- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

Branson wants answers, but probe of Virgin Galactic rocket crash may take up to a year

MOJAVE, Calif. (AP) - Billionaire Richard Branson is promising to find out what caused the crash of his Virgin Galactic prototype space tourism rocket that killed a test pilot, but federal investigators are cautioning that it may take up to a year to learn exactly what went wrong.

The crash in the California desert almost certainly dashed Branson’s goal of starting suborbital flight next spring, but the mogul said that while he remained committed to civilian space travel “we are not going to push on blindly.”

In grim remarks at the Mojave Air and Space Port, where the craft known as SpaceShipTwo was under development, Branson gave no details of Friday’s accident and deferred to the NTSB, whose team began its first day of investigation Saturday.

“Yesterday, we fell short,” he said. “We’ll now comprehensively assess the results of the crash and are determined to learn from this and move forward.”

He asserted that safety has always been the top priority of the program that envisions taking wealthy tourists six at a time to the edge of space for a brief experience of weightlessness and a view of Earth below.

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Officials: Islamic State group shoots, kills 50 people, including women and children, in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) - Islamic State group extremists lined up and shot dead at least 50 tribesmen, women and children in Iraq’s Anbar province Sunday, officials said, the latest mass killing committed by the group.

The attack against an Anbar Sunni tribe took place in the village of Ras al-Maa, north of Ramadi.

There, the militant group killed at least 40 men, six women and four children, lining them up and publicly killing them one by one, Sheikh Naim al-Gaoud, a senior figure in the targeted Al Bu Nimr tribe, told The Associated Press. Another 17 people were kidnapped by the militant group, he said.

An official with the Anbar governor’s office corroborated the account, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief journalists.

The militant group killed another 50 members of the Al Bu Nimr tribe late Friday, and at least 48 people on Thursday, according to various officials who spoke to the AP.

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Government-controlled Syria truncated in size, battered and impoverished, but defiant amid war

TARTOUS, Syria (AP) - Syrian businessmen start from scratch after their shops and factories were destroyed. Families who lost their homes struggle to rent new dwellings and make ends meet. Along highways stretching through government-controlled areas are the bombed ruins of once-rebellious towns, now dotted with checkpoints.

Government-controlled Syria is truncated in size, battered and impoverished. But it carries on, underscoring how Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has clung to power, despite an armed rebellion to uproot him, now well into its fourth year.

Visits the past week to the capital, Damascus, and the coastal region of Tartous, a stronghold of government support, show how Syrians have adjusted to life in this reduced country. Thick barriers surround government buildings, painted in the red, black and white of the Syrian flag. Assad’s portrait is everywhere: as a soldier, a businessman and a father.

After years of brutal back and forth, the government rules over Damascus and a sweep of territory west to the Mediterranean coastal region that includes Syria’s biggest cities, along with some parts south of the capital. Rebels hold some suburbs in the countryside around Damascus and parts of the northwest. The extremist Islamic State group has imposed its rule over territory encompassing a third of both Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The war constantly intrudes. The persistent thud of bombings of nearby rebel-held areas is the soundtrack of Damascus.

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UN climate panel says emissions need to drop to zero this century to keep warming in check

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - Climate change is happening, it’s almost entirely man’s fault and limiting its impacts may require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero this century, the U.N.’s panel on climate science said Sunday.

The fourth and final volume of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s giant climate assessment didn’t offer any surprises, nor was it expected to since it combined the findings of three earlier reports released in the past 13 months.

But it underlined the scope of the climate challenge in stark terms. Emissions, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, may need to drop to zero by the end of this century for the world to have a decent chance of keeping the temperature rise below a level that many consider dangerous. Failure to do so, which could require deployment of technologies that suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, could lock the world on a trajectory with “irreversible” impacts on people and the environment, the report said. Some impacts are already being observed, including rising sea levels, a warmer and more acidic ocean, melting glaciers and Arctic sea ice and more frequent and intense heat waves.

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the report’s launch in Copenhagen.

Amid its grim projections, the report also offered hope. The tools needed to set the world on a low-emissions path are there; it just has to break its addiction to the oil, coal and gas that power the global energy system while polluting the atmosphere with heat-trapping CO2, the chief greenhouse gas.

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Obama making late campaign push for Dems running for governor in Connecticut, Pennsylvania

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is placing his ability to energize voters to the test in two high-profile governor races, making a final election-season push to save a Democrat in Connecticut and unseat a Republican in Pennsylvania.

In a swing Sunday through two states he carried in both 2008 and 2012, the president hoped to mobilize members of his voting coalition, particularly young people, African-Americans and women. During nonpresidential elections, many of these voters tend to stay home.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy is in a dead heat with Republican Tom Foley, in a rematch of the 2010 race that Malloy narrowly won. Four years ago, Obama also made a last-minute appearance for Malloy.

In Pennsylvania, businessman Tom Wolf holds a lead over GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, who was getting some high-profile help himself on Sunday from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Obama’s scheduled appearances in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Philadelphia highlighted the competing pressures on the president as he balances his unpopularity in states where Democrats face tough Republican challenges and the need for Democrats to energize crucial elements of their voting bloc.

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If Republicans take Senate, Asia trade could be rare point of common ground with White House

WASHINGTON (AP) - Big Republican gains on Election Day would be a blow to much of President Barack Obama’s agenda, but one stymied item on his to-do list might get a fresh chance to move forward: trade. That could breathe life into Asia-Pacific trade talks essential to his efforts to deepen engagement in the region.

Obama needs special authority, known as fast track, to negotiate trade deals that Congress can accept or reject, but cannot change. It would smooth the way for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is under discussion with 11 nations, and help advance separate negotiations with the 28-member European Union.

Fast-track legislation was introduced in January but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would not allow a vote. Many Democrats fear that opening markets to countries with lower wages and standards will cost American jobs. Republicans tend to be more supportive, seeing more trade as benefiting the economy.

With Republicans favored to take control of the Senate and expand their House majority, trade could become a rare point of agreement between a Republican Congress and the White House.

Yet obstacles would remain.

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Power back on across Bangladesh after grid failure causes daylong nationwide blackout

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) - Power was back on across Bangladesh on Sunday, a day after the impoverished, energy-starved nation was plunged into a nationwide blackout when the transmission line from neighboring India failed, officials said.

The country’s energy grid was fully restored, and any further problems that may arise would be for “local reasons,” Junior Power Minister Nasrul Hamid told reporters.

The blackout was Bangladesh’s most severe since a 2007 cyclone knocked out the national grid for several hours, and once again exposed inefficient and dated infrastructure that has held back development in the South Asian nation.

Hamid would not say what exactly had caused the blackout, which hit the country around noon Saturday after what some power officials described as a “technical glitch” in the transmission line that caused a cascade of failures throughout the national power grid, with power plants and substations shutting down automatically. For a power grid to work, electricity must be supplied constantly at a rate equal to demand.

“An investigation has been ordered. It could be misleading to talk before getting the findings,” Hamid said.

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2 sought in LA-area crash that killed 3 on Halloween; deaths reported in Florida, New York

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Police are looking for two people who abandoned their SUV after the vehicle fatally struck three teenage girls who were trick-or-treating in the Los Angeles area.

The black Honda was left a short distance from the Santa Ana crosswalk where the 13-year-old twin sisters and a friend, also 13, were hit Friday night, witnesses said.

Investigators tracked the SUV to the address where it was registered Saturday, but the owner has since moved, Santa Ana police spokesman Anthony Bertagna said.

“At this point, we don’t know where the registered owner lives,” Bertagna said.

A witness told the Los Angeles Times the girls were wearing costumes with black leggings and dark clothing when they were hit in a crosswalk near an elementary school about 6:45 p.m. Friday.

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Questions remain about victims, cause of apartment building fire in Maine that killed 5

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Questions swirled in the aftermath of an intense blaze that tore through an apartment house, including whether the five people killed were students at the nearby University of Southern Maine and how the fire started the morning after a Halloween party at the home.

Even as the cause of the fire and identity of the victims remained a mystery late Saturday, police and fire officials had sorted out one element of confusion by the end of a day that sent ripples of anxiety and sorrow through the campus and the city of Portland: Everybody who had been in the house was accounted for.

State fire marshal’s spokesman Steve McCausland said most, if not all, the residents of the 94-year-old, three-story house were USM students, but said there was no indication that students were killed in the fire. Later Saturday, Portland Fire Chief Jerry LaMoria said they didn’t know if any of the victims were students.

LaMoria said the investigation was in a preliminary stage and could take several days before they know how the fire started. Investigators will be looking to see if there were any code violations at the house.

Two bodies were found on the second floor and three on the third floor.

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Late fumbles help No. 4 Auburn hold off No. 7 Mississippi, 35-31

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Cassanova McKinzy won the scramble for the ball and Auburn emerged from a playoff pileup to survive and advance.

McKinzy recovered a fumble in the end zone to preserve the fourth-ranked Tigers’ 35-31 victory over No. 7 Mississippi on Saturday night in what amounted to the first College Football Playoff knockout game.

That roller-coaster play proved to be the decisive blow.

“This was a playoff game,” said Auburn linebacker Kris Frost, who forced the last fumble. “But from here on in, every game is a playoff game. They just get bigger and bigger.”

The Tigers (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference, No. 3 CFP) got a reprieve after Rebels receiver Laquon Treadwell lost the ball at the end of a tackle-breaking catch-and-run to the end zone with 1:30 left. It was ruled a touchdown, but the replay official determined he lost the ball before crossing the goal line.

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