Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, warm weather, free meals lighten burden of Superstorm Sandy
NEW YORK (AP) -- Victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York and elsewhere in the Northeast were comforted Thursday by kinder weather, free holiday meals and -- for some -- front row seats to the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
"It means a lot," said Karen Panetta, of the hard-hit Broad Channel section of Queens, as she sat in a special viewing section set aside for New Yorkers displaced by the storm.
"We're thankful to be here and actually be a family and to feel like life's a little normal today," she said.
The popular Macy's parade, attended by more than 3 million people and watched by 50 million on TV, included such giant balloons as Elf on a Shelf and Papa Smurf, a new version of Hello Kitty, Buzz Lightyear, Sailor Mickey Mouse and the Pillsbury Doughboy. Real-life stars included singer Carly Rae Jepsen and Rachel Crow of "The X Factor."
The young, and the young at heart, were delighted by the sight and sound of marching bands, performers and, of course, the giant balloons. The sunny weather quickly surpassed 50 degrees.
AP PHOTOS: From New York to Afghanistan, a look at Thanksgiving
The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade marched a festive mood into a city still coping with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, while in the outer boroughs and New Jersey, volunteers served up hot holiday meals to storm victims.
In Afghanistan, huge hunks of beef, dressing, corn, collard greens, yams and mashed potatoes with gravy greeted about 2,500 soldiers in the dining hall. Nearby, service members played football.
Meanwhile, stores that typically open early Friday were getting a head start on Thanksgiving evening, hoping Americans would be willing to shop soon after they polish off their pumpkin pie.
Here's a photo gallery of Thanksgiving celebrations:
More stores usher in holiday start on Turkey Day but criticism grows
NEW YORK (AP) -- Put down that turkey leg. It's time to shop. No, really.
Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving that's named Black Friday for the period 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 during from 8 p.m. and will stay open until 10 p.m. on Black Friday. And Toys R Us will be opening at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than last year.
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 the International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers.
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."
Death in the 'cruel cage': Cries of an Iranian blogger and the powers of the cyber crackdown
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- In his last blog entry, activist Sattar Beheshti wrote that Iranian authorities had given him an ultimatum: Either stop posting his "big mouth" attacks against the ruling system or tell his mother that she will soon be in mourning.
"We will tear down your cruel cage," Beheshti typed on Oct. 29 before signing off.
A day later he was arrested. Within a week, his family had collected his body. They began calls for an investigation that have been echoed by Washington, European allies and rights groups.
Arrests of activists and claims of abuse in detention are commonplace in Iran, but deaths behind bars are much rarer. Iran's judiciary responded to the growing pressure and authorized an investigation. It claims three of Beheshti's interrogators have been arrested while post-mortem reports are studied.
But while the specific circumstances of Beheshti's death may be given a public reckoning, the more far-reaching aspect of the case -- Iran's rapidly growing corps of Web watchers -- may remain in the shadows, as well as their motives in targeting an obscure blogger whose site was actively followed by more than a few dozen viewers.
Egypt's president issues constitutional amendments, granting himself far-reaching powers
CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's Islamist president unilaterally decreed greater authorities for himself Thursday and effectively neutralized a judicial system that had emerged as a key opponent by declaring that the courts are barred from challenging his decisions.
Riding high on U.S. and international praise for mediating a Gaza cease-fire, Mohammed Morsi put himself above oversight and gave protection to the Islamist-led assembly writing a new constitution from a looming threat of dissolution by court order.
But the move is likely to fuel growing public anger that he and his Muslim Brotherhood are seizing too much power.
In what was interpreted by rights activists as a de facto declaration of emergency law, one of Morsi's decrees gave him the power to take "due measures and steps" to deal with any "threat" to the revolution, national unity and safety or anything that obstructs the work of state institutions.
Morsi framed his decisions as necessary to protect the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago and to cement the nation's transition to democratic rule. Many activists, including opponents of the Brotherhood, criticize the judiciary as packed with judges and prosecutors sympathetic to Mubarak. Brotherhood supporters accuse the courts of trying to block their agenda.
Party leaders, analysts see risks in crowded field to replace Illinois US Rep. Jackson Jr.
CHICAGO (AP) -- The jockeying to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. began before the ink was dry on the former congressman's resignation letter.
Among those expressing an interest: Chicago aldermen, a former NFL linebacker and a defense attorney who represented R&B singer R. Kelly and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
But as the field of would-be successors grows to a dozen or more names -- one of whom may be another member of the Jackson family -- party leaders and political analysts say a stampede of candidates could pose risks for the Democratic stronghold. Spread the field of candidates too thin, they say, and it becomes easier for a more conservative candidate -- or anyone else party leaders don't want -- to pull off a win.
The possibility so worried Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush, a close friend of the Jacksons, that within hours of the resignation he had these words for anyone thinking of running: "Cool your jets."
"My fear is that there is going to be so many wannabes blinded by ambition ... that we could find a tea party (candidate winning)," he said during a news conference. "That would be a travesty."
100-vehicle pileup in dense fog kills 2, injures dozens, forces closure of SE Texas highway
BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) -- Two people died and more than 80 people were hurt Thursday when at least 100 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.
Officials at Acadian Ambulance service said at least 51 people have been taken to area hospitals and at least eight are critically hurt.
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.
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.
Doctor says boxer 'Macho' Camacho is brain dead; family puts off decision on life support
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Famed Puerto Rican boxer Hector "Macho" Camacho is clinically brain dead, doctors said Thursday, but family members disagreed on whether to take him off life support and two of the fighter's aunts said later that relatives had agreed to wait two more days.
Dr. Ernesto Torres said doctors had no more medical tests to perform on Camacho, who was shot in the face Tuesday night.
"We have done everything we could," said Torres, who is director of the Centro Medico trauma center in San Juan. "We have to tell the people of Puerto Rico and the entire world that Macho Camacho has died, he is brain dead."
He said at a news conference Thursday morning that Camacho's father indicated he wanted the boxer taken off life support and his organs donated, but other relatives opposed the idea.
"This is a very difficult moment," Torres said.