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Huffington Wires | AP

EPA expected to treat coal ash waste like garbage

December 19, 2014 03:39 AM EST | AP


WASHINGTON (AP) — Environmentalists and industry experts widely expect the first federal standards for the waste generated from coal burned for electricity to treat the ash like household garbage, rather than a hazardous material.

The Obama administration is under court order to unveil the rule Friday, ending a six-year effort that began after a massive spill at a Tennessee power plant in 2008. Since then, the Environmental Protection Agency has documented coal ash waste sites tainting hundreds of waterways and underground aquifers in numerous states with heavy metals and other toxic contaminants.

Poll: Americans skeptical of commercial drones

December 19, 2014 03:36 AM EST | AP


WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are skeptical that the benefits of the heralded drone revolution will outweigh the risks to privacy and safety, although a majority approve of using small, unmanned aircraft for dangerous jobs or in remote areas, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

By a 2-1 margin, those who had an opinion opposed using drones for commercial purposes. Only 21 percent favored commercial use of drones, compared with 43 percent opposed. Another 35 percent were in the middle.

For US and Cuba, normalcy will take many steps

December 19, 2014 03:31 AM EST | AP


WASHINGTON (AP) — How does one end almost 54 years of hostility toward a next-door neighbor?

That's about to become clear as the Obama administration and the communist government of Raul Castro move to normalize more than a half-century of bitter animosity between the United States and Cuba.

US tapped contractors to do its sneaky work in Cuba

December 19, 2014 03:23 AM EST | AP


WASHINGTON (AP) — When the U.S. government's global-aid agency launched secret plans to undermine Cuba's communist government, it didn't turn to the CIA for help. Instead, it used little-known contractors to carry out the operations — leading to multiple detentions and the high-profile arrest of American Alan Gross.

Gross's release from a Cuban prison Wednesday underscored the dangers for the U.S. Agency for International Development's partners in Cuba. Those groups received millions of dollars to run clandestine operations, but repeatedly failed to avoid detection in a country where USAID's work is illegal.

It's law now: 'No Social Security for Nazis'

December 19, 2014 03:21 AM EST | AP


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday capped a swift and forceful response to an Associated Press investigation by signing into law a measure that bars suspected Nazi war criminals from receiving U.S. Social Security benefits.

The AP's investigation, which was the impetus for the No Social Security for Nazis Act, found that dozens of former Nazis collected millions of dollars in retirement benefits after being forced to leave the United States. Recipients ranged from the SS guards who patrolled the Third Reich's network of camps where millions of Jews died to a rocket scientist who helped develop the V-2 rocket that Nazi Germany used to attack London.

US not fully prepared for nuclear terrorist attack

December 19, 2014 03:19 AM EST | AP


WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional audit says the federal government isn't fully prepared to handle a nuclear terrorist attack or large-scale natural catastrophe. It finds that the government lacks effective coordination and in some cases is years away from ensuring adequate emergency shelter and medical treatment.

The report by the Government Accountability Office was obtained by The Associated Press. It says the Federal Emergency Management Agency didn't always keep track of disaster efforts by agencies, even after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Colorado vows to defend pot law against states' challenge

December 19, 2014 03:14 AM EST | AP


DENVER (AP) — Colorado's top law enforcement official promises to vigorously defend the state's historic law legalizing marijuana after Nebraska and Oklahoma asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional, saying the drug is freely flowing into neighboring states.

The two states filed a lawsuit seeking a court order to prevent Colorado from enforcing the measure known as Amendment 64, which was approved by voters in 2012 and allows recreational marijuana for adults over 21. The complaint says the measure runs afoul of federal law and therefore violates the Constitution's supremacy clause, which says federal laws trump state laws.

Poll: Americans skeptical of commercial drones

December 19, 2014 03:15 AM EST | AP


WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans say they are skeptical that the benefits of the heralded drone revolution will outweigh the risks to privacy and safety, although a majority approve of using small, unmanned aircraft for dangerous jobs or in remote areas.

An Associated Press-GfK poll finds that by a 2-1 margin those who had an opinion opposed using drones for commercial purposes. Only 21 percent favor commercial use.

EPA expected to treat coal waste like garbage

December 19, 2014 03:08 AM EST | AP


WASHINGTON (AP) — Environmentalists and industry experts expect the first federal standards for waste generated from coal burned for electricity to treat the ash more like household garbage than a hazardous material.

The EPA is expected to issue a rule Friday, ending a six-year effort that began after a massive spill at a Tennessee power plant in 2008. Since then, the EPA has documented coal ash waste sites tainting hundreds of waterways and underground aquifers in numerous states.

Weird weather lingers in Alaska's largest city

December 19, 2014 02:27 AM EST | AP


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A week before Christmas, Alaska's largest city should look like a postcard wonderland, and the last place you'd expect to see equipment making snow.

"We want Santa to bring snow, soon," Terry Goodwin said as she hit a ski trail in Anchorage on Thursday near snowmaking machines churning out the white stuff.

Hearing set for restrictive NYC jail dorm

December 19, 2014 02:26 AM EST | AP


NEW YORK (AP) — Inmate advocates and others plan to voice their opposition to a proposed 250-bed restrictive housing unit on Rikers Island for violent inmates.

The jail oversight board is sponsoring a public hearing on the $14.8 million proposed plan Friday.

Weird weather lingers in Alaska's largest city

December 19, 2014 02:25 AM EST | AP


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A week before Christmas, Alaska's largest city should look like a postcard wonderland. It should be the last place you'd expect to see equipment making snow.

A spate of weird weather is lingering in Anchorage, which is almost 2 feet behind typical snowfall totals by this time of the coldest season.

China's wealth finds home in Washington state

December 19, 2014 05:30 AM EST | AP


MEDINA, Wash. (AP) — Savvy Seattle-area real estate agents have gained an advantage by paying attention to the growing connections between China and Washington state.

"I'm so glad my mother made me study Chinese," laughed property broker Janie Lee, after showing a client from Beijing a $4 million home in the suburb of Medina. "I've been using it a lot."

Marathon bombing survivor in 'Yes to Dress' finale

December 19, 2014 01:48 AM EST | AP


BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Marathon bombings took Rebekah DiMartino's leg, but they couldn't rob her of her joy as a new bride.

Friday's season finale of the TLC reality show "Say Yes to the Dress" features DiMartino struggling to keep her balance on crutches while searching for the perfect wedding gown.

US agriculture has big appetite for Cuba trade

December 19, 2014 01:42 AM EST | AP


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — U.S. agriculture has a big appetite for freer trade with Cuba. From wheat to rice to beans, the industry stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of President Barack Obama's plan to ease economic and travel restrictions imposed against the communist-ruled island.

Agricultural exports have been among the few exceptions to the half-century old U.S. trade embargo, though they've been subject to cumbersome rules — requiring cash payments up front before products are shipped, and that the payments go through banks in other countries that charge hefty fees for their services.

Ed Dept. releases 'framework' to rate colleges

December 19, 2014 12:05 AM EST | AP


WASHINGTON (AP) — Colleges and universities have fretted over how they will be judged under a new college ratings system President Barack Obama announced last year would be developed to encourage transparency and affordability.

The wait will continue.

Ed Dept. releases 'framework' to rate colleges

December 19, 2014 12:05 AM EST | AP


WASHINGTON (AP) — Colleges and universities have fretted over how they will be judged under a new college ratings system President Barack Obama announced last year would be developed to encourage transparency and affordability.

The wait will continue.

Sides 'far apart' in West Coast port negotiations

December 18, 2014 11:15 PM EST | AP


LOS ANGELES (AP) — While West Coast seaports struggle to keep up with billions of dollars of cargo, dockworkers and their employers apparently aren't close to a new contract nearly six months after their old deal expired.

Longshoremen have continued to work without a contract at 29 ports from San Diego to Seattle that are a vital trade link with Asia, though their employers say workers have deliberately slowed their pace over the past few months.

California's top utility regulator defends record

December 18, 2014 10:04 PM EST | AP


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California's chief utility regulator ended the last scheduled public hearing of his increasingly embattled 12-year term Thursday with no explicit reference to the alleged back-channel dealings with the state's largest utility company that have marred his tenure.

California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey's only public reference to the matter Thursday was an enigmatic one. At the close of the hearing, in which Peevey allowed two hours of public testimony by allies praising him, Peevey raised both hands in the air.

California lawmaker enters plea after DUI arrest

December 18, 2014 11:12 PM EST | AP


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A Democratic state senator charged with drunken driving after a party at the state Capitol pleaded no contest Thursday to a reduced charge of alcohol-related reckless driving.

Sen. Ben Hueso of San Diego was sentenced to three years of informal probation, ordered to participate in a six-week alcohol education program, and fined $240 plus penalties, Sacramento County prosecutors said.

Louisville 1st-in-South to raise minimum wage

December 18, 2014 10:33 PM EST | AP


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has become the first city in the South to raise the minimum wage, joining 20 others across the country.

The Louisville Metro Council voted Thursday to raise the minimum wage to at least $9 per hour by 2017. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25.