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(Updated) Obama proposes firearm background check changes
Written by JULIE PACE, AP White House Correspondent   
Friday, 03 January 2014 14:14
HONOLULU (AP) — The Obama administration on Friday announced a pair of executive actions aimed at strengthening federal background checks for gun purchasers, with a particular focus on limiting firearm access for those with mental health issues.

One proposed rule change aims to clarify terminology used by federal law to prohibit people from purchasing a firearm for mental health reasons. The administration said states have complained that some wording is ambiguous, making it difficult to determine who should be blocked from buying a weapon.

A second proposed rule change would give hospitals and other entities covered by patient privacy provisions more flexibility in the information they provide to the background check system. However, the administration said the rule change would not require reporting on general mental health care or legally prohibit someone from having a firearm solely because they sought treatment.

The White House announced the proposals while President Barack Obama was vacationing in Hawaii.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 January 2014 15:44
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Author of Lincoln mystery letter identified
Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 03 January 2014 11:58

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — It's been more than 25 years since workers renovating Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield found a letter fragment in a mouse's nest inside a wall, but researchers think they've finally identified the mystery letter's author.

The clue was a mention of poetry.

Lincoln had exchanged several letters with a newspaper editor about poetry and politics. So Stacy Pratt McDermott, an associate editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, set about comparing the handwriting on the fragment with a letter that Andrew Johnston had written to Lincoln in 1865 and a note that Johnston had written in 1872 on an old letter from Lincoln.

The match was unmistakable.

Besides solving a mystery, the discovery sheds light on a lesser explored aspect of Lincoln's character.

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Ship involved in Antarctic rescue faces trouble
Written by ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press   
Friday, 03 January 2014 09:40

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian icebreaker carrying 52 passengers who were retrieved from an icebound ship in the Antarctic was told to halt its journey home on Friday after concerns that a Chinese vessel involved in the dramatic rescue may also become stuck in the heavy sea ice.

The icebreaker Aurora Australis had been slowly cracking through thick ice toward open water after a Chinese helicopter on Thursday plucked the passengers from their stranded Russian research ship and carried them to the Aurora.

But on Friday afternoon, the crew of a Chinese icebreaker that had provided the helicopter said they were worried about their own ship's ability to move through the ice. The Aurora — which was carrying the passengers to the Australian island state of Tasmania — was told to stay in the area in case the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon needs help, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Coordination Centre, which oversaw the rescue.

The Snow Dragon, which is at the edge of the ice pack surrounding the Russian vessel, will attempt to push through the ice to open water early Saturday, when tidal conditions are most favorable. The Aurora is waiting around 11 kilometers (7 miles) north of the Snow Dragon, said Lisa Martin, spokeswoman for the marine authority.

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At least nine have died in winter storm
Written by RODRIQUE NGOWI, Associated Press SYLVIA WINGFIELD, Associated Press   
Friday, 03 January 2014 10:18

BOSTON (AP) — A blustery winter storm that dropped nearly 2 feet of snow has led to at least nine deaths in the eastern half of the country.

Slick roads have caused traffic deaths in Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

A massive pile of salt fell on a worker at a suburban Philadelphia storage facility, killing him.

And authorities say a woman with Alzheimer's disease froze to death after she wandered away from her rural western New York home.

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FBI: Fire at Chinese Consulate in San Francisco not terrorism
Written by TERENCE CHEA, Associated Press TERRY COLLINS, Associated Press   
Friday, 03 January 2014 07:15

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A fire set intentionally at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco is not being investigated as an act of terrorism, federal officials said Thursday.

The fire was ignited at the front of the building, leading to an arson investigation and calls from the Chinese government for better protection of diplomats in the U.S., the FBI said.

"An incendiary device fueled by gas was detonated at the consulate," David Johnson, FBI special agent in charge of the San Francisco division, said at a news conference.

Johnson did not provide any specifics about a possible motive or suspects.

No one was hurt in the fire that charred a doorway, damaged the lobby and burned upward toward the roof.

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