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AK-47 rifle designer Mikhail Kalashnikov dead at 94
Written by JIM HEINTZ, Associated Press   
Monday, 23 December 2013 16:22

MOSCOW (AP) — Mikhail Kalashnikov started out wanting to make farm equipment, but the harvest he reaped was one of blood as the designer of the AK-47 assault rifle, the world's most popular firearm.

It was the carnage of World War, when Nazi Germany overran much of the Soviet Union, which altered his course and made his name as well-known for bloodshed as Smith, Wesson and Colt. The distinctive shape of the gun, often called "a Kalashnikov," appeared on revolutionary flags and adorns memorabilia.

Kalashnikov died Monday at age 94 in a hospital in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic where he lived, said Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic's president. He did not give a cause of death. Kalashnikov had been hospitalized for the past month with unspecified health problems.

Kaslashnikov often said he felt personally untroubled by his contribution to bloodshed.

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Mormon-centric Utah epicenter for food storage
Written by BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press   
Monday, 23 December 2013 16:21

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Towering grain silos overlook the main highway in Salt Lake City at the Mormon church's Welfare Square. At grocery stores, there's a whole section with large plastic tubs with labels that read, "Deluxe survivor 700." Radio ads hawk long-term supplies of food with 25-year shelf lives.

And houses are equipped with special shelving for cans of beans, rice and wheat.

Storing away enough food and water in case of disaster, job loss or something worse is not just part of the fundamental teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's an idea that is increasingly catching on nationwide. And it's also big business.

A large majority of food storage companies that do Internet sales are based in the state. Terms once used only by Mormons, such as 72-hour kit, are mainstream, as is the survivalist "preppers" philosophy that taps into the Mormon church's century-old teachings on the topic.

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Judge allows gay marriage in Utah to continue
Written by BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press PAUL FOY, Associated Press   
Monday, 23 December 2013 14:25

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal judge said Monday he will allow gay marriage in Utah to continue, denying a request from the state to halt same-sex weddings until the appeals process plays out.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby's decision came three days after he overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage, ruling it is unconstitutional. Utah lawyers are expected to ask a higher court to put the process on hold.

The county clerk in Salt Lake City immediately began issuing licenses after Shelby's ruling Friday, and hundreds more gay couples were lined up Monday to get married.

The ruling has drawn attention given Utah's long-standing opposition to gay marriage and its position as headquarters for the Mormon church.

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Last-minute insurance shoppers given grace period
Written by CARLA K. JOHNSON, AP Medical Writer   
Monday, 23 December 2013 14:44

CHICAGO (AP) — Monday's deadline for signing up for insurance under the new health care law has effectively been extended through Tuesday in case of heavy demand on the government website.

Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the federal agency overseeing the Obama administration's health overhaul, says the grace period is being offered to accommodate people from different time zones and to deal with potential technical problems that could result from a last-minute rush of applicants.

Monday was the deadline for Americans who wanted coverage that started on Jan. 1.

The federal HealthCare.gov system serves 36 states. Some other states have also extended enrollment deadlines slightly.


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

 
Ringing the bells of Bethlehem a fading tradition
Written by MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH, Associated Press   
Monday, 23 December 2013 12:12

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — A Palestinian college student is one of the last keepers of a fading tradition — ringing the bells of Bethlehem.

Twice a week, Khadir Jaraiseh climbs to the roof of the Church of the Nativity, built over the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born. He pulls the ropes of four bells in a rooftop tower for a total of 33 times to symbolize the number of years Jesus was believed to have lived.

Jaraiseh rings the bells for prayer services of the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of three denominations that administer the basilica, one of Christianity's holiest shrines. The Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox denominations at the Nativity church — each of which has its own set of bells — have switched to automatic bell-ringing.

But there's something special about the traditional approach, said Jaraiseh, who uses both hands and a floor pedal to pull the ropes.

"I feel like I'm making music and talking to God," said the 22-year-old, who has worked at the church for four years and is studying to become a tourist guide. "There is nothing better than working in the place of Jesus' birth."

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