• Legislative panel hears testimony on environmental spending

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Cleaning up polluted land for redevelopment, improving access to public lands and increasing resiliency to extreme weather are among the Department of Environmental Conservation's priorities in the coming fiscal year, Commissioner Joe Martens told Senate and Assembly fiscal committees at a budget hearing Wednesday. Notably absent from the agency's agenda was fracking, which has drawn sign-waving crowds of opponents and advocates to environmental budget hearings in the last few years. Several lawmakers praised Martens for the decision last month to ban shale gas development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

  • Study: Insurers may using drug costs to discriminate

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Insurance companies, perhaps more than previously thought, may be charging the sickest patients extra for drugs under the federal health law, in an effort to discourage them from choosing certain plans, according to a study released Wednesday. One of the cornerstones of President Obama's signature health law forbids insurance companies from turning away people with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or cancer. Yet hundreds of patient advocacy groups say insurance companies have found a way to discriminate against these people, who are more expensive to cover because they require life-long treatments.

  • Former LANL scientist sentenced to five years for attempt to sell nuclear secrets

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    Bringing a bizarre case of would-be espionage to a close, former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist P. Leonardo Mascheroni was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday for trying to pass classified nuclear weapons information to a man he believed to be a Venezuelan government official. The sentence was handed down in federal court in Albuquerque. In a rambling statement to the judge, Mascheroni denied he ever intended to help Venezuela acquire nuclear weapons. “What I was selling was completely science fiction,” he said. Mascheroni said his real goal was to find a venue to pursue his research on fusion energy, an idea he had tried unsuccessfully to push both at the lab and at the congressional level.

  • Trial opens for 2 accused of desecrating Illinois cemetery

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) — Two brothers accused of digging up graves, dumping human remains and reselling plots at a suburban Chicago cemetery went on trial Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court. Prosecutors alleged that cemetery employees Keith Nicks, 51, and Terrence Nicks, 44, engaged in the "cold and callous" acts between 2003 and 2009 at the historic Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. The graveyard contains the burial site of lynching victim Emmett Till and blues singers Willie Dixon and Dinah Washington. Prosecutors say the scheme was masterminded by the cemetery's then-director, Carolyn Towns, and was prompted by the belief the facility was becoming overcrowded.

  • Raul Castro: US must return Guantanamo for normal relations

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — Cuban President Raul Castro demanded on Wednesday that the United States return the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, lift the half-century trade embargo on Cuba and compensate his country for damages before the two nations re-establish normal relations. Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that Cuba and the U.S. are working toward full diplomatic relations but "if these problems aren't resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement wouldn't make any sense." Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Dec. 17 that they would move toward renewing full diplomatic relations by reopening embassies in each other's countries.

  • Attorney General nominee defends Obama immigration changes

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Confronting skeptical Republicans, attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch pledged a new start with Congress and independence from President Barack Obama Wednesday, even as she defended the president's unilateral protections for millions of immigrants in the country illegally. "If confirmed as attorney general, I would be myself. I would be Loretta Lynch," the nominee told her Senate confirmation hearing as Republicans showered criticism on the current occupant of the job, Eric Holder. They said Holder was contemptuous of Congress and too politically close to Obama, and repeatedly demanded assurances that Lynch would do things differently.

  • Bagwell to help out Astros at spring training

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    HOUSTON (AP) — Former Houston Astros star Jeff Bagwell will join the team at spring training as a guest instructor. The Astros aren't sure when he'll travel to Kissimmee, Florida to help out. They say he'll be there for several days. It will be the first time Bagwell has worked with the team since a stint as Houston's hitting coach for the second half of the 2010 season. The 46-year-old Bagwell spent his entire 15-year playing career with the Astros, hitting 449 home runs with 1,529 RBIs before retiring after the 2005 season. Bagwell fell short of the 75 percent needed for election to the Hall of Fame this year in his fifth year on the ballot with 55.7 percent, up from 54.3 percent a year ago.

  • Inquest: Sydney café hostage killed by police bullet

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    SYDNEY (AP) — A hostage who died during a siege in a downtown Sydney cafe was killed when she was struck by fragments of a bullet fired from a police officer's gun as authorities stormed in to end the 16-hour standoff, a lawyer told an inquest on Thursday. Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old lawyer who was among 18 people taken hostage last month by a gunman, died after being hit by six fragments of a police bullet that had ricocheted off a hard surface, Jeremy Gormly, a lawyer assisting the coroner, told the Glebe Coroner's Court. One fragment struck a major blood vessel and she quickly lost consciousness, he said.

  • Rockets' Howard out with sprained ankle against Mavericks

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    HOUSTON (AP) — Houston center Dwight Howard is out for the second straight game on Wednesday night against Dallas with a sprained right ankle. Howard missed Sunday's game after spraining his ankle on Friday night. He started practice on Tuesday, but left after turning his ankle in the workout. Joey Dorsey started in his place. Also on Wednesday, coach Kevin McHale said that power forward Terrence Jones would play against the Mavericks. He hasn't played since Nov. 3 because of nerve inflammation in his left leg. McHale says Jones will likely play about 20 minutes as he eases back into the lineup.

  • Charles Townes, physicist who invented the laser, dies at 99

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    In 1951, physicist Charles Townes was lost in thought on a park bench in Washington, D.C., pondering a years-long puzzle: how to create an intense beam of light — short in wavelength and high in frequency — with far-reaching practical uses. Albert Einstein had theorized that it could be done, but no one had yet managed the feat. On that bench, surrounded by blooming azaleas, the solution came to Townes, then a 35-year-old Columbia University researcher. It involved a flash of bright light, a population of excited ammonia molecules and a mechanism for limiting the wavelengths they could then emit. On the back of an old envelope, he “just scratched it out,” he said of his brainstorm.

  • Phillies elevate Montgomery to chairman

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Phillies have elevated David Montgomery from president to chairman and named Hall of Famer Pat Gillick team president. The move was announced Wednesday, several months after Montgomery took a leave to continue his recovery from jaw cancer. Montgomery says he's healthy enough now to assume some of his responsibilities. Gillick was the Phillies general manager when they won the World Series in 2008. He had served as a senior adviser since 2009.

  • Chilean lawmakers approve same-sex civil unions

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean lawmakers gave final approval on Wednesday to a bill that recognizes civil unions between same-sex couples. The legislation now goes to President Michelle Bachelet, who is expected to sign it. Government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde welcomed the bill's passage as "a breakthrough that we are proud of as a government." The measure has been in the works for four years and will give same-sex and unmarried couples many of the rights granted to married couples. Among the changes, it will allow civil union partners to inherit each other's property, join a partner's health plan and receive pension benefits. Civil unions have been recognized in several countries across South America, but conservativ

  • Texas inmate set to die Thursday for 1996 slaying

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Robert Ladd was paroled after serving about a third of his 40-year prison sentence for the fatal stabbing of a Dallas woman whose body was set ablaze in a fire that killed her two children. Four years later, a mentally impaired woman in East Texas was strangled and beaten with a hammer. Her arms and legs were bound, bedding was placed between her legs, and — like the Dallas woman more than a decade earlier in 1980 — she was set on fire in her apartment. Ladd is scheduled to be executed Thursday for the 1996 killing of 38-year-old Vicki Ann Garner, whose burned body was found in her Tyler apartment. His attorneys insist Ladd is mentally impaired, and on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to s

  • Electrical fire ignited Christmas tree in fatal Md. fire

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    MILLERSVILLE, Md. (AP) — An electrical fire that spread to a 15-foot Christmas tree prompted a blaze that reduced a 16,000-square-foot riverfront mansion near Maryland's capital to ruins, killing a couple and four of their young grandchildren, investigators said Wednesday. The fire ignited combustible material, probably a tree skirt, and tore through the massive, castle-like structure in the early morning hours of Jan. 19. Anne Arundel County Fire Chief Allan Graves said the tree had been cut more than 60 days before the blaze and was in a "great room" of the house with 19-foot ceilings. "The involvement of the Christmas tree explains the heavy fire conditions found by the first arriving fire crews," Graves said.

  • First Look: 'Dope' is fresh, funny and music-filled

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Punk rock, Bitcoin, '90s hip-hop, BMX bikes, street thugs and Harvard come together in "Dope," a wonderfully fresh, thoughtful and music-filled coming-of-age story. Writer-director Rick Famuyiwa ("The Wood") introduces audiences to a stellar cast of relative newcomers in the film that spawned a fierce bidding war after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Open Road Films won domestic distribution rights, but no release date has been announced. The story centers on Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a good student and self-professed geek.

  • Judge: Marriage licenses should be issued to gay couples

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gay marriage is inching closer to becoming a reality in Alabama as a federal judge has ruled that probate judges have a constitutional duty to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Alabama Probate Judges Association issued new advice after reviewing the judge's clarification order that was issued Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Callie Granade last week ruled the ban unconstitutional. She put her order on hold for 14 days to let the state appeal. Monroe County Probate Judge Greg Norris says no licenses will be issued to same-sex couples as long as the order is on hold. However, same sex couples may apply for marriage licenses if the stay is lifted.

  • Police: Bar fight might have involved Kentucky players

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Authorities were investigating a weekend bar fight in which an Eastern Kentucky student was injured and that possibly involved football players from that school and the University of Kentucky, police said Wednesday. The Richmond, Kentucky, police statement does not include the injured student's name or others involved. It said that around 5 p.m. Sunday, a man complained of being assaulted at 12:30 a.m. by three or four men who grabbed and repeatedly hit him in the head while at Jerzee's, a bar off the Eastern Kentucky University's campus in Richmond. The man reported losing consciousness but later attempted to walk back to campus with two women who tried to help him.

  • Army Corps releases coastal flood risk management framework

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday issued a report saying that managing the flooding risk along the North Atlantic coast from events like Superstorm Sandy is something that has to be done collaboratively by all levels of government and the private sector. The Corps issued a framework to help that collaboration as part of a two-year study covering 31,000 miles of coastline along the northeastern United States. Joe Vietri, director of the Corps' National Planning Center for Coastal Storm Risk Management, said, "We're all going to have to make some tough choices as we move forward." The study assessed the states' coastlines for vulnerabilities and offers some possible mitigation strategies, but

  • As Kansas turns 154, five events that shaped our state

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    At the end of the Civil War, Kansas was the state that beckoned. People migrated to Kansas to start their lives over on the untamed prairie and in new towns and cities. On Thursday, Kansas will celebrate the 154th anniversary of its statehood. On Jan. 29, 1861, Kansas entered the Union opposing slavery. It was known for fiery abolitionist John Brown, who first gained national attention during the turbulent seven-year territorial period. Four years later, in 1865, the Civil War ended. Some estimates indicate more than 100,000 Union Civil War veterans claimed Kansas as their home state by the mid-1880s. In the years just before the war and after it, five things forever shaped, fueled and changed Kansas.

  • Desert stars: Celebs converge on Phoenix for Super Bowl 49

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    PHOENIX (AP) — The desert is great for stargazing, and that will certainly be the case as the Super Bowl takes over Phoenix and its suburbs. Comedians Joel McHale and Kevin Hart will crack jokes for partygoers, newcomer Charli XCX will perform for troops and then revelers at ESPN's party, and Jamie Foxx and Drake will hold court at a pair of lounges at a swanky Scottsdale hotel. The events range from private, invite-only festivities to fan-friendly events that are open to anyone who buys a ticket.




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