Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Published:

Congolese rebels seize Goma, take airport, push toward Bukavu

GOMA, Congo (AP) -- A rebel group believed to be backed by Rwanda seized the strategic, provincial capital of Goma in eastern Congo on Tuesday, home to more than 1 million people as well as an international airport in a development that threatens to spark a new, regional war, officials and witnesses said.

Explosions and machine-gun fire rocked the lakeside city as the M23 rebels pushed forward on two fronts: toward the city center and along the road that leads to Bukavu, another provincial capital which lies to the south. Civilians ran down sidewalks looking for cover and children shouted in alarm. A man clutched a thermos as he ran.

Thousands of residents fled across the border to Rwanda, the much-smaller nation to the east which is accused of funneling arms and recruits to the M23 rebels.

By early afternoon the gunfire had stopped and M23 soldiers marched down the potholed main boulevards, unimpeded. Their senior commanders, who the United Nations has accused of grave crimes including recruiting child soldiers, summary executions and rape, paraded around the town in all-terrain vehicles, waving to the thousands of people who left their barricaded houses to see them.

The United Nations peacekeepers, known by their acronym MONUSCO, were not helping the government forces during Tuesday's battle because they do not have a mandate to engage the rebels, said Congolese military spokesman Olivier Hamuli, who expressed frustration over the lack of action by the peacekeepers.

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Diplomatic push for Israel-Hamas cease-fire gains momentum, but deal remains elusive

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel and the Hamas militant group edged closer to a cease-fire Tuesday to end a weeklong Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, but after a day of furious diplomatic efforts involving the U.S. secretary of state, U.N. chief and Egypt's president, a deal remained elusive and fighting raged on both sides of the border.

Israeli tanks and gunboats pummeled targets in Gaza in what appeared to be a last-minute burst of fire, while at least 200 rockets were fired into Israel. As talks dragged on near midnight, Israeli and Hamas officials, communicating through Egyptian mediators, expressed hope that a deal would soon be reached, but cautioned that it was far from certain.

"If there is a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this problem by diplomatic means, we prefer that. But if not, then I am sure you will understand that Israel will have to take whatever actions are necessary to defend its people," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a late-night meeting with visiting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton was hastily dispatched to the region by President Barack Obama to join a high-profile group of world leaders working to halt the violence. Standing alongside the Israeli leader, Clinton indicated it could take some time to iron out an agreement.

"In the days ahead, the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region toward an outcome that bolsters security for the people of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region," she said.

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AP Exclusive: With capture of regime base, Syrian rebels net a weapons trove

BASE OF THE 46TH REGIMENT, Syria (AP) -- After a nearly two-month siege, Syrian rebels overwhelmed a large military base in the north of the country and made off with tanks, armored vehicles and truckloads of munitions that rebel leaders say will give them a boost in the fight against President Bashar Assad's army.

The rebel capture of the base of the Syrian army's 46th Regiment is a sharp blow to the government's efforts to roll back rebels gains and shows a rising level of organization among opposition forces.

More important than the base's fall, however, are the weapons the rebels found inside.

At a rebel base where the much of the haul was taken after the weekend victory, rebel fighters unloaded half a dozen large trucks piled high with green boxes full of mortars, artillery shells, rockets and rifles taken from the base. Parked nearby were five tanks, two armored vehicles, two rocket launchers and two heavy-caliber artillery cannons.

Around 20 Syrian soldiers captured in the battle were put to work carrying munitions boxes, barefoot and stripped to the waist. Rebels refused to let reporters talk to them or see where they were being held.

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10 Things to Know for Wednesday

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

1. HOPE SEEN FOR AN ISRAEL-HAMAS CEASE-FIRE

A diplomatic push gains steam but airstrikes and rocket attacks between both sides continues.

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Courting Asia, Obama finds that home problems and the rest of the world's ills still intrude

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- For all the attention wrenched elsewhere in recent days -- on new violence in the Middle East, the "fiscal cliff" back home -- President Barack Obama's speedy trip to Southeast Asia achieved a major goal: It was clearly seen in the region as a validation of Asia's strategic importance as the U.S. refocuses its foreign policy to counter China's clout.

It wasn't easy. Even in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, Obama could not escape the budget woes waiting for him back home. And his historic visit to Myanmar was all but drowned out by the rocket fire and missile strikes between Israel and Gaza. He went half a world away to promote U.S.-style democracy but couldn't leave his troubles behind.

Even as Obama traipsed in stocking feet through a temple in the heart of Bangkok, a monk wished him luck negotiating the deficit-reduction challenge awaiting him in Washington. And the bloodshed in the Middle East, exploding as he toured Southeast Asia for three days, illustrated the limits of U.S. foreign policy even as he tried to display its influence and reach.

But he came away from his trip to this corner of the world -- a place once defined by a cloistered and shunned nation like Myanmar or by Khmer Rouge "killing fields" or by Chinese power --with at least the hope that the example of U.S. democracy can effect change and strengthen America's hand.

He made his case clearly during a Bangkok news conference:

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First AP Spanish-language stylebook launched for journalists, writers, editors and scholars

NEW YORK (AP) -- Spanish-language journalists can now learn that the correct word for channel-surfing is "zapeo," sexting is best written in their language as "sextear," ''submarino" is an accepted term for waterboarding and Thanksgiving day is accurately translated as "Dia de Accion de Gracias."

Those and thousands of other terms are included in the first-ever Spanish Stylebook published by The Associated Press, designed as the go-to reference guide for journalists, writers, editors and scholars of the language spoken by an estimated 450 million people globally.

The online stylebook was presented at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York, with a panel of editors from the news cooperative and other media organizations discussing the intricacies of writing in Spanish.

"I think the media has a moral responsibility to use the correct Spanish, because it is the only thing we can bequeath to future generations," Isaac Lee, news editor for the Spanish-language television station Univision, said at the Monday presentation.

The Spanish Stylebook currently has more than 3,500 entries on topics including finance, sports, entertainment and fashion.

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Former hedge fund manager charged with insider trading in case that may be most lucrative ever

NEW YORK (AP) -- A former hedge fund portfolio manager was arrested Tuesday in what prosecutors called perhaps the most lucrative insider trading scheme of all time -- an arrangement to obtain secret, advance results of tests on an experimental Alzheimer's drug that netted more than $276 million for his fund and others.

The case also led authorities to investigate the activities of one of the nation's wealthiest hedge fund managers, billionaire Steven A. Cohen.

The portfolio manager, Mathew Martoma, was accused in U.S. District Court in Manhattan of using the information to advise other investment professionals to buy shares in the companies developing the drug, then later to dump those investments and place financial bets against the companies when the tests returned disappointing results.

"The charges unsealed today describe cheating coming and going," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference. The scheme unfolded "on a scale that has no historical precedent."

Martoma's trades helped reap a hefty profit from 2006 through July 2008, while he worked for CR Intrinsic Investors LLC of Stamford, Conn., an affiliate of SAC Capital Advisors, a firm owned by Cohen.

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Hostess unable to reach a deal with bakers union; company continues plans to liquidate

NEW YORK (AP) -- Hostess Brands Inc. lived to die another day.

The maker of Twinkies and Ding Dongs said late Tuesday that it failed to reach an agreement with its second-biggest union. As a result, Hostess plans to continue with a hearing on Wednesday in which a bankruptcy court judge in White Plains, N.Y., will decide if the company can shutter its operations.

The renewed talks between Hostess and The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union came after the company declared last week that it would move to wind down its business and start selling off its assets in bankruptcy court. The company cited a crippling strike that was started on Nov. 9 by the union, which represents 30 percent of Hostess workers.

After making its case to liquidate on Monday, the bankruptcy court judge noted that the two sides hadn't yet tried resolving their differences through private mediation. The judge noted that 18,000 jobs were on the line and urged the company and union to try to resolve their differences. Both sides agreed to hold mediation proceedings on Tuesday.

In a statement late Tuesday, Hostess said it would not comment on the breakdown in talks other than to say that mediation "was unsuccessful." A lawyer for the bakers union said he had no comment, citing mediation ground rules.

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Storm damage to thousands of vehicles has created shortage of rental cars at Thanksgiving

NEW YORK (AP) -- Thanksgiving travelers who have yet to rent a car in the Northeast are out of luck: Superstorm Sandy has created a shortage.

The storm has damaged thousands of cars -- including those owned by rental companies. The loss of vehicles has been compounded by rising demand. Thanksgiving and Christmas are normally busy rental periods. And lingering mass transit problems caused by Sandy have added to demand.

Existing reservations are mostly being honored, but people who still want to book for Thanksgiving are finding almost no cars left. The few cars available carry a hefty premium.

Tadd Rosenfeld is flying into New York's LaGuardia airport Wednesday. He couldn't find a car with any major rental company. U-Save was the only one with a car and it wanted nearly $350 a day -- more than his plane ticket from Florida. Now, he is considering renting a moving truck.

"Showing up to Thanksgiving in a U-Haul is worse than showing up with an escort. But at $19 a day, it's tempting," says Rosenfeld, CEO of TeamLauncher.com, an outsourcing company based in Miami.

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Jack Taylor scores 138 points for Division III Grinnell to shatter NCAA scoring record

GRINNELL, Iowa (AP) -- Jack Taylor scored 138 points to shatter the NCAA scoring record in Division III Grinnell's 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible on Tuesday night.

Taylor made 27 of 71 3-point attempts, was 52 of 108 overall from the field and added seven free throws on 10 attempts in 36 minutes.

"It felt like anything I tossed up was going in," said Taylor, a 5-foot-10 sophomore guard from Black River Falls, Wis.

Rio Grande's Bevo Francis held the NCAA scoring record with 113 points against Hillsdale in 1954. In 1953, Francis had 116 against Ashland Junior College. Frank Selvy is the only other player to reach triple figures, scoring 100 points for Division I Furman against Newberry in 1954.

The previous Grinnell record was 89 by Griffin Lentsch last Nov. 19 against Principia.