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Home electricity use in U.S. falling to 2001 levels
Written by JONATHAN FAHEY, AP Energy Writer   
Monday, 30 December 2013 15:04

NEW YORK (AP) — The average amount of electricity consumed in U.S. homes has fallen to levels last seen more than a decade ago, back when the smartest device in people's pockets was a Palm pilot and anyone talking about a tablet was probably an archaeologist or a preacher.

Because of more energy-efficient housing, appliances and gadgets, power usage is on track to decline in 2013 for the third year in a row, to its lowest point since 2001, even though our lives are more electrified.

Here's a look at what has changed since the last time consumption was so low.

BETTER HOMES

In the early 2000s, as energy prices rose, more states adopted or toughened building codes to force builders to better seal homes so heat or air-conditioned air doesn't seep out so fast. That means newer homes waste less energy.

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Feds announces test sites for drone aircraft
Written by Associated Press   
Monday, 30 December 2013 12:11

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration has chosen six states to develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the unmanned aircraft's march into U.S. skies.

The FAA announced Monday the sites will be based in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.

Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers and others are making plans to join the market. Many universities are starting or expanding drone programs.

The FAA does not allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop operational guidelines by the end of 2015. Officials concede it may take longer.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says safety is the first priority in moving drones into U.S. airspace.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 
Report: NSA intercepts computer deliveries
Written by RAPHAEL SATTER, Associated Press   
Monday, 30 December 2013 07:19

LONDON (AP) — A German magazine lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacking unit Sunday, reporting that American spies intercept computer deliveries, exploit hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijack Microsoft's internal reporting system to spy on their targets.

Der Spiegel's revelations relate to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets.

Citing internal NSA documents, the magazine said Sunday that TAO's mission was "Getting the ungettable," and quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying that TAO had gathered "some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen."

Der Spiegel said TAO had a catalog of high-tech gadgets for particularly hard-to-crack cases, including computer monitor cables specially modified to record what is being typed across the screen, USB sticks secretly fitted with radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over the airwaves, and fake base stations intended to intercept mobile phone signals on the go.

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Successive suicide bombings in Russia kill over 30
Written by VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press   
Monday, 30 December 2013 09:19

MOSCOW (AP) — A suicide bomber killed 14 people aboard an electric bus in the southern Russian city of Volgograd during the Monday morning rush hour, and authorities believe it was the work of the same group that set off a bomb at the railway station a day earlier.

Together more than 30 people were killed in the explosions, putting the city of one million on edge and highlighting the terrorist threat Russia is facing as it prepares to host February's Winter Games in Sochi, President Vladimir Putin's pet project. While terrorists may find it hard to get to the tightly guarded Olympic facilities, the bombings have shown they can hit civilian targets elsewhere in Russia with shocking ease.

Volgograd, located about 650 kilometers (400 miles) northeast of Sochi, serves as a key transport hub for southern Russia, with numerous bus routes linking it to volatile provinces in Russia's North Caucasus, where insurgents have been seeking an Islamic state.

Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia's main investigative agency, said Monday's explosion involved a bomb similar to the one used in Sunday's attack at the city's main railway station.

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Pot, guns and paparazzi: New laws run gamut in U.S.
Written by The Associated Press   
Monday, 30 December 2013 06:59
Top10StoriesWashin_Pool_rotator
FILE -- In this photo taken April 4, 2013, marijuana plant starts are seen at a growing facility in Seattle. The state beginning to develop rules for a legal pot industry was voted among the state’s top news stories of 2013 by Associated Press member editors. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The new year is bringing a host of new laws taking effect in January or thereabouts. A look at some state and local laws that are making news:

____

ALCOHOL AND MARIJUANA

COLORADO, MAINE AND WASHINGTON: Colorado pot stores open Jan. 1 as retailers open their doors to the nation's first legal recreational pot industry. Sales in Washington, which also legalized recreational marijuana, are expected to start later in the year. The laws still fly in the face of federal drug rules, but the federal government has said it's not going to fight to shut down pot shops for now. A law legalizing recreational marijuana went into effect in early December in Portland, Maine, but it's largely symbolic because the state has said it will continue to enforce its own ban.

ILLINOIS: It becomes the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana in a pilot project with some of the strictest standards in the nation. However, it may take more than a year to actually buy marijuana as separate state agencies draft rules that must be approved by a legislative committee.

WISCONSIN: Towns and cities can legalize pedal pubs, multiple-person bicycles that ferry riders to and from taverns. A driver steers while multiple riders sit at a bar mounted behind him, each with his or her own pedal-and-chain assembly.

Last Updated on Monday, 30 December 2013 10:33
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