AP News in Brief at 5:58 p.m. EDT

Sunday, September 5, 2010

AP News in Brief at 5:58 p.m. EDT

Future hiring will generate mainly high-skilled or low-paying jobs in service industries

Whenever companies start hiring freely again, job-seekers with specialized skills and education will have plenty of good opportunities. Others will face a choice: Take a job with low pay — or none at all.

Job creation will likely remain weak for months or even years. But once employers do step up hiring, some economists expect job openings to fall mainly into two categories of roughly equal numbers:

— Professional fields with higher pay. Think lawyers, research scientists and software engineers.

— Lower-skill and lower-paying jobs, like home health care aides and store clerks.

And those in between? Their outlook is bleaker. Economists foresee fewer moderately paid factory supervisors, postal workers and office administrators.

Congo boat safety questioned as 2 unrelated boat capsizes leave 70 dead, 200 feared dead

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Two boat capsizes in one weekend on Congo’s vast rivers have left 70 people dead and 200 others feared dead in unrelated incidents that were both characterized by heavily loaded boats operated with few safety measures, officials said Sunday.

Early Saturday, a boat on a river in northwest Equateur Province hit a rock and capsized, provincial spokeswoman Ebale Engumba said Sunday. She said more than 70 people are believed dead among 100 estimated passengers. She said officials are investigating why the boat was traveling through the darkness without a light.

Another boat tipping in Kasai Occidental Province left 200 people feared dead after the boat loaded with passengers and fuel drums caught fire and capsized in southern Congo, a survivor said Sunday. Another survivor confirmed the account and said local fishermen refused to help drowning passengers who jumped off the crowded boat.

The incident in southern Congo would be the deadliest boat accident in the Central African nation this year, and among the worst in Africa this year.

The boats that traverse Congo’s rivers are often in poor repair and filled beyond capacity. The industry is not well-regulated and boat operators are known to fill boats to dangerous levels.

Failed blowout preventer, a key piece of evidence in Gulf oil spill probe, brought to surface

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO (AP) — Investigators looking into what went wrong in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill are a step closer to answers now that a key piece of evidence is secure aboard a ship.

Engineers took 29½ hours to lift the 50-foot, 300-ton blowout preventer from a mile beneath the sea. The five-story high device breached the water’s surface at 6:54 p.m. CDT, and looked largely intact with black stains on the yellow metal.

FBI agents were among the 137 people aboard the Helix Q4000 vessel, taking photos and video of the device. They will escort it back to a NASA facility in Louisiana for analysis.

The AP was the only news outlet with a print reporter and photographer on board the ship.

The blowout preventer was placed into a metal contraption specifically designed to hold the massive device at 9:16 p.m. CDT Saturday. As it was maneuvered into place, crew members were silent and water dripped off the device.

Despite formal end to combat, US forces help battle attackers at Baghdad military headquarters

BAGHDAD (AP) — Days after the U.S. officially ended combat operations and touted Iraq’s ability to defend itself, American troops found themselves battling heavily armed militants assaulting an Iraqi military headquarters in the center of Baghdad on Sunday. The fighting killed 12 people and wounded dozens.

It was the first exchange of fire involving U.S. troops in Baghdad since the Aug. 31 deadline for formally ending the combat mission, and it showed that American troops remaining in the country are still being drawn into the fighting.

The attack also made plain the kind of lapses in security that have left Iraqis wary of the U.S. drawdown and distrustful of the ability of Iraqi forces now taking up ultimate responsibility for protecting the country.

Sunday’s hour-long assault was the second in as many weeks on the facility, the headquarters for the Iraqi Army’s 11th Division, pointing to the failure of Iraqi forces to plug even the most obvious holes in their security.

Two of the four attackers even managed to fight their way inside the compound and were only killed after running out of ammunition and detonating explosives belts they were wearing.

Republicans count on gains in Senate by riding either tea party or establishment candidates

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — In the turbulent year of the tea party, Republican Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware set out to jangle no nerves as he ran for a Senate seat long held by Vice President Joseph Biden. It’s the way Republican strategists originally envisioned 2010, a roster of seasoned politicians pointing the party toward significant gains in the Senate.

“He brings our style of civility and independence to Washington and works to develop solutions,” is the soothing, even quaint message on the 71-year-old lawmaker’s campaign website, which shows him in a suit and tie, working alone at his desk. Experience “is hugely important,” he said in an interview.

After two terms as governor and nine as the state’s lone congressman, Castle appears better positioned than other veterans who faced a tea party-backed challenge this year. If he prevails over Christine O’Donnell on Sept. 14 — he and GOP officials have launched a fierce counterattack — he would join more than a half-dozen other veteran Republican officeholders on the ballot in Senate races.

In matters of style as well as policy and political experience, they are the polar opposite of Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sharron Angle of Nevada and Ken Buck in Colorado. Those three tapped into an anti-government sentiment, espouse politically risky positions, won primaries over establishment candidates, and now face difficult races in the fall.

No matter the blend of candidates that Republicans end up with, a persistently weak economy and voter anger add up to enough competitive races to give them at least an outside chance of winning Senate control. Already, a constellation of outside groups is spending heavily on television in Senate races, including more than $5 million this summer for two groups backed by former George W. Bush political adviser Karl Rove.

Who will define ground zero? 9 years after 9/11, tug of war over ’sacred ground’ grows heated

NEW YORK (AP) — It is a place of sacrifice. A place of mourning. A place people pass by on their way to grab lunch. It’s a place where tourists crane their necks to snatch a glimpse around barriers walling off an enormous construction site — which is also what it is.

Ground zero.

Depending on whom you talk to, it’s a scar on this city where horror still lingers, a bustling hive symbolizing the resilience of a nation, or simply, for those who live and work nearby, a place where life goes on.

In recent weeks, as debate has raged over the placement of a planned Islamic cultural center and mosque a couple of blocks from the construction, Americans have been reminded of just how many people lay claim to this place, the focal point for all those who have a stake in the legacy of Sept. 11.

Almost everyone has a stake.

Officials say at least 38 die in Guatemala mudslides; 2 buses buried on highway

NAHUALA, Guatemala (AP) — Torrential rains from a tropical depression caused landslides that have killed at least 38 people in Guatemala — some of them rescuers trying to save people already buried under a wall of mud.

In the village of Nahuala, about 200 rescue workers searched through mud and rocks for bodies Sunday after two slides in the same spot killed at least 20 along a highway leading northwest of the capital toward Mexico. Another slide closer to Guatemala City killed at least 12.

Suagustino Pascual Tuy, a Nahuala police officer, said he and several others rushed to the highway with picks and shovels after hearing radio reports of the fallen earth, which had buried two pickup trucks and a bus at kilometer 171 of the Inter-American highway.

Pascual Tuy said the crowds were able to rescue several people alive including his nephew, who was driving one of the pickups.

“He is in critical condition, but thank God we were able to get him out alive,” he said.

As Chilean miners below await rescue, strains test ties of families above

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile (AP) — While a fire warms their campsite, the icy feeling between Cristina Nunez Macias and her mother-in-law is as palpable as the cold Atacama desert.

Both women are here to support the same man, 34-year-old Claudio Yanez, one of the 33 trapped miners in Northern Chile. But they barely acknowledge each other, thanks to wounds created many years ago, and have been fighting over who should get Yanez’s salary and donations that have come from all over Chile.

“We have barely spoken in six years,” said Macias. “And now she thinks the donations and help should go to her? No way.”

The miners themselves passed the one-month mark underground on Sunday — apparently longer than any other trapped miners have ever had to endure — and they still face more weeks or months before rescue. The strain also has shaken the fault lines in their families above. Some squabble over who should get the miners’ August wage, who should share in the donated food.

The local government has been forced to institute several measures: The miners were asked to send up a note designating who could get their $1,600 (800,000 peso) salary for August. There are separate bank accounts for each miner, which no family member can touch.

‘Quiet’ smart phone maker HTC starts to build brand as it competes with iPhone

BEIJING (AP) — East Asia is the world’s electronics factory, yet unless they are Japanese, producers are largely anonymous. Now HTC Corp., a Taiwanese maker of smart phones, is moving out of the shadows and trying to establish its own brand name as it competes with Apple’s iPhone.

HTC supplies U.S. carriers Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile but says a year ago only one in 10 Americans knew its name. With the help of marketing by cellular carriers and HTC’s own television ads during the baseball World Series, HTC says that number is up to 40 percent.

“We want to be one of the leaders,” said John Wang, the 13-year-old company’s chief marketing officer.

In trying to establish a global brand, HTC is following in the footsteps of another Taiwanese company, Acer Inc., which is battling Dell Inc. for the title of second-largest personal computer maker. Other rising Taiwanese technology names include software producer Trend Micro Inc. and Asustek Computer Inc., a maker of PCs and cell phones.

HTC’s path to its own brand has been complicated by U.S. carriers’ preference for many years to market its phones under their own brands.

Williams struggles, Clijsters cruises to advance to quarterfinals at US Open

NEW YORK (AP) — Venus Williams struggled with her serve. She kept tugging at her dress. Every bit as big a nuisance was her opponent, Shahar Peer.

On a Sunday afternoon in which No. 2 Kim Clijsters cruised to her victory at the U.S. Open, third-seeded Williams never looked quite comfortable in hers. She defeated 16th-seeded Shahar Peer 7-6 (3), 6-3 on the second straight windy day in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Williams got only 48 percent of her first serves in. She faced six break points and lost three. She squandered five chances to wrap up the first set in a 22-point 12th game. As for the dress — a red “daytime” version of the black, sequined number she wore two nights previously — well, she spent much of the match tugging at it to keep it at barely high-thigh level.

“No,” she said when asked if the dress bothered her. “The only thing that bothered me was when I didn’t win the point, I think. That was it.”

After the Williams match, No. 1 Rafael Nadal took the court and experienced no such trouble. He faced only one break point — and saved it, in the final game — in a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Frenchman Gilles Simon. Nadal has gone 46-for-46 in service games through his first three U.S. Open matches.

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