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World briefly for Oct. 29

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POSTED: October 29, 2012 9:36 a.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Eastern Seaboard's largest cities Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds, soaking rain and a surging wall of water up to 11 feet tall.

Sandy strengthened before dawn and stayed on a predicted path toward Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York — putting it on a collision course with two other weather systems that would create a superstorm with the potential for havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. About 2 to 3 feet of snow were even forecast for mountainous parts of West Virginia.

The tempest could endanger up to 50 million people for days.

Many workers planned to stay home Monday as subways, buses and trains shut down across the region under the threat of flooding that could inundate tracks and tunnels. Airports also closed, and authorities warned that the time for evacuation was running out or already past. Utilities brought in extra crews, anticipating widespread power failures.

The center of the storm was positioned to come ashore Monday night in New Jersey, meaning the worst of the surge could be in the northern part of that state and in New York City and on Long Island. Higher tides brought by a full moon compounded the threat to the metropolitan area of about 20 million people.

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Superstorm Sandy in the spotlight as presidential campaign heads into final full week

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The presidential race's final full week was devolving into a scheduling nightmare as President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney grappled with how to push on with campaigning while a massive storm churned toward the East Coast.

Parts of four competitive states were in the path of Hurricane Sandy: Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and New Hampshire.

Obama, seeking to project presidential leadership, scraped plans to hold three events in three states Monday with former President Bill Clinton. Instead, Obama was to attend only a morning rally in Florida before returning to Washington to oversee the government's emergency response.

"I'm not going to be able to campaign quite as much over the next couple of days," Obama told volunteers in Florida Sunday night.

Romney canceled a trio of Virginia events Sunday, but was scheduled to visit Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin on Monday. His campaign also canceled events in New Hampshire Tuesday and advisers predicted more scheduling changes were on the way.

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10 Things to Know for Monday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and stories that will be talked about on Monday:

1. THE BIGGEST THREAT FROM THE SUPERSTORM

The water unleashed by a tidal surge amped up by a full moon would threaten the most lives and cause heavy property damage.

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How sweep it is: Giants finish off Tigers for 2nd World Series title in 3 years

DETROIT (AP) — Kung Fu Panda, The Freak, The Beard and all their seed-throwing buddies are on top of baseball — again.

They may be under the radar, unappreciated and unexpected. But they're unassailable, the winner of two World Series titles in the last three years.

Their sweep of the Detroit Tigers, completed Sunday night with a 4-3, 10-inning win, was simply historic.

No National League team had swept a World Series since the 1990 Cincinnati Reds.

No NL team had won twice in a three-year span since the Big Red Machine in 1975-76.

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Obama, Romney teams tout newspaper endorsements, but does it matter to voters?

WASHINGTON (AP) — In one October weekend, Republican Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama each scored a victory from a major newspaper in the all-important state of Florida. On one end, the Tampa Bay Times endorsed Obama, praising him for steady economic progress and sure-footed foreign policy. On the other, the Orlando Sentinel backed Romney, describing him an able and tested leader even as it frowned on his conservative statements about social issues.

Roughly halfway between the two along Florida's coveted, swing-voting I-4 corridor, Lorrie Walker shrugged.

"I don't think it has any influence at all," said Walker, an undecided voter in the town of Lakeland.

A public relations professional, Walker says she gets why both candidates are plugging their endorsements. But she doesn't think it works, primarily because newspaper editorial pages often have a reputation for leaning liberal or conservative. "I discount it, because I think, 'Of course they're endorsing that candidate,'" she said.

As the campaign nears its nail-biting conclusion, both campaigns are trumpeting a flood of newspaper endorsements — and using them as a stamp of approval in television ads and emails. On Sunday alone, Obama's campaign touted 10 endorsements he picked up, including the Detroit Free Press and the Toledo Blade. Fourteen papers, including the Florida Times-Union and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, gave their nod to Romney.

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More than ever, Barca more than club for Catalans — as separatist movement heats up

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Nearly 20 minutes into the latest clash between Spain's most popular football teams, Barcelona's 98,000-seat Camp Nou stadium erupted into a deafening roar. Tens of thousands of Catalans in the city at the heart of their separatist movement chanted in unison: "Independence!"

More than ever, FC Barcelona, known affectionately as Barca, is living up to its motto of being "more than a club" for this wealthy northeastern region where Spain's economic crisis is fueling separatist sentiment.

Lifelong Barca club member Enric Pujol was at Camp Nou for this month's game against Real Madrid, the team of Spain's capital. Wearing his burgundy-and-blue Barca jersey, Pujol also held one of the hundreds of pro-independence "estelada" flags, featuring a white star in a blue triangle, which bristled throughout the stands.

"It was a beautiful emotion to see Camp Nou like that," said Pujol. "Barca is more than a club because of the values it transmits. It is linked to Catalan culture. In this sense it is a club and a social institution that acts like our flag."

Barca has been seen as a bastion of Catalan identity dating back to the three decades of dictatorship when Catalans could not openly speak, teach or publish in their native Catalan language. Barcelona writer Manuel Vazquez Montalban famously called the football team "Catalonia's unarmed symbolic army."

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A week before Election Day, Obama has an edge in fight for 270 electoral votes needed to win

AMES, Iowa (AP) — President Barack Obama is poised to eke out a victory in the race for the 270 electoral votes needed to win re-election, having beaten back Republican Mitt Romney's attempts to convert momentum from the debates into support in all-important Ohio, according to an Associated Press analysis a week before Election Day.

While the Democratic incumbent has the upper hand in the electoral vote hunt, Romney has pulled even, or is slightly ahead, in polling in a few pivotal states, including Florida and Virginia. The Republican challenger also appears to have the advantage in North Carolina, the most conservative of the hotly contested nine states that will determine the winner.

While in a tight race with Obama for the popular vote, Romney continues to have fewer state-by-state paths than Obama to reach 270. Without Ohio's 18 electoral votes, Romney would need last-minute victories in nearly all the remaining up-for-grabs states and manage to pick off key states now leaning Obama's way, such as Iowa or Wisconsin.

To be sure, anything can happen in the coming days to influence the Nov. 6 election.

The AP analysis isn't intended to predict the outcome. Rather, it's meant to provide a snapshot of a race that has been stubbornly close in the small number of competitive states all year. The analysis is based on public polls and internal campaign surveys as well as spending on television advertising, candidate visits, get-out-the-vote organizations and interviews with dozens of Republican and Democratic strategists in Washington and in the most contested states.

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Longtime suspect set to be freed in Etan Patz case while new suspect remains in limbo

NEW YORK (AP) — While prosecutors weigh what to do about a suspect who surprisingly surfaced this spring in the landmark 1979 disappearance case of Etan Patz, the man who was the prime suspect for years is about to go free after more than two decades in prison for molesting other children.

These two threads in the tangled story are set to cross next month, a twist that evokes decades of uncertainties and loose ends in the search for what happened to the sandy-haired 6-year-old last seen walking to his Manhattan school bus stop.

The new suspect, Pedro Hernandez, has been charged with Etan's murder after police said he emerged as a suspect and confessed this spring. But there's no public indication that authorities have found anything beyond his admission to implicate him, and his lawyer has said Hernandez is mentally ill.

The Pennsylvania inmate, Jose Ramos, was declared responsible for Etan's death in a civil court, but the Manhattan district attorney's office has said there wasn't enough evidence to charge him criminally. After serving 25 years on child molestation convictions in Pennsylvania, he's set to be freed Nov. 7, about a week before prosecutors are due to indicate whether they believe there's evidence enough to keep going after Hernandez.

It stands to be a coincidence fraught with anguish for Etan's parents, who brought a successful wrongful death lawsuit against Ramos, and for the former federal prosecutor who went to lengths to pursue him. At the same time, it offers a glimmer of vindication for Ramos, who has denied involvement in the boy's disappearance, though authorities have said he made incriminating remarks about it.

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Dozens of Indonesian girls 'friended' on Facebook by men who kidnap, use them as sex slaves

DEPOK, Indonesia (AP) — When a 14-year-old girl received a Facebook friend request from an older man she didn't know, she accepted it out of curiosity. It's a click she will forever regret, leading to a brutal story that has repeated itself as sexual predators find new ways to exploit Indonesia's growing obsession with social media.

The junior high student was quickly smitten by the man's smooth online flattery. They exchanged phone numbers, and his attention increased with rapid-fire texts. He convinced her to meet in a mall, and she found him just as charming in person.

They agreed to meet again. After telling her mom she was going to visit a sick girlfriend on her way to church choir practice, she climbed into the man's minivan near her home in Depok, on the outskirts of Jakarta.

The man, a 24-year-old who called himself Yogi, drove her an hour to the town of Bogor, West Java, she told The Associated Press in an interview.

There, he locked her in a small room inside a house with at least five other girls aged 14 to 17. She was drugged and raped repeatedly — losing her virginity in the first violent session.

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After space station trip, Dragon ship splashes down on Earth bearing astronauts' blood, urine

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — An unmanned Dragon freighter carrying a stash of precious medical samples from the International Space Station parachuted into the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, completing the first official shipment under a billion-dollar contract with NASA.

The California-based SpaceX company successfully guided the Dragon down from orbit to a splashdown a few hundred miles off the Baja California coast.

"This historic mission signifies the restoration of America's ability to deliver and return critical space station cargo," Elon Musk, the billionaire founder and head of SpaceX, said in a statement.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden praised the "American ingenuity" that made the endeavor possible.

Several hours earlier, astronauts aboard the International Space Station used a giant robot arm to release the commercial cargo ship 255 miles up. SpaceX provided updates of the journey back to Earth via Twitter.

 

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