous Windows operating system. If it flops, the failure will reinforce perceptions that Microsoft is falling behind competitors such as Apple, Google and Amazon as its stranglehold on personal computers becomes less relevant in an era of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

If Ballmer is right, Windows 8 will prove that the world's largest software maker still has the technological chops and marketing muscle to shape the future of computing.

"This is going to be his defining moment," said technology industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy. Ballmer's "legacy will be looked at as what he did or didn't do with Windows 8. If Windows 8 is not a success, a lot of people will be looking for Microsoft to make a change at the CEO level."

Windows 8 is designed to run on PCs and tablet computers, heralding the biggest change to the industry's dominant operating system in at least 17 years. It also marks the first time that Microsoft has made touch-screen control the top priority, though the system can still be switched into the familiar desktop mode that allows for control by keyboard and mouse.

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Trick, no treat: Forecasters predict pre-Halloween freak hurricane-winter storm mix for East

WASHINGTON (AP) — Much of the U.S. East Coast has a good chance of getting blasted by gale-force winds, flooding, heavy rain and maybe even snow early next week by an unusual hybrid of hurricane and winter storm, federal and private forecasters say.

Though still projecting several days ahead of Halloween week, the computer models are spooking meteorologists. Government scientists said Wednesday the storm has a 70 percent chance of smacking the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.

Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean, an early winter storm in the West, and a blast of arctic air from the North are predicted to collide, sloshing and parking over the country's most populous coastal corridor starting Sunday. The worst of it should peak early Tuesday, but it will stretch into midweek, forecasters say.

"It'll be a rough couple days from Hatteras up to Cape Cod," said forecaster Jim Cisco of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prediction center in College Park, Md. "We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting."

It is likely to hit during a full moon when tides are near their highest, increasing coastal flooding potential, NOAA forecasts warn. And with some trees still leafy and the potential for snow, power outages could last to Election Day, some meteorologists fear. They say it has all the earmarks of a billion-dollar storm.

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Romney backs Senate candidate Mourdock as Obama plans continued criticism of rape remark

CINCINNATI (AP) — Republican Mitt Romney is standing behind Indiana Senate hopeful Richard Mourdock as President Barack Obama's campaign keeps up criticism of Romney's ties to a candidate who said pregnancies that result from rape are "something God intended."

Romney's campaign has said he disagreed with Mourdock's remark, which came in a debate Tuesday with his opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly. But Romney is standing by his endorsement of Mourdock — and not asking the Indiana state treasurer to take down an ad Romney filmed Monday in support.

The remark thrust a contentious social issue back into the presidential race as Election Day draws near. Early voting has begun in many states, and Obama himself plans to vote Thursday in Chicago. It's an inopportune time for Republicans, who had been seeing gains in polls among female voters critical to a Romney victory. Democrats are eager to link Romney and other Republican candidates to Mourdock's remarks.

"Romney must withdraw his support of Mourdock— who'd force rape victims to bear an attacker's child as 'God intended,'" Obama's campaign wrote on the president's campaign Twitter account.

On "The Tonight Show" Wednesday, Obama criticized Mourdock for his comments, saying "rape is rape" and distinctions offered by the Republican candidate "don't make any sense to me."

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AP Interview: Japan nuke plant struggling to cope with growing volume of tainted water

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's crippled nuclear power plant is struggling to find space to store tens of thousands of tons of highly contaminated water used to cool the broken reactors, the manager of the water treatment team said.

About 200,000 tons of radioactive water — enough to fill more than 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools — are being stored in hundreds of gigantic tanks built around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. has already chopped down trees to make room for more tanks and predicts the volume of water will more than triple within three years.

"It's a pressing issue because our land is limited and we would eventually run out of storage space," the water-treatment manager, Yuichi Okamura, told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview this week.

TEPCO is close to running a new treatment system that could make the water safe enough to release into the ocean. But in the meantime its tanks are filling up — mostly because leaks in reactor facilities are allowing ground water pour in.

Outside experts worry that if contaminated water is released, there will be lasting impact on the environment. And they fear that because of the reactor leaks and water flowing from one part of the plant to another, that may already be happening.

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After threats to shrine, Iraqi Shiite fighters prepare for sectarian strife at home, in Syria

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi Shiites increasingly fear the Muslim sect and its holy sites could be targeted in neighboring Syria as the civil war there takes on increasingly sectarian overtones, and Iranian-backed militants are girding for violence in both countries, according to Shiite leaders and government officials.

The Iraqi concerns center on the role ultraconservative Sunnis might play in Syria should President Bashar Assad be forced from power, and on what they see as growing threats to the revered Sayyida Zainab mosque complex outside Damascus.

The golden-domed shrine is believed to house the grave of the Prophet Muhammad's granddaughter and is one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites. It was damaged in June when a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-packed van nearby, and Sunni hard-liners have threatened to destroy it since.

Many Iraqi Shiites are haunted by memories of the 2006 bombing of the al-Askari shrine in the Iraqi city of Samarra. That attack was blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq and set off years of retaliatory bloodshed between Sunni and Shiite extremists that left thousands of Iraqis dead and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

"We have real concerns that the Samarra attacks will be repeated" at the Zainab shrine, said Saleh al-Haidari, the head of Iraq's Shiite endowment. "The retaliation could be huge and very violent."

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Hurricane Sandy makes landfall just west of Santiago de Cuba in southern Cuba

MANZANILLO, Cuba (AP) — Hurricane Sandy made landfall Thursday just west of Santiago de Cuba in southern Cuba, where residents boarded over windows and cleared drainage gutters ahead of the strengthening storm that had roared across Jamaica and left two dead in the Caribbean.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Sandy, which had strengthened to a category 2 hurricane, was located over southeastern Cuba and moving north at 18 mph (30 kph), with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph) and is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves through the Bahamas.

The 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season was expected to pass to the west of the U.S. naval base at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay, where pretrial hearings were being held for a suspect in the deadly 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole off Yemen. The military warned the 5,500 people living on the U.S. base to be ready for the storm. Officials said there was no threat to the 166 prisoners.

The hurricane center said that Sandy would leave Cuba Thursday morning and would pass over the Bahamas later in the day. It might bring tropical storm conditions along the southeastern Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning. Early Thursday, the tropical storm warning was extended northward as far as Flagler Beach and a tropical storm watch was issued for the northeastern Florida coast.

Cuba's Communist government, known for its quick response to natural disasters, announced the evacuation of about 450 tourists from beach resorts near Santiago, according to Cuban state media, though hotel workers told The Associated Press they were not expecting any major problems.

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Giant Panda: Sandoval's 3 home runs boost SF over Tigers 8-3 in World Series opener

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Babe. Mr. October. El Hombre. And now Kung Fu Panda.

Pablo Sandoval joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only sluggers to hit three home runs in a World Series game, and the San Francisco Giants rolled over Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 8-3 in Wednesday night's opener.

"I want to know what he ate for breakfast, so maybe we can get it for the rest of our team," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said.

Barry Zito — remember him? — won in his World Series debut, two years after poor performances caused the Giants to drop him from their postseason roster.

Coming off a Game 7 win over St. Louis on Monday night, the Giants looked fresh. Following a sweep of the Yankees and a five-day layoff, Detroit had a Rust Belt relapse reminiscent of its 7-2 loss to St. Louis in the 2006 opener.

 

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