Hundreds of schools close, many lack power, trees litter roads after surprise Northeast snow
SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. (AP) – Thousands of schoolchildren around the Northeast had one of the earliest snow days in memory Monday after a storm dumped as much as 30 inches of wet, heavy snow that snapped trees and power lines, caused widespread power failures and threatened to disrupt Halloween trick-or-treating.
Communities from Maine to Maryland that suffered through a tough winter last year followed by a series of floods and storms went into now-familiar emergency mode as shelters opened, inaccessible roads closed, regional transit was suspended or delayed, and local leaders urged caution.
The storm’s lingering effects likely will outlast the snow. Temperatures are expected to begin rising Monday and the heavy, wet snow will start melting, the National Weather Service said.
The unseasonably early nor’easter had utility companies struggling to restore electricity to millions of homes and businesses. By late Sunday, the number of customers without power had dipped to below 3 million and continued falling. But officials in some states warned it could be days or even a week before residents have power again, even though crews have been brought in from as far away as Michigan and Canada.
“We are in full restoration mode,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid Massachusetts.
AP analysis finds GOP candidates, President Obama vary widely in use of Twitter
(AP) – Twitter is abuzz with presidential candidates this year, though not all in the Twittersphere are equal.
Rick Santorum tweets a lot more than Rick Perry, Herman Cain is the Republican most likely to be retweeted, and their Twitter followers are dwarfed by President Barack Obama’s.
That’s according to an Associated Press analysis of the presidential candidates’ use of Twitter that found widely different levels of engagement, despite the site’s emergence as a go-to hub for political communication.
The AP analyzed each candidate’s Twitter stream beginning the day he or she joined the presidential contest through Monday, Oct. 24. The data, available from Twitter’s website, highlights every message posted by candidates, as well as how many times their messages were “retweeted,” or reposted, by other users on the site.
No one believes the campaign will be won or lost on Twitter – it’s just one slice of an enormous communication effort each campaign wages in cyberspace. But with a well-timed 140 character blast, candidates can make news, respond to charges or reinforce talking points in a matter of seconds.
Qantas resumes flights following fleet grounding that stranded thousands worldwide
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Qantas Airways planes returned to the skies Monday after an Australian court ruled on a bitter labor dispute that had prompted the world’s 10th-largest airline to ground its entire fleet.
A flight from Sydney to Jakarta, Indonesia, took off shortly after Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority gave the “Flying Kangaroo,” as the Australian flag carrier is known, the all-clear to resume flying.
Qantas said in a statement it still expected some delays as it worked to clear the backlog of customers affected by the nearly 48-hour grounding. The airline is adding extra flights and expects its schedule to return to normal within one or two days.
The grounding disrupted the travel plans of tens of thousands of people across the world, and Qantas passengers were gathering at airports in Australia, Los Angeles and elsewhere in the hopes of finally getting to their destinations.
The airline’s resumption of flights comes around 12 hours after an emergency ruling by an arbitration court ended weeks of strikes and canceled a staff lockout.
Hanging steel, concrete complicate search for 3 presumed dead after Kan. grain elevator blast
ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) – Unstable concrete, hanging steel beams and other damage caused by a powerful explosion that ripped through a Kansas grain elevator are complicating efforts to find three more people likely killed in the blast.
Crews were hoping to stabilize the debris and resume their search Monday in the Bartlett Grain Co. facility in Atchison, about 50 miles northwest of Kansas City. The bodies of three other workers were recovered after the Saturday blast, and two people are hospitalized with severe burns.
The explosion was a harrowing reminder of the dangers workers face inside elevators brimming with highly combustible grain dust at the end of harvest season. The blast fired an orange fireball into the night sky, shot off a chunk of the grain distribution building directly above the elevator and blew a large hole in the side of a concrete silo.
The search for three people presumed dead – another worker and two grain inspectors – was temporarily halted Sunday because of fears that the building could fall on rescuers. Local officials met with victims’ families to explain why crews pulled back, but understood they wanted their loved ones found, Atchison City Manager Trey Cocking said.
“Uncertainty is always the worst for folks,” he said late Sunday, as candlelight vigils were held near the still smoldering building.
Dear Wall Street occupiers: Hundreds of letters, parcels bring encouragement – and cookies
NEW YORK (AP) – Bette Snyder is nourishing the Wall Street protesters from her kitchen in northwestern Ohio.
For the past three weeks, the 69-year-old woman has sent the occupiers of Zuccotti Park tins of home-baked cookies and messages of support.
“Here are some cookies for the demonstrators,” she wrote in a note accompanying one of the tins. “I will keep sending them as long as you keep protesting.”
The protests at a park in lower Manhattan that have been raging for about a month are inspiring people across the country and around the world to send letters of support – even if they are only a few words on a scrap of paper with a tin of cookies.
The letters show how effectively protesters have delivered their scathing critiques that the vast majority of people struggle to make ends meet while a small percentage of people control most of the wealth.
Nations worldwide honor many ‘7 billionth’ babies, symbolizing global population milestone
MANILA, Philippines (AP) – She came into the world at two minutes before midnight, a tiny, wrinkled girl born into a struggling Manila family. On Monday, she became a symbol of the world’s population reaching 7 billion people and all the worries that entails for the planet’s future.
Danica May Camacho, born in a crowded public hospital, was welcomed with a chocolate cake marked “7B Philippines” and a gift certificate for free shoes. There were bursts of photographers’ flashes, and speeches by local officials.
The celebrations, though, reflected symbolism more than demography.
Amid the millions of births and deaths around the world each day, it is impossible to pinpoint the arrival of the globe’s 7 billionth occupant. But the U.N. chose Monday to mark the day with a string of festivities worldwide, and a series of symbolic 7-billionth babies being born.
Danica was the first, arriving at Manila’s Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital at two minutes before midnight Sunday – but doctors say that was close enough to count for a Monday birthday.
Car bomb kills 4 in southern Afghan city of Kandahar during attack near UN office
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) – A suicide vehicle bomb struck a checkpoint in a neighborhood housing United Nations and international aid groups’ offices in the southern city of Kandahar early Monday, killing four people and severely damaging a U.N. agency’s building, Afghan officials said.
Gunmen then rushed into the neighborhood and seized control of at least one building, sparking a battle with Afghan and NATO forces, Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Razzaq said. The firefight lasted more than two hours before the two insurgents were shot dead, according to a statement from the provincial governor’s office.
The combined bombing and assault was the second major attack in three days targeting foreigners or NATO troops in the country, and spotlighted the insurgents’ ability to continue to carry out major attacks despite a 10-year NATO campaign against them. The U.S.-led coalition is gradually handing over security responsibilities to its Afghan counterparts and plans to withdrawing its combat forces by the end of 2014.
Immediately after the 6:15 a.m. bomb attack, two insurgents rushed into the area and seized control of an animal clinic near the office of the International Relief and Development organization, said provincial police spokesman Ghorzang, who like many Afghans goes by one name.
The blast caused extensive damage to the offices of the U.N.’s refugee agency, the UNHCR. Associated Press video footage showed large chunks of the building’s outer walls blown out, as well as the windows. The street around the building was strewn with rubble.
Study in Wash. state suggests more violence among kids of combat veterans, including daughters
ATLANTA (AP) – A new study suggests that when parents are deployed in the military, their children are more than twice as likely to carry a weapon, join a gang or be involved in fights.
And that includes the daughters.
“This study raises serious concerns about an under-recognized consequence of war,” said Sarah Reed, who led the research of military families in Washington state.
Last year, nearly 2 million U.S. children had at least one parent serving in the military. Deployment can hurt a family in a variety of ways. There’s stress while that parent is overseas and in danger, as the remaining parent has to shoulder all responsibilities and family roles shift. There can also be challenges after deployed parents’ return, especially if they were physically or psychologically damaged.
The effect of military deployment on kids is an emerging field of research. The new study is considered the first of its kind to focus on those affected by deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s unique in that it looked at a statewide swath of the population in comparing the behavior of kids in military families to children in non-military families.
US backs Pakistani version of Sesame Street to promote tolerance amid raging militancy
LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) – Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are nowhere in sight. But there’s Elmo. And new creatures too, like Baily, a kindly donkey who loves to sing, and Haseen O Jameel, a vain crocodile who lives at the bottom of a well.
Sesame Street is coming to Pakistan but not as generations of Americans know it.
The TV show has a new cast of local characters led by a vivacious 6-year-old girl named Rani who loves cricket and traditional Pakistani music. Her sidekick, Munna, is a 5-year-old boy obsessed with numbers and banging away on Pakistani bongo drums, or tabla.
The U.S. is bankrolling the initiative with $20 million, hoping it will improve education in a country where one-third of primary school-age children are not in class. Washington also hopes the program will increase tolerance at a time when the influence of radical viewstype:bold,italic; istype:bold,italic; growing.
“One of the key goals of the show in Pakistan is to increase tolerance toward groups like women and ethnic minorities,” said Larry Dolan, who was the head education officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Pakistan until very recently.