A year after Sandy, an uneven recovery for thousands still trying to fix wrecked homes
NEW YORK (AP) -- A year after Superstorm Sandy catastrophically flooded hundreds of miles of eastern U.S. coastline, thousands of people still trying to fix their soaked and surf-battered homes are being stymied by bureaucracy, insurance disputes and uncertainty over whether they can even afford to rebuild.
Billions of dollars in federal aid appropriated months ago by Congress have yet to reach homeowners who need that money to move on. Many have found flood insurance checks weren't nearly enough to cover the damage.
And worse, new federal rules mean many in high-risk flood zones may have to either jack their houses up on stilts or pilings -- an expensive, sometimes impossible task -- or face new insurance rates that hit $10,000 or more per year.
"It's just been such a terrible burden," said Gina Maxwell, whose home in Little Egg Harbor, N.J., is still a wreck after filling with 4 feet of water. Contractors say it will cost $270,000 to rebuild -- about double what the insurance paid out. The family doesn't have the money.
"What do we do with this house? Just give them the deed back?" she said. "My son is 11. He has a little piggy bank in his room. He said, 'Take it, mom.'"
Vermont pushes to go beyond federal health overhaul law to launch universal public care system
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- As states open insurance marketplaces amid uncertainty about whether they're a solution for health care, Vermont is eyeing a bigger goal, one that more fully embraces a government-funded model.
The state has a planned 2017 launch of the nation's first universal health care system, a sort of modified Medicare-for-all that has long been a dream for many liberals.
The plan is especially ambitious in the current atmosphere surrounding health care in the United States. Republicans in Congress balk at the federal health overhaul years after it was signed into law. States are still negotiating their terms for implementing it. And some major employers have begun to drastically limit their offerings of employee health insurance, raising questions about the future of the industry altogether.
In such a setting, Vermont's plan looks more and more like an anomaly. It combines universal coverage with new cost controls in an effort to move away from a system in which the more procedures doctors and hospitals perform, the more they get paid, to one in which providers have a set budget to care for a set number of patients.
The result will be health care that's "a right and not a privilege," Gov. Peter Shumlin said.
Obama's troubled health rollout may be problem with kind of staying power that GOP has sought
WASHINGTON (AP) -- For nearly five years, Republicans have struggled to make a scandal stick to President Barack Obama's White House. One by one, the controversies -- with shorthand names such as Solyndra, Benghazi, and Fast and Furious -- hit a fever pitch, then faded away.
But some Republicans see the disastrous rollout of Obama's health law as a problem with the kind of staying power they have sought.
The health care failures are tangible for millions of Americans and can be experienced by anyone with Internet access. The law itself is more closely associated with Obama personally and long has been unpopular with the majority of the American people.
The longer the technical problems persist, the more likely they are to affect the delicate balance of enrollees needed in the insurance marketplace in order to keep costs down.
"There's no question the issue has legs, in part because it affects so many Americans very directly and in part because the glitches with the website are simply one of many fundamental problems with this law," GOP pollster Whit Ayres said.
NSA spying threatens to undermine US foreign policy; Obama, Kerry try to quell furor abroad
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State John Kerry went to Europe to talk about Mideast peace, Syria and Iran. What he got was an earful of outrage over U.S. snooping abroad.
President Barack Obama has defended America's surveillance dragnet to leaders of Russia, Mexico, Brazil, France and Germany, but the international anger over the disclosures shows no signs of abating in the short run.
Longer term, the revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about NSA tactics that allegedly include tapping the cellphones of as many as 35 world leaders threaten to undermine U.S. foreign policy in a range of areas.
In Washington, demonstrators held up signs reading "Thank you, Edward Snowden!" as they marched and rallied near the U.S. Capitol to demand that Congress investigate the NSA's mass surveillance programs.
This vacuum-cleaner approach to data collection has rattled allies.
WORLD SERIES WATCH: Red Sox tie Game 3 at 2-all on RBI single by Daniel Nava in 6th inning
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A look at Game 3 of the World Series at Busch Stadium on Saturday night as the Boston Red Sox take on the St. Louis Cardinals:
ALL TIED UP: Daniel Nava's run-scoring single on the first pitch from Cardinals reliever Seth Maness ties the score at 2 in the sixth inning.
Both starting pitchers take a no-decision. Joe Kelly issued a leadoff walk to Shane Victorino and was lifted after Dustin Pedroia lined out to third.
Lefty specialist Randy Choate tried to sneak a two-strike fastball by red-hot David Ortiz, but Big Papi sniffed it out and singled through the hole on the right side to send Victorino to third.
Many military families turn to home schooling to help ease transition during frequent moves
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. (AP) -- A growing number of military parents want to end the age-old tradition of switching schools for their kids.
They've embraced homeschooling, and are finding support on bases, which are providing resources for families and opening their doors for home schooling cooperatives and other events.
"If there's a military installation, there's very likely home-schoolers there if you look," said Nicole McGhee, 31, of Cameron, N.C., a mother of three with a husband stationed at North Carolina's Fort Bragg who runs a Facebook site on military home schooling.
At Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, the library sported special presentations for home-schoolers on Benjamin Franklin and static electricity. Fort Bragg offers daytime taekwondo classes. At Fort Belvoir, Va., there are athletic events and a parent-led chemistry lab.
At Andrews Air Force Base about 15 miles outside of Washington, more than 40 families participate on Wednesdays in a home schooling cooperative at the base's youth center. Earlier this month, teenagers in one room warmed up for a mock audition reciting sayings such as "red leather, yellow leather." Younger kids downstairs learned to sign words such as "play" and searched for "Special Agent Stan" during a math game. Military moms taught each class.
Jay-Z defends partnership with retailer Barneys after luxury NYC store accused of profiling
NEW YORK (AP) -- Jay-Z -- under increasing pressure to back out of a collaboration with the luxury store Barneys New York after it was accused of racially profiling two black customers -- said Saturday he's being unfairly "demonized" for just waiting to hear all of the facts.
The rap mogul made his first statement about the controversy in a posting on his website. He has come under fire for remaining silent as news surfaced this week that two young black people said they were profiled by Barneys after they purchased expensive items from their Manhattan store.
An online petition and Twitter messages from fans have been circulating this week, calling on the star to bow out of his upcoming partnership with Barneys for the holiday season, which will have the store selling items by top designers, inspired by Jay-Z, with some of the proceeds going to his charity. He is also working with the store to create its artistic holiday window display.
But Jay-Z -- whose real name is Shawn Carter -- defended himself, saying that he hasn't spoken about it because he's still trying to figure out exactly what happened.
"I move and speak based on facts and not emotion," the statement said. "I haven't made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?" he said, referring to local newspaper headlines.
Authorities: Suspect in wounding of 6 officers, including federal agent, surrenders in Calif.
ROSEVILLE, Calif. (AP) -- Police said a wanted parolee fired first in a shootout that left six officers injured and led to an hours-long standoff in a suburban Sacramento city before he surrendered.
Roseville police spokesman Lt. Cal Walstad said that one officer with a jaw wound and a federal agent shot in the leg remain hospitalized Saturday in serious condition. Four other Roseville officers injured by shrapnel were treated and released.
The suspect in the violent confrontation is a gang member with a criminal record that includes assault and carjacking. Samuel Nathan Duran, 32, was taken to the Placer County jail Saturday after being treated for scrapes and cuts after surrendering just after midnight.
"Last night our community experienced what can happen in any when a violent wanted felon is completely committed to not going back to jail," Police Chief Daniel Hahn said Saturday.
Duran was being held on a parole violation, but Hahn said he expected multiple charges of attempted murder would be added.
JFK's image, tested and sanctified, still shines 50 years after his assassination
BOSTON (AP) -- Four days a week, David O'Donnell leads a 90-minute "Kennedy Tour" around Boston that features stops at government buildings, museums, hotels and meeting halls.
Tour-goers from throughout the United States and abroad, who may see John F. Kennedy as inspiration, martyr or Cold War hero, hear stories of his ancestors and early campaigns, the rise of the Irish in state politics, the odd fact that Kennedy was the only president outlived by his grandmother.
Yet at some point along the tour, inevitably, questions from the crowd shift from politics to gossip.
"Someone will ask, 'Did Jack Kennedy have an affair with Marilyn Monroe?' With this woman? That woman?" explains O'Donnell, who has worked for a decade in the city's visitors bureau. Those asking forgive the infidelities as reflecting another era, he says. "It's something people, in an odd way, just accept."
The Kennedy image, the "mystique" that attracts tourists and historians alike, did not begin with his presidency and is in no danger of ending 50 years after his death. Its journey has been uneven but resilient -- a young and still-evolving politician whose name was sanctified by his assassination, upended by discoveries of womanizing, hidden health problems and political intrigue, and forgiven in numerous polls that place JFK among the most beloved of former presidents.
Before killings and chase with hostages in trunk, Mojave Desert gunman's life began to unravel
RIDGECREST, Calif. (AP) -- Sergio Munoz was known around this small desert city to acquaintances as a personable dad, and to police for his long rap sheet.
In recent weeks, he began losing the moorings of a stable life -- his job, then his family. Kicked out of the house, he had been staying at a friend's place, using and dealing heroin.
Life fully unraveled when Munoz, with two hostages in his trunk, led officers on a wild chase Friday after killing a woman and injuring his crash-pad friend. He shot the friend after he had refused to join what Munoz planned would be a final rampage against police and "snitches."
Munoz knew the authorities well enough that after the initial, pre-dawn slaying he called one patrol officer's cellphone and announced that he wanted to kill all police in town. But because he would be outgunned at the station he would instead "wreak havoc" elsewhere, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said at a news conference Friday.
Munoz kept his word, first firing at drivers in Ridgecrest, according to police, then taking shots at pursuing officers and passing motorists during a chase along 30 miles of highway that runs through the shrub-dotted desert about 150 miles north of Los Angeles. He ran traffic off the road, firing at least 10 times at passing vehicles with a shotgun and a handgun, though no one was hurt.