Internet service goes out across Syria amid intense fighting near Damascus airport
BEIRUT — Internet service went down Thursday across Syria and international flights were canceled at the Damascus airport when a road near the facility was closed by heavy fighting in the country’s civil war.
Activists said President Bashar Assad’s regime pulled the plug on the Internet, perhaps in preparation for a major offensive. Cellphone service also went out in Damascus and parts of central Syria, they said. The government blamed rebel fighters for the outages.
With pressure building against the regime on several fronts and government forces on their heels in the battle for the northern commercial hub of Aleppo, rebels have recently begun pushing back into Damascus after largely being driven out of the capital following a July offensive. One Damascus resident reported seeing rebel forces near a suburb of the city previously deemed to be safe from fighting.
The Internet outage, confirmed by two U.S.-based companies that monitor online connectivity, is unprecedented in Syria’s 20-month-old uprising against Assad, which activists say has killed more than 40,000 people.
Regime forces suffered a string of tactical defeats in recent weeks, losing air bases and other strategic facilities. The government may be trying to blunt additional rebel offensives by hampering communications.
Sandy slows retail spending, factory output, home sales
WASHINGTON — Superstorm Sandy packed a bigger economic punch than most people had thought.
In its sweep through the Northeast, the storm halted sales at major retailers at the start of the crucial holiday shopping season, closed factories and slowed home sales in one of the most densely populated areas of the country.
On Thursday, for example, Kohl’s, Target and Macy’s blamed the storm for weak sales in November. Macy’s and Nordstrom Inc. reported their first monthly sales drop since late 2009, when the U.S. economy was just emerging from the Great Recession.
And the government said this week that new-home sales plunged 32 percent in the Northeast last month and nearly 12 percent in the South. By contrast, sales surged nearly 63 percent in the Midwest and nearly 9 percent in the West.
Sandy is being blamed for about $62 billion in damage and other losses in the U.S., most of it in New York and New Jersey. It’s the second-costliest storm in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina, which caused $128 billion in damage in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Missouri town abuzz with $588M Powerball jackpot to be shared with ticket holder in Arizona
DEARBORN, Mo. — Missouri Lottery officials on Thursday verified one of two tickets that matched all six numbers to split a record $588 million Powerball jackpot, but that ticket holder — and another in Arizona — remained a mystery, even as neighbors and co-workers lamented their losses and gossiped about who may have won.
The tickets were sold at a convenience store in suburban Phoenix and a gas station in Dearborn, Mo., just off Interstate 29.
Missouri lottery officials said they verified a ticket that was presented to them Thursday and set a news conference for 11 a.m. CST today at North Platte High School, near where the ticket was bought.
Lottery Chief Operations Officer Gary Gonder couldn’t provide any details, including whether the ticket was bought by someone from Missouri.
Speculation had many of Dearborn’s 500 residents buzzing about who had won.
By wire sources