Record-low temperature records could fall as US braces for dangerous 'polar vortex' conditions
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — It has been decades since parts of the Midwest experienced a deep freeze like the one expected to arrive Sunday, with potential record-low temperatures heightening fears of frostbite and hypothermia even in a region where residents are accustomed to bundling up.
This "polar vortex," as one meteorologist calls it, is caused by a counterclockwise-rotating pool of cold, dense air. The frigid air, piled up at the North Pole, will be pushed down to the U.S., funneling it as far south as the Gulf Coast.
Ryan Maue, of Tallahassee, Fla., a meteorologist for Weather Bell, said temperature records will likely be broken during the short yet forceful deep freeze that will begin in many places on Sunday and extend into early next week. That's thanks to a perfect combination of the jet stream, cold surface temperatures and the polar vortex.
"All the ingredients are there for a near-record or historic cold outbreak," he said "If you're under 40 (years old), you've not seen this stuff before."
The temperature 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 because wind chills could hit 50, 60 or even 70 below zero.
Boeing machinists in Seattle area approve a contract that would secure work on new 777X
SEATTLE (AP) — The stakes were high and the vote was close as Boeing production workers agreed to concede some benefits in order to secure assembly of the new 777X airplane for the Puget Sound region.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Boeing hailed Friday's vote, which proponents said solidifies the aerospace giant's presence in the Seattle area.
"Tonight, Washington state secured its future as the aerospace capital of the world," Inslee declared.
Under the terms of the eight-year contract extension, Boeing said the 777X and its composite wing will be built in the Puget Sound area by Boeing employees represented by the Machinists union.
"Thanks to this vote by our employees, the future of Boeing in the Puget Sound region has never looked brighter," Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner said. "We're proud to say that together, we'll build the world's next great airplane — the 777X and its new wing — right here. This will put our workforce on the cutting edge of composite technology, while sustaining thousands of local jobs for years to come."
Momentum behind sentencing reform grows as supporters in Congress seek changes this year
WASHINGTON (AP) — An unusual alliance of tea party enthusiasts and liberal leaders in Congress is pursuing major changes in the country's mandatory sentencing laws amid growing concerns about both the fairness of the sentences and the expense of running federal prisons.
The congressional push comes as President Barack Obama and his Cabinet draw attention to the issue of mandatory sentences, particularly for nonviolent drug offenders.
Supporters say mandatory minimum sentences are outdated, arguing that they lump all offenders into one category and rob judges of the ability to use their own discretion. They also cite the high costs of the policies: The Justice Department spends some $6.4 billion, about a quarter of its budget, on prisons each year, and that number is growing steadily.
"People are coming here for different reasons, but there is a real opportunity," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., one of the Senate's leading proponents of sentencing reform.
The push is being led by the Senate, where Durbin has partnered with tea party stalwarts like Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on legislation that would give judges more flexibility to determine prison sentences in many drug cases. At the same time, a right-left coalition is pressing for changes in the House.
Lawyers for hospital and family of girl declared brain dead consider transfer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Legal counsel for a California hospital and the family of a 13-year-old girl declared brain dead after sleep apnea surgery began discussing the possibility of moving her to another facility, after a judge laid out the conditions for such a transfer.
The judge said Friday that the mother of the child may remove her from an Oakland hospital if she assumes full responsibility for the consequences.
Later Friday, lawyers for Children's Hospital Oakland and the mother of Jahi McMath emerged from a settlement conference with a federal magistrate offering few details about the daylong talks that followed the developments in state court. But Christopher Dolan, who represents Jahi's mother, said he was pleased with the progress that was made.
"Today has been about clarity. It's been about knowing exactly what path we have to walk down, what doors are now open, and what obstacles have been removed," Dolan said. "We know how to get from here to where we want to be, which is Jahi in another place where she is receiving care."
It was unknown when the girl might be moved or if she would be, since her family still is trying to finalize where she could be taken and find a medical team to carry out the transfer. A court injunction prohibiting Children's Hospital from removing the ventilator that has kept Jahi's heart pumping since her Dec. 9 surgery expires at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and Dolan said the family would work to get her relocated before then.
Health overhaul plans seen as too skimpy for people with modest incomes and high medical costs
WASHINGTON (AP) — For working people making modest wages and struggling with high medical bills from chronic disease, President Barack Obama's health care plan sounds like long-awaited relief. But the promise could go unfulfilled.
It's true that patients with cancer and difficult conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease will be able to get insurance and financial help with monthly premiums.
But their annual out-of-pocket costs could still be so high they'll have trouble staying out of debt.
You couldn't call them uninsured any longer. You might say they're "underinsured."
These gaps "need to be addressed in order to fulfill the intention of the Affordable Care Act," said Brian Rosen, a senior vice president of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "There are certainly challenges for cancer patients."
Phil Everly, part of pioneering rock 'n' roll duo with brother Don, dies at age 74
LOS ANGELES (AP) — There is no more beautiful sound than the voices of siblings swirled together in high harmony, and when Phil and Don Everly combined their voices with songs about yearning, angst and loss, it changed the world.
Phil Everly, the youngest of the Everly Brothers who took the high notes, died Friday from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 74.
He left a towering legacy that still inspires half a century after The Everly Brothers' first hit.
You could argue that while Elvis Presley was the king of rock 'n' roll, Phil and Don Everly were its troubled princes. They sang dark songs hidden behind deceptively pleasing harmonies and were perfect interpreters of the twitchy hearts of millions of baby boomer teens coming of age in the 1950s and '60s looking to express themselves beyond the simple platitudes of the pop music of the day.
The Everlys dealt in the entire emotional spectrum with an authenticity that appealed to proto rockers like the Beatles and Bob Dylan, who gladly pass the credit for the sea changes they made in rock to the ruggedly handsome brothers. The Beatles, the quartet whose pitch-perfect harmonies set the pop music world aflame, once referred to themselves as "the English Everly Brothers." And Dylan, pop culture's poet laureate, once said, "We owe these guys everything. They started it all."
New law easing car sales takes effect in Cuba, but here a sedan costs as much as a Ferrari
HAVANA (AP) — Talk about sticker shock!
Cubans are eagerly flocking to Havana car dealerships as a new law takes effect eliminating a special permit requirement that has greatly restricted vehicle ownership in the country. To their dismay on Friday, the first day the law was in force, they found sharply hiked prices, some of them light years beyond all but the most well-heeled islanders.
A new Kia Rio hatchback that starts at $13,600 in the United States sells for $42,000 here, while a fresh-off-the-lot Peugeot 508 family car, the most luxurious of which lists for the equivalent of about $53,000 in the U.K., will set you back a cool $262,000.
"Between all my family here in Cuba and over in Miami, we couldn't come up with that kind of money," said Gilbert Losada, a 28-year-old musical director. "We're going to wait and see if they lower the prices, which are really crazy. We're really disappointed."
Cuba's Communist-run government traditionally has placed huge markups on retail goods and services paid for with hard currency, a policy that amounts to a tax on people who can afford such goods. The practice applies to everything from dried pasta, to household appliances, to Internet access.
Rescued Antarctic passengers resume journey home despite Chinese ship remaining stuck in ice
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian icebreaker carrying 52 passengers who were retrieved from an icebound ship in the Antarctic resumed its journey home on Saturday after it was halted for a second potential rescue operation.
The Aurora Australis had been slowly cracking through thick ice toward open water after a Chinese ship's helicopter on Thursday plucked the passengers from their stranded Russian research ship and carried them to an ice floe near the Australian ship. But on Friday afternoon, the crew of the Chinese icebreaker that had provided the helicopter said they were worried about their own ship's ability to move through the ice.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Coordination Centre, which oversaw the rescue, told the Aurora on Friday afternoon to stay in the area in case help was needed.
Under international conventions observed by most countries, ships' crews are obliged to take part in such rescues and the owners carry the costs.
AMSA said the Aurora was allowed on Saturday to continue its journey despite the Chinese ship Snow Dragon, or Xue Long in Chinese, remaining stuck in ice.
'Tik Tok' singer Ke$ha checks into rehab for eating disorder
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ke$ha has checked into rehab to treat an eating disorder.
The "Tik Tok" singer said in a statement provided by her spokesman Friday that she'll be unavailable for the next 30 days while she seeks treatment for an undisclosed eating disorder.
"I'm a crusader for being yourself and loving yourself, but I've found it hard to practice," she said.
The 26-year-old vegetarian pop star said she wants to "learn to love myself again, exactly as I am." No other details were provided.
Ke$ha, whose real name is Kesha Rose Sebert, is the performer of such tunes as "Crazy Love," ''Die Young" and "Timber" with Pitbull. She starred in the MTV reality series "My Crazy Beautiful Life."
Boyd exits in style, and No. 12 Clemson tops No. 7 Ohio State 40-35 in Orange Bowl
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Tajh Boyd went out in style. Sammy Watkins probably played his finale as well. And Clemson even got to take a little swipe at rival South Carolina.
Two years ago, the Tigers limped out of the Orange Bowl.
This time around, they were all smiles, and with good reason.
Boyd threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns, Watkins had a record-setting night with 16 catches for 227 yards and two scores, and No. 12 Clemson rallied to beat No. 7 Ohio State 40-35 on Friday in the Orange Bowl — a game the Tigers lost by 37 points just two years ago.
"Two years ago we got our butts kicked on this field," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "And it has been a journey to get back. We're 22-4 since that night. And we are the first team from the state of South Carolina to ever win a BCS game."