For New Year's revelers, Times Square gathering is part celebration, part endurance contest
NEW YORK (AP) — Crowds jammed New York's Times Square on Tuesday to ring in 2014, braving bone-chilling cold and ultra-tight security for the chance to see Miley Cyrus, a final countdown from a U.S. Supreme Court justice and the drop of the shimmering crystal ball.
The sea of horn-tooting, hat-wearing humanity that filled the Crossroads of the World was part celebration, part endurance sport because post-9/11 security measures force spectators into pens at least 12 hours in advance, with no food, no warmth and no place to go to the bathroom.
"We've got adult diapers. We're wearing them right now," said 14-year-old Amber Woods, who came with friends from the New York City's suburbs to experience the event for the first time. They entered their corral at 10 a.m. For nourishment, they brought lollipops and popcorn. For the cold, they did a lot of jumping in place.
"Every time I say, it's the last. But then I come back," said Yasmina Merrir, a 42-year-old Washington, D.C., resident attending her fourth Times Square ball drop. In 2009, the cold was so bad, she got hypothermia. Her legs swelled up like balloons.
She was also fasting and not drinking anything to deal with the lack of restrooms. As for the cold, she recommends vigorous dancing for as long as you can stand on your feet.
AP PHOTOS: Revelers around the world ring in 2014 with fireworks, parties and prayers
From huge street parties and fireworks displays in Sydney and Jakarta, to quiet moments of prayer in a Buddhist temple in Tokyo, people are welcoming in 2014.
Here's a gallery of images from New Year's Eve celebrations around the world.
Follow AP photographers and photo editors on Twitter: http://apne.ws/15Oo6jo
Catholic groups ask Supreme Court to halt health care law because of birth control mandate
WASHINGTON (AP) — Catholic organizations made a last-minute effort Tuesday to get the Supreme Court to block portions of President Barack Obama's health care law that will force them to provide health insurance for students and employees that includes birth control.
Several organizations, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, Catholic University and the Michigan Catholic Conference, asked justices to block the law until their arguments are heard. Parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, go into effect on Wednesday.
On that day, "a regulatory mandate will expose numerous Catholic organizations to draconian fines unless they abandon their religious convictions and take actions that facilitate access to abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization for their employees and students," lawyer Noel J. Francisco said in appeals to Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan.
The law requires employers to provide insurance that covers a range of preventive care, free of charge, including contraception. The Catholic Church prohibits the use of contraceptives.
The Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the constitutionality of the core of the Affordable Care Act, saying its insurance mandate and the tax penalty enforcing it fell within the power of Congress to impose taxes.
AGING AMERICA: For some blue-collar Americans, retirement is nothing more than elusive dream
Tom Edwards grew up in a family that's been cutting trees and hauling timber in the Pacific Northwest for more than a century. The Spanaway, Wash., resident says he has worked as a logger since he was a kid — it's just what an able-bodied youngster was expected to do.
Now, at 53, with business in a slump and little money in savings, he's pessimistic about his chances of retiring.
"It's never going to happen. By the time I reach retirement age, there won't be Social Security. There's not going to be any money," Edwards said. "I'll do like my father did: I'll work 'til I die."
Across the U.S., such concerns are common among blue-collar baby boomers — the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. Many have jobs that provide paltry pensions or none at all, as many companies have been moving toward less generous retirement packages in the past decade.
Many boomers expect to work the rest of their lives because they have little cash put away for their old age and they worry Social Security won't cover their bills. Some hope to move to jobs that are less physically demanding.
Thousands of police, troops tighten security in Russian city hit by 2 suicide bombings
VOLGOGRAD, Russia (AP) — Eerily empty buses lumbered through the streets, police weighed down with body armor warily watched pedestrians near a fast-food restaurant, and members of Cossack units stood guard at bus stops. Volgograd was an ominous and jittery city Tuesday after two suicide bombings in two days killed 34 people.
Volgograd authorities canceled mass events for New Year's Eve, one of Russia's most popular holidays, and asked residents not to set off fireworks. All movie theaters were closed until Thursday.
"People are afraid it will happen again. They're trying not to go outside if they don't have to," said 20-year-old Yulia Kuzmina, a student. "We get a feeling that a war has started."
That is a worry that extends far beyond Volgograd.
Although there has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing of the city's main railway station and a trolley bus, suspicion has fallen on Islamist insurgents, whose leader ordered his adherents over the summer to do all they could to derail the Winter Olympics, which start Feb. 7 in the Russian resort city of Sochi.
Slovakia takes last 3 Uighur Guantanamo prisoners after other countries refused
MIAMI (AP) — Three members of a persecuted ethnic minority from China have been released from Guantanamo Bay and sent to the Central European country of Slovakia, officials said Tuesday, resolving a diplomatic dilemma that had kept the men imprisoned long after a judge had ordered their release.
The three men were the last three ethnic Uighurs held at the U.S. base in Cuba and their release after months of intense diplomatic efforts comes amid a renewed effort by President Barack Obama to close down the prison.
Slovakia had accepted three other Guantanamo prisoners in 2009 and allowed the resettlement of the Uighurs after other countries refused because of pressure from the Chinese government, which has sought to take custody of the men.
"Slovakia deserves a lot of credit because they were willing to do what large countries like the United States, Canada and Germany were unwilling to do, which was to resist diplomatic pressure from China and the stigma of Guantanamo," said Wells Dixon, a lawyer with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights who worked for years trying to secure the men's release.
The Pentagon identified the men as Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper. All three are in their 30s and were captured in late 2001.
Alzheimer's hope: Vitamin E may slow decline in mild, moderate dementia, veterans study finds
Researchers say vitamin E might slow the progression of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease — the first time any treatment has been shown to alter the course of dementia at that stage.
In a study of more than 600 older veterans, high doses of the vitamin delayed the decline in daily living skills, such as making meals, getting dressed and holding a conversation, by about six months over a two-year period.
The benefit was equivalent to keeping one major skill that otherwise would have been lost, such as being able to bathe without help. For some people, that could mean living independently rather than needing a nursing home.
Vitamin E did not preserve thinking abilities, though, and it did no good for patients who took it with another Alzheimer's medication. But those taking vitamin E alone required less help from caregivers — about two fewer hours each day than some others in the study.
"It's not a miracle or, obviously, a cure," said study leader Dr. Maurice Dysken of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. "The best we can do at this point is slow down the rate of progression."
Chicago financial trader, sports statistics expert, wins largest football handicapping contest
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The newest champion of football handicapping is a Chicago trader who consults for a major professional team and lectures on sports modeling.
David Frohardt-Lane won the premier sports handicapping contest Sunday, taking home $557,850.
The 36 year-old numbers guy beat out more than 1,000 competitors to win the sports betting SuperContest run by the LVH casino-hotel in Las Vegas.
He plans to donate half the winnings to GiveWell, a nonprofit that evaluates other charities.
Frohardt-Lane got into sports betting while studying math at Carleton College. As a sophomore, he used NFL statistics as the basis for a project, and realized that if he had used his model to place bets, he would have won 60 percent of the time.
NASA responds to Beyonce's Challenger sample, says accident shouldn't be 'trivialized'
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — NASA officials say the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster "should never be trivialized" in response to a new song from Beyonce that features an audio sample recorded just after the craft exploded on takeoff in 1986, killing all seven crewmembers.
The space agency issued the statement late Tuesday after the pop star began to receive criticism from Challenger families and others for using the short sample that includes the words "major malfunction" as an allusion to a failed relationship.
"The Challenger accident is an important part of our history; a tragic reminder that space exploration is risky and should never be trivialized," said the statement from Lauren B. Worley, NASA's press secretary. "NASA works every day to honor the legacy of our fallen astronauts as we carry out our mission to reach for new heights and explore the universe."
NASA's response came after Beyonce explained the use of the short snippet in a statement to ABC News Tuesday that stopped short of an apology. The sample appears at the beginning of her song "XO" from her new self-titled album.
Among those critical of the sample was June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee. She told ABC in a statement that she was disappointed and described the use of the sample as "emotionally difficult."
What a way to start the year: Rory McIlroy, Caroline Wozniacki announce they're engaged
KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Rory McIlroy is claiming his first win of the new year — his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
One of the top power couples in sports announced their engagement Tuesday night on Twitter, which was Wednesday morning in Australia. A spokesman for McIlroy confirmed he popped the question in Sydney, where Wozniacki is starting to prepare for the Australian Open in Melbourne.
"Happy New Year everyone! I have a feeling it's going to be a great year!! My first victory of 2014," McIlroy tweeted. He added a hash tag, "She said yes!!" Wozniacki sent out a similar tweet a few minutes earlier that said, "Happy New Year everyone! Rory and I started 2014 with a bang! ... I said YES!!!!"
They included a collage of three photos — her engagement ring, a photo of them together and fireworks over the Sydney Harbor.
That should put to rest two reports out of Ireland at different times this year that they were splitting up. One of those reports was in August, even though McIlroy and Wozniacki had dinner in New York the following night ahead of the U.S. Open in tennis.