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

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Associated Press

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 7:03 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 2 at 8:00 PM

First US recreational pot industry opens in Colorado as other states, countries closely watch

DENVER (AP) — Crowds were serenaded by live music as they waited for the nation's first legal recreational pot shops to open. They ate doughnuts and funnel cakes as a glass-blower made smoking pipes. Some tourists even rode around in a limo, eager to try weed but not so eager to be seen buying it.

And when the sales began, those who bought the drug emerged from the stores, receipt held high and carrying sealed shopping bags, to cheers.

"I'm going to frame the receipt when I go home, to remind myself of what might be possible: Legal everywhere," said musician James Aaron Ramsey, 28, who did some time in jail for pot possession in Missouri and played folk tunes with his guitar for those in line.

Activists hope he's right, and that the experiment in Colorado will prove to be a better alternative to the costly American-led drug war, produce the kind of revenue that state officials hope and save the government costs in locking up drug offenders.

Just on the first day, prices in some places rose to more than $500 an ounce, and some shops announced midafternoon they would close early because of short supply. It's too soon to say whether the price spikes and long lines will persist.

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1st snowstorm of 2014 descends on New England, NY; high temps in some areas may be near zero

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Residents and emergency management officials in New England and parts of New York prepared on Wednesday for a winter storm predicted to help usher in 2014 with snow and frigid temperatures across much of the region.

Snow was expected to begin falling overnight, promising a messy commute for the first business day of the new year, but the full storm wasn't expected to hit until later Thursday. As much as a foot of snow or more was forecast for some areas overnight Thursday into Friday, and temperatures were expected to plummet, with some areas seeing highs just above zero, the National Weather Service said.

"There will be travel problems," said Hugh Johnson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Albany, N.Y. "It will be very cold."

The storm dropped a half-foot or more of snow in Illinois on Wednesday, prompting hundreds of flight cancellations into and out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, according to the aviation tracking website FlightAware.com.

Sections of interior southern New England and New York could get up to a foot of snow, with forecasts generally calling for 6 to 12 inches. New York City, likely to see 3 to 7 inches, issued a snow alert. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the city's commuters to leave their cars at home in case major highways are closed for Thursday's evening rush hour.

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10 Things to Know for Thursday

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

1. 'THEY CAN STILL PULL THE COUNTRY BACK FROM THE BRINK'

Hilde Johnson, the U.N. representative in South Sudan, echoes the hopes of many in the violence wracked-nation as negotiators from warring tribes meet for peace talks.

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As fighting rages in South Sudan city of Bor, peace talks to open in Ethiopia

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Negotiators from South Sudan's two warring sides arrived Wednesday in Ethiopia for peace talks, and a U.N. official urged both forces to bring the world's newest country "back from the brink."

Fighting continued in Bor, a gateway city to the capital of Juba, a government official said. Bor is just 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Juba.

Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, is the center of ethnically based violence stemming from the political rivalry between President Salva Kiir and ousted Vice President Riek Machar, the rebel leader accused of mounting a failed coup attempt.

Kiir declared a state of emergency Wednesday in Jonglei and Unity, two states where rebel forces have gained the upper hand in recent fighting.

Machar said Tuesday he would send his forces from Bor to Juba, but that threat was played down by Hilde Johnson, the U.N. representative in South Sudan.

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Passengers trapped in icebound ship in Antarctica face another rescue delay

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The latest attempt to rescue passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for more than a week was delayed again Thursday after sea ice prevented a barge from reaching one of the rescue vessels.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Coordination Centre, which is handling the operation, said earlier on Thursday that weather conditions had improved and rescue flights were expected to commence. A helicopter was expected to airlift passengers to a Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, and a barge would then ferry them to a nearby Australian vessel.

But before the rescue operation could begin, sea ice had blocked the path of the barge that needed to make it from the Australian vessel, the Aurora Australis, to the Snow Dragon. Because the Aurora isn't built to handle a helicopter landing, it appeared unlikely that the passengers would be rescued Thursday, the maritime authority said.

"This rescue is a complex operation involving a number of steps. Operations in Antarctica are all weather and ice dependent and conditions can change rapidly," the agency said in a statement.

The rescue operation for the 74 scientists, tourists and crew on the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy has been plagued by one delay after another since the vessel became stuck on Christmas Eve. Three icebreakers were initially dispatched to try and crack their way through the thick ice surrounding the ship, but all failed. The Aurora came within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the ship Monday, but fierce winds and snow forced it to retreat to open water.

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Palestinian ambassador to Prague is killed after safe explodes in his apartment

PRAGUE (AP) — The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic died Wednesday in an explosion that occurred when he opened an old safe that had been left untouched for more than 20 years, officials said.

Ambassador Jamal al-Jamal, 56, was at home with his family at the time of the explosion, according to Palestinian Embassy spokesman Nabil El-Fahel. Al-Jamal was seriously injured and rushed to a hospital where he died, according to police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said no foul play was suspected, noting that the safe had been left untouched for more than 20 years.

It also appeared that the door of the safe had been booby-trapped, according to Zoulova. It was unclear how al-Jamal tried to open it or what type of safe it was.

The safe was recently moved from the old embassy building, but it had come from a building that used to house the Palestinian Liberation Organization's offices in the 1980s, Malki said.

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Nations scramble for position in the melting Arctic; US racing to catch up, but far from lead

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is racing to keep pace with stepped-up activity in the once sleepy Arctic frontier, but it is far from being in the lead.

Nations across the world are hurrying to stake claims to the Arctic's resources, which might be home to 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its untapped natural gas. There are emerging fisheries and hidden minerals. Cruise liners loaded with tourists are sailing the Arctic's frigid waters in increasing numbers. Cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route, one of two shortcuts across the top of the Earth in summer, is on the rise.

The U.S., which takes over the two-year rotating chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council in 2015, has not ignored the Arctic, but critics say the U.S. is lagging behind the other seven: Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Canada and Denmark, through the semiautonomous territory of Greenland.

"On par with the other Arctic nations, we are behind — behind in our thinking, behind in our vision," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said. "We lack basic infrastructure, basic funding commitments to be prepared for the level of activity expected in the Arctic."

At a meeting before Thanksgiving with Secretary of State John Kerry, Murkowski suggested he name a U.S. ambassador or envoy to the Arctic — someone who could coordinate work on the Arctic being done by more than 20 federal agencies and take the lead on increasing U.S. activities in the region.

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Fire engulfs Minneapolis apartments after report of explosion; 14 injured, no fatalities

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A billowing fire engulfed a three-story building with several apartments near downtown Minneapolis early Wednesday, sending more than a dozen people to hospitals with injuries — some critical — ranging from burns to trauma associated with falls.

An explosion was reported about 8:15 a.m., and within minutes a fire raged through the building, said Robert Ball, a spokesman for Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics, amid sub-zero temperatures, responded to find victims on the ground, some with injuries that suggested they may have fallen multiple stories.

"It's not clear whether people were pushed out of the building from the explosion, or whether they fell or jumped out of windows to escape," Ball said.

No fatalities have been reported, but authorities weren't sure whether any residents were still inside the building. Its roof had partially collapsed, making it too dangerous for firefighters to enter and sweep the premises, said Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Cherie Penn.

Penn said 14 people were taken to hospitals, and six were considered to be critically hurt.

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James Avery, who played Uncle Phil in 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' TV series, dead at 68

NEW YORK (AP) — James Avery, the bulky character actor who laid down the law at home and on the job as the Honorable Philip Banks in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died.

Avery's publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told The Associated Press that Avery died Tuesday in Glendale, Calif., following complications from open heart surgery. He was 68, Snyder said.

Avery, who stood more than 6 feet tall, played the family patriarch and a wealthy attorney and judge on the popular TV comedy that launched the acting career of Will Smith as Banks' troublemaking nephew.

The sitcom, which aired on NBC from 1990 to 1996, was set in the Banks' mansion, to which Smith's character was sent from Philadelphia when things got tough in his own neighborhood. Fans came to know the imposing Banks as "Uncle Phil."

Avery liked to say that the way to be an actor was to act, and he had a busy and diverse career before, during and after "Fresh Prince." His TV credits included "Grey's Anatomy," ''NYPD Blue" and "Dallas," and among his many films were "Fletch," ''Nightflyers" and "8 Million Ways to Die." His voice alone brought him many jobs, notably as Shredder in the animated TV series "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

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This is Sparta!: Michigan State beats Stanford 24-20 for 1st Rose Bowl victory in 26 years

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — When Kyler Elsworth soared over the pile to deliver the final hit of Michigan State's season, the storybook ending came with a moral.

After so many years outside the spotlight, the Spartans are in nobody's shadow anymore. And for the first time in 26 years, they're Rose Bowl champions.

Connor Cook passed for a career-high 332 yards and hit Tony Lippett with a tiebreaking 25-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, leading No. 4 Michigan State to a 24-20 victory over No. 5 Stanford on Wednesday night in the 100th Rose Bowl.

Michigan State's FBS-best defense capped a dominant season with one more old-school performance befitting the centennial celebration of the Granddaddy of Them All. The Spartans (13-1) yielded just 159 yards in the final three quarters, and they closed it out by stopping Stanford fullback Ryan Hewitt on fourth-and-1 near midfield with 1:46 to play.

Elsworth, the fill-in starter for suspended senior linebacker Max Bullough, hurdled the pile and flew into Michigan State lore with a spectacular head-on tackle.

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