AP News in Brief at 11:58 p.m. EDT

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Associated Press

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 11:00 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 28 at 4:00 AM

Tropical Storm Isaac's threat to Gulf Coast goes beyond New Orleans despite Katrina memories

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — With its massive size and ponderous movement, Tropical Storm Isaac was gaining strength Monday as it headed toward the Gulf Coast. The next 24 hours would determine whether it brought the usual punishing rains and winds — or something even more destructive harkening back to the devastation wrought seven years ago by Hurricane Katrina.

The focus has been on New Orleans as Isaac takes dead aim at the city, but the impact will be felt well beyond the city limits. The storm's winds could be felt more than 200 miles from the storm's center.

The Gulf Coast region has been saturated thanks to a wet summer, and some officials have worried more rain could make it easy for trees and power lines to fall over in the wet ground. Too much water also could flood crops, and wind could topple plants such as corn and cotton.

"A large, slow-moving system is going to pose a lot of problems: winds, flooding, storm surge and even potentially down the road river flooding," said Richard Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. "That could happen for days after the event."

The storm's potential for destruction was not lost on Alabama farmer Bert Driskell, who raises peanuts, cotton, wheat, cattle and sod on several thousand acres near Grand Bay, in Mobile County.

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Romney, GOP push ahead with compressed national convention as Isaac roars toward New Orleans

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Republicans staged a remarkably subdued opening to Mitt Romney's national convention Monday in the midst of a turbulent election year, wary of uncorking a glittery political celebration as Tropical Storm Isaac surged menacingly toward New Orleans and the northern Gulf Coast.

There was speculation that the Republican man of the hour would make an unannounced visit to the convention hall Tuesday night when his wife, Ann, was on the speaking program. The campaign would confirm only that he was flying to town in time to do so.

Virtually every party leader spoke somberly of the storm's potential damage during the day, including the candidate. "Our thoughts are with the people that are in the storm's path and hope that they're spared any major destruction," said Romney, the man seeking to defeat Democratic President Barack Obama.

Though Republicans are intent on turning the campaign's focus back to the nation's sluggish economic growth and high unemployment, a comment Romney made on abortion reintroduced a topic that had taken over campaign discussion last week. In a CBS interview, he said he opposes abortions except "in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother."

That underscored his difference of opinion on the subject with his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, as well as with his own convention platform, which opposes all abortions.

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about on Tuesday. (times EDT):

1. ISAAC AIMING AT NEW ORLEANS — AND WELL BEYOND

The storm is huge and moving slowly, which spells extra trouble for the already saturated Gulf Coast region.

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CONVENTION WATCH: Finally getting started, Romney on his way, polls tightening

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Around the 2012 Republican National Convention and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details to you:

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TAMPA-BOUND

Mitt Romney will be on the way to Florida on Tuesday — the day his wife's scheduled to give her speech at the Republican National Convention.

The presumptive GOP nominee for president will arrive in Tampa on what's effectively the first day of the convention. Although it was called to order Monday, it was immediately adjourned until Tuesday because of Tropical Storm Isaac.

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Paul supporters trying to mount convention floor fight over new GOP rules to limit insurgents

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Ron Paul's delegates are trying to mount a floor fight over new GOP rules designed to limit the ability of insurgent presidential candidates to amass delegates to future Republican conventions.

They are getting help from other delegates, though it is unclear whether they can rally enough support to challenge the rules on the floor of the convention Tuesday.

Mitt Romney, the party's presumptive nominee, has plenty of delegates to win any floor fight. Nevertheless, party officials agreed to ease the new rules on Monday in an effort to appease some disgruntled delegates. Still, the dispute could provide an unwanted distraction for party leaders who would rather focus on promoting Romney and defeating President Barack Obama.

"It's so heavily scripted. This is not the forum in which they want to air the proverbial dirty laundry," said Juliette Jordal, a Paul delegate from Minnesota.

The new GOP rules would bind delegates to the outcome of presidential primaries and caucuses. Presidential candidates would be able to choose which delegates represent them at the convention. However, in a concession to activists agreed to on Monday, the candidates would have to consult with state parties in selecting the delegates.

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Insurgents attack party in southern Afghanistan, behead 17 civilians

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Insurgents beheaded 17 people at a party in a Taliban-controlled area, and an Afghan soldier killed two U.S. troops, bringing the two-day death toll Monday to about 30.

Near-daily attacks by militants and increasingly frequent deadly violence against NATO troops by their Afghan allies highlight an embarrassing failure of Western policy: After nearly 12 years of military intervention, the country is not pacified. Once the United States and other countries pull out their troops, chaos seems almost certain to return and Taliban domination in large parts of the country is hardly implausible.

The beheadings occurred in southern Helmand, the same province where more than 100 insurgents attacked an Afghan army checkpoint and killed 10 soldiers.

Helmand was the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's surge, when he ordered 33,000 additional U.S troops to Afghanistan to help the military with a counterinsurgency plan. That plan hoped to turn the tide in Helmand and neighboring Kandahar and establish the governmental institutions that would allow the Afghan government to take control of the Taliban heartland.

Two years later, however, Helmand is still so lawless that Afghan government officials couldn't even go to the Taliban-controlled town where the beheadings were reported. Many Afghans in the south, the Taliban's birthplace and the home of the country's Pashtun speaking population, are leery of a government that many consider to be corrupt and ineffective.

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As Isaac draws closer to Gulf Coast, storm evokes haunting memories of Hurricane Katrina

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As she loaded supplies into her car to prepare for Isaac, Linda Grandison's mind rewound to the nightmare of Katrina: Back in 2005, she had to flee her family's flooded home and waited on a bridge for more than three days before being rescued by helicopter.

Though Isaac is far less powerful than the historic hurricane that crippled New Orleans, the system was on an eerily similar path and forecast to make landfall on the seventh anniversary of Katrina, raising familiar fears and old anxieties in a city still recovering from a near-mortal blow seven years ago.

This time, Grandison is not taking any chances. She will stay with her mother in the New Orleans suburb of Gretna, which did not flood in Katrina. The house has a generator to keep the refrigerator running if power goes out, and she has enough charcoal to grill out for days.

"You can't predict God's work. This is nerve-wracking," she said. "I hate leaving my house, worrying if it's going to flood or get looted. But I'm not going to stay in the city again."

If Isaac comes ashore here, it will find a different city than the one blasted by Katrina. This New Orleans has a bigger, better levee system and other improvements designed to endure all but the most destructive storms. Many neighborhoods have rebuilt. Some remain desolate, filled with empty, dilapidated homes.

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Study: Teenagers who routinely use marijuana before age 18 may see long-term declines in IQ

NEW YORK (AP) — Teens who routinely smoke marijuana risk a long-term drop in their IQ, a new study suggests.

The researchers didn't find the same IQ dip for people who became frequent users of pot after 18. Although experts said the new findings are not definitive, they do fit in with earlier signs that the drug is especially harmful to the developing brain.

"Parents should understand that their adolescents are particularly vulnerable,'" said lead researcher Madeline Meier of Duke University.

Study participants from New Zealand were tested for IQ at age 13, likely before any significant marijuana use, and again at age 38. The mental decline between those two ages was seen only in those who started regularly smoking pot before age 18.

Richie Poulton, a study co-author and professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said the message of the research is to stay away from marijuana until adulthood if possible. "For some it's a legal issue," he said, "but for me it's a health issue."

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Decades after Armstrong's moonwalk, can NASA's new robotic Mars landing inspire?

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Neil Armstrong inspired millions with his moonwalk. Can a feisty robotic rover exploring Mars do the same for another generation? With manned missions beyond the International Space Station on hold, the spotlight has turned on machines.

While it did not rise to Armstrong's "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," interest was so high in the rover Curiosity's "seven minutes of terror" approach to the red planet earlier this month that NASA's website crashed after receiving nearly 2 billion hits. The rover last week beamed home photographs of its first wheel tracks on the Martian soil since its daredevil landing

"There's something exciting about reaching another place in the solar system. If you think about the kind of interest the landing of Curiosity had, you get a sense of that," said Smithsonian Institution space curator Roger Launius. It wasn't on the same level as Armstrong's feat, "but it was pretty darn exciting," he said.

When Armstrong, then fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, stepped on the moon on July 20, 1969, an estimated 600 million people watched and listened. "Virtually the entire world took that memorable journey with us," recalled Buzz Aldrin after Armstrong's death Saturday.

Early in the Space Age, the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts were the public face of NASA's space endeavor while the unmanned lunar missions that paved the way were in the shadows. The public craved adventure and the manned missions delivered. Aiming for the moon was new and exciting — not to mention dangerous — and the U.S. was locked in a Cold War space race with the Soviets.

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No bellyaching for Maria Sharapova in easy opening victory at Flushing Meadows

NEW YORK (AP) — Maria Sharapova's stomach ache turned out to be nothing more than that.

That lopsided loss she suffered at the Olympics — well, that may have only been a false alarm, as well.

Playing her first match since a blowout loss to Serena Williams in London and a stomach virus that forced her out of two tuneup tournaments, Sharapova returned to tennis in fine fashion Monday at the U.S. Open.

The third-seeded Russian came back from a three-week break and defeated Melinda Czink of Hungary 6-2, 6-2 in a stress-free, 67-minute first-round match at blustery Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Sharapova's victory in front of the half-filled stadium was her first match since a 6-0, 6-1 loss to Williams at the London Games in a gold-medal showdown that looked and felt more like one of these first-round wipeouts Sharapova usually inflicts.

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