US News: NE Snowstorm; Arlington Wreaths; Budget Bill; China, US Military Ships Almost Collide; Drones for Agriculture

By: ap
By: ap
Fast-moving snowstorm arrives in the Northeast...  Maine wreaths laid at Arlington National Cemetery... Prospects for budget legislation are solid in Senate... Ryan

Trucks carrying about 120,000 balsam wreaths from Maine arrived at Arlington National Cemetery Saturday, Dec. 14. The Columbia Falls-based nonprofit Wreaths Across America expects to ship 470,000 to 500,000 wreaths to adorn veterans' graves this holiday season. Next year, for Arlington's 150th anniversary, the organization wants to place a wreath on every headstone -- about 230,000 of them.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- A snow storm is blanketing the Northeast after doing the same to the Upper Midwest
The wintry late fall storm is expected to drop a foot of snow or more in the Northeast over the weekend.
Road crews are on high alert and airlines are canceling flights.
Utilities are bracing for power outages, airports are preparing for major delays and road crews are on high alert.
Local authorities are warning of slick roads as holiday shoppers head out to stores.
The National Weather Service says 6 to 12 inches of snow is expected in New England, with as much as 14 inches possible along the Maine coast. Areas north and west of New York City and central Pennsylvania could get 8 inches or more. About half a foot is forecast in parts of Ohio, where snow began falling overnight.
Multiple accidents have been reported on roadways throughout the Midwest and Northeast, while airports report hundreds of cancellations.
Airlines canceled nearly 1,200 flights because of the storm, including almost 375 flights into and out of Newark, N.J., and 189 at Chicago's O'Hare airport.

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) -- Tens of thousands of wreaths made in Maine have been laid at graves at Arlington National Cemetery.
Trucks carrying about 120,000 balsam wreaths began rolling toward the Washington, D.C.-area cemetery Dec. 8. They arrived Saturday.
All told, the Columbia Falls-based nonprofit Wreaths Across America expects to ship 470,000 to 500,000 wreaths to adorn veterans' graves across the country and overseas this holiday season.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine say the Senate has passed a resolution designating Saturday as "Wreaths Across America Day."
The wreath-laying tradition began in 1992, when the owner of Worcester Wreath Co. ended up with extra wreaths and shipped them to Arlington.
Next year, for Arlington's 150th anniversary, the organization wants to place a wreath on every headstone -- about 230,000 of them.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The bipartisan budget measure that was easily approved by the House earlier this week appears to have the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate. That's according to officials in both parties.
But unlike in the House, significantly more Senate Republicans are expected to oppose the measure than vote for it.
Overall, the legislation erases a total of $63 billion in across-the-board cuts in the next two budget years, and specifies $85 billion in savings over a decade. By raising spending levels, it's designed to eliminate the threat of another budget shutdown like the one this fall.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced a test vote for Tuesday on the measure.
Joining the ranks of the bill's opponents today was the Veterans of Foreign wars. The group cited a provision that would reduce cost of living increases for military retirees until they reach 62. It says that could mean a total loss of $80,000 for a sergeant first class who retires at the age of 40.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rep. Paul Ryan says his 2-year budget agreement with Democrats is the equivalent of taking a few steps in the right direction.
For Republicans lacking a clear national leader, the deal also may be a way to span the GOP's divide.
And it could put the Wisconsin Republican -- his party's 2012 vice presidential nominee -- in the role of bridge-builder before next year's congressional elections.
The budget plan approved by the House capped a year in which Ryan pushed his fellow conservatives to recognize the realities of divided government.
Ryan could eventually try to succeed House Speaker John Boehner or jump into the 2016 White House race.
Some conservatives oppose the deal but it could help him make the case that Ryan can get things done in divided government.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. military officials say a Chinese warship nearly collided with an American Navy guided missile cruiser operating in international waters.
U.S. Pacific Fleet says it happened Dec. 5 in the South China Sea, and that the USS Cowpens maneuvered to avoid the collision.
The State Department has raised the matter at a high level with the Chinese government.
The incident comes amid heightened tension over China's growing assertiveness in the region.
Despite strenuous objections from Washington, Beijing recently declared a new air defense zone over parts of the East China Sea.
Pacific Fleet says it's not uncommon for navies to operate in close proximity and that's why it is paramount they all follow international standards for maritime "rules of the road."

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- While Americans are abuzz about Amazon's plans to use self-guided drones to deliver packages, most future unmanned aircraft may operate far from large population centers.
Experts point to agriculture as the most promising commercial market for drones because the technology is a perfect fit for large-scale farms and rural areas where privacy and safety issues are less of a concern.
Already, farmers, researchers and companies are developing unmanned aircraft equipped with cameras and sensors to survey crops, monitor for disease or precision-spray pesticides and fertilizers.
Farmers say the technology could revolutionize agriculture by boosting crop health, improving field management practices, reducing costs and increasing yields.
The Federal Aviation Administration does not allow drones' commercial use. But next year, the agency plans to propose a rule for small unmanned aircraft.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) -- Authorities say an 18-year-old who wounded a fellow student before killing himself at a suburban Denver school entered the building with a shotgun, a machete and three incendiary devices in his backpack, and had ammunition strapped to body.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson says Karl Pierson was motived by retaliation against a faculty member -- probably a librarian -- when he opened fire Friday at Arapahoe High School.
The sheriff says it appears the school librarian was the initial target but that Pierson planned to hurt multiple people.
Robinson says the librarian is leader of the speech team and Pierson was a member. He says the librarian disciplined Pierson in September but didn't kick him off the team.
Robinson also says Pierson bought the shotgun legally Dec. 6 at a local store.
The sheriff identified the wounded student as 17-year-old Claire Esther Davis. Robinson says Davis was seated with a friend near the door Pierson used to enter the school when Pierson shot her at point-blank range.
He says Davis wasn't a specific, intended target.

DENVER (AP) -- One day after an 18-year-old gunman critically wounded a student and killed himself at a Colorado high school, more than 200 people gathered in Denver to remember those killed in the Connecticut school shootings.
The crowd at Cheesman Park sang and offered prayers and rang a bell for the 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School one year ago today.
Twenty-six people rang a bell for the 20 students and six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The crowd joined together to sing "Amazing Grace."
Among those attending was Megan Sullivan, who lost her brother, Alex, in the 2012 Aurora movie theater shootings. Sullivan offered a message of hope for those touched by school violence.

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- The arrest of a Kansas man accused of trying to bring a bomb into a Wichita airport marked the latest in a string of undercover operations that have become a successful, widely used domestic counterterrorism tactic.
Court documents detail six months of alleged conversation between Terry Lee Loewen and undercover FBI agents leading up to Loewen's Friday arrest.
The discussions began as vague sentiments about committing "violent jihad" against the U.S., then turned into a plot in which the agents recruited Loewen to use his access to a the airport for a martyrdom operation.
The FBI insists such stings are a vital, legal tool for averting potentially deadly attacks -- and juries have returned tough sentences.
But defense attorneys and others say the tactics involve entrapment and violate civil liberties.

NEW YORK (AP) -- A man who fell onto the tracks in front of a New York City subway train survived when police say he dove into the deep roadbed between the rails as the train passed over him.
Police say Ralph Mercado was hospitalized in stable condition with only a bruised hand after Saturday's hair-raising incident at Union Station in Manhattan.
Witnesses saw Mercado screaming for help as the train rolled toward him. Suzannah Troy told the New York Post there wasn't enough time for onlookers to act.
Police don't know exactly how Mercado, who's in his 50s, ended up in front of the northbound R train.

MAYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) -- Police say a pair of New York teenagers forced their 23-month-old child to smoke marijuana.
The Chautauqua County sheriff's office tells The Buffalo News that the toddler's parents and grandfather allegedly helped or watched the toddler smoke marijuana from a lighted bowl on Dec. 5 in an apartment in western New York.
Authorities say 17-year-old Jessica Kelsey, 18-year-old George Kelsey and Jessica's 54-year-old father, Don Baker, were arraigned Friday on charges of second-degree reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child. They are being held in lieu of $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.
The toddler and another sibling are in the care of Child Protective Services.

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Twinkling lights, decorated trees and bustling campgrounds. Those are signs of the Christmas season in Campbellsville, Ky., where the distribution center recruits an armada of RV owners as seasonal workers to help fill holiday orders.
They're dubbed the "CamperForce" by the world's largest online retailer. The hundreds of temporary workers are assigned packing, sorting and collection duties at Amazon facilities in Kentucky, Kansas and Nevada, roles meant to keep orders flowing during the yuletide rush.
Swarms of workers take up temporary residence in campgrounds. For many, it's another short-term stint on a nonstop journey. It's a lifestyle and mindset for the retirees, empty nesters and younger parents who shuck traditions of home and work to roam from campsite to campsite, job to job.
The stints last about three months.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Tire-maker Michelin says it is recalling about 1.2 million tires sold in the U.S. because an increasing number are experiencing tread loss or rapid air loss.
The tires are commonly used for pickup trucks, heavy-duty vans, small RVs and commercial light trucks. The Greenville, S.C-based company says no deaths or injuries have been reported because of the tires.
The tires, known as Michelin LTX M/S tires, were manufactured between January 2010 and June 2012. They were sold as original equipment on some vehicles and as new replacement tires.
The company says that fewer than 200 of the tires have been returned by customers. Owners can have them replaced at Michelin stores for no charge.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A federal appeals court has cleared the way for companies in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa to resume domestic horse slaughter.
In an order Friday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver removed an emergency injunction that had blocked the plants from opening.
The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups appealed after a federal judge in Albuquerque rejected their lawsuit alleging the Department of Agriculture failed to conduct proper environmental studies when it issued permits for the slaughterhouses.
An attorney for Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, N.M., and Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Mo., says by lifting the stay, the appellate court is saying it's unlikely the protection groups would win their appeal.
Still, attorney Blair Dunn says it could be months before the court makes a final ruling on the animal protection groups' appeal.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- An attorney for the woman found dead in a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell is disputing a coroner's report that her death was probably due to a chemical imbalance related to chronic alcohol abuse.
Haig Harris asserted to the San Francisco Chronicle ( Saturday that Lynne Spalding's death wasn't related to alcoholism and insisted that she died of starvation or dehydration.
He said the mention of alcoholism "demeans the memory of this woman, without telling us when she died, how long she was out there suffering."
Spalding's body was found in a locked stairwell Oct. 8, 17 days after she went missing from her hospital room.
David Perry, a family spokesman, also denied that Spalding had a drinking problem.
A call to the medical examiner's office was not immediately returned.

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