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Bedrock GOP principle dropped in debt ceiling vote
Written by JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 07:11

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was once the backbone of the House Republican majority — the hard-line stand that brought President Barack Obama to the negotiating table and yielded more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction.

On Tuesday, it abruptly vanished, the victim of Republican disunity and a president determined not to bargain again.

During the summer budget negotiations in 2011, House Speaker John Boehner had insisted that any increase in the nation's borrowing limit be matched dollar for dollar with spending cuts. It became the "Boehner Rule," a mantra of fiscal discipline. And while it didn't always live up to its tit-for-tat formula, it helped drive budget talks and kept deficit reduction at the fore of the Republican agenda.

But there are limits to Republican power, and on Tuesday inevitability finally caught up to the speaker.

Boehner let Congress vote on a measure to extend the nation's borrowing authority for 13 months without any spending conditions — a "clean bill" that was an unequivocal victory for Obama. It passed 221-201, with only 28 Republican votes. The Senate still has to approve the extension, but that's considered a mere formality in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

Boehner's retreat hardly came as a surprise.

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Long journey ends at home for man drifting at sea
Written by MARCOS ALEMAN, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 07:11

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — A fisherman who says he drifted at sea for more than a year has finally made it home to El Salvador, exhausted and speechless.

Jose Salvador Alvarenga tried to address a media throng waiting at the airport, eager to fill in details about what many people have viewed as a fish tale: a man tossed 6,500 miles (10,500 kilometers) across the Pacific in a small boat from Mexico to the Marshall Islands, surviving on raw fish, turtles and bird blood.

But when handed the microphone at the San Salvador airport late Tuesday, Alvarenga could only put his hands to his face, appearing to cry.

Wearing a dark blue T-shirt, khaki trousers and tennis shoes, the 37-year-old left the airport in a wheelchair and was taken by ambulance to the National Hospital San Rafael, where he was greeted by a daughter who didn't remember him and a mother who had thought he was dead after not hearing from him for years.

Dr. Yeerles Ramírez described the reunions as emotional, and said that according to medical tests so far, "the prognosis is very good."

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Atlanta area braces for dangerous ice storm
Written by CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY, Associated Press KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 07:04

ATLANTA (AP) — Emergency management workers hunkered down in Atlanta waiting to spring into action as rain — and temperatures — fell overnight, potentially leading to "catastrophic" ice conditions that forecasters said could hit the region.

Already, Georgia Power was reporting more than 2,000 power outages early Wednesday throughout the state. Forecasters and officials said that number would probably grow throughout the day. In north Georgia, morning snow was falling. Other areas of the South, from Louisiana to South Carolina, and the Mid-Atlantic also were expected to get socked with a wintry mix of ice, snow and freezing rain.

Atlanta and the surrounding region dodged the first punch of a dangerous winter storm Tuesday, but forecasters warned that the second punch would likely bring a thick layer of ice and heavy winds that could knock out power to thousands and leave people stranded in their cold, dark homes for days. National Weather Service forecasters said in a memo early Tuesday that while a foot of snow could fall in some parts of the northeast Georgia mountains, "it is the ice that will have the catastrophic impacts."

Elected leaders and emergency management officials began warning people to stay off the roads, especially after two inches of snowfall caused an icy gridlock two weeks ago and left thousands stranded in vehicles overnight. It seemed many in the region around the state's capital obliged as streets and highways were uncharacteristically unclogged Tuesday.

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Wire fox terrier wins best in show at Westminster
Written by BEN WALKER, AP Sports Writer   
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 07:10

NEW YORK (AP) — The bloodhound drew the loudest cheers. The Portie came with presidential connections. And the Irish water spaniel tried to earn another win for Seattle in the Super Bowl — of dogs, that is.

A little wire fox terrier called Sky stood in their way.

The 5-year-old Sky won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday night, finishing off a season in which she was ranked the nation's No. 1 dog.

Handler Gabriel Rangel scooped up Sky in one arm after she was picked as America's top dog. He kissed judge Betty Regina Leininger's hand as the title was awarded inside a nearly full Madison Square Garden.

Rangel may've learned that trick from his dog.

"Her personality is she loves to kiss people and she connects with everybody," Rangel said.

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House takes step toward ban on in-flight calls
Written by JOAN LOWY, Associated Press   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 16:30

WASHINGTON (AP) — Allowing airline passengers to make cellphone calls in-flight is asking for trouble, lawmakers said Tuesday as a House panel approved a bill to ban such calls.

The bill — passed without opposition by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — requires the Department of Transportation to issue regulations prohibiting such calls. The department has already said it is considering creating such a ban as part of its consumer protection role.

The bill has no impact on the Federal Aviation Administration's decision late last year to allow passengers to email, text, surf the Internet and download data using smartphones and other personal electronic devices during takeoffs and landings.

Phone calls are another matter. Both Republican and Democratic House members, some of the nation's most frequent flyers, said they believe in-flight calls would be noisy and disturbing to other passengers and possibly disruptive.

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