CHICAGO (AP) — Students prepared to return to class Wednesday after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in a quarter century, shutting 350,000 children out of school, disrupting the daily routines of thousands of families and making the city's schoolyards a flashpoint for union rights and public school reforms across the country.
Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation's third largest school district. They said the contract wasn't perfect but included enough concessions — including on new teacher evaluations, recall rights for laid-off teachers and classroom conditions — to go back to work while they prepare to put it to a vote by more than 26,000 teachers and support staff in coming weeks.
"I miss the kids," said Symantha Lancaster, a delegate who works in career services, based at an elementary school. "I know we're fighting for a cause (but) I want to go back."
Parents say they are relieved the strike was over and are looking forward to finding teachers behind desks instead of on the picket lines outside schools. It meant the end of hassles trying to find alternative activities for their children, or dropping them at one of more than 140 schools the district kept open for several hours a day so they could be safe and eat breakfast and lunch.
"I am elated. I couldn't be happier," said Erica Weiss, who had to leave work in the middle of the day to pick up her 6-year-old daughter. "I have no one else to watch her. ... I can't even imagine the people who could have possibly even lost their jobs over having to stay home with their kids because they have no alternate care. It just put everyone in a pickle."
Oops, he did it again: Romney keeps relearning history's loose-lips lessons of campaign gaffes
WASHINGTON (AP) — Who says Mitt Romney doesn't worry much about the very poor? That he believes corporations are people, too? That his wife drives two Cadillacs?
Romney himself, that's who. When it comes to portraying the Republican nominee as an uncaring, out-of-touch rich guy, he's his own worst enemy, offering up a bonanza for Democratic attack ads.
Romney hit the trifecta this time by saying that 47 percent of Americans believe they are victims, think "government has a responsibility to care for them" and are unwilling to step up and support themselves.
He may seem doomed to relearn the same loose-lips lesson over and over again in 2012. But Romney's far from the first candidate to blunder into a buzz saw of his own words. His rival, President Barack Obama, still hasn't lived down a similar incident from 2008.
In both cases the uproar was amplified because the remarks were intended only for the ears of wealthy campaign donors, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center. "It's damaging when the public perceives that something said in private is not being said in public," she said.
Lawyers in Pakistan enter diplomatic area in film protest; US shuts consulate in Indonesia
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Several hundred lawyers protesting an anti-Islam video forced their way into an area in Pakistan's capital that houses the U.S. Embassy and other foreign missions on Wednesday, and the United States temporarily closed its consulate in an Indonesian city because of similar demonstrations.
The lawyers who protested in Islamabad shouted anti-U.S. slogans and burned an American flag after they pushed through a gate, gaining access to the diplomatic enclave before police stopped them. They called for the U.S. ambassador to be expelled from the country, and then peacefully dispersed.
The demonstration followed three days of violent protests against the film in Pakistan in which two people were killed. At least 28 other people have died in violence linked to the film in seven countries, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans killed in a Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Much of the anger over the film, which denigrates Islam's Prophet Muhammad, has been directed at the U.S. government even though the film was privately produced in the United States and American officials have criticized it.
The U.S. Embassy in Indonesia sent a text message to U.S. citizens saying that the consulate in Medan, the country's third-largest city, has been closed temporarily because of demonstrations over the film, "Innocence of Muslims."
Tablets for tots, retro brands make up Toys R Us 'hot toy' list in 2012
NEW YORK (AP) — It's still technically summer, but for some it's not too soon to think about what the kiddies will want for the holidays.
Toys R Us has come out with its annual "hot toy" list that includes tablets for kids, fashion dolls in the likeness of boy-band sensation One Direction, and even retro hits like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Furby.
Knowing early what will be popular during the holiday shopping season is crucial to retailers seeking to have the right mix of toys at the right prices. The holiday season can account for about 40 percent of a toy seller's annual profit.
Last year, U.S. retail sales of toys fell 2 percent to $21.18 billion, according to research firm NPD Group.
This year, Toys R Us, is introducing a "hot toy" reservation program. Starting Wednesday, the Wayne, N.J.-based retailer will let customers reserve the 50 toys on its list. The reservation system will run through the end of October. Toys must be reserved in stores and customers have to put down 20 percent of the toys' cost.
Poll: Obama job approval numbers back up above 50 percent, but race with Romney still tight
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are feeling markedly better about the country's future and about Barack Obama's job performance, but the president's re-election race against Republican Mitt Romney remains a neck-and-neck proposition as Election Day creeps ever closer, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
Buoyed by good mojo coming out of last month's national political conventions, Obama's approval rating is back above 50 percent for the first time since May, and the share of Americans who think the country is moving in the right direction is at its highest level since just after the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
Romney, his campaign knocked off-stride in recent weeks, has lost his pre-convention edge on the top issue of the campaign — the economy.
The poll results vividly underscore the importance that turnout will play in determining the victor in Campaign 2012: Among all adults, Obama has a commanding lead, favored by 52 percent of Americans to just 37 percent for Romney. Yet among those most likely to vote, the race is drum tight.
Obama is supported by 47 percent of likely voters and Romney by 46 percent, promising an all-out fight to the finish by the two campaigns to gin up enthusiasm among core supporters and dominate get-out-the-vote operations. That's an area where Obama claimed a strong advantage in 2008 and Republicans reigned four years earlier.
Nationalism may rise under Japan's next government; PM hopefuls deliver tough talk on China
TOKYO (AP) — One is a former prime minister known for his nationalistic views. A second is a hawkish former defense chief. And a third is the son of Tokyo's outspoken governor whose proposal to buy and develop a cluster of uninhabited islands claimed by both China and Japan has set off a territorial furor between the two countries.
A look at the top candidates to lead Japan's main opposition party — and potentially to become Japan's next prime minister — suggests that Japan may soon get a more nationalist government. That could ratchet up already tense relations with China and South Korea over territorial disputes that have flared in recent weeks and brought anti-Japanese demonstrations to dozens of Chinese cities.
There is little sign that Japanese have grown more nationalistic, but the ruling Democratic Party of Japan is expected to get clobbered in elections that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says he will call soon. Voters are angry over Noda's push to double the sales tax and his party's failure to bring promised change to Japan's stodgy politics.
That leaves the opposition Liberal Democratic Party poised to regain the power it lost three years ago after decades of being Japan's dominant political force. Polls suggest the LDP would win the most seats in the more powerful lower house of parliament, although probably not a majority, so it would need to forge a governing coalition to rule.
If the LDP regains power, its new leader, to be chosen in a Sept. 26 party vote, would almost certainly become the next prime minister.
Syrian rebels seize control of a border crossing on Turkish frontier, pull down Syrian flag
AKCAKALE, Turkey (AP) — Rebels seized control of a border crossing on the frontier with Turkey on Wednesday, pulling down the Syrian flag and sending a stream of jubilant people pouring across the border into Turkey.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene Wednesday said people were moving freely across the Tal Abyad crossing, crawling under barbed wire. Some appeared to be wounded.
"I am a free Syrian!" one man shouted, throwing his hands in the air.
Syria's rebels control several other border crossings into Turkey but Wednesday's capture of the Tal Abyad post is believed to be the first time they have taken the border area in the northern province of Raqqa.
Taking control of border crossings helps the opposition ferry supplies into Syria and carve out an area of control, which is key as the rebels try to tip the balance in the civil war.
Space shuttle Endeavour stuck at home in Fla., cross-country flight postponed twice by storms
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Space shuttle Endeavour apparently doesn't want to leave home.
NASA's youngest shuttle was supposed to depart Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Monday for its permanent museum home in Los Angeles. But stormy weather along the Gulf of Mexico nixed the travel plans until Wednesday morning.
The shuttle will be bolted to the top of a modified jumbo jet when it leaves Florida.
Endeavour will stop off in Houston, home to Mission Control, and fly low over NASA facilities en route. After a stop at Edwards Air Force Base in California, it will arrive at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, a day later than planned.
Endeavour, which retired last year, will go on display at the California Science Center.
Macy's $400M makeover dressing beloved, old-fashioned NYC icon in sleek 21st century style
NEW YORK (AP) — A $400 million makeover is giving New York's iconic Macy's store a sleek, new 21st century style.
And some preservationists aren't happy about it. They see the overhaul of America's biggest department store as scrapping classic Beaux Arts and Art Deco touches in favor of the latest trend in retail design — something like an Apple computer store.
"Macy's has Apple fever," said Theodore Grunewald, a New York preservation activist. "Everyone is jealous of Apple, and thinks the secret to the company's success is this beautiful, elegant minimalist design vocabulary they have. But this is about protection of our heritage."
Macy's reconstruction, to be completed in 2015, will add 100,000 square-feet to the 1.1 million square feet of existing retail space. Floor-to-ceiling fabric shrouds areas under renovation. But some sections have already been finished, including the world's largest women's shoe department, which offers 280,000 pairs of shoes — several thousand displayed in white settings.
Macy's spokeswoman Elina Kazan gushes that the store will be a "spectacular place to shop at an iconic New York City destination."
Teagarden's 18th inning single lifts Orioles to 4-2 win over Mariners
SEATTLE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles weren't going to be denied a victory — or making history — even if it took 5 hours and 44 minutes to do it.
Taylor Teagarden stroked a pinch-hit RBI single to right in the 18th inning to help give the Baltimore Orioles a 4-2 comeback victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
The win allowed the Orioles (84-64) to pull within a percentage point of the Yankees (83-63) for the lead in the AL East. The Yankees were rained out Tuesday and will play a split double-header with Toronto on Wednesday.
Baltimore maintained a three-game lead in the wild-card race over the Los Angeles Angels, who beat Texas 11-3 in Anaheim.
The Orioles' success in extra-inning games might be one of the biggest factors keeping them in the playoff hunt. They have won 14 straight extra-inning games for the longest extra-inning win streak since the 1949 Cleveland Indians won 19 straight. Overall, the Orioles are 14-2 in extra-inning games this season, going 9-0 in them on the road.