Cracked by age, damaged by rain, Capitol's dome is set for 2-year, $60 million renovation
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A world-famous symbol of democracy is going under cover, as workers start a two-year, $60 million renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome.
Curved rows of scaffolds, like Saturn's rings, will encircle it next spring, enabling contractors to strip multiple layers of paint and repair more than 1,000 cracks and broken pieces.
The Capitol's crowning piece is actually two domes, one nested under the other like Russian dolls, and separated by a web of cast iron braces hidden from view.
Water has seeped through the cracks over time, and the Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers says that has caused the iron to rust.
It's the dome's first major renovation in more than 50 years and should add decades of structural integrity to it.
The dome will remain illuminated at night and partly visible through the scaffolding and paint-capturing cloths.
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- A week after an ice storm hit parts of northern New England, more than 4,000 Maine residents are still without power and emergency officials say it could be next week before some get their electricity back..
Things may get even worse. Utility officials say a weekend snowstorm could cause more outages.
The National Weather Service says the state is about to get another blast of winter weather. Some areas could get more than six inches of snow Sunday evening. Maine has been socked with several snow storms this month, in addition to the ice storm.
WESTMINSTER, Calif. (AP) -- The end of unemployment checks for more than a million jobless Americans has driven people to consider selling cars, moving and taking minimum wage work after already slashing household budgets and pawning personal possessions.
The change affected 1.3 million people on Saturday and will affect hundreds of thousands more who remain jobless in the months ahead.
Recipients will lose an average monthly stipend of $1,166.
The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress want to continue the program but the extensions were dropped from a budget deal earlier this month. Republican lawmakers have balked at the program's $26 billion annual cost. House Speaker John Boehner has said he's open to extending the benefits, but only if accompanied by spending cuts elsewhere to cover the cost.
Greg and Barbara Chastain of Huntington Beach, Calif. say they have exhausted their state unemployment benefits since losing work in June and now may uproot their family and move to save on rent.
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Vending machines will display calorie counts for each item along with the cost under new labeling regulations required under the federal health care overhaul law.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to release final rules early next year. It says that requiring calorie information to be displayed on roughly 5 million vending machines nationwide will help consumers make healthier choices.
As proposed, the rules would give companies with 20 or more machines a year to comply. But an industry group representing vending machine operators has suggested a two-year deadline and is urging the government to allow as much flexibility as possible.
The National Automatic Merchandising Association says complying with the law will be expensive for small companies with few employees and low profit margins.
(AP) -- The Boy Scouts of America will accept openly gay youths starting on New Year's Day.
It's a historic change that's prompted the BSA to ponder a host of potential complications -- ranging from policies on tentmates and showers to whether Scouts can march in gay pride parades.
Yet despite their be-prepared approach, BSA leaders are rooting for the change to be a non-event.
Some churches are dropping their sponsorship of Scout units because of the new policy and some families are switching to a new conservative alternative called Trail Life USA. But massive defections haven't materialized and most major sponsors, including the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches, are maintaining ties.
The new policy was approved in May, with support from 60 percent of the 1,400 voting members of the BSA's National Council. The vote followed bitter nationwide debate, and was accompanied by an announcement that the BSA would continue to exclude openly gay adults from leadership positions.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut state police have released of thousands of pages of interviews, photographs and writings about the man who gunned down 20 first-graders and six adults at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School last year.
But the gunman, Adam Lanza, remains an enigma.
Some of the most tantalizing evidence of the inner workings of the 20-year-old Newtown man's brain appears to be contained in writings that the police chose not to release.
What the files do show is a deeply troubled young man, living with a single mother who was either unable or unwilling to accept the depths of his illness.
By the time of the massacre, he had taped black garbage bags over his bedroom windows and retreated into a world of violent video games, guns and statistics on mass murder.
The documents also suggest the gunman's mother was a dedicated and loving parent, but at times bewildered by her son. Nancy Lanza told a lifelong friend about two weeks before the massacre her son was becoming increasingly despondent and hadn't left his room in three months. The documents say Hurricane Sandy had cut power to the Lanza home in late October and that had "put Adam over the edge."
Adam Lanza fatally shot his mother in the head before carrying out his rampage at the school.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State John Kerry will head to the Middle East next week to continue talks on an elusive peace deal just as Israel is poised to announce plans to build more Jewish settlements --a move expected to anger Palestinians.
The State Department says Kerry is scheduled to leave on New Year's Day for Israel and the Palestinian territories where he'll discuss ongoing negotiations with leaders from both sides.
The parties relaunched direct talks last summer with the goal of forging an accord within nine months. The target date expires at the end of April, and while that is not considered a deadline to end talks, there has been little, if any, tangible sign of progress so far.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has appealed to the U.S. to block the latest round of Jewish settlements, which Israel is expected to announce next week, warning the move could jeopardize the U.S.-led peace effort.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- An Albuquerque mother is facing child abuse charges in the death of her young son.
Officer Simon Drobik says police were called to a home in the city's northeast heights Friday night after getting a 911 call from the mother, 38-year-old Synthia Varela-Casaus.
She initially told police her 9-year-old son was playing with his 3-year-old brother when the older brother was thrown from a bouncing toy horse and hit his head.
The boy was pronounced dead after being taken to an Albuquerque hospital.
Medical personnel saw multiple injuries on the boy's body. Drobik says the mother later told detectives she kicked the boy in the stomach during an argument, causing him to hit his head.
The mother told detectives she repeatedly kicked the boy while he was on the floor.
LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) -- A pregnant woman who refused to get a flu shot due to her fear of miscarrying has been fired from her job with a health care company.
Dreonna Breton worked as a registered nurse for Horizons Healthcare Services in central Pennsylvania. The company requires all personnel to get the influenza vaccine.
Breton contends the immunizations may not be safe enough for pregnant women. She suffered two miscarriages earlier this year, and doesn't want to risk a third.
Company spokesman Alan Peterson says it's unconscionable for a health care worker not to be immunized. He also says pregnant women are more susceptible to the flu.
Breton offered to wear a mask during flu season. But the 29-year-old was fired Dec. 17.
Federal officials say the flu causes about 200,000 hospitalizations annually.
LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) -- A central Pennsylvania man has pleaded guilty to beating a star of the TV series "Amish Mafia."
Imir Williams admitted Thursday to assaulting and stalking girlfriend Esther Schmucker, who appears on the Discovery Channel show based in Lancaster County.
Authorities say Williams repeatedly punched Schmucker on Oct. 31 at her Strasburg home and broke her nose, cheekbone and several teeth.
The Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era reports Williams had been jailed for the past seven weeks. He was released on bail Monday after serving a month more than the standard penalty for such charges.
Williams was placed on probation for three years and ordered to have no contact with Schmucker.
The 27-year-old victim says she's disappointed Williams wasn't charged with a harsher crime.
Williams is not on the program.
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The San Diego County Medical Examiner's office is investigating the cause of death of a man who collapsed in a Border Patrol holding cell on Christmas Eve after he was taken into custody for allegedly carrying three pounds of marijuana.
The Border Patrol said Saturday that the man, a U.S. citizen, was stopped at a checkpoint on Interstate 8, near the Mexican border.
He was taken to a holding cell after authorities said they found the marijuana, drug paraphernalia and traces of methamphetamine in his car.
Soon afterward he collapsed. Paramedics were unable to revive him.
Border Patrol officials say they are cooperating with the investigation.
The man's sister told U-T San Diego he was in good health. He was identified as 58-year-old Steven Keith.
JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) -- A second person has died in an avalanche in Wyoming's Jackson area.
The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that 39-year-old Rex J. Anderson of Arco, Idaho, was killed Thursday while snowmobiling in Waterfall Canyon near the Idaho border.
The slide occurred less than two hours after 29-year-old Jackson resident Michael Kazanjy was killed by an avalanche while he was skiing a slope known as Pucker Face.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center says Anderson was with three other snowmobilers when he was buried by the slide.
Authorities say his companions found him with the help of his avalanche beacon and dug him out within 10 minutes but could not revive him.
The avalanche was about 350 yards long, but the depth wasn't immediately available.
TIMES SQUARE-NEW YEAR'S
NEW YORK (AP) -- New York City's Times Square is getting ready for New Year's Eve.
The square will host millions Tuesday night counting down the last few moments of 2013.
Starting Saturday, six Citibikes from the city's bike share program were being installed in Times Square and connected to 12-volt deep cycle batteries.
New Yorkers and tourists will generate power by pedaling. That will help illuminate the famed ball that will descend New Year's Eve.
Each bike will generate an average of 75 watts an hour. It takes 50,000 watts to power the ball, which is lit by 30,000 LEDs.
Additionally, a giant paper shredder and a dumpster were installed in Times Square on Saturday to allow visitors to destroy bad memories of 2013.
The annual event is dubbed "Good Riddance Day."