Nation briefs 10/14/12

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LOS ANGELES -- After slowly surmounting a key obstacle, the shuttle Endeavour maintained a heading Saturday through the streets of Los Angeles toward its retirement home at a museum.

Endeavour's final mission began when it departed from the Los Angeles International Airport before dawn Friday, rolling on a 160-wheeled carrier past diamond-shaped "Shuttle Xing" signs.

Around midnight, it traveled over a bridge across Interstate 405, an especially tricky part of the complicated journey because of the size of the space craft and width of the bridge. Friday evening it stopped as crews spent hours transferring the shuttle to a special, lighter towing dolly.

The shuttle was pulled across the Manchester Boulevard bridge by a Toyota Tundra pickup, and the car company filmed the event for a commercial after paying for a permit, turning the entire scene into a movie set complete with special lighting, sound and staging.

Police stopped traffic on the freeway below for the duration of the traverse, which took about three minutes.

Crews preparing for the crossing had to take down power lines, leaving about 400 residents of surrounding Inglewood without power for what was expected to be several hours.

Seek source of oil sheen: Federal officials said late Friday they have approved a joint plan from BP and Transocean to identify the source of a sheen in the Gulf of Mexico associated with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Officials said in a news release that the federal on-site coordinator approved the joint plan on Thursday. Coast Guard Capt. Duke Walker had required the plan, and federal officials informed BP and Transocean they might be held responsible for the costs of identifying the source and the cleanup. Federal scientists and BP say oil appears to have leaked last month from the drilling wreckage lying at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico near where a BP well blew out in 2010, causing the nation's worst offshore spill. A probe started after a sheen was discovered Sept. 16 in the waters near the site indicates the oil may have seeped from a mile-long metal tube, called the riser, which connected the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to the Macondo well.

Texas woman given 99 years: A Dallas, Texas woman who beat her two-year-old daughter and glued the toddler's hands to a wall was sentenced Friday in Dallas to 99 years in prison by a judge who described his decision as a necessary punishment for a brutal, shocking attack. Elizabeth Escalona did not immediately react as State District Judge Larry Mitchell pronounced the sentence at the end of a five-day hearing. Prosecutor Eren Price, who originally offered Escalona a plea deal for 45 years, had argued that she now thought the 23-year-old mother deserved life. Mitchell said his decision came down to one thing. "On Sept. 7, 2011, you savagely beat your child to the edge of death," Mitchell said. "For this you must be punished." The beating left Jocelyn Cedillo in a coma for a couple of days.

Obama campaign office fired upon: Denver, Colo. police say someone has fired a shot through the window of President Barack Obama's Denver campaign office. Police spokesman Raquel Lopez says people were inside the office when the shooting happened Friday afternoon, but no one was injured. A large panel of glass was left shattered at the office on West Ninth Avenue near Acoma Street. Lopez says investigators are looking at surveillance video but have not yet confirmed a description of a vehicle that might be linked to the shooting. Police didn't immediately release other details while detectives pursue leads.

Land set aside for solar projects: Federal officials on Friday approved a plan that sets aside 445 square miles of public land for the development of large-scale solar power plants, cementing a new government approach to renewable energy development in the West after years of delays and false starts. At a news conference in Las Vegas, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called the new plan a "roadmap ... that will lead to faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on public lands." The plan replaces the department's previous first-come, first-served system of approving solar projects, which let developers choose where they wanted to build utility-scale solar sites and allowed for land speculation. The government is establishing 17 new "solar energy zones" on 285,000 acres in six states: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. More than half of the land -- 153,627 acres -- is in Southern California. Interior also established 19 million acres -- nearly 30,000 square miles -- of so-called "variance zones" that will allow developers to propose solar projects in those areas.

Thousands protest austerity in Spain: Several thousand anti-austerity protesters in Spain marched down a major street in Madrid banging pots and pans Saturday. Many protesters also blew whistles as they blocked part of the Castellana boulevard Saturday carrying placards saying "We don't owe, we won't pay." "None of us pushed the banks to lend huge sums of money to greedy property speculators, yet we are being asked to pay for other's mistakes," 34-year-old civil servant Maria Costa, who was banging an old pot along with her two children, said. With unemployment nearing 25 percent, Spain has introduced biting austerity measures as well as financial and labor reforms in a desperate bid to lower its deficit and assuage investors' misgivings. Spain has been granted a $130 billion loan by the 17-nation eurozone to help its banks worst hit by the collapse of a bloated real estate sector. Still, Spain's economy is in a double-dip recession with a forecast to shrink by 1.5 percent this year and by up to 0. 6 percent in 2013.

IMF urges quick action: Global financial ministers called Saturday for quick and effective action to safeguard faltering economic growth and rebuild shaken confidence as they ended an annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Tokyo, Japan. The IMF's International Monetary and Financial Committee also urged emerging economies to adapt their own policies to help counter slowing growth in Europe and the United States. The IMFC said decisive action was needed to "break negative feedback loops and restore the global economy to a path of strong, sustainable and balanced growth." The annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank, convened in Tokyo this year, has highlighted frustrations among many countries over drag on growth from the lingering debt crisis in Europe, and alarm over a possible blow to the world's largest economy if the U.S. fails to resolve an impasse over its budget deficit. "Global growth has decelerated and substantial uncertainties and downside risks remain," the IMFC said in a communique. It exhorted advanced economies to carry through with needed structural reforms and "credible fiscal plans."

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