AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on November 29, 2013 at 6:02 AM

Shopping spree began early as retailers opened on Thanksgiving through Black Friday

Holiday shopping this year is a marathon, not a sprint.

More than a dozen major retailers from Wal-Mart to Target to Toys R Us opened on Thanksgiving Day and planned to stay open through Black Friday, the traditional start to the holiday shopping season. As a result, crowds formed early and often throughout the two days.

A Kmart store in midtown Manhattan in New York City was packed with people shopping for clothing and holiday decor items. The discounter opened at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and planned to stay open for 41 hours straight. Clothing was marked down from 30 percent to 50 percent.

New Yorker Adriana Tavaraz, 51, had just finished work at a travel agency at around 4 p.m. before heading over to Kmart to spend $105 on ornaments, Santa hats and other holiday decor. She saved about 50 percent.

Meanwhile, William Darrell, 57, an accountant who was visiting New York City from Bermuda stopped by Kmart to do some shopping. He bought two pairs of Tom McCan shoes for a total of $34.

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Is the military still ready for war — or should you be worried?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Warnings from defense officials and some experts are mounting and becoming more dire: The nation's military is being hobbled by budget cuts.

"You'd better hope we never have a war again," the House Armed Services Committee chairman, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., said of the decline in what the military calls its readiness.

So should Americans be worried?

A look at what the Pentagon means by "ready" and where things stand:

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From mobile to Denver Broncos scoreboard; small company helps Twitter make money

DENVER (AP) — Twitter just issued its IPO but a lingering question is how the popular worldwide microblog company will turn a profit. One Colorado-based company thinks it has found one way to help Twitter, and itself, make money.

Wayin has partnered up with the Denver Broncos to project tweeted photos and tweets from fans onto the Sports Authority Field at Mile High's Thundervision 2, the stadium's marquee 40-foot high, by 220 foot wide video scoreboard.

The software allows ads to be placed next to the tweets to generate revenue. It's unclear how that could impact Twitter's bottom line. None of the companies would discuss how much money is generated through the deal.

The Broncos rolled out Wayin's software during the game versus division rival Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 17.

The team uses the software to search terms or so-called hashtags to find tweets by category from the thousands sent about the game and then pick the ones to send to the scoreboard and 1,100 television screens throughout the stadium, as well as to the Broncos social media hub on the Web.

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Thai protesters storm into army compound in bid to topple prime minister

BANGKOK (AP) — Protesters in Thailand stormed the grounds of the national army headquarters on Friday, asking the military to support their campaign to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

In a letter addressed to the army chief, the protesters stopped short of calling for a coup but urged military leaders to "take a stand" in Thailand's spiraling political crisis and state which side they are on.

The crowd of 1,200 people stayed on the sprawling lawn of the Royal Thai Army compound for two hours before filing out peacefully. It was a bold act heavy with symbolism in a country that has experienced 18 successful or attempted military coups since the 1930s.

The most recent was in 2006, when the military ousted Yingluck's brother, the former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who is living overseas to avoid a corruption conviction but is central to Thailand's political conflict.

For the past week, thousands of anti-government protesters have marched in Bangkok in a bid to unseat Yingluck, whom they accuse of serving as a proxy for her billionaire brother. Thaksin is adored by much of the country's rural poor and despised by the educated elite and middle-class who accuse him of widespread corruption and other offenses.

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EU extends influence eastward to Georgia, Moldova; Ukraine remains on sidelines

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — The European Union extended its geopolitical reach eastward on Friday by sealing association agreements with Georgia and Moldova, but blamed Russia for pressuring Ukraine out of a landmark deal with the 28-nation bloc.

Even though Friday's summit of government leaders ceremoniously celebrated the closer relations with the two small eastern nations, the refusal of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych to sign up to a similar deal continued to hang heavy over the meeting.

"There was pressure for sure," French President Francois Hollande said, adding that Ukraine was heavily leaned on, "notably through gas."

The Kremlin has worked aggressively to derail the EU deal by offering Kiev loans and price discounts, imposing painful trade sanctions and threatening Ukraine with giant gas bills. Ukraine has had to suffer through several cold winter spells when Russia tightened the tap during politically sensitive times.

In a video released by the Lithuanian presidency, Yanukovych told German Chancellor Angela Merkel late Thursday that "the economic situation in Ukraine is very difficult," before adding some time later that "I have been one-on-one with Russia for three and a half years under very unequal conditions."

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Mexican drug cartels now exporting ore, involved in mining industry

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican drug cartels looking to diversify their businesses long ago moved into oil theft, pirated goods, extortion and kidnapping, consuming an ever larger swath of the country's economy. This month, federal officials confirmed the cartels have even entered the country's lucrative mining industry, exporting iron ore to Chinese mills.

Such large-scale illegal mining operations were long thought to be wild rumor, but federal officials confirmed they had known about the cartels' involvement in mining since 2010, and that the Nov. 4 military takeover of Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico's second-largest port, was aimed at cutting off the cartels' export trade.

That news served as a wake-up call to Mexicans that drug traffickers have penetrated the country's economy at unheard-of levels, becoming true Mafia-style organizations.

The Knights Templar cartel and its predecessor, the La Familia drug gang, have been stealing or extorting shipments of iron ore, or illegally extracting the mineral themselves and selling it through Pacific coast ports, said Michoacan residents, mining companies and current and former federal officials. The cartel had already imposed demands for "protection payments" on many in the state, including shopkeepers, ranchers and farmers.

But so deeply entrenched was the cartel connection to mines, mills, ports, export firms and land holders that it took authorities three years to confront the phenomenon head-on. Federal officials said they are looking to crack down on other ports where drug gangs are operating.

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Bangladesh political activists punish work with death during general strikes, victimizing poor

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — The rickshaw driver was approaching an intersection in Bangladesh's capital when two men stopped his vehicle, doused it with gasoline and set it ablaze. The reason: He had gone to work.

Nizam Uddin, a 40-year-old father of four, was attacked this week simply for being on the streets of Dhaka, trying to earn some cash despite a nationwide blockade called by the opposition to protest the government's refusal to step down ahead of elections in early 2014. Activists have taken to torching cars, trucks and public buses that defy the strikes.

"What is it for? Why will we die this way?" asked a weeping Uddin, who has been hospitalized since Tuesday's attack with first- and second-degree burns on his hands and face. "Politicians don't care about us. They just long for power."

In the past month, about 40 people have been killed and hundreds wounded as rival political factions clashed in the streets. At least eight of the dead and 80 of the wounded suffered burns, according to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

Many of the victims were just trying to earn a living in one of the most impoverished countries in the world.

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Maine woman uses sign language, energetic dance moves to bring music to life for the deaf

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Holly Maniatty creates music — for the deaf.

Teaming American Sign Language with dance moves and body language, she brings musical performances alive for those who can't hear. Her clients are a who's who of rock, pop and hip-hop: Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, Mumford and Sons, Jay-Z, Billy Joel, Marilyn Manson, U2, Beastie Boys and Wu-Tang Clan, to name a few.

Along the way, videos of her fast-motion, helter-skelter signing have become popular online. There's the video of Springsteen jumping down from the stage at the New Orleans Jazz Fest and joining Maniatty and another interpreter. There, he dances and signs to "Dancing in the Dark."

"Deaf people were commenting, 'Oh, the Boss knows he has deaf fans. That's awesome,'" she said. "When artists connect with their interpreters, they also connect with their deaf fans."

In another video, rap artist Killer Mike approaches Maniatty in front of the stage after noticing her animated signing.

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Santa's not the only 1 watching: New techniques gather consumer data this shopping season

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's a big question for marketers: What kind of a buyer are you? And, as important, what are you willing to pay?

In the search for answers this shopping season, consumer behavior online and off is being tracked aggressively with help from advances in technology.

And it can happen whether buyers are on their work computers, mobile devices or just standing in the grocery aisle. The data can be connected with other personal information like income, ZIP code and when a person's car insurance expires.

Retailers say these techniques help customize shopping experiences and can lead to good deals for shoppers. Consumer advocates say aggressive tracking and profiling also opens the door to price discrimination, with companies charging someone more online or denying them entirely based on their home price or how often they visit a site.

"You can't have Christmas any more without big data and marketers," said Jeff Chester, executive director at the Center for Digital Democracy. "You know that song where Santa knows when you've been sleeping? He knows when you're awake? Believe me, that's where he's getting his information from."

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Ravens stop 2-point conversion in final seconds, reach .500 with 22-20 win over Steelers

BALTIMORE (AP) — A game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens usually features hard hits, flying helmets and a pivotal play in the final minutes.

The clash between these AFC North rivals on Thursday night had all that — and so much more.

A coach on the field during a kick return, two touchdowns erased by replay and an inexplicable botched field goal were among the highlights and lowlights in Baltimore's 22-20 Thanksgiving victory.

Justin Tucker kicked five field goals, and Baltimore snuffed a conversion pass with 1:03 left to avenge last month's loss to their division rivals.

After Pittsburgh scored on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery to make it 22-20, Roethlisberger's 2-point conversion pass slipped through the hands of Emmanuel Sanders, who was screened by Chykie Brown.

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