WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is running out of reasons to say no to Keystone XL, the proposed oil pipeline that's long been looming over his environmental legacy.
Five years after the pipeline's backers first asked the Obama administration for approval, the project remains in limbo. It's stuck in a complex permitting process that has enabled Obama to put off what will inevitably be a politically explosive decision.
But a long-awaited government report released Friday removes one excuse for delay. The State Department's report raised no major environmental objections to the pipeline.
Keystone has become a proxy for the broader battle over energy-versus-environment. So Obama's decision will have an outsized impact on his environmental legacy. Obama has launched a push to try to curb global warming.
Keystone XL foes undaunted by State Dept. report
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- With another hurdle removed for the Keystone XL pipeline, opponents are pressing lawsuits challenging the project, plus public protests and campaigns to inject the issue into the 2014 elections.
Supporters and opponents are both claiming victories with the U.S. State Department report released Friday, which raised no major objections to the pipeline. The oil industry, some union groups and congressional Republicans called on President Barack Obama to move forward with the project, while a coalition of landowners and environmentalists say the president still has wiggle room to deny a federal permit.
Meanwhile, farmers and ranchers in Nebraska are planning to run for seats on a state board that would regulate power stations for the pipeline. And national activists say more than 75,000 volunteers are willing to participate in civil disobedience.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The operator and federal regulators say the flow of natural gas, water and sand has been stopped at a drilling rig off Louisiana's coast.
EnVen Energy Ventures LLC and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said Saturday that the flow was stopped about 7 p.m. Friday. BSEE says it was cut off less than 2 1/2 hours after EnVen began pumping heavy drilling mud into the well.
The flow began about 8:30 a.m. Thursday. EnVen says the well is being closely monitored, and it's working with regulators to find out what caused it and how to safely resume drilling.
BSEE says in a news release that crews are still working to set up barriers to any further natural gas flow.
No injuries or pollution have been reported.
SUPER BOWL-SUSPICIOUS POWDER
NEW YORK (AP) -- A letter with suspicious powder was sent to New York City's mayor on the same day that suspicious powder was sent to at least five hotels near the site of the Super Bowl.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton told the Daily News on Saturday the letter sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio Friday was harmless.
It wasn't immediately clear where the letter was sent or who received it. The mayor's office didn't respond to a request for comment.
Bratton says it arrived the same day suspicious powder was mailed to at least five New Jersey hotels near the site of the Super Bowl and to the Manhattan office of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Authorities are still testing those substances but have said they don't appear to be dangerous.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. officials say the first of two American warships heading into the Black Sea in advance of the Olympic Games has set sail from Italy.
The USS Mount Whitney got underway Friday from Gaeta, Italy, and the Navy frigate USS Taylor is expected to leave from Naples, Italy, on Saturday.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly disclose ship movements.
Russian and U.S. defense officials, including Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, have discussed the Olympic security threat, and the U.S. has offered to help in any way needed. No specific assistance has been requested.
The Pentagon has said the ships are deploying to the Black Sea as part of normal military planning and could perform any required missions, including communications or evacuations.
NEW ORLEANS ELECTIONS
Returns show New Orleans Mayor Landrieu with lead
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu thanked the city's voters for giving him a second term as early election returns showed him with a commanding lead.
Landrieu went into Saturday's election touting a drop in the city's murder rate and an endorsement from President Barack Obama. With half of 366 precincts reporting, Landrieu had 65 percent of the vote.
The city's beleaguered sheriff, Marlin Gusman, also led over three opponents. Gusman came under fire last year for problems at the city jail, including violence, drug use and escapes. The question was whether he would get a majority or face a runoff against former Sheriff Charles Foti.
Gusman had 49 percent of the vote, with half of the precincts reporting.
The Associated Press has not projected a winner in either race.
Lawyer: NJ probe of Christie office can proceed
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- The special counsel for a New Jersey legislative panel investigating a political payback scandal surrounding Gov. Chris Christie's office says the state probe won't impede an ongoing federal investigation.
Reid Schar, the lawyer for the joint legislative committee, says he discussed the parallel investigations with officials from the U.S. Attorney's Office on Friday and says he's comfortable the state investigation can continue..
Meanwhile, Christie is going on the offensive over suggestions he knew more than he has said about apparently politically motivated traffic jams ordered by one of his staffers.
In a letter Saturday to donors, Christie's political team bashed a former loyalist at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who ordered closures of approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge that led to the massive traffic jams in Fort Lee in September.
A lawyer for former Port Authority official David Wildstein said Friday that evidence exists that Christie knew about the closures when they were underway.
Christie's team says Wildstein "will do and say anything to save David Wildstein."
Former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley hospitalized
CHICAGO (AP) -- Former Mayor Richard Daley is hospitalized in an intensive care unit after feeling ill upon returning to Chicago from a business trip in Arizona.
His spokeswoman Jackie Heard says Daley was feeling disoriented on a Friday evening flight back from a conference he attended as part of his work for the law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman.
Heard says Daley walked off the plane and was met by an ambulance that took him to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
The 71-year-old Daley remains in the hospital's intensive care unit Saturday for monitoring and evaluation. His family is with him and visiting the former mayor between tests.
Heard had no other information on his condition.
CELL TOWERS COLLAPSE
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) -- Police in West Virginia say three people are dead after two cellphone towers collapsed.
State Police Cpl. Mark Waggamon says two contractors who were tethered to a 300-foot tower were killed when the structure collapsed shortly before noon Saturday in Clarksburg. A firefighter died after a second, smaller tower collapsed minutes later.
Two other contractors who were also tethered to the larger tower were hurt and taken to a hospital. Waggamon described their injuries as serious but not life-threatening.
He says the workers were doing maintenance to strengthen the tower's support when it collapsed.
Waggamon says the weight of the collapsed tower put stress on guide wires to the smaller tower.
The workers were doing maintenance to strengthen the tower's support when it collapsed.
Waggamon says the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate.
CRAFTSBURY, Vt. (AP) -- Dartmouth College says that a junior member of its cross-country ski team died at an event in Vermont.
Dartmouth spokesman Rick Bender says that Torin Tucker died while competing at the Vermont Carnival Saturday. Tucker is a junior from Sun Valley, Idaho.
Bender says that Tucker died at the scene after attempts to resuscitate him failed. The cause of his death is still under investigation.
The team returned to campus and won't complete in the rest of the Vermont Carnival.
Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon shared the news through a campus-wide email and urged students, faculty and staff to contact the school's safety and security department if they or someone they know needs to speak with a counselor or chaplain.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- A fire that killed a 9-year-old boy as he rescued his family from their burning mobile home in upstate New York has claimed his great-grandmother as its fourth victim.
Barbara Beach was badly burned in the Jan. 20 fire in a trailer park in Penfield outside Rochester.
Her son tells the Democrat and Chronicle that she died at around 5 a.m. Saturday at a hospital. She was 66.
The fire had already taken the lives of three other family members: 9-year-old Tyler Doohan, his grandfather and his stepgreat-grandfather.
Authorities and relatives say Tyler woke up first during the early morning blaze. They say he roused his family, then went back into the burning home to try and rescue an elderly relative who used a wheelchair.
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Fire officials say a Las Vegas pet store owner is accused of setting her business ablaze, but all 28 puppies inside have been rescued.
Clark County Fire Department spokesman John Steinbeck says 35-year-old Gloria Lee was booked into the county jail on suspicion of first-degree arson after the fire early Monday morning at the Prince and Princess Puppy Boutique.
Steinbeck says in a statement issued early Saturday that the 28 puppies could have died if the sprinkler system hadn't activated and firefighters hadn't quickly extinguished the flames.
He says the fire caused $100,000 in damage to the building, but the motive was not immediately clear.
No people were injured.
County animal control officers took possession of the dogs, and they're currently being housed at a local animal shelter.
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The military is christening a Navy logistics ship in honor of John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth.
The former Ohio senator was in San Diego on Saturday for the ceremony at General Dynamics' National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, along with his wife and daughter.
The 785-foot USNS John Glenn is a Mobile Landing Platform ship -- a new type of amphibious staging and assault vessel.
A statement from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus calls the christening "a fitting tribute" to the man who in 1962 became the first American to orbit the Earth.
The statement notes Glenn's military ties. It says he enlisted in the Naval Reserve as a college student in 1942 and was a Marine pilot during World War II and the Korean War.
Hagel calls Air Force nuclear officers in bunkers
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has made the rare gesture of phoning Air Force nuclear officers in their underground launch bunkers in Montana to update them on efforts to correct problems in their service.
Hagel placed the calls from aboard the military command aircraft that ferried him home Saturday from an international security conference in Germany.
The Pentagon chief spoke to a total of six Minuteman 3 missile launch control officers -- two in each of three launch centers operated by the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
Malmstrom is the focus of a widening investigation into alleged cheating by launch officers on proficiency tests. Half of the 183 launch officers at the base have been implicated in the cheating investigation and suspended.
House GOP question changes in flood insurance bill
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The effort to delay huge increases in insurance premiums for homeowners in flood-prone areas faces a skeptical House chairman who is largely standing behind the changes Congress oversaw in the nation's flood insurance program less than two years ago.
The Texas Republican who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, Congressman Jeb Hensarling (HEHN'-sur-ling), wants "free-market alternatives" to the government-run program.
Hensarling and other House Republicans aren't inclined to back away from changes meant to deal with a program that is $24 billion in the red. It's been bailing out at-risk homeowners whose flood insurance has been subsidized by taxpayers and other policyholders for decades.
Increasing tensions over the issue is a 67-32 bipartisan vote Thursday in the Senate to delay some, but not all, of the changes approved in 2012.
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- An anonymous source is offering $100,000 for the safe return of a nearly 300-year-old Stradivarius violin stolen from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's concertmaster.
The rare violin was on loan to Frank Almond from an anonymous donor.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn has said the robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument Monday evening in a parking lot at Wisconsin Lutheran College, where Almond had just preformed.
The reward is offered to anyone who can provide information which results in the violin's safe return.
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's President and Executive Director Mark Niehaus says the organization is hopeful the reward will help in the violin's recovery.
Milwaukee police are investigating and haven't made any arrests.