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14 taken to hospitals after Minneapolis fire
Written by JEFF BAENEN, Associated Press   
Thursday, 02 January 2014 07:09

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A billowing fire engulfed a three-story building with several apartments near downtown Minneapolis early Wednesday, sending more than a dozen people to hospitals with injuries — some critical — ranging from burns to trauma associated with falls.

An explosion was reported about 8:15 a.m., and within minutes a fire raged through the building, said Robert Ball, a spokesman for Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics, amid sub-zero temperatures, responded to find victims on the ground, some with injuries that suggested they may have fallen multiple stories.

"It's not clear whether people were pushed out of the building from the explosion, or whether they fell or jumped out of windows to escape," Ball said.

No fatalities have been reported, but authorities weren't sure whether any residents were still inside the building. Its roof had partially collapsed, making it too dangerous for firefighters to enter and sweep the premises, said Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Cherie Penn.

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James Avery of 'Fresh Prince' fame dead at 68
Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, 02 January 2014 07:08

NEW YORK (AP) — James Avery, the bulky character actor who laid down the law at home and on the job as the Honorable Philip Banks in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died.

Avery's publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told The Associated Press that Avery died Tuesday in Glendale, Calif., following complications from open heart surgery. He was 68, Snyder said.

Avery, who stood more than 6 feet tall, played the family patriarch and a wealthy attorney and judge on the popular TV comedy that launched the acting career of Will Smith as Banks' troublemaking nephew.

The sitcom, which aired on NBC from 1990 to 1996, was set in the Banks' mansion, where Smith's character was sent from Philadelphia when things got tough in his own neighborhood. Fans came to know the imposing Banks as "Uncle Phil."

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Rescue begins for icebound ship in Antarctica
Written by ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press   
Thursday, 02 January 2014 07:07

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A long-awaited rescue of passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for more than a week finally got underway on Thursday, with a helicopter scooping up the first group of passengers and flying them to a nearby vessel, expedition leaders said.

The helicopter was originally going to airlift the passengers to a Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, with a barge then ferrying them to an Australian vessel. But sea ice was preventing a barge from reaching the Snow Dragon, and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Coordination Centre, which is overseeing the rescue, said the operation would consequently be delayed.

A last-minute change in plans allowed the rescue to go ahead. The 52 scientists and tourists on board were instead being flown to an ice floe next to the Australian icebreaker the Aurora Australis, and then taken by a small boat to the Australian ship, expedition leader Chris Turney said. The maritime authority confirmed the first group arrived at the Aurora Thursday evening.

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Legal weed sales bring long lines to Colorado
Written by KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press   
Thursday, 02 January 2014 07:08

DENVER (AP) — Long lines and blustery winter weather greeted Colorado marijuana shoppers testing the nation's first legal recreational pot shops Wednesday.

It was hard to tell from talking to the shoppers, however, that they had waited hours in snow and frigid wind.

"It's a huge deal for me," said Andre Barr, a 34-year-old deliveryman who drove from Niles, Mich., to be part of the legal weed experiment. "This wait is nothing."

The world was watching as Colorado unveiled the modern world's first fully legal marijuana industry — no doctor's note required (as in 18 states and Washington, D.C.) and no unregulated production of the drug (as in the Netherlands). Uruguay has fully legalized pot but hasn't yet set up its system.

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Justice delays health law's birth control mandate
Written by JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 01 January 2014 08:02

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has thrown a hitch into President Barack Obama's new health care law by blocking a requirement that some religion-affiliated organizations provide health insurance that includes birth control.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor decided late Tuesday night to block implementation of the contraceptive coverage requirement, only hours before portions of the law would have gone into effect on New Year's Day.

Sotomayor acted on a request from an organization of Catholic nuns in Denver, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged. Its request for an emergency stay had been denied earlier in the day by a federal appeals court.

Sotomayor gave government officials until 10 a.m. EST Friday to respond to her order.


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