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POSTED: October 31, 2012 8:30 a.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — People in the coastal corridor battered by superstorm Sandy took the first cautious steps to reclaim routines upended by the disaster, even as rescuers combed neighborhoods strewn with debris and scarred by floods and fire.

But while New York City buses returned to darkened streets eerily free of traffic and the New York Stock Exchange prepared to reopen its storied trading floor Wednesday, it became clear that restoring the region to its ordinarily frenetic pace could take days — and that rebuilding the hardest-hit communities and the transportation networks that link them together could take considerably longer.

"We will get through the days ahead by doing what we always do in tough times — by standing together, shoulder to shoulder, ready to help a neighbor, comfort a stranger and get the city we love back on its feet," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

By late Tuesday, the winds and flooding inflicted by the fast-weakening Sandy had subsided, leaving at least 55 people dead along the Atlantic Coast and splintering beachfront homes and boardwalks from the mid-Atlantic states to southern New England.

The storm later moved across Pennsylvania on a predicted path toward New York State and Canada.

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In darkened NYC, safety on the list of concerns; city promises 'heavy' police presence

NEW YORK (AP) — Faced with the prospect of days without power and swaths of the city plunged into darkness at night, police brought in banks of lights and boosted patrols to reassure victims of a monster storm that they won't be victims of crime.

Some prominent galleries in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood hired private security and apartment building superintendents suddenly became guards. In Coney Island, about 100 police officers stood on corners or cruised in cars to guard a strip of vandalized stores and a damaged bank, to the relief of shaken residents.

"We're feeling OK, but at first we felt worried," 12-year-old Oleg Kharitmov said Tuesday as he walked his dog with his parents by the bank. "I'm pretty happy that the cops are here."

The precautions came on a second powerless night after the city was battered by Hurricane Sandy on Monday night and residents grappled with how long it would take to get back to normal — or at least New York's version of normal.

"Clearly, the challenges our city faces in the coming days are enormous," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said as officials warned that power might not be back until the weekend for hundreds of thousands of people accustomed to a life carried by subway, lit by skyline and powered by 24-hour deli.

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Analysis: By doing his job, Obama's storm response gives him chance to fight for his job

WASHINGTON (AP) — It may look to America like President Barack Obama is off the campaign trail. He's really not.

By commanding the response to a ferocious October storm a week before the election, Obama is employing a political advantage in the race to be president.

He is the president.

Clearly, Obama's imperative to act transcends the election. Superstorm Sandy's wrath is real. At a time of death and danger, any president is expected to lead for the people of every state, battleground or otherwise.

Yet in a political sense — and politics are absolutely part of this — Obama has a remarkable last-minute chance to campaign for his job just by doing his job.

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As Obama devotes another day to storm response, Romney opens new fronts in Mich., Minn., Pa.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama, locked in a fierce re-election bid, is emphasizing his incumbent's role for a third straight day, skipping battleground states to visit victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, a state he's confident of winning. The president's actions have forced his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, to walk a careful line and make tough choices.

The former Massachusetts governor must show respect for the superstorm's casualties all along the Eastern Seaboard. But Romney can ill afford to waste a minute of campaign time, with the contest virtually deadlocked in several key states and the election six days away.

After tamping down his partisan tone Tuesday at an Ohio event that chiefly emphasized victims' relief, Romney planned three full-blown campaign events Wednesday in Florida, the largest competitive state. Sandy largely spared Florida, so Romney calculates he can campaign there without appearing callous.

Obama's revised schedule is a political gamble, too. Rather than use the campaign's final Wednesday to woo voters in tossup states, he will go before cameras with New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie. Christie is one of Romney's most prominent supporters, and a frequent Obama critic. But Christie praised Obama's handling of superstorm Sandy, a political twist the president's visit is sure to underscore.

Obama also took full advantage of incumbency Tuesday. He visited the Red Cross national headquarters — a short walk from the White House — to commiserate with victims and encourage aid workers.

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Plethora of circumstances joined forces to darken a flooded and vulnerable New York City

NEW YORK (AP) — Blame a very high tide driven by a full moon, the worst storm surge in nearly 200 years, and the placement of underground electrical equipment in flood-prone areas for the most extensive storm-related power outage in New York City's history.

It's like what happened at the Fukushima nuclear complex in Japan last year — without the radiation. At a Consolidated Edison substation in Manhattan's East Village, a gigantic wall of water defied elaborate planning and expectations, swamped underground electrical equipment, and left about 250,000 lower Manhattan customers without power.

Last year, the surge from Hurricane Irene reached 9.5 feet at the substation. ConEd figured it had that covered.

The utility also figured the infrastructure could handle a repeat of the highest surge on record for the area — 11 feet during a hurricane in 1821, according to the National Weather Service. After all, the substation was designed to withstand a surge of 12.5 feet.

With all the planning, and all the predictions, planning big was not big enough. Superstorm Sandy went bigger — a surge of 14 feet.

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Fortunes based on casinos, real estate, energy help fuel contributions to Romney candidacy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans hit the jackpot with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Worth an estimated $25 billion, Adelson has donated $44.2 million so far to aid Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and organizations supporting Romney this election.

Other top donors giving millions of dollars to aid Romney's campaign include a trio of Texas money moguls and the head of a South Florida-based energy conglomerate. Their contribution totals expanded by $17 million in the first half of October, according to Federal Election Commission records. Adelson remained ahead of the pack, donating $10 million in October, but the others also added recently to their totals.

Those donors and others are funding a presidential election that surpassed $2 billion in October, with money going toward individual Democratic and Republican campaigns as well as independent, "super" political committees working on the campaigns' behalf.

Political donations can open doors that are closed to most people. Big-dollar donors are often invited to state dinners at the White House and other events with the president. They also may be asked to weigh in on public policy, especially if it affects their own financial interests. And the ranks of ambassadors, advisory panels and other government jobs traditionally are filled with those who have been unusually generous during the campaign.

Based on an examination of more than 3.9 million campaign contributions through final pre-election finance reports in mid-October — the methodology is below — The Associated Press has ranked the top five financial supporters bankrolling the Republican presidential run:

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Chicago media baron leads other top donors in raising the most money for Obama this election

WASHINGTON (AP) — Chicago is President Barack Obama's kind of town when it comes to top-dollar campaign donations. Windy City media baron Fred Eychaner was a leading Obama donor during the 2008 campaign and has raised more money for the president's re-election campaign this election season than any other Democratic donor.

Eychaner joins DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, a New York hedge fund manager, a Southern California billionaire and a Michigan philanthropist in giving millions of dollars to help Obama win a second term. They are helping fund a presidential election that surpassed $2 billion in October, with money going toward the individual Republican and Democratic campaigns as well as independent "super" political committees working on the campaigns' behalf.

Political donations can open doors that are closed to most people. Big-dollar donors are often invited to state dinners at the White House and other events with the president. They also may be asked to weigh in on public policy, especially if it affects their own financial interests. And the ranks of ambassadors, advisory panels and other government jobs traditionally are filled with those who have been unusually generous during the campaign.

Based on an examination of more than 3.9 million campaign contributions through final pre-election finance reports in mid-October — the methodology is below — The Associated Press has ranked the top five financial supporters of Obama's:

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Mother of 9-year-old girl slain in 1990 says killer's execution brings relief, not closure

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Tina Curl was so eager to see her 9-year-old daughter's killer executed Tuesday night that she couldn't even take her seat in the witness room.

"I was right up to the glass," she told The Associated Press after the execution. "I wanted to see it up close."

Donald Moeller, 60, received a lethal injection at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls on Tuesday night as punishment for the 1990 kidnap, rape and killing of young Becky O'Connell.

Curl, who said Moeller's death brought her relief but not closure, had been steadfast in her wish to watch Moeller die, even raising funds to cover the expenses to make the 1,400-mile trip from her home in New York state to Sioux Falls for the execution.

Late Tuesday she said she will never return to South Dakota.

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Ugly opener: Dallas stuns Lakers 99-91 in LA debuts for Dwight Howard, Steve Nash

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dwight Howard missed a two-handed dunk on his first shot, and the night never got much better for the Los Angeles Lakers.

When Howard and Steve Nash took their places alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol under the Hollywood spotlight, the Lakers opened a season of enormous expectations with an equally big dud of a performance.

Darren Collison scored 17 points, Brandan Wright added 14, and the Dallas Mavericks spoiled the Lakers debuts of Howard and Steve Nash with a 99-91 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

In his first regular-season game in a gold jersey, Howard had 19 points and 10 rebounds while missing 11 of his 14 free throws before fouling out with 2:02 to play.

That's hardly the debut he anticipated after arriving in a trade with Orlando last August, but not much has gone according to plan in the first month for the Lakers' starters, who barely played together in their winless preseason due to injuries.

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Amputee to climb stairs of Chicago skyscraper using thought-controlled 'bionic' leg

CHICAGO (AP) — Zac Vawter considers himself a test pilot. After losing his right leg in a motorcycle accident, the 31-year-old software engineer signed up to become a research subject, helping to test a trailblazing prosthetic leg that's controlled by his thoughts.

He will put this groundbreaking "bionic" leg to the ultimate test Sunday when he attempts to climb 103 flights of stairs to the top of Chicago's Willis Tower, one of the world's tallest skyscrapers.

If all goes well, he'll make history with the bionic leg's public debut. His whirring, robotic leg will respond to electrical impulses from muscles in his hamstring. Vawter will think, "Climb stairs," and the motors, belts and chains in his leg will synchronize the movements of its ankle and knee. Vawter hopes to make it to the top in an hour, longer than it would've taken before his amputation, less time than it would take with his normal prosthetic leg — or, as he calls it, his "dumb" leg.

A team of researchers will be cheering him on and noting the smart leg's performance. When Vawter goes home to Yelm, Wash., where he lives with his wife and two children, the experimental leg will stay behind in Chicago. Researchers will continue to refine its steering. Taking it to the market is still years away.

"Somewhere down the road, it will benefit me and I hope it will benefit a lot of other people as well," Vawter said about the research at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

 

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