AP News in Brief at 10:58 p.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on December 2, 2013 at 11:02 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 3 at 12:00 AM

NTSB: Train going too fast at curve before wreck, no problem seen with the brakes

YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) — A commuter train that derailed over the weekend, killing four passengers, was hurtling at 82 mph as it entered a 30 mph curve, a federal investigator said Monday. But whether the wreck was the result of human error or mechanical trouble was unclear, he said.

Rail experts said the tragedy might have been prevented if Metro-North Railroad had installed automated crash-avoidance technology that safety authorities have been urging for decades.

The locomotive's speed was extracted from the train's two data recorders after the Sunday morning accident, which happened in the Bronx along a bend so sharp that the speed limit drops from 70 mph to 30 mph.

Asked why the train was going so fast, National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said: "That's the question we need to answer."

Weener would not disclose what the engineer operating the train told investigators, and he said results of drug and alcohol tests weren't yet available. Investigators are also examining the engineer's cellphone, apparently to determine whether he was distracted.

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Sales taxes on Internet purchases: Supreme Court won't stop state law requiring collection

WASHINGTON (AP) — On perhaps the busiest online shopping day of the year, the Supreme Court refused to wade into a dispute over state sales taxes for purchases on websites like Amazon.com, an outcome likely to prompt more states to attempt to collect taxes on Internet sales.

Monday's court action means "it might be the last Cyber Monday without sales tax," said Joseph Henchman of the Washington -based Tax Foundation.

It's all part of a furious battle — also including legislation in Congress — among Internet sellers, millions of buyers, aggrieved brick-and-mortar stores and states hungry for billions of dollars in extra tax revenue.

The high court without comment turned away appeals from Amazon.com LLC and Overstock.com Inc. in their fight against a New York court decision forcing them to remit sales tax the same way in-state businesses do. This could hurt online shopping in that state, since one of the attractions of Internet purchasing is the lack of a state sales tax, which makes some items a little cheaper than they would be inside a store on the corner.

And the effect could be felt far beyond New York if it encourages other states to act. The National Council of State Legislatures estimates that states lost an estimated $23.3 billion in 2012 as a result of being unable to collect sales tax on online and catalog purchases.

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

1. HOW FAST NYC TRAIN WAS GOING BEFORE DERAILMENT

Data recorders reveal the rate of speed was 82 mph on a 30 mph curve, but it's unclear whether the cause of the deadly crash was human or mechanical error.

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Amazon.com considering unmanned aircraft to deliver purchases quicker than a pizza

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is working on a way to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less — via self-guided drone.

Consider it the modern version of a pizza delivery boy, minus the awkward teenager.

Amazon.com Inc. says it's working on the so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project but it will take years to advance the technology and for the Federal Aviation Administration to create the necessary rules and regulations.

The project was first reported by CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday night, hours before millions of shoppers turned to their computers to hunt Cyber Monday bargains.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in the interview that while his octocopters look like something out of science fiction, there's no reason they can't be used as delivery vehicles.

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On year's busiest day for online shopping, more Americans make purchases with mobile devices

NEW YORK (AP) — Power up and shop.

Millions of Americans logged on to e-commerce sites Monday to take advantage of deals ranging from free shipping to hundreds of dollars off electronics and half-price clothing on what was expected to be the busiest Internet shopping day of the year. And many of those purchases were made using mobile devices.

The spending surge associated with Cyber Monday came after a disappointing Thanksgiving holiday weekend in stores. It also showed that shoppers are increasingly comfortable buying on tablets and smartphones.

Joel Anderson, president and CEO of Walmart.com, said 2013 would be the "tipping point" for mobile shopping.

Early results indicated online shopping was up 17. 5 percent compared with the same time last year, according to figures by IBM Benchmark. Mobile devices accounted for more than 29 percent of all online traffic.

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New test for Obama website: consumers trying to sign up this month to avoid breaks in coverage

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's new and improved health care website faces yet another test in just a couple of weeks, its biggest yet. If HealthCare.gov becomes overwhelmed by an expected year-end crunch, many Americans will be left facing a break in their insurance coverage.

Until now, the main damage from the website's technology woes has been to Obama's poll ratings. But if it chokes again, it will be everyday people feeling the consequences.

Some of those at risk are among the more than 4 million consumers whose individual policies have been canceled because the coverage didn't comply with requirements of the new health care law. A smaller number, several hundred thousand, are in federal and state programs for people whose health problems already were a barrier to getting private insurance before the overhaul.

"The chances are almost 100 percent that someone who would like to continue coverage next year and intends to secure it is not going to be able to do it," said Mark McClellan, who oversaw the rollout of the Medicare prescription drug benefit under President George W. Bush.

"It's important to recognize that none of these programs are going to work perfectly from the start and a big part of implementation is having mechanisms in place that anticipate problems and help mitigate their effects," added McClellan, now a health care policy expert with the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

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Bangkok police remove concrete barriers around HQ ahead of threatened assault by protesters

BANGKOK (AP) — Bangkok police have begun removing concrete barriers and barbed wire around their headquarters, and say they will let anti-government protesters into the building ahead of their threatened assault.

Reporters saw cranes lifting the concrete panels at the Sri Ayutthaya Road in the historic part of the city as protest leaders gave speeches from trucks.

The unexpected move Tuesday is apparently aimed at avoiding further clashes between the two sides that have left at least three people dead and more than 220 people injured.

On Monday night, protester leader Suthep Thaugsuban told his supporters to storm the Bangkok Metropolitan Police Bureau, one of the main buildings they have vowed to seize as part of a campaign to topple the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

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Powers of military raise concern over rewrite of Egypt's Islamist-era constitution

CAIRO (AP) — Extensive amendments of the constitution adopted under Egypt's ousted Islamist president give the military more privileges, enshrining its place as the nation's most powerful institution and the source of real power, while removing parts that liberals feared set the stage for the creation of an Islamic state.

The new draft constitution is a key first step in implementing a political transition laid down by the military after it removed Mohammed Morsi from power. A 50 member panel declared the draft finished Monday, paving the way for a nationwide referendum within 30 days to ratify the document.

The military-backed government has heralded the draft charter as a step toward democracy — seeking to prove the credentials of the post-Morsi system amid continuing protests by Islamists furious over the coup against the country's first freely elected president.

The amended document enshrines personal and political rights in stronger language than past constitutions. But rights experts express fears that the political power carved out for the military could leave those rights irrelevant.

One key clause states that for the next two presidential terms, the armed forces will enjoy the exclusive right of naming the defense minister, an arrangement that gives the military autonomy above any civilian oversight and leaves the power of the president uncertain. The charter does not say how the post will be filled following that eight-year transitional period.

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Area where 'Fast & Furious' star Paul Walker died in car crash known to attract street racers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The neighborhood where "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker died in a one-car crash is known to attract street racers, according to law enforcement officials.

Walker and his friend and fellow fast-car enthusiast Roger Rodas died Saturday when the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT they were traveling in smashed into a light pole and tree, then burst into flames.

There is no evidence they were racing another car, investigators said Monday, though speed was a factor.

The two had taken what was expected to be a brief drive away from a charity fundraiser and toy drive at Rodas' custom car shop in the Southern California community of Valencia, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Walker's publicist said the action star was Rodas' passenger.

The crash happened on a street that forms an approximately 1-mile loop amid industrial office parks. It is rimmed by hills and relatively isolated from traffic, especially on weekends.

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Russell Wilson throws 2 TD passes, Seahawks lead Saints 27-7 at half

SEATTLE (AP) — Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes, Michael Bennett returned Drew Brees' fumble 22 yards for a touchdown and the Seattle Seahawks led the New Orleans Saints 27-7 at halftime Monday night.

Seattle can wrap up a playoff berth with a victory over the Saints, and the matchup between the top two teams in the NFC was anything but competitive in the first half. A win for either team would be critical in the race for homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Wilson threw for 226 yards in the first half with touchdowns to Zach Miller and Doug Baldwin. The Seahawks had 315 yards of offense, the second time in three games they have had at least 300 in the first half. They had a season-high 316 yards against Atlanta in Week 10.

After Seattle forced a three-and-out on the Saints' opening possession, Wilson hit fullback Michael Robinson for 21 yards, ran for 10 more and completed a pass to Golden Tate for 12 yards. New Orleans managed to hold inside the red zone, and the Seahawks settled for Steven Hauschka's 26-yard field goal.

On the second play of the Saints' ensuing possession, Cliff Avril knocked the ball from Brees' hand as the quarterback prepared to throw. Bennett caught the ball and raced into the end zone.

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