AP News in Brief at 4:58 a.m. EST

More weather misery for Sandy's victims as new storm bears down on New York City, NJ, NE

NEW YORK (AP) — The nor'easter, as promised, brought gusting winds, rain, snow and the threat of flooding. It menaced travelers with icy roads, snarled the Long Island Rail Road and knocked out power to people who had only recently gotten it back after Superstorm Sandy.

But for the weary, relief is on the way. Joey Picca, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says the unwelcome snow and high winds are slowly moving out of the New York City area. Commuters, though, may have to brave some lingering snowfall Thursday morning.

Faced with more bad weather, some in the storm-ravaged Northeast just shrugged, dug in and stayed put.

Elena McDonnell didn't waste energy worrying about the newest storm, not after living through Sandy last week and still without power in her Staten Island home.

"It isn't scary at all," the 42-year-old said. "This is nothing."

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World stocks mixed as US faces fiscal crunch, China opens weeklong Communist Party congress

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets tumbled Thursday after a ratings agency threatened to downgrade the U.S. if a solution to the so-called fiscal cliff isn't found. But markets elsewhere turned positive following sharp losses the day before.

European shares were higher in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent to 5,805.51. Germany's DAX added 0.3 percent to 7,254.15. France's CAC-40 rose 0.4 percent to 3,425.59.

Wall Street was set to recoup some of Wednesday's steep losses, with Dow Jones industrial futures rising 0.3 percent to 12,897 and S&P 500 futures gaining 0.2 percent to 1,391.70.

Asian stocks sank after a ratings agency threatened to downgrade the U.S. if a solution to the so-called fiscal cliff isn't negotiated among lawmakers and newly re-elected President Barack Obama.

If a deal isn't reached by Jan. 1, tax increases and government spending cuts to the tune of $800 billion automatically take effect. Some economists say such a withdrawal of fiscal stimulus has the potential to throw the world's biggest economy back into recession.

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Obama, congressional leaders talk compromise, lay down markers on coming debt, spending talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Taking little time to celebrate, President Barack Obama is setting out to leverage his re-election into legislative success in an upcoming showdown with congressional Republicans over taxes, deficits and the impending "fiscal cliff." House Speaker John Boehner says Republicans are willing to consider some form of higher tax revenue as part of the solution — but only "under the right conditions."

All sides are setting out opening arguments for the negotiations to come.

Even before returning to Washington from his hometown of Chicago, Obama was on the phone Wednesday with the four top leaders of the House and Senate — Boehner included — to talk about the lame-duck Congress that convenes just one week after Election Day.

Without a budget deal to head off the fiscal showdown, the nation faces a combination of expiring Bush-era tax cuts and steep across-the-board spending cuts that could total $800 billion next year. Economists have warned that could tip the nation back into recession.

Vice President Joe Biden, flying to his home in Delaware from Chicago, told reporters aboard Air Force Two that the White House was "really anxious" to get moving on the problem. He said he'd been making a lot of calls and "people know we've got to get down to work and I think they're ready to move." He didn't identify whom he'd been speaking with but predicted the "fever will break" on past legislative gridlock after some soul-searching by Republicans.

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Judge to sentence man who pleaded guilty in Ariz. 2011 shooting rampage; faces life in prison

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The man who pleaded guilty in the Arizona shooting rampage will be sentenced Thursday for the attack that left six people dead and wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others.

The sentencing hearing will mark the first time that victims will confront Jared Lee Loughner in court about the January 2011 shooting at a Giffords political event outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz.

Prosecutors say an unspecified number of victims will comment before U.S. District Judge Larry Burns sentences Loughner, though it's unknown whether Giffords or her husband plan to attend or have a statement read on their behalf. Three shooting victims have told The Associated Press that they intend to comment at the hearing.

The 24-year-old had pleaded guilty three months ago to 19 federal charges under an agreement that guarantees he will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. The deal calls for the dismissal of 30 other charges and a sentence of seven consecutive life terms, followed by 140 years in prison.

Both sides reached the deal after a judge declared that Loughner was able to understand the charges against him. After the shooting, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and underwent forcible psychotropic drug treatments.

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Obama's health care overhaul now moves quickly to the states, with more hurdles along the way

WASHINGTON (AP) — Its place assured alongside Medicare and Medicaid, President Barack Obama's health care law is now in a sprint to the finish line, with just 11 months to go before millions of uninsured people can start signing up for coverage.

But there are hurdles in the way.

Republican governors, opposed to what they deride as "Obamacare," will have to decide whether they somehow can join the team. And the administration could stumble under the sheer strain of carrying out the complex legislation, or get tripped up in budget talks with Congress.

"The clarity brought about by the election is critical," said Andrew Hyman of the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "We are still going to be struggling through the politics, and there are important policy hurdles and logistical challenges. But we are on a very positive trajectory." Hyman oversees efforts to help states carry out the law.

In the two years since passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration has been consumed with planning and playing political defense. Now it has to quickly turn to execution.

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Guatemalans huddle in cold streets, search rubble for survivors after quake kills at least 48

SAN MARCOS, Guatemala (AP) — Guatemalans fearing aftershocks huddled in the dark and frigid streets of this mountain town wrapped in blankets early Thursday, while others crowded inside its hospital, the only building left with electricity after a powerful earthquake killed at least 48 people and left dozens more missing.

Crews worked through the night in San Marcos, searching rubble for survivors and more dead following the magnitude 7.4 quake that struck Wednesday near Guatemala's border with Mexico.

In the town of San Cristobal Cochu, firefighters picked at a collapsed house trying to dig out 10 members of one family, including a 4-year-old child, who were buried, fire department spokesman Ovidio Perez told the radio station Emisoras Unidas.

Volunteers carrying boxes of medical supplies began arriving in the area in western Guatemalan late Wednesday.

Eblin Cifuentes, a 26-year-old law student, and a group of his classmates already were collecting medical supplies as part of a school drive to provide aid for the only hospital in San Marcos, a poor, mainly indigenous mountain area of subsistence farms. When the quake hit, the group decided to bring everything they had collected.

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Preparing for power transfer, Hu urges China's communists to maintain firm control, curb graft

BEIJING (AP) — President Hu Jintao urged his colleagues in China's ruling Communist Party Thursday to combat official corruption that has stoked public anger, but also told them to maintain firm political control, as he prepared to hand over power after a decade in office.

Hu opened a weeklong party congress with a speech that cited many of the challenges China faces — a rich-poor gap, environmentally ruinous growth and imbalanced development between prosperous cities and a struggling countryside. Yet he offered little fresh thinking to address a flagging economy and meet demands from within the party and the public for more open government.

Instead, the 90-minute, wide-ranging speech gave Hu a chance to define his legacy and lay down policy markers for his successor, Vice President Xi Jinping, while marshaling his clout for the main event at the congress: the backroom politicking to install allies in the collective leadership Xi will lead.

"For Hu Jintao and his leadership, the most important thing is to make sure that he would have as much influence as possible in placing new members in the new generation of leaders," said Ding Xueliang, a Chinese politics expert at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Always an occasion for divisive bargaining, the leadership transition has been fraught, buffeted by scandal and by the sinking economy that has fed public anger over a party increasingly seen as consumed by power and corruption.

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Report: Regime forces battle rebels in far northeastern corner of Syria

ISTANBUL (AP) — Syrian regime forces on Thursday battled opposition rebels trying to take control of a region in the far northeastern corner of the country, sending refugees fleeing across the Turkish border, Turkey's state-run agency reported.

Turkish authorities meanwhile, inspected the cargo of a Syria-bound plane from Armenia to make sure it was not carrying military equipment.

The clashes broke out in the Rasulayn region of al-Hasakah province, a few hundred meters (yards) from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, the Anadolu Agency said.

Several Syrians fled to Ceylanpinar seeking refuge from the fighting and at least eight wounded people were being treated in Turkish hospitals.

Schools in Ceylanpinar were closed for the day as the military increased security measures. Residents were being warned to stay away from the border.

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Rihanna holds her own against top models on Victoria's Secret runway

NEW YORK (AP) — Rihanna rocked the lingerie look at Wednesday night's Victoria's Secret fashion show in New York, providing the highlight of the live-music soundtrack and holding her own on the catwalk with some of the world's top models.

And those models even had props, including Adriana Lima's ringmaster wand, Doutzen Kroes' body cage and several pairs of the oversized wings that the retailer has made its signature. It would be a close contest who got the biggest wings: Toni Garrn's giant poppy pair or Miranda Kerr's swan-style feathered pouf. Only Lily Aldridge could boast star-spangled wings that shot out silver sparkles.

Alessandra Ambrosio's orchid-petal wings might have lacked a little grandeur, but she made up for it with a $2.5 million jeweled "floral fantasy bra."

Still, wearing a sheer pink mini that gave glimpses of her bra, Rihanna sang "Fresh Out the Runway" at the end of the corset-and-garter parade and she was the one to grab the audience's biggest applause.

The fashion show has become a pre-holiday season tradition for the retailer. CBS will turn it into a one-hour special, which also had performances from Justin Bieber and Bruno Mars, to be shown on Dec. 4.

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Still perfect in Miami: Heat 4-0 at home for 1st time after topping Nets, 103-73

MIAMI (AP) — In 25 seasons of Miami Heat basketball, the club had never won its first four home games of any season.

That is, until now.

And the Heat are making it look easy.

Dwyane Wade scored 22 points on 10 for 14 shooting, LeBron James finished two assists shy of a triple-double and the Heat clamped down defensively again to beat the Brooklyn Nets 103-73 on Wednesday night.

Miami scored 31 points off Brooklyn turnovers, and starting with the final minute of the first half, the Heat outscored the Nets 57-32.

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