AP News in Brief at 8:58 p.m. EDT

Northeast buttons up against terrifying megastorm; tens of thousands warned to clear out

SHIP BOTTOM, N.J. (AP) — Shelters opened and tens of thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate coastal areas Sunday as big cities and small towns across the Northeast buttoned up against the onslaught of a superstorm threatening some 50 million people in the most heavily populated corridor in the nation.

"The time for preparing and talking is about over," Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate warned as a monster Hurricane Sandy headed up the Eastern Seaboard on a collision course with two other weather systems. "People need to be acting now."

New York City announced its subways, buses and trains would stop running Sunday night because of the danger of flooding, and its 1.1 million-student school system would be closed on Monday. Mayor Michael Bloomberg also ordered the evacuation of part of lower Manhattan and other low-lying neighborhoods.

"If you don't evacuate, you are not only endangering your life, you are also endangering the lives of the first responders who are going in to rescue you," he said. "This is a serious and dangerous storm."

Tens of thousands of people along the coast in Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut and other threatened areas were also under orders to clear out because of the danger of as much as a foot of rain, punishing winds of 80 mph or higher and a potentially deadly wall of water 4 to 11 feet high.

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5 reasons why Sandy is expected to be a superstorm, cause havoc across eastern US

1. A NORTHBOUND HURRICANE

Hurricane Sandy is moving slowly northeast and but is expected to turn to the north and west later Sunday and Monday, forecasters say. At some point, it's expected to become what's known as an extratropical storm. Unlike a hurricane, which gets its power from warm ocean waters, extratropical systems are driven by temperature contrasts in the atmosphere.

Although Sandy is a hurricane, it's important not to focus too much on its official category or its precise path (current models show it making landfall over New Jersey or Delaware sometime early Tuesday). Louis Uccellini, environmental prediction chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press that given Sandy's east-to-west track into New Jersey, the worst of the storm surge could be just to the north, in New York City, on Long Island and in northern New Jersey.

Boston and Philadelphia should expect the worst storm conditions Monday afternoon into Tuesday morning.

It's a massive system that will affect a huge swath of the eastern U.S., regardless of exactly where it hits or its precise wind speed. For example, tropical storm-force winds can be felt more than 500 miles from the storm's center, according to the National Hurricane Center. It's already caused some minor flooding in North Carolina's Outer Banks and has prompted evacuations elsewhere. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has personnel and supplies spread as far west as the Ohio River Valley, said Craig Fugate, the agency's director.

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Romney, Obama reshuffle plans for campaign's final week as massive storm approaches

CELINA, Ohio (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama frantically sought to close the deal with voters with precious few days left in an incredibly close race as this year's October surprise — an unprecedented storm menacing the East Coast — wreaked havoc on their best-laid plans.

Ever mindful of his narrow path to the requisite 270 electoral votes, Romney looked to expand his map, weighing an intensified effort in traditionally left-leaning Minnesota. Obama sought to defend historically Democratic turf as the race tightened heading into the final week.

Wary of being seen as putting their political pursuits ahead of public safety, the two White House hopefuls reshuffled their campaign plans as the storm approached. Both candidates were loath to forfeit face time with voters in battleground states like Virginia that are likely to be afflicted when Hurricane Sandy, a winter storm and a cold front collide to form a freak hybrid storm.

"The storm will throw havoc into the race," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

Obama, preparing to depart for Florida Sunday, a day early to beat the storm, got an update from disaster relief officials before speaking by phone to affected governors and mayors.

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A week before Election Day, Obama has an edge in fight for 270 electoral votes needed to win

AMES, Iowa (AP) — President Barack Obama is poised to eke out a victory in the race for the 270 electoral votes needed to win re-election, having beaten back Republican Mitt Romney's attempts to convert momentum from the debates into support in all-important Ohio, according to an Associated Press analysis a week before Election Day.

While the Democratic incumbent has the upper hand in the electoral vote hunt, Romney has pulled even, or is slightly ahead, in polling in a few pivotal states, including Florida and Virginia. The Republican challenger also appears to have the advantage in North Carolina, the most conservative of the hotly contested nine states that will determine the winner.

While in a tight race with Obama for the popular vote, Romney continues to have fewer state-by-state paths than Obama to reach 270. Without Ohio's 18 electoral votes, Romney would need last-minute victories in nearly all the remaining up-for-grabs states and manage to pick off key states now leaning Obama's way, such as Iowa or Wisconsin.

To be sure, anything can happen in the coming days to influence the Nov. 6 election.

The AP analysis isn't intended to predict the outcome. Rather, it's meant to provide a snapshot of a race that has been stubbornly close in the small number of competitive states all year. The analysis is based on public polls and internal campaign surveys as well as spending on television advertising, candidate visits, get-out-the-vote organizations and interviews with dozens of Republican and Democratic strategists in Washington and in the most contested states.

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Getting by: On election eve, looking at an uneasy economy and the people who live it

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Here was Chas Kaufmann's life before the Great Recession: $28,000 in restaurant tabs in a year, cruises, house parties with fireworks. His Mr. Gutter business was booming in the Pennsylvania Poconos.

Now: "We mainly shop at Sam's Club and portion out our meals. We spend $4 to $5 a night on eating." He and his wife use space heaters in their elegant house and leave parts of it cold. The Hummer is gone, and he drives a 2005 pickup. On Nov. 6, Kaufman is voting for Mitt Romney.

Lower down the ladder, the recession put Simone Ludlow's life in a full circle. Laid off by an Atlanta hotel company in 2009, Ludlow, 32, bounced from job to job for two years, got by with a "very generous mother," still makes do by renting a room in a house owned by friends, and is back working for the company that had let her go. She's voting for President Barack Obama.

For four years, the bumpy economy cut an uneasy path. It raked small towns and big cities, knocked liberals and conservatives on their backs, plagued Republicans and Democrats alike.

It was the worst economic setback since the Depression, and it didn't take sides.

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In civil case, 2 suspects wrongly convicted in 1977 Iowa killing to argue they were framed

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Two black men wrongly convicted in the 1977 murder of a white Iowa police officer hope to prove something they couldn't during trials that sent them to prison for 25 years: that detectives framed them to solve a high-profile case.

During a civil trial that starts Wednesday in Des Moines, Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee will argue that Council Bluffs police officers coerced witnesses into fabricating testimony against them in the killing of John Schweer.

Schweer was found dead while working as the night watchman at a car dealership. Harrington and McGhee, then teenagers from neighboring Omaha, Neb., say detectives used threats against a group of young black car theft suspects to trump up evidence targeting them because of their race and pressure to solve the retired captain's killing.

Despite little physical evidence, Harrington and McGhee were convicted at 1978 trials and sentenced to long prison terms. They were freed in 2003, after the Iowa Supreme Court found that prosecutors committed misconduct in concealing reports about another man seen near the crime scene with a shotgun. The key witnesses had also recanted their testimony, saying they were pressured into implicating the men.

After winning their freedom, they filed lawsuits against prosecutors and officers they blamed for forcing them to spend their adult lives in the Fort Madison prison. Their case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 over the issue of whether suspects have the constitutional right not to be framed by prosecutors. Before justices ruled, Pottawatamie County agreed to pay $12 million to settle claims against two former prosecutors while not admitting wrongdoing.

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Longtime suspect set to be freed in Etan Patz case while new suspect remains in limbo

NEW YORK (AP) — While prosecutors weigh what to do about a suspect who surprisingly surfaced this spring in the landmark 1979 disappearance case of Etan Patz, the man who was the prime suspect for years is about to go free after more than two decades in prison for molesting other children.

These two threads in the tangled story are set to cross next month, a twist that evokes decades of uncertainties and loose ends in the search for what happened to the sandy-haired 6-year-old last seen walking to his Manhattan school bus stop.

The new suspect, Pedro Hernandez, has been charged with Etan's murder after police said he emerged as a suspect and confessed this spring. But there's no public indication that authorities have found anything beyond his admission to implicate him, and his lawyer has said Hernandez is mentally ill.

The Pennsylvania inmate, Jose Ramos, was declared responsible for Etan's death in a civil court, but the Manhattan district attorney's office has said there wasn't enough evidence to charge him criminally. After serving 25 years on child molestation convictions in Pennsylvania, he's set to be freed Nov. 7, about a week before prosecutors are due to indicate whether they believe there's evidence enough to keep going after Hernandez.

It stands to be a coincidence fraught with anguish for Etan's parents, who brought a successful wrongful death lawsuit against Ramos, and for the former federal prosecutor who went to lengths to pursue him. At the same time, it offers a glimmer of vindication for Ramos, who has denied involvement in the boy's disappearance, though authorities have said he made incriminating remarks about it.

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After space station trip, Dragon ship splashes down on Earth bearing astronauts' blood, urine

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — An unmanned Dragon freighter carrying a stash of precious medical samples from the International Space Station parachuted into the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, completing the first official shipment under a billion-dollar contract with NASA.

The California-based SpaceX company successfully guided the Dragon down from orbit to a splashdown a few hundred miles off the Baja California coast.

"This historic mission signifies the restoration of America's ability to deliver and return critical space station cargo," Elon Musk, the billionaire founder and head of SpaceX, said in a statement.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden praised the "American ingenuity" that made the endeavor possible.

Several hours earlier, astronauts aboard the International Space Station used a giant robot arm to release the commercial cargo ship 255 miles up. SpaceX provided updates of the journey back to Earth via Twitter.

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Giants win again at Cowboys Stadium, 29-24 in comeback unlike any under Eli Manning

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The New York Giants are still undefeated at Cowboys Stadium after another comeback victory under Eli Manning.

None were quite like this one, the 20th time in Manning's career the Giants rallied from behind in the fourth quarter.

Lawrence Tynes kicked two of his five field goals in the fourth quarter and the NFC East-leading Giants won 29-24 Sunday after blowing a 23-point lead — and before the Cowboys thought they had a game-winning play with 10 seconds left.

New York (6-2) led 23-0 just 2 minutes into the second quarter when defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown. That was the third of four interceptions thrown by Tony Romo, and among six turnovers by Dallas (3-4).

But the Giants didn't score again until Tynes made a 43-yard field goal with 10:20 left for a 26-24 lead. He added a 37-yarder with 3½ minutes left after Stevie Brown recovered a fumble, and yet that still wasn't enough even though Brown had his second interception of the game after that.

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Matt Cain on mound as Giants go for World Series sweep and 2nd title in 3 years

Believe it or not, the World Series could end tonight.

Seems as though it just started.

San Francisco ace Matt Cain will be on the mound at chilly Comerica Park as the Giants go for a four-game sweep of Detroit and their second championship in three years. First pitch coming up at 8:15 p.m. EDT.

Cain has already pitched a pair of clinchers in this postseason, earning the win in Game 5 of the division series against Cincinnati and Game 7 of the NLCS against St. Louis. A victory tonight would mark the perfect finish for Cain — who pitched a perfect game in June against Houston.

Max Scherzer gets the ball for the slumping Tigers, who are hitting .165 in the Series after getting shut out in each of the past two games.

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