Downtown Charleston a "ghost town" as chemical spill takes a toll on W.Va. capital region
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — On the third day without clean tap water, business owners with empty dining rooms and quiet aisles of merchandise around West Virginia's capital were left to wonder how much of an economic hit they'll take from a chemical spill.
Most visitors have cleared out of Charleston while locals are either staying home or driving out of the area to find somewhere they can get a hot meal or a shower. Orders not to use tap water for much other than flushing toilets mean that the spill is an emergency not just for the environment but also for local businesses.
A water company executive said Saturday that it could be days before uncontaminated water is flowing again for about 300,000 people in nine West Virginia counties. The uncertainty means it's impossible to estimate the economic impact of the spill yet, said the leader of the local chamber of commerce.
Virtually every restaurant was closed Saturday, unable to use water to prepare food, wash dishes or clean employees' hands. Meanwhile, hotels had emptied and foot traffic was down at many retail stores.
"I haven't been able to cook anything at home and was hoping they were open," Bill Rogers, 52, said outside a closed Tudor's Biscuit World in Marmet, just east of Charleston. "It seems like every place is closed. It's frustrating. Really frustrating."
Ariel Sharon, Israel's bulldozer in politics and war, admired and reviled, dies at 85
JERUSALEM (AP) — It was vintage Ariel Sharon: His hefty body bobbing behind a wall of security men, the ex-general led a march onto a Jerusalem holy site, staking a bold claim to a shrine that has been in contention from the dawn of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
What followed was a Palestinian uprising that put Mideast peace efforts into deep-freeze.
Five years later, Sharon, who died Saturday at 85, was again barreling headlong into controversy, bulldozing ahead with his plan to pull Israel out of the Gaza Strip and uproot all 8,500 Jewish settlers living there without regard to threats to his life from Jewish extremists.
His allies said the move was a revolutionary step in peacemaking; his detractors said it was a tactical sacrifice to strengthen Israel's hold on much of the West Bank.
Either way, the withdrawal and the barrier he was building between Israel and the West Bank permanently changed the face of the conflict and marked the final legacy of a man who shaped Israel as much as any other leader. He was a farmer-turned-soldier, a soldier-turned-politician, a politician-turned-statesman — a hard-charging Israeli who built Jewish settlements on war-won land, but didn't shy away from destroying them when he deemed them no longer useful.
Kerry, 10 other top envoys raise pressure on Syrian opposition, hoping to salvage peace talks
PARIS (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and top envoys from 10 other countries are raising the pressure on Syria's main opposition group to attend peace talks that would bring it face-to-face with the Syrian government.
The two-day meeting begins Sunday in Paris, just a week before the scheduled talks in Geneva.
The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition is nearing collapse, hampered by infighting, international pressure and disagreement over whether to negotiate with Syria's president, Bashar Assad.
The moderate rebels find themselves battling on two fronts — against al-Qaida linked militants on one side and Assad's forces on another. But despite low expectations for the Geneva peace conference, diplomats say it is the only chance of ending fighting that has killed more than 130,000 people.
Abortion opponents wage high court free speech fight over painted line outside Mass. clinics
BOSTON (AP) — Eleanor McCullen clutches a baby's hat knit in pink and blue as she patrols a yellow semicircle painted on the sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood health clinic on a frigid December morning with snow in the forecast.
The painted line marks 35 feet from the clinic's entrance and that's where the 77-year-old McCullen and all other abortion protesters and supporters must stay under a Massachusetts law that is being challenged at the U.S. Supreme Court as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. Arguments are set for Wednesday.
Outside the line, McCullen and others are free to approach anyone with any message they wish. They risk arrest if they get closer to the door.
With her pleasant demeanor and grandmotherly mien, McCullen has become the new face of a decades-old fight between abortion opponents asserting their right to try to change the minds of women seeking abortions and abortion providers claiming that patients should be able to enter their facilities without being impeded or harassed.
In 2000, the Supreme Court upheld a different buffer zone in Colorado in a decision that some free speech advocates, who also support abortion rights, heavily criticized. Noted First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams recently called the decision in Hill v. Colorado "what may well be the most indefensible First Amendment ruling so far this century."
AP Enterprise: Brawls, murky finances push reborn Berlin Jewish community to point of collapse
BERLIN (AP) — Under the golden dome of the Berlin synagogue, elderly worshippers traded shoves and obscenities flew. A man held up his phone to film the ruckus; the leader of the city's Jews snatched it away. Then punches began to land in a chaotic scrum, a man rammed a table into another's stomach, and demurely clad women put each other in chokeholds. Police had to be called to restore calm.
The ugly scene, described in interviews with witnesses and seen on an Internet video, is indicative of a Berlin Jewish community in crisis — riven by cultural rivalries, its finances under official scrutiny. It's hard to say who is at fault, but the feuding is fed at least in part by a clash between an old guard of German Jews dating to before World War II, and a growing presence of relative newcomers from the former Soviet Union.
What is clear is that the 10,000-member Jewish Community of Berlin, having experienced a stirring post-Holocaust rebirth, now fears it's in danger of falling apart. And Berlin authorities are so alarmed by alleged financial irregularities that they have suspended millions of euros (dollars) in subsidies the community has enjoyed for decades.
"The quarrels highlight the demoralization that has been taking place in this community," Lala Suesskind, who headed the Jewish Community of Berlin until February 2012, told The Associated Press. "The community is in such a hopeless situation that even violence and intimidation are being used. That's unprecedented."
At the center of the storm is Gideon Joffe, who was elected nearly two years ago as community president, and whose leadership style has alienated members even as he comes under official scrutiny of his financial management.
Permit to hunt endangered African black rhino sells for $350,000 at Dallas auction
DALLAS (AP) — A permit to hunt an endangered African black rhino sold for $350,000 at a Dallas auction held to raise money for conservation efforts but criticized by wildlife advocates.
Steve Wagner, a spokesman for the Dallas Safari Club, which sponsored the closed-door event Saturday night, confirmed the sale of the permit for a hunt in the African nation of Namibia. He declined to name the buyer.
The Safari Club's executive director, Ben Carter, has defended the auction, saying all money raised will go toward protecting the species. He also said the rhino that the winner will be allowed to hunt is old, male and nonbreeding — and that the animal was likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife.
But the auction drew howls from critics, including wildlife and animal rights groups, and the FBI said it was investigating death threats against members of the club.
Officials from the Humane Society and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have said that while culling can be appropriate in abundant animal populations, all black rhinos should be protected, given their endangered status.
New pickup truck, performance cars and econoboxes expected at this year's Detroit auto show
From brawny pickup trucks and growling high-performance cars to economical subcompacts, the North American International Auto Show in Detroit likely will have something that appeals to every driver.
Show organizers expect more than 50 new model introductions when the show kicks off Monday and Tuesday with 5,000 journalists attending the press days. What the automakers introduce is crucial because sales growth is starting to slow and new models tend to capture more buyers than older ones.
Ford is expected to steal the show with a new version of the F-150 pickup truck, but there are other notable cars and trucks coming. Chrysler will roll out a new 200 midsize sedan, a crucial vehicle in the company's plan to keep its sales growing. Honda plans to unveil a more modern version of its Fit subcompact, while new sports cars are expected from BMW, Toyota and Lexus.
Here's a look at what's expected from the show, which opens to the public on Saturday, Jan. 18:
AMC announces premiere for 'Better Call Saul' based on sleazy 'Breaking Bad' lawyer
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Walter White's lawyer is returning to Albuquerque.
AMC announced this week that the "Breaking Bad" spinoff, "Better Call Saul," will premiere in November 2014, but no specific date has been released.
The series will follow sleazy attorney Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, as he defends drug lords, criminals and those allegedly injured in minor traffic accidents.
The network has already created a website for the fiction lawyer, with Saul Goodman's signature videos boasting how he can get anyone out of legal trouble. The website includes "testimonies" from a drug dealer and prostitute who tell potential clients how he got them out of jail.
"Breaking Bad," which ended last year and was filmed in Albuquerque, followed former high school teacher Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston. White produced methamphetamine with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul.
Odds against Alex Rodriguez in federal court as he tries to overturn season-long suspension
NEW YORK (AP) — The odds are against Alex Rodriguez in federal court as he tries to overturn his season-long drug suspension.
For the past five decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has set narrow grounds for judges to consider when evaluating lawsuits to overturn arbitration decisions. That position was reaffirmed in 2001 when it ruled against Steve Garvey in his suit against the Major League Baseball Players Association stemming from the collusion cases of the 1980s.
"I don't think he has very much of a chance," said Stanford Law School professor emeritus William B. Gould IV, the former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. "There are many cases that are appealed from arbitration awards, but the case law at the Supreme Court level makes success very much a long shot."
The Joint Drug Agreement between Major League Baseball and the players' association gives the sport's three-person arbitration panel — the independent arbitrator plus one representative of management and the union — jurisdiction to review discipline resulting from violations.
The union filed a grievance after baseball Commissioner Bud Selig suspended Rodriguez for 211 games last August, and arbitrator Fredric Horowitz presided over 12 days of hearings last fall and cut the penalty Saturday to 162 games plus the 2014 postseason.
Blount runs for 4 TDs, Patriots reach AFC championship game with 43-22 win over Colts
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — LeGarrette Blount wasn't satisfied with three short touchdown runs, not against a team coming off the second greatest comeback in playoff history.
So the 250-pound back who makes long runs routine took off on a 73-yarder and carried the New England Patriots to their third straight AFC championship game with a 43-22 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night.
Suddenly, the ground game has replaced Tom Brady as the heart of the Patriots' offense.
"Once I get into the open field, they're going to have to chase me," Blount said. "And if they catch me, they do. And if they don't, they don't. They usually don't."
They didn't two weeks earlier when he scored on runs of 36 and 35 yards in the regular-season finale against Buffalo. He also returned kickoffs 83 and 62 yards in that 34-20 victory that gave New England a first-round bye. And they didn't on his long touchdown that gave the Patriots (13-4) a 36-22 lead early in the fourth quarter against the Colts (12-6).