Saturday, January 4, 2014

Published:

Record-low temperature records could fall as US braces for dangerous 'polar vortex' conditions

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- The deep freeze expected soon in the Midwest, New England and even the South will be one to remember, with potential record-low temperatures heightening fears of frostbite and hypothermia.

It hasn't been this cold for decades -- 20 years in Washington, D.C., 18 years in Milwaukee, 15 in Missouri -- even in the Midwest, where bundling up is second nature. Weather Bell meteorologist Ryan Maue said, "If you're under 40 (years old), you've not seen this stuff before."

Preceded by snow in much of the Midwest, the frigid air will begin Sunday and extend into early next week, funneled as far south as the Gulf Coast. Blame it on a "polar vortex," as one meteorologist calls it, a counterclockwise-rotating pool of cold, dense air.

"It's just a large area of very cold air that comes down, forms over the North Pole or polar regions ... usually stays in Canada, but this time it's going to come all the way into the eastern United States," said National Weather Service meteorologist Phillip Schumacher in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The predictions are startling: 25 below zero in Fargo, N.D., minus 31 in International Falls, Minn., and 15 below in Indianapolis and Chicago. At those temperatures, exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes and hypothermia can quickly set in as wind chills may reach 50, 60 or even 70 below zero.

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City center of Fallujah falls fully into hands of al-Qaida-linked group

BAGHDAD (AP) -- The city center of Iraq's Fallujah has fallen completely into the hands of fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, police said Saturday, yet another victory for the hardline group that has made waves across the region in recent days.

ISIL is also one of the strongest rebel units in Syria, where it has imposed a strict version of Islamic law in territories it holds and kidnapped and killed anyone it deems critical of its rule. Also on Saturday, it claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in Lebanon.

Hadi Razeij, head of the Anbar province police force, said police had left the city center entirely and had positioned themselves on the edge of town.

"The walls of the city are in the hands of the police force, but the people of Fallujah are the prisoners of ISIL," he said, speaking on Arabic language satellite broadcaster al-Arabiya.

Fallujah, along with the capital of Anbar province, Ramadi, was a stronghold of Sunni insurgents during the U.S.-led war. Al-Qaida militants largely took both cities over last week and have been fending off incursions by government forces there since.

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Al-Qaida linked group claims responsibility for suicide car bombing in Shiite suburb of Beirut

BEIRUT (AP) -- An al-Qaida linked group claimed responsibility on Saturday for a suicide car bombing last week in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in Lebanon, as its fighters fought other rebels in neighboring Syria in the most serious infighting since the uprising began.

It was the first time at the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for an attack in Lebanon, underscoring how the ever more complex Syrian war is increasingly spilling over into its smaller neighbor.

The group may have rushed to claim responsibility to try to divert attention from the infighting in Syria, said Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on the country's militant groups.

At least five people were killed in the Thursday attack that targeted a south Beirut neighborhood that is bastion of support for the Shiite group Hezbollah.

ISIL vowed more attacks.

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APNewsbreak: Rodman names team of former NBA players for exhibition in North Korea next week

Dennis Rodman has named a team of former NBA players to play an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Rodman will lead the team that includes former NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, and Vin Baker. Craig Hodges, Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith are on the team, as well. They will play against a top North Korean senior national team on Wednesday, marking Kim Jong Un's birthday.

Rodman is the highest profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power from his father in late 2011.

Rodman calls the game his version of "basketball diplomacy."

"My previous travels have allowed me to feel the enthusiasm and warmth of fans," Rodman said. "The positive memories and smiles on the faces of the children and families are a testament to the great efforts we have put into fulfilling our mission wherever we go voiding any politics. We are all looking forward to arriving in Pyongyang, meeting the citizens, visiting various charities and using the opportunity to develop new relationships that result in our annual return."

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No serious injuries after plane, returning from Statue of Liberty tour, lands on NYC highway

NEW YORK (AP) -- A small plane traveling to Connecticut after taking a tour of the Statue of Liberty made an emergency landing Saturday on a New York City interstate highway, startling drivers but touching down safely with no serious injuries to anyone aboard or on the ground, officials said.

The aircraft, a Piper PA-28, set down at around 3:20 p.m. on the northbound side of the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx, in an area where the highway passes through Van Cortlandt Park.

The Federal Aviation Administration said three people were on board. Police and fire officials said neither the male pilot nor two female passengers appeared to have been badly hurt. All were taken to a Bronx hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

De Blasio told reporters the plane had departed from Danbury Municipal Airport and was making the return trip when it experienced engine problems.

"We have...extraordinary situation and actually a bit of a miracle, thank God, that happened today in our city," he said, calling the successful highway landing, without any serious injuries or deaths, "amazing."

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US is marking 50th anniversary of surgeon general report that turned the tide against smoking

ATLANTA (AP) -- Fifty years ago, ashtrays seemed to be on every table and desk. Athletes and even Fred Flintstone endorsed cigarettes in TV commercials. Smoke hung in the air in restaurants, offices and airplane cabins. More than 42 percent of U.S. adults smoked, and there was a good chance your doctor was among them.

The turning point came on Jan. 11, 1964. It was on that Saturday morning that U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry released an emphatic and authoritative report that said smoking causes illness and death -- and the government should do something about it.

In the decades that followed, warning labels were put on cigarette packs, cigarette commercials were banned, taxes were raised and new restrictions were placed on where people could light up.

"It was the beginning," said Kenneth Warner, a University of Michigan public health professor who is a leading authority on smoking and health.

It was not the end. While the U.S. smoking rate has fallen by more than half to 18 percent, that still translates to more than 43 million smokers. Smoking is still far and away the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Some experts predict large numbers of Americans will puff away for decades to come.

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Signing up rural Americans for health care complicated by distances, technology and tradition

FREEPORT, Fla. (AP) -- In this rural part of the Panhandle, Christopher Mitchell finds few takers when he delivers his message about the importance of exploring insurance options under the federal health overhaul.

People in the conservative-leaning area tend to have a bad impression of President Obama's signature law because of negative messages they hear on talk radio or from friends, said Mitchell, marketing director for a network of nonprofit health clinics. Even for those with insurance, a doctor's visit may require a long drive because there are few providers in the area -- and some are selective about the coverage they accept.

Around the country, advocates spreading the word about the Affordable Care Act in rural areas face similar difficulties. Coupled with the well-publicized glitches for the online insurance marketplaces, their stories illustrate the broader challenges in meeting President Barack Obama's goal of reducing the number of uninsured in places with some of the highest percentages of uninsured residents.

"I tell people that I am not here to advocate for the law, I am here to support the law and empower people to be able to use and understand the law," said Mitchell, whose employer, PanCare of Florida, received a federal grant for outreach efforts. "But when people are hearing over and over and over that is bankrupting America, it is hard to break through."

On a recent afternoon, Mitchell made his pitch to half a dozen patients in the waiting room of a low-slung brick clinic surrounded by pine trees on the two-lane state road that serves as Freeport's main street. In areas like this -- where one-story houses and mobile homes sit far apart on lots of tan, sandy soil and pine needles -- many poor residents could benefit from federally subsidized health insurance but aren't open to it.

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Boeing machinists approve labor contract for coveted plane, deal blow to local labor influence

SEATTLE (AP) -- Under pressure from national union leaders, machinists in Washington state took a late-night vote that defied their local union bosses by narrowly approving a new labor contract that secures a coveted plane project for the Seattle area but moves workers away from pensions.

The tight count exposed deep rifts in the once-powerful union, but with plenty of states lining up to give Boeing exactly what it wanted to get work on the 777X, the aerospace giant had a tremendous advantage.

The company, the state's governor and national union leaders all hailed the contract as a vital boost to the region's economy, but to some observers the vote dealt a blow to local union influence.

"It shows that even a strong local is vulnerable and has a limited defensibility to slow the tide of concessions that has been going on across the country," said Leon Grunberg, a sociology professor at the University of Puget Sound who co-authored a book, "Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers."

He added Saturday, "This is happening with a company that's doing very well financially."

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Ecuadorean helicopter airlifted Jeff Bezos from Galapagos cruise for kidney stone on Jan. 1

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) -- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was flown by helicopter from a cruise ship in the Galapagos Islands for medical attention after suffering intense pain because of a kidney stone on Jan. 1, authorities said Saturday.

Capt. Santiago Rubio, commander of the port of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos, told The Associated Press that Bezos was on a ship not far from the island when he felt the pains in his stomach area.

Ecuador's navy sent doctors to examine Bezos and when they determined that it was a kidney stone attack, Rubio said he authorized a helicopter to take the Amazon founder and Washington Post owner from the ship on New Year's Day.

The captain said Bezos was taken to Santa Cruz port and from there a short flight to Baltra island where his private jet was waiting to take him to the U.S. for treatment.

Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement Saturday that no surgery was required, and Bezos is feeling well.

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Luck-y Day: Indy scores 5 touchdowns in 2nd half as Colts rally for 45-44 victory over Chiefs

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Chuck Pagano couldn't believe his eyes. Andrew Luck couldn't believe his ears. Colts fans couldn't believe the scoreboard, and the Kansas City Chiefs couldn't believe their incredibly bad luck.

It seemed unfathomable.

On a day Luck appeared to be pressing and, at times, as bad as he ever has while putting Indianapolis in a 28-point deficit, the Colts quarterback somehow turned things around. He threw three of his four touchdowns in the second half, scored on a fumble return and connected with a wide-open T.Y. Hilton on a 64-yard TD pass to give the Colts an improbable 45-44 wild-card victory Saturday.

"One for the ages," said Pagano, Indianapolis' coach. "I think somebody said that it was the second-largest comeback or whatever in the history of whatever. I guess 21 wasn't large enough at half, so we thought we've give them another seven, you know, just to make it interesting."

Actually, rallying from 28 down made the latest of Luck's amazing comebacks one to remember.