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Associated Press

Posted on December 2, 2013 at 6:02 AM

Updated Monday, Dec 2 at 7:00 AM

Investigators seek reasons why NYC train crashed, killing 4 and injuring more than 60 others

NEW YORK (AP) — Metro-North officials say the locomotive of the commuter train that derailed in New York City, killing four people, has been righted.

Spokesman Aaron Donovan says cranes re-railed the engine at 4:20 a.m. Monday.

Two cranes are in place to lift the rest of the derailed cars pending approval from the National Transportation and Safety Board.

Donovan says about 150 people were on board when the train derailed Sunday morning while rounding a riverside curve in the Bronx. More than 60 were injured.

Donovan says all passengers have been accounted for.

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HealthCare.gov on the mend, government says as self-imposed deadline passes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Computer crashes should be giving way to insurance coverage — if the government's diagnosis of its health care website is correct.

The Health and Human Services Department released a progress report Sunday on its effort get the troubled HealthCare.gov website on the mend. Administration officials said the worst of the online glitches, bugs and delays may be over.

"The bottom line — HealthCare.gov on Dec. 1 is night and day from where it was on Oct. 1," said Jeff Zients, the White House's troubleshooter tasked with making the website function properly.

Yet officials acknowledged more work remains on the website, which made its national debut two months ago with hundreds of software flaws, inadequate equipment and inefficient management. Federal workers and private contractors have undertaken an intense reworking of the system, but some users might still encounter trouble.

How many problems are left? That's the question consumers and lawmakers alike will be eying before the next crucial deadline: Dec. 23.

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Thai leader says protesters' demands impossible to meet, clashes continue in Thai capital

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's prime minister said Monday she is willing to do anything it takes to end violent protests against her government and restore peace, but cannot accept the opposition's "unconstitutional" demand to hand power to an unelected council.

Yingluck Shinawatra's comments, broadcast in a televised news conference, were the clearest indication yet that negotiations are unlikely to solve the country's increasingly violent political standoff.

As Yingluck spoke from the country's heavily fortified national police headquarters, stone-throwing protesters battled through clouds of police tear gas in a renewed attempt to seize her office, the Government House, and other key government buildings. As the day progressed, the protesters got hold of a garbage truck and a police truck, using them to break through parts of concrete barricades.

The protests aimed at toppling Yingluck's government have renewed fears of prolonged instability in one of Southeast Asia's biggest economies and comes just ahead of the peak holiday tourist season.

"If there's anything I can do to bring peace back to the Thai people I am happy to do it," Yingluck said, striking a conciliatory but firm tone. "The government is more than willing to have talks, but I myself cannot see a way out of this problem that is within the law and in the constitution."

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Venezuela's oil diplomacy wanes as impact of its economic problems spread beyond borders

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The late President Hugo Chavez's dream of leveraging Venezuela's oil wealth to spread revolution across Latin America is crumbling under the weight of an economic crisis that is forcing his hand-picked successor to cut back on generous foreign aid.

Signs of the country's waning influence are becoming more apparent. In early November, Guatemala withdrew from the Petrocaribe oil alliance launched by Chavez, saying it didn't receive the ultra-low financing rates it had been promised by Venezuela when it first sought to join the 18-nation pact in 2008. Also in recent weeks, representatives of Brazil and Colombia have held meetings with their Venezuelan counterparts to collect overdue payment for food, manufactured goods and other imports.

While Venezuela has fallen behind on payments before, the latest cash crunch is more severe, and the economic outlook more uncertain, than any time in 15 years of socialist rule.

The reason is a dependence on oil, which accounts for 95 percent of exports. Although Venezuela sits atop the world's largest reserves, production has steadily declined in recent years. Global prices for crude are also lower as hydraulic fracturing technology boosts supplies in the U.S. at a time that Europe's economic woes and weaker growth in China limit global demand.

The result is a hemorrhaging of Venezuela's foreign currency reserves, which are down 27 percent this year, according to the country's central bank.

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Investigators probe cause of fiery crash that killed 'Fast & Furious' star Paul Walker

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fans of "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker erected a makeshift memorial near the site of his fatal automobile crash, as investigators worked to determine the cause of the fiery weekend wreck that also claimed the life of his friend.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said speed was a factor in Saturday's one-car crash, though it will take time to determine how fast the car was going.

Roger Rodas, Walker's friend and financial adviser, also died, according to Walker's publicist, Ame Van Iden. She said Walker was a passenger in the 2005 red Porsche Carrera GT when they drove away from a fundraiser in the community of Valencia, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Sheriff's deputies found the car engulfed in flames when they arrived at the site of the crash, near the fundraiser at Rodas' sport car dealership. Officials have not identified either person found in the car.

Because Walker is so closely associated with the underground culture of street racing portrayed in the popular film franchise, the accident had an eerie quality — a tragic end for a Hollywood hero of speed.

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'Free at last' — 75 years on, survivors recall Kindertransport that saved children from Nazis

LONDON (AP) — The operation was called Kindertransport — Children's Transport — and it was a passage from hell to freedom.

Kristallnacht had just rocked Nazi Germany. The pogroms killed dozens of Jews, burned hundreds of synagogues and imprisoned tens of thousands in concentration camps. Many historians see them as the start of Hitler's Final Solution.

Amid the horror, Britain agreed to take in children threatened by the Nazi murder machine.

Seventy-five years ago this week, the first group of kids arrived without their parents at the English port of Harwich, and took a train to London's Liverpool Street Station.

Some 10,000 children, most but not all Jewish, would escape the Nazis in the months to come — until the outbreak of war in September 1939, when the borders were closed.

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Retailers' Dilemma: A record number of shoppers turn out, but they spent less for the 1st time

NEW YORK (AP) — Retailers got Americans into stores during the start to the holiday shopping season. Now, they'll need to figure out how to get them to actually shop.

Target, Macy's and other retailers offered holiday discounts in early November and opened stores on Thanksgiving Day. It was an effort to attract shoppers before Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season.

Those tactics drew bigger crowds during the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, but failed to motivate Americans to spend.

"The economy spoke loud and clear over the past few days," said Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors. "We are going to see an increase in markdowns."

A record 141 million people were expected to shop in stores and online over the four-day period that ended on Sunday, up from last year's 137 million, according to the results of a survey of nearly 4,500 shoppers conducted for The National Retail Federation.

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Airline pilots becoming so reliant on automation they can be unprepared to assume control

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pilots are becoming so reliant on the computer systems that do most of the flying in today's airliners that on the rare occasions when something goes wrong, they're sometimes unprepared to take control, according to aviation safety experts and government and industry studies.

Increasing automation has been a tremendous safety boon to aviation, contributing to historically low accident rates in the U.S. and many parts of the world.

But automation has changed the relationship between pilots and planes, presenting new challenges.

Pilots today typically use their "stick and rudder" flying skills only for brief minutes or even seconds during takeoffs and landings. Mostly, they manage computer systems that can fly planes more precisely and use less fuel than a human pilot can. But humans simply aren't wired to pay close and continual attention to systems that rarely fail or do something unexpected.

"Once you see you're not needed, you tune out," said Michael Barr, a former Air Force pilot and accident investigator who teaches aviation safety at the University of Southern California. "As long as everything goes OK, we're along for the ride. We're a piece of luggage."

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Syrian opposition so splintered that many wonder who will represent who at planned peace talks

BEIRUT (AP) — Within minutes of opening a Twitter account this past week, the leader of Syria's main Western-backed opposition group received an onslaught of criticism.

"Welcome to Twitter Mr. Western Puppet," one comment to Ahmad al-Jarba read. Others called him a Saudi stooge and scorned the opposition's perceived ineffectiveness.

The comments reflect the deep disillusionment and distrust that many Syrians have come to feel toward the Syrian National Coalition, Syria's main opposition group in exile. They also underline the predicament of who will represent the Syrian opposition at an upcoming peace conference in Geneva marking the first face-to-face meeting between Syria's warring sides.

The Geneva talks have raised the possibility of a negotiated end to a conflict activists say has killed more than 120,000 people. But with a fractured opposition, many have little hope for strong negotiations with emissaries of President Bashar Assad.

"Each of them represents himself and maybe his wife," said an anti-government activist in the central Homs province, who uses the pseudonym Abul Hoda. "Nobody here pays any attention to what they say."

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AP PHOTOS: Silence enables science in W.Va.'s Radio Quiet Zone

GREEN BANK, W.Va. (AP) — In these parts, a pay phone is a visitor's best option for reaching the rest of the world. A cell phone signal is an hour away by car. Wifi is forbidden. The radio plays nothing but static. And other than the occasional passing pickup truck whose driver offers a wave, it's dead silent.

Seemingly off the beaten path, this community of fewer than two hundred residents is the heart of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area where state and federal laws discourage the use of everyday devices that emit electromagnetic waves. The quiet zone aims to protect sensitive radio telescopes at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, as well as a nearby Naval research facility, from man-made interference. This silence enables the observatory to detect energy in outer space that is equivalent to the energy emitted by a single snowflake hitting the ground.

While scientists listen intently for clues from the universe on its structure and origins, residents in some of the timeworn railroad towns in this valley maintain a fundamentally tech-less lifestyle that for most Americans is a memory. More than 90% of American adults have a cell phone today, yet some locals fondly recall ditching their wireless device after moving here. After all, it's useless, and that's fine by them.

Here's a gallery of images from the National Radio Quiet Zone.

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