Anchorage prepares for snow dump
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- A storm brought snow to Alaska's largest city early Thursday, with forecasters saying the system could leave nearly a foot-and-a-half of the white stuff in a city that's already been hard-hit this winter season.
The National Weather Service predicted a snowfall of 8-16 inches in Anchorage, with the city's upper Hillside neighborhoods predicted to get the bulk of the snow.
It began snowing shortly before midnight, and the weather service said about 1 a.m. that the snowfall had so far been intermittent. Forecasters expect the heaviest snow between 3 a.m. and noon.
The weather service counts a snow year from July to June. From July 1 through Tuesday, Anchorage has received 81.3 inches of snow. Meteorologist Shaun Baines says this makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.
If this pace keeps up through the last snows in either April or May, Anchorage is on track to have the snowiest winter ever, surpassing the previous record of 132.8 inches in 1954-55, Baines said.
Cordova, a Prince William Sound community about 150 miles southeast of Anchorage, has already been buried under 172 inches of snow since Nov. 1 and is trying to dig out from recent storms.
And residents there should brace for new snow, at least 4-7 inches, in Thursday's storm, Baines said.
City officials in Cordova, a picturesque fishing community, already have learned that a regular shovel just won't cut it when you're digging out from nearly 15 feet of snow.
There were plenty of standard shovels around town. But what they needed was a larger version with a scoop that can push a cubic foot of snow or better at a time.
"That's what's missing in Alaska," city spokesman Tim Joyce said Wednesday.
Attacking Romney as a fat cat businessman may not resonate in business-friendly South Carolina
LEXINGTON, S.C. (AP) -- At first glance, South Carolina seems like a place where attacks on Mitt Romney's experience at the helm of a venture capital firm that cut jobs would resonate in the GOP primary.
The state's unemployment rate hasn't been below 9 percent in three years and a third of its manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the last decade.
But from South Carolina's urban centers to its old mill villages, many workers still view their employers paternalistically, even when their bosses' decisions hurt them. And that may blunt the criticism that Romney is a greedy fat cat who squashes employees while lining his own pockets.
In South Carolina, people have little sympathy for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Low wages and lack of unions are the norm, so much so that economic developers refused to even recruit companies to the state in the 1960s and 1970s if they allowed unions. Less than 5 percent of the state's workers belong to a labor union, one of the lowest rates in the nation, and income per person is just over $33,000, about $7,000 below the national average.
"Once you get hired, the employer has done his part," Kenneth Dock, 59, said outside the unemployment office in Lexington County, a heavily Republican area on the outskirts of Columbia. He was filing for unemployment a few weeks after losing his job in the produce department at a nearby Walmart.
Taliban says ready for Afghan peace talks, but they won't mean end to fighting
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Taliban's political wing is ready to enter peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan, but the insurgents will in the meantime continue their armed struggle, the group said Thursday.
The militant movement's emailed statement suggests that efforts to bring Afghan factions to the table are gathering momentum, but also highlights some of the roadblocks on the way to any settlement -- in particular, the Taliban's insistence that the government of President Hamid Karzai is an illegitimate "stooge" of the West.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the militants had been fighting for the past 15 years to establish an Islamic government in Afghanistan "in accordance with the request of its people."
"It is for this purpose and for bringing about peace and stability in Afghanistan that we have increased our political efforts to come to mutual understanding with the world in order to solve the current ongoing situation," Mujahid said in an emailed statement.
"But this understanding does not mean a surrender from jihad and neither is it connected to an acceptance of the constitution of the stooge Kabul administration."
After New York encampment ends, Occupiers debate if all among them deserve free food and shelter
NEW YORK (AP) -- It was only a few nights after the Occupy protesters began sleeping in his church sanctuary when Pastor Bob Brashears realized that his laptop was missing.
The refugees from Manhattan's Zuccotti Park had found their way to his cavernous Presbyterian church on a cold winter evening, hoping to stay for a few nights, maybe longer. It was the latest stopover for the nomadic group, which has been living in a rotating series of churches since Mayor Michael Bloomberg shut down their camp in November.
"There was a sense of shock and sadness that it had happened," said Brashears, whose laptop will soon be replaced by Occupy organizers. "And there's a common understanding that if there's one more theft in the church, that's it."
This is what the Occupy encampment has become: A band of homeless protesters with no place to go. Amid accusations of drug use and sporadic theft, they've been sleeping on church pews for weeks, consuming at least $20,000 of the funds that Occupy Wall Street still has in its coffers. Their existence is being hotly debated at Occupy meetings: Are these people truly "Occupiers" who deserve free food and a roof over their heads?
"We don't do this out of charity," said 34-year-old Ravi Ahmad, who works for Columbia University and volunteers with Occupy in her spare time. "We do this so that whoever wants to work in the movement can work in the movement. This is a meritocracy."
As young leader rises, North Korea signals it's open to deal with US but wary of giving up nukes
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- At first glance, it seems like business as usual: North Korea issues an indignant statement taking aim at the United States over a proposal to donate food in return for nuclear disarmament.
But between the lines are glimmers of conciliation. In its diatribe this week questioning Washington's generosity and earnestness, North Korea suggests it remains open to suspending a uranium enrichment program if it can get the food it wants.
Deciphering North Korea's intentions is notoriously difficult, and has been made even more so since the death of longtime ruler Kim Jong Il and the subsequent installation of his young, inexperienced son, Kim Jong Un, at the top.
But how it handles talks with Washington over its food crisis and a decades-old standoff over its nuclear weapons program will provide the strongest clues yet about how the country will behave as it extends the Kim dynasty into a third generation -- whether it will lean toward provocation or reconciliation and how tightly it will cling to its nuclear program.
North Korea's neighbors and Washington are watching to see whether Kim Jong Un can consolidate power over a nation that proudly trumpets its efforts to build nuclear weapons and has a history of aggression against its southern neighbor and rival. There are fears that North Korea could seek to build Kim Jong Un's credentials, and generate a sense of national unity, by conducting a missile or nuclear test or staging an attack on South Korea.
Penn State president offers comforting words but few answers for alumni at town hall meeting
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Penn State University President Rodney Erickson had comforting words but few answers to tough questions at a town hall meeting Wednesday evening in Pittsburgh.
Erickson is attempting to repair the school's image more than two months after former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's arrest on sex abuse charges brought controversy, criticism and contemplation to Penn State.
Erickson was greeted by polite applause at the 90-minute meeting, the first of three sessions with alumni this week. He said critics have accused the university of having problems with openness and communication but that the school "will do better in the future."
But Jean Spadacene was shocked to learn that Erickson hasn't even spoken to Joe Paterno since the longtime coach was fired in early November.
"I would think one of the first things on his to-do list would be to send a note to Joe. And he didn't do that," she said.