AP News in Brief at 10:58 p.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on November 23, 2012 at 12:02 AM

Updated Friday, Nov 23 at 12:02 AM

More stores usher in holiday start on Turkey Day but criticism grows

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation's shoppers on Thursday put down the turkey to take advantage of Thanksgiving deals.

Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving that's named Black Friday because that's when stores traditionally turn a profit for the year. But Black Friday openings have crept earlier and earlier over the past few years. Now, stores from Target to Toys R Us are opening their doors on Thanksgiving evening, hoping Americans will be willing to shop soon after they finish their pumpkin pie.

Target Corp. is opening its doors at 9 p.m. on the holiday, three hours earlier than last year. Sears, which didn't open on Thanksgiving last year, is opening at 8 p.m. on Thursday through 10 p.m. on Black Friday. Toys R Us will be opening at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than last year. And others such as Macy's Inc. are opening at midnight on Black Friday.

Retailers are hoping that the Thanksgiving openings will draw shoppers who prefer to head to stores after their turkey dinner rather than braving the crowds early the next morning. Overall, about 17 percent of shoppers plan to take advantage of Thanksgiving hours, according to a International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers.

Michael Prothero, 19, and Kenny Fullenlove, 20, even were willing to miss Thanksgiving dinner altogether for deals. They started camping out on Monday night outside a Best Buy store in Toledo, Ohio, which was slated to open at midnight. The friends, who were waiting to get 40-inch televisions, videogames and a tablet computer, came early to make sure they got the deals advertised by Best Buy, even though the next person in line didn't arrive until almost 24 hours later.

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Analysis: With Mideast cease-fire, US pins hopes on Egypt's new Islamist government

WASHINGTON (AP) — In Egypt we trust.

In frantic diplomacy, the Obama administration helped seal a cease-fire that puts heavy responsibility on Egypt's young Islamist government to ensure the end of Hamas rockets from the Gaza Strip. If Egypt delivers, the United States will have rediscovered the stalwart regional partner it has lacked since the autocratic Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in a popular revolt last year. If it fails, stability across the region will suffer.

Much depends on whether the agreement brokered by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi proves durable and halts not only a week of open warfare that killed more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis, but definitively ends rocket attacks on southern Israel from Gaza that grew increasingly frequent in recent months.

Standing beside Morsi's foreign minister in Cairo, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the deal would improve conditions for Gaza's 1.5 million people while offering greater security for the Jewish state — but the fierceness of the recent encounter meant no one was declaring it a success yet.

And U.S. officials familiar with Clinton's last-minute diplomatic shuttling warned against making any judgments until the cease-fire proves to hold.

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10 Things to Know for Friday

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

1. WHY BLACK FRIDAY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER

Americans' growing comfort with online shopping puts more pressure on brick-and-mortar stores, which depend so heavily on the holiday season.

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Seaside Heights, NJ, roller coaster submerged by Sandy might stay put as tourist attraction

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) — The remains of a roller coaster that was knocked off a New Jersey amusement pier by Superstorm Sandy and partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean might be left there as a tourist attraction.

Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers tells WNBC-TV in New York (http://bit.ly/XCW35T) that officials have not made a decision on whether to tear down the coaster. But the mayor says he's working with the Coast Guard to see if the coaster is stable enough to leave it alone because he believes it would make "a great tourist attraction."

Meanwhile, efforts to rebuild the storm-ravaged town are continuing.

Demolition crews have removed the resort's damaged boardwalk. And Akers says construction on a new boardwalk is expected to begin in January and be ready by Memorial Day.

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As holiday e-commerce booms, Postal Service looks to same-day delivery to lift sagging revenue

WASHINGTON (AP) — Emboldened by rapid growth in e-commerce shipping, the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service is moving aggressively this holiday season to start a premium service for the Internet shopper seeking the instant gratification of a store purchase: same-day package delivery.

Teaming up with major retailers, the post office will begin the expedited service in San Francisco on Dec. 12 at a price similar to its competitors. If things run smoothly, the program will quickly expand next year to other big cities such as Boston, Chicago and New York. It follows similar efforts by eBay, Amazon.com, and most recently Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which charges a $10 flat rate for same-day delivery.

The delivery program, called Metro Post, seeks to build on the post office's double-digit growth in package volume to help offset steady declines in first-class and standard mail. Operating as a limited experiment for the next year, it is projected to generate between $10 million and $50 million in new revenue from deliveries in San Francisco alone, according to postal regulatory filings, or up to $500 million, if expanded to 10 cities.

The filings do not reveal the mail agency's anticipated expenses to implement same-day service, which can only work profitably if retailers have enough merchandise in stores and warehouses to be quickly delivered to nearby residences in a dense urban area. The projected $500 million in potential revenue, even if fully realized, would represent just fraction of the record $15.9 billion annual loss that the Postal Service reported last week.

But while startups in the late 1990s such as Kozmo.com notably failed after promising instant delivery, the Postal Service's vast network serving every U.S. home could put it in a good position to be viable over the long term. The retail market has been rapidly shifting to Internet shopping, especially among younger adults, and more people are moving from suburb to city, where driving to a store can be less convenient.

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2 killed and dozens injured in massive, 140-vehicle morning pileup on foggy Texas highway

BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) — Two people died and more than 80 people were hurt Thursday when at least 140 vehicles collided in Southeast Texas in a pileup that left trucks twisted on top of each other and authorities rushing to pull survivors from the wreckage.

The collision occurred in extremely foggy conditions at about 8:45 a.m. Thanksgiving Day on Interstate 10 southwest of Beaumont, a Gulf Coast city about 80 miles east of Houston.

A man and a woman were killed in a Chevy Suburban SUV crushed by a tractor trailer, the Texas Department of Public Safety told KFDM-TV.

Jefferson County sheriff's Deputy Rod Carroll said in a news release that 80 to 90 people were transported to hospitals with 10 to 12 of those in serious to critical condition. He said 140 to 150 vehicles were involved in the pileup.

According to DPS, a crash on the eastbound side of the highway led to other accidents in a dangerous chain reaction. There were multiple crashes on the other side of the highway as well.

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Advocates: Support services for pregnant teens are costly but could save money in long run

MIAMI (AP) — When 15-year-old Kali Gonzalez became pregnant, the honors student considered transferring to an alternative school. She worried teachers would harass her for missing class because of doctor's appointments and morning sickness.

A guidance counselor urged Gonzalez not to, saying that could lower her standards.

Instead, her counselor set up a meeting with teachers at her St. Augustine high school to confirm she could make up missed assignments, eat in class and use the restroom whenever she needed. Gonzalez, who is now 18, kept an A-average while pregnant. She capitalized on an online school program for parenting students so she could stay home and take care of her baby during her junior year. She returned to school her senior year and graduated with honors in May.

But Gonzalez is a rare example of success among pregnant students. Schools across the country are divided over how to handle them, with some schools kicking them out or penalizing students for pregnancy-related absences. And many schools say they can't afford costly support programs, including tutoring, child care and transportation for teens who may live just a few miles from school but still too far to walk while pregnant or with a small child.

Nearly 400,000 girls and young women between 15 and 19 years old gave birth in 2010, a rate of 34 per 1,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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After 2011 devastation from Japan quake, California port building a "tsunami-resistant" harbor

CRESCENT CITY, California (AP) — It doesn't matter if the earth sways in Chile, Alaska or Japan, the formation of the sea floor along the U.S. West Coast generally aims any tsunami surges at the tiny California port town of Crescent City. Churning water rushes into the boat basin and then rushes out, lifting docks off their pilings, tearing boats loose and leaving the city's main economic engine looking as if it has been bombed.

That's what happened in March 2011, when a Japanese earthquake sparked a tsunami that sank 11 boats, damaged 47 others and destroyed two-thirds of the harbor's docks.

Port officials are hoping that tsunami is among the last of many that have forced major repairs in Crescent City, a tiny commercial fishing village on California's rugged northern coast. Officials are spending $54 million to build the West Coast's first harbor able to withstand the kind of tsunami expected to hit once every 50 years — the same kind that hit in 2011, when the highest surge in the boat basin measured 8.1 feet (2.5 meters) and currents were estimated at 22 feet (6.7 meters) per second.

Officials are building 244 new steel pilings that will be 30 inches (76 centimeters) in diameter and 70 feet (21 meters) long. Thirty feet (9 meters) or more will be sunk into bedrock. The dock nearest the entrance will be 16 feet (5 meters) long and 8 feet (2.4 meters) deep to dampen incoming waves. The pilings will extend 18 feet (5.5 meters) above the water so that surges 7 ½ feet (2.3 meters) up and 7 ½ feet down will not rip docks loose.

Crescent City was not the only West Coast port slammed by the tsunami, which was generated by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake in Japan. The waves ripped apart docks and sank boats in Santa Cruz, California, and did similar damage in Brookings, Oregon, just north of Crescent City. But their geographical location doesn't make them as vulnerable to multiple tsunamis.

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Hamas emerges with major gains from hits bloodiest battle with Israel in 4 years

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas has emerged from battle with the triumphal sense of a hard-won game change: By stopping its offensive when it did, Israel's hard-line government seems to have grudgingly accepted that the Islamic militant group cannot soon be dislodged from power in Gaza.

Hamas dared rocket the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas, then stared down threats of a ground invasion to wipe out the group — emerging with its rule intact, world figures rushing to the region to put out the fire and key Muslim countries openly on its side. In the rush of diplomacy, Hamas also succeeded in overshadowing its main Western-backed Palestinian rival.

Still unclear is whether the Egyptian-brokered truce can deliver the promised end to Gaza's stifling blockade.

On Thursday, the first full day of calm after eight days of fighting, the contrast in mood couldn't be sharper.

Gazans celebrated the cease-fire with fireworks, Hamas militants flaunted their weapons in the streets and a Hamas political leader, Khalil al-Haya, taunted Israel at a victory rally, saying "you can't invade us."

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Syrian rebels capture key army base, strengthen hold in country's east

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels strengthened their hold Thursday on an oil-rich province bordering Iraq, activists said, capturing a key military base that was considered one of the last bastions for President Bashar Assad's loyalists in the strategic region.

The reported fall of the Mayadeen base, along with its stockpiles of artillery, caps a series of advances in Deir el-Zour including last week's seizure of a military airport.

The province borders on western Iraq. Syria's rebels enjoy strong support with the Sunni tribes of Iraq's west, and many Iraqis with combat experience from their own war are believed to have crossed to fight in their neighbor.

Rebel fighters also say that weapons seized when bases fall have been essential to their transformation from ragtag brigades into forces capable of challenging Assad's professional army.

Activist groups and a local fighter told The Associated Press the Mayadeen base was taken in the morning hours, after a three-week siege. The fighter spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

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