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Shipwrecked Concordia to be removed in June
Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 10 January 2014 07:52

ROME (AP) — Italian officials say the shipwrecked Costa Concordia will be removed from its watery graveyard off Tuscany in June and taken to a port to be dismantled, the final phase of an unprecedented 600 million-euro ($817 million) salvage effort.

Officials gave the timetable and the rundown of what was needed for the ship to be refloated at a press conference Friday that came just days before the second anniversary of the Jan. 13, 2012, grounding that killed 32 people.

A handful of Italian ports — including Piombino, Genoa, Palermo and Civitavecchia — are bidding to take in the wreck, but there are also international bidders in France, Turkey, Britain and even China.

Italy's environment minister and the head of Costa Crociere say the preference was to keep the project in Italy.


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Activists: Nearly 500 dead in Syria rebel clashes
Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 10 January 2014 07:51

BEIRUT (AP) — Fighting between an al-Qaida-linked group and a loose alliance of more moderate and ultraconservative rebel brigades has killed nearly 500 people over the past week in northern Syria, an activist group said Friday.

The rebel-on-rebel violence that broke out a week ago has spread across four provinces in opposition-held parts of the north in what amounts to the most serious infighting among opponents of President Bashar Assad since the country's conflict began in March 2011.

The clashes pit fighters from a variety of Islamist and moderate factions against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an extremist group that has alienated many Syrians over the past several months by using brutal tactics to implement its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday that at least 482 people have been killed in the fighting. It said 240 of the dead were rebel fighters, while another 157 were from the "Islamic State." The remaining 85 were civilians, the Observatory said.

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Cargo ship with gifts, ants heads to space station
Written by MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer   
Thursday, 09 January 2014 15:59

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A privately launched supply ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Thursday following a series of delays ranging from the cold to the sun.

Orbital Sciences Corp. launched its unmanned Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Va., offering a view to nearby states along the East Coast. It successfully hoisted a capsule packed with 3,000 pounds of equipment and experiments provided by NASA, as well as food and even some ants for an educational project. Christmas presents also are on board for the six space station residents; the delivery is a month late.

The spacecraft, named Cygnus, should reach the station on Sunday. The orbiting outpost was zooming over the Atlantic, near Brazil, when the Antares blasted off.

"It's going to be an exciting weekend," Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata said in a tweet from the space station.

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Dial 9 before 911? Hotel death prompts petition
Written by NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press   
Friday, 10 January 2014 07:28

DALLAS (AP) — Hank Hunt's granddaughter tried calling 911 from the East Texas hotel room where she could hear her mother dying, just as she was taught to do in an emergency. She didn't know she had to dial 9 on the hotel phone first.

"Papa," Hunt remembers the 9-year-old telling him later. "I tried, but it wouldn't work."

Now Hunt has launched a national push to require hotels and other businesses to do away with dialing anything before calling 911. So far, an online petition for a federal law has gotten 390,000 signatures, and one 911 advocacy group says Hunt has hit on a perhaps under-documented issue.

"I never dreamed that it would take a life of its own like this," Hunt said this week. "There's been a lot of good people out there helping us."

Hunt's petition calls for "Kari's Law," in honor of his daughter, Kari Hunt Dunn, who was stabbed to death inside a Baymont Inn hotel, allegedly by her estranged husband. The law as described by the petition would require hotels and motels to upgrade to "Enhanced 911" systems that would let guests call for help just by dialing 911 and give the operator the caller's exact location.

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Christie fires aide, apologizes for traffic jams
Written by ANGELA DELLI SANTI, Associated Press GEOFF MULVIHILL, Associated Press   
Thursday, 09 January 2014 15:57

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Moving quickly to quell a widening political scandal, Gov. Chris Christie fired one of his top aides Thursday and apologized repeatedly for the "abject stupidity" of his staff, insisting he had no idea anyone around him had engineered traffic jams as retribution against a Democratic mayor.

"I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team," the Republican governor said at a news conference in which he patiently took questions from reporters — and answered in his typically blunt fashion — for nearly two hours.

Christie, who had previously assured the public that his staff had no involvement in the lane closings last September that caused major backups at the George Washington Bridge, said he fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly "because she lied to me" when he demanded weeks ago that anyone who knew anything about the episode come forward.

Kelly was the latest casualty in a scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and his expected run for president in 2016. Two other top Christie appointees have resigned in the past few weeks.

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