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Associated Press

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 11:02 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 7 at 6:04 AM

South, East brace for dangerous polar air as Midwest slowly starts to step out of freezer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Frigid air that snapped decades-old records will make venturing outside dangerous for a second straight day, this time spreading to southern and eastern parts of the U.S. and keeping many schools and businesses shuttered. Meanwhile, residents driven from their homes by power outages in the Midwest worried about burst pipes.

Monday's subzero temperatures broke records in Chicago, which set a record for the date at minus 16, and Fort Wayne, Ind., where the mercury fell to 13 below. Records also fell in Oklahoma and Texas, and wind chills across the region were 40 below and colder. Officials in states like Indiana already struggling with high winds and more than a foot of snow urged residents to stay home if they could.

"The cold is the real killer here," Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said Monday as he asked schools and businesses to remain closed another day. "In 10 minutes you could be dead without the proper clothes."

The polar air will next invade the East and South on Tuesday, bringing with it the prospect of more records falling. Highs in the single digits were expected in Georgia and Alabama, and wind chill warnings stretched as far south as Florida, with forecasts calling for minus 10 in Atlanta and minus 12 in Baltimore.

In downtown Louisville, Ky., where wind chills dropped to 22 below zero Monday, John Tyler gathered with friends at a McDonald's. The self-described homeless man spent Sunday night sleeping on the street.

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Senate sets clash over bill extending long-term unemployment benefits

WASHINGTON (AP) — The new year looks a lot like the old one in the Senate, with Democrats scratching for votes to pass an agenda they share with President Barack Obama, and Republicans decidedly unenthusiastic about supporting legislation without changes.

At the dawn of the 2014 election year, the issue is unemployment benefits, and a White House-backed bill to renew benefits that lapsed last month for the long-term jobless.

The three-month measure is the leading edge of a Democratic program that also includes raising the minimum wage, closing tax loopholes on the wealthy and corporations, and enacting other measures designed to demonstrate sympathy with those who suffered during the worst recession in decades and a subsequent long, slow recovery.

With bad weather preventing more than a dozen senators from traveling to Washington on Monday evening, a showdown vote was postponed until Tuesday.

But not before Republicans accused Democrats of playing politics.

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Yellen's Fed will face tests as it scales back bond purchases aimed at boosting economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Janet Yellen will take the helm of a Federal Reserve facing a significantly different economic landscape than the one that dominated Ben Bernanke's tenure as chairman, confronting her with different decisions as well.

Bernanke's eight years leading the Fed were largely consumed with the Great Recession and his efforts to cure it by pushing down interest rates and pumping cash into the economy. Many economists think Yellen's big challenge will be deciding how to ease off some of those very policies, which Bernanke took with Yellen's support.

"Circumstances may demand more rapid tightening than people are expecting," said Bill Cheney, chief economist for John Hancock Financial Services, who envisions a growing economy this year. He contrasted that with Bernanke, who he said had to decide "when to step on the gas pedal and how hard" as the economy recovered weakly from the recession.

The Senate confirmed Yellen, a long-time Fed official and economist at the University of California at Berkeley, by a 56-26 vote Monday. Supporting her were all 45 voting Democrats and 11 Republicans, while all opposing votes came from the GOP. Many senators missed the vote because frigid weather canceled numerous airline flights.

Yellen begins her four-year term Feb. 1, when Bernanke steps down. She has been Fed vice chair since 2010.

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Political brawling over Kolkata rape shows Indian voters watching police on women's safety

NEW DELHI (AP) — The 16-year-old reported that she had been gang raped, only to be raped again by the same men the next day and later threatened for going to the police in eastern India. By the time charges were filed more than two months later, she had been set on fire and died from her injuries.

The girl's death on New Year's Eve in West Bengal came more than a year after a deadly gang rape in New Delhi raised awareness and outrage over chronic sexual violence in India and government failures to protect women. The New Delhi rape was considered a major reason for why voters ousted the capital's government last month, and a furious response to the West Bengal case suggests that with general elections just months away, politicians are anxious to impress voters who are demanding that women's safety become a police priority.

The teen's family, allegedly run out of town by her assailants, accuses police of trying to cover up the crimes.

Improving sensitivity by police officers and medical workers is crucial to improving women's safety in this country of 1.2 billion, activists say. Even as the government has promised to improve justice for rape victims, some trying to report sexual crimes have said they were harassed by officers making lewd comments, demanding bribes or simply shooing them away.

The girl reported being gang raped on Oct. 25 and 26, but Kolkata police did not arrest anyone until the girl ended up in a hospital Dec. 23 with severe burn injuries. Doctors then determined she was pregnant. Police initially told reporters she had attempted suicide, but the girl's family disputed that, saying she was set on fire by associates of those who had gang raped her.

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For Obama, Congress, 2014 represents a last grasp at overhauling immigration

WASHINGTON (AP) — His agenda tattered by last year's confrontations and missteps, President Barack Obama begins 2014 clinging to the hope of winning a lasting legislative achievement: an overhaul of immigration laws.

It will require a deft and careful use of his powers, combining a public campaign in the face of protests over his administration's record number of deportations with quiet, behind-the-scenes outreach to Congress, something seen by lawmakers and immigration advocates as a major White House weakness.

In recent weeks, both Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have sent signals that raised expectations among overhaul supporters that 2014 could still yield the first comprehensive change in immigration laws in nearly three decades. If successful, it would fulfill an Obama promise many Latinos say is overdue.

The Senate last year passed a bipartisan bill that was comprehensive in scope that addressed border security, provided enforcement measures and offered a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally. House leaders, pressed by tea party conservatives, demanded a more limited and piecemeal approach.

Indicating a possible opening, Obama has stopped insisting the House pass the Senate version. And two days after calling Boehner to wish him happy birthday in November, Obama made it clear he could accept the House's bill-by-bill approach, with one caveat: In the end, "we're going to have to do it all."

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Gay couples' rush to marry in Utah grinds to halt after US Supreme Court issues stay

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — More than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples in Utah have exchanged wedding vows over the past two weeks in jubilant celebrations — but the rush on same-sex marriage licenses has come to an end.

The U.S. Supreme Court put a halt to them Monday by granting the state of Utah a stay on a federal judge's ruling that two other courts previously denied. The decision drew cheers from Gov. Gary Herbert and other state officials, who immediately instructed county clerks to stop marrying gay and lesbian couples. In Utah's largest county, four couples were turned away.

The justices did not rule on the merits of the case or on same-sex marriage bans in general, leaving both sides confident they'll ultimately win. The decision stays in effect while the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers the long-term question of whether gay couples have a right to wed in Utah.

Meanwhile, hundreds of newly married couples were thrown into legal and emotional limbo by the decision. Legal scholars say their marriage licenses will be honored by the federal government, but Utah officials are trying to determine whether the marriages that have already taken place are still valid.

The latest twist in the legal battle clouds what was seen as a cause for celebration.

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In one frozen town, football, lottery and cigarettes are worth freezing for

CORAOPOLIS, Pa. (AP) — Certain essentials must be taken care of, no matter what. As a record freeze hit this hard-luck town outside Pittsburgh early Tuesday, basic needs came down to football, lottery tickets and cigarettes. Especially cigarettes.

Dangerously frigid air arrived in Coraopolis, Pa., from the Midwest, borne by a biting wind that pulled smoke horizontally from the factory chimneys along the Ohio River. With Tuesday's school already cancelled and local TV news issuing dire warnings, the mile-long main drag fell silent except for a few cars and the rumble of freight trains running two blocks over.

None of the town's 5,664 residents are outside — until you reach the Uni-Mart on the corner of Main and Fifth.

Quentin Milliner walks in and asks for a pack of Marlboros. He's not cold: "I spent two years in Alaska," he says. "This isn't cold."

When he walks out, the bank clock across the street reads 9:13 p.m. and -3 degrees. On the ten-minute walk home, Milliner is wearing jeans but no thermals, two shirts, a coat, and a Pittsburgh Penguins hat pulled down to the top of his Pittsburgh Steelers scarf.

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Run Run Shaw, Hong Kong movie and TV mogul who popularized kung fu genre, dies at age 107

HONG KONG (AP) — Run Run Shaw built a Hong Kong movie and TV empire that nurtured rising talents like actor Chow Yun-fat and director John Woo, inspired Hollywood filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and produced the 1982 sci-fi classic "Blade Runner."

Shaw's prolific studio helped bring kung fu films to the world but he also passed on the chance to sign one of the biggest names in that genre: the young Bruce Lee.

The missed opportunity was a rare misstep for Shaw, who died at age 107 on Tuesday, according to a statement from Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), which he helped found in 1967. No cause of death was given.

His Shaw Brothers Studios, once among the world's largest, churned out nearly 1,000 movies and gave young directors like Woo their start. He produced a handful of U.S. films that also included the 1979 disaster thriller "Meteor."

His television empire, which remains a dominant force in Hong Kong, was where stars like Chow got their first breaks. Wong Kar-wai, the director behind critically acclaimed art-house movies like "Chungking Express" and "In the Mood for Love," got his start through a TVB training course and worked at the station briefly as a production assistant.

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No. 1 Florida State beats No. 2 Auburn 34-31 in last BCS national championship game

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — After a regular season filled with blowout victories and easy fourth quarters, Jameis Winston and Florida State showed they could close like champions, too.

No. 2 Auburn wobbled the top-ranked Seminoles by jumping out to an 18-point lead in the first half, and then put Florida State on the brink of defeat for the first time this season.

Winston responded with the drive of his life and a game-winning touchdown pass with 13 seconds left that topped everything else he has done in one of the most sensational debut seasons a college quarterback has ever had.

The Heisman Trophy winner led the Seminoles 80 yards in the final 79 seconds, flicking a 2-yard TD pass to Kelvin Benjamin to give No. 1 Florida State a 34-31 victory against Auburn in the last BCS championship game Monday night.

"The last drive, that's a great way to cap off our season," Winston said. "That's the way we wanted to cap off our season."

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Florida State fans celebrate raucously after BCS win; Auburn fans stunned in the final seconds

Florida State fans shouted and danced in raucous celebration after their top-ranked team roared back in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to beat Auburn in the BCS championship game.

Many pumped fists gleefully, hugged and slapped high fives in Tallahassee, Fla., after Jameis Winston threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left as Florida State beat No. 2 Auburn 34-31 on Monday night.

In Tallahassee, two machines rained streams of garnet and gold confetti down on thousands of fans who jumped and danced in a civic center where they had watched the game. For both sides, it was a tense finale after a game in which Auburn mostly had the first-half momentum.

In the end, Florida State fans erupted into thunderous cheering. Outside the arena, a group of fans who built a fire cheered after watching the game amid a bitter cold snap. Like many in the region, fans at Auburn and Florida State weather unseasonably bitter cold temperatures.

Tallahassee Police Officer David Northway said he had no reports of any major incidents by early Tuesday as celebrations dragged on into the wee hours.

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