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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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Cracked wheel, broken rail at Canada derailment
Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, 09 January 2014 11:55

PLASTER ROCK, New Brunswick (AP) — Canada's Transportation Safety Board said Thursday a cracked wheel might have caused a train carrying oil to derail in New Brunswick, causing a large fire that continues to burn a day and a half later.

Lead investigator Guy Laporte said a crack in a wheel near the front of the train caused the wheel to loosen from the axel, resulting in the derailment of that wheel set.

But Laporte said it's too early to determine what caused the train to leave the tracks late Tuesday derailed in the sparsely populated region roughly 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the U.S. border and northern Maine. No one was injured, but about 150 people living nearby were evacuated.

A Canadian National Railway spokesman, Jim Feeny, said the company believes a wheel and axle failure is the cause, based on its preliminary investigation.

Laporte said they also found a broken rail at the site, where 19 cars and a locomotive derailed.

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Disabled veterans to be exempted from pension cuts
Written by ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press   
Thursday, 09 January 2014 07:46

WASHINGTON (AP) — A massive spending bill taking shape on Capitol Hill is likely to repeal a recently enacted pension cut for disabled veterans.

Capitol Hill aides said Wednesday that the $1 trillion-plus omnibus spending bill measure will reverse a 1 percentage point cut to annual cost-of-living increases that was inadvertently applied to more than 63,000 veterans who have left the military due to injury or disability.

But the controversial pension cut included in last month's budget agreement would continue to apply to other military retirees. It would save about $6 billion over the coming decade, money that's being used to ease cuts to the Pentagon budget this year.

The pension cuts have drawn fierce opposition from veterans groups and lawmakers in both parties, but it's unclear whether the entire provision will be repealed. The aides required anonymity because the spending bill isn't complete and they aren't authorized to discuss it publicly.

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Director Zhang Yimou fined $1.2M for having three kids
Written by DIDI TANG, Associated Press   
Thursday, 09 January 2014 07:48

BEIJING (AP) — Famed film director Zhang Yimou must pay more than $1.2 million in fines for having three children in violation of China's strict family planning rules, officials said Thursday.

A district government in the eastern city of Wuxi said in an online statement that investigators concluded that the director of "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers" and his wife, Chen Ting, flouted family planning policies by having the children without approval and before they got married in 2011.

China limits most urban couples to one child and rural families to two if the first-born is a girl. Zhang, who has a daughter with his first wife, could legally have one child with Chen, but the two were not married when their first child was born and did not have a birth permit, in violation of China's rules.

The fines are based in part on the couple's annual income. The government of Wuxi's Binhu district said they earned a total of about $580,000 in the years before each of the children was born.

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Bullock sweeps People's Choice Awards
Written by JESSICA HERNDON, AP Film Writer   
Thursday, 09 January 2014 07:13

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sandra Bullock reigned supreme at the 40th annual People's Choice Awards, taking home four trophies as the evening's top winner.

The actress was named favorite movie actress, comedic actress, dramatic actress and shared the favorite movie duo award with "Gravity" co-star George Clooney. Bullock's buddy comedy, "The Heat," co-starring Melissa McCarthy, was awarded favorite comedic movie.

Fans deemed Ellen DeGeneres their favorite daytime TV host, making her the woman who has gained the most People's Choice Awards with a total of 14 trophies.

"As a young girl growing up in New Orleans, if anyone would have told me I was going to win 14 People's Choice Awards I...I mean 12, yes. 13, maybe. But 14?" joked DeGeneres, host of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," who said that she wanted to make the show for everyone from old, young, black, white, guy and straight.

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