Crews clean up a chemical spill along the Elk River in Charleston, W.Va., which compromised the public water supply of eight counties on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Tyler Evert)
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- It could be days before clean tap water is flowing again to several hundred thousand people in nine West Virginia counties affected by a chemical spill.
The water system has been contaminated by a chemical used to process coal. It leaked from a Freedom Industries plant into the Elk River in Charleston on Thursday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is among those sending bottled water and other supplies to the region.
Meanwhile, business owners around the capital are wondering how much of an economic hit they'll take from the spill.
Most visitors have cleared out of Charleston while locals are either staying home or driving out of the area to find somewhere they can get a hot meal or a shower.
Virtually every restaurant is closed, unable to use water to prepare food, wash dishes or clean employees' hands. Also, hotels have emptied and foot traffic is down at many retail stores.
BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Bad weather Saturday morning turned back a recovery team attempting to reach the wreckage of a small airplane that went down in the central Idaho mountains in early December.
Valley County Sheriff Patti Bolen says a meeting is planned Monday to consider options for reaching the remote crash site and removing the bodies of the five family members who had been onboard.
Officials suspended the search for the aircraft in mid-December, but an intensive search by family and friends located the badly damaged aircraft Friday.
Fifty-one-year-old Dale Smith, a software executive from San Jose, Calif., was flying the single-engine Beech Bonanza from eastern Oregon to Butte, Mont., when he reported engine trouble.
Smith's son and his wife, along with Smith's daughter and her fiance, were on board.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Police have named as a suspect the mother of a 7-week-old girl who went missing from her home under suspicious circumstances in northeast Memphis.
Aniston Walker was reported missing Thursday morning, and police have been using cadaver dogs to search homes, backyards and a pond in the neighborhood where she lived with her mother and two siblings. Friday's search proved fruitless. Police were resuming the search for a third day Saturday.
Police say the mother, 33-year-old Andrea Walker, said she left the baby at home with her 3-year-old son while she took her 5-year-old son to school Thursday. When she returned, she said, the baby was gone, but the 3-year-old was still in the house.
After interviewing Walker, police charged her with neglect and abuse. She's jailed on $500,000 bond.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve says it paid the federal government $77.7 billion in 2013. That was down from the record set in 2012 but still far above payment levels before the Great Recession.
The payments reflect a portion of the earnings the central bank makes from the Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities it has purchased to drive interest rates lower to boost the economy.
The Fed is funded from interest earned on its portfolio of securities. After covering expenses, the Fed makes a payment of the remaining amount to the Treasury Department. The preliminary estimate for the 2013 payment was down 12 percent from a payment of $88.4 billion made in 2012.
Fed payments averaged $26 billion annually in the four years before 2008.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Veterans groups are criticizing an Obama administration proposal that's designed to streamline how disability claims are administered.
The application process is supposed to be so simple that even a handwritten note on a napkin initiates a claim.
But the Department of Veterans Affairs says the many ways that compensation requests arrive actually hamper the agency's ability to administer benefits and contribute to a stubbornly high backlog.
The VA wants to require that veterans use a standard form when they file for disability compensation or appeal a decision. And it's throwing in incentives for those who use a computer.
The veterans groups worry that the time it takes to gather records and successfully complete the standard form could financially penalize many veterans, primarily those without computer access.
NEIMAN MARCUS-SECURITY BREACH
NEW YORK (AP) -- Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus says thieves stole some of its customers' payment card information and made unauthorized charges over the holiday season.
Neiman Marcus's spokeswoman Ginger Reeder said in an email that its credit card processor notified the retailer in mid-December about potentially unauthorized payment card activity. On Jan. 1, a forensics firm confirmed evidence that the upscale retailer was a victim of a criminal cyber-security intrusion and that some customers' cards were possibly compromised as a result.
Reeder says the Dallas-based retailer is working with the Secret Service.
Reeder wouldn't estimate how many customers may be affected.
It's the second cyber attack on a national retailer in recent weeks. Target disclosed Friday that its massive data theft before Christmas was significantly more extensive than previously believed.
UNITED STATES-SHARON REAX
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is remembering former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a leader who dedicated his life to his country.
The Israeli soldier-turned-politician-turned statesman died Saturday at age 85, eight years after a stroke put him in a coma.
In a statement, Obama reaffirmed what he called America's commitment to Israel's security and its appreciation for the friendship between the two countries and their people.
Vice President Joe Biden will lead a U.S. delegation to the memorial service.
Biden says he looks forward to paying his respects to the man and paying tribute to "the unshakeable partnership between the United States and Israel."
Former President George W. Bush calls Sharon a friend, a "man of courage."
Former President Bill Clinton says "it was an honor to work with him, argue with him, and watch him always trying to find the right path for his beloved country."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Israel "has lost one of its greatest sons and America a friend."
Secretary of State John Kerry calls Sharon a "big bear of a man" who's finally at rest.
DALLAS (AP) -- A permit to hunt an endangered African black rhino has sold for $350,000 at a closely watched auction that's been criticized by wildlife and animal rights groups.
The Dallas Safari Club and the African nation of Namibia auctioned the permit Saturday to raise money for efforts to protect the black rhino.
Safari Club spokesman Steve Wagner confirmed the sale of the permit at the closed-door event. He declined to name the buyer.
Club executive director Ben Carter says the rhino that the winner will be allowed to hunt is old, male and nonbreeding -- and that the animal was likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife.
But critics of the auction say all members of an endangered species should be protected.
FINDLAY, Ohio (AP) -- A cat that spent at least three winter days in a northwest Ohio drainpipe has been rescued after initially refusing attempts to lure it out with tuna, the classic call of "here, kitty, kitty" and even a cellphone app that meowed.
The Courier newspaper (http://bit.ly/1d9g89t ) reports a resident in Findlay heard the cat's cries Wednesday. Groundskeepers at a school cut through the pipe Friday to free the orange cat, which was muddy, emaciated and hypothermic.
The male cat has been named Piper. It has a broken leg and other injuries signaling it's had a rough time lately. But things are looking up, with a number of people volunteering to adopt if it goes unclaimed.
One veterinarian assessed the cat this way: "If they truly have nine lives, he probably has three left."
MOJAVE, Calif. (AP) -- Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo has made its third rocket-powered supersonic flight in the Mojave Desert, soaring to a record 71,000 feet.
The company says the reusable space vehicle was carried by airplane to 46,000 feet Friday and then released. The craft used its rocket motor the rest of the way to reach its highest altitude to date.
SpaceShipTwo and its two-member crew then glided to a safe landing in the desert north of Los Angeles.
Virgin Galactic says the 10-minute test flight moves the company closer to its goal of flying paying passengers into space.
No date has been set for the first commercial flight but hundreds of would-be tourists have made down payments for the chance to fly.
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- The Weather Channel wants its viewers to urge congressional intervention in its business dispute with DirecTV, arguing that it's a public safety issue if the satellite system pulls the network off the air for nearly 20 million viewers.
The network's contract with DirecTV expires at the end of Monday. If an agreement on how much DirecTV pays The Weather Channel is not reached by then, TWC will likely stop airing on the system.
The Weather Channel said it would be deeply irresponsible for DirecTV to turn it off.
DirecTV notes that there are other ways its customers can get weather forecasts.