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Chemical spill shuts down much of W.Va. capital
Written by JOHN RABY, Associated Press   
Friday, 10 January 2014 11:29

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Schools and restaurants closed, grocery stores sold out of bottled water, and state legislators who had just started their session canceled the day's business after a chemical spill in the Elk River in Charleston shut down much of the city and surrounding counties even as the cause and extent of the incident remained unclear.

The federal government joined the state early Friday in declaring a disaster, and the West Virginia National Guard planned to distribute bottled drinking water to emergency services agencies in the nine affected counties. About 100,000 water customers, or 300,000 people total, were affected, state officials said they reported in requesting the federal declaration.

Shortly after the Thursday spill from Freedom Industries hit the river and a nearby treatment plant, a licorice-like smell enveloped parts of the city, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued an order to customer of West Virginia American Water: Do not drink, bathe, cook or wash clothes with tap water.

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U.S. economy adds 74,000 jobs; rate falls to 6.7 pct.
Written by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer   
Friday, 10 January 2014 11:27

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added a scant 74,000 jobs in December, the fewest in three years. The disappointing figure ends 2013 on a weak note and raises questions about whether the job market can sustain its recent gains.

Economists cautioned that cold weather likely played a role in the sharp slowdown in hiring. Job gains had averaged 214,000 in the previous four months.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate fell from 7 percent in November to 6.7 percent, the lowest level since October 2008. But the drop occurred mostly because many Americans stopped looking for jobs. Once people without jobs stop looking for one, the government no longer counts them as unemployed.

The stock market fell in early trading. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 46 points to 16,398 . And the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.88 percent from 2.97 late Thursday.

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Report: Sexism part of military academies' culture
Written by LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press   
Friday, 10 January 2014 08:05

WASHINGTON (AP) — Students at the U.S. military academies often believe they have to put up with sexist and offensive behavior, a Pentagon report finds, reflecting a culture of disrespect that permeates the schools and their sports teams and fuels reports of sexual harassment and assaults.

The report points to scandals involving sports teams at all three academies during the last school year as examples of the problems. It urges leaders to do more to improve training and prevention programs.

Set for release Friday, the annual report on sexual assaults at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., identifies sports and club teams as an area where they need to expand training. The report was obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its release.

Military officials say they are working on ways to encourage students to take action when they see or hear of sexual assault or harassment.

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Deep freeze may have cost economy about $5 billion
Written by STEVE KARNOWSKI, Associated Press   
Friday, 10 January 2014 10:18
Deep-Freeze_rotator
Homes are seen covered in snow and ice Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hunkering down at home rather than going to work, canceling thousands of flights and repairing burst pipes from the Midwest to the Southeast has its price. By one estimate, about $5 billion.

The country may be warming up from the polar vortex, but the bone-chilling cold, snow and ice that gripped much of the country — affecting about 200 million people — brought about the biggest economic disruption delivered by the weather since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, said Evan Gold, senior vice president at Planalytics, a business weather intelligence company in suburban Philadelphia.

While the impact came nowhere close to Sandy, which caused an estimated $65 billion in property damage alone, the deep freeze's impact came from its breadth.

"There's a lot of economic activity that didn't happen," Gold said. "Some of that will be made up but some of it just gets lost."
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Doctors say cutting food stamps could backfire
Written by LAURAN NEERGAARD, Associated Press MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press   
Friday, 10 January 2014 08:04

WASHINGTON (AP) — Doctors are warning that if Congress cuts food stamps, the federal government could be socked with bigger health bills. Maybe not immediately, they say, but over time if the poor wind up in doctors' offices or hospitals as a result.

Among the health risks of hunger are spiked rates of diabetes and developmental problems for young children down the road.

The doctors' lobbying effort comes as Congress is working on a compromise farm bill that's certain to include food stamp cuts. Republicans want heftier reductions than do Democrats in yet another partisan battle over the government's role in helping poor Americans.

Food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, feed 1 in 7 Americans and cost almost $80 billion a year, twice what it cost five years ago. Conservatives say the program spiraled out of control as the economy struggled and the costs are not sustainable. They say the neediest people will not go hungry.

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