NATION • WORLD •
MONDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2013
Briefs • US law didn’t halt cigarette flow from New York tribes NEW YORK (AP) — When Congress passed a law in 2009 effectively banning mail-order deliveries of cigarettes, it was expected to snuff out entrepreneurs on New York’s Indian reservations who were selling millions of tax-free cartons to consumers in high-tax states. But the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act didn’t stop everybody. Shipping records were obtained by lawyers for New York City as part of a racketeering lawsuit. They show that as of last spring, one group of about 20 website operators on Seneca Nation territory was still delivering 1.7 tons of untaxed cigarettes a week to destinations around the U.S. The city’s suit is part of a wider legal battle involving cigarettes sold on Indian reservations.
Biden will visit DMZ during Asian trip WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden is preparing to visit the Demilitarized Zone, the heavily armed border between South Korea and North Korea. The White House is releasing details of Biden’s itinerary for his weeklong trip to Asia aimed at showing the U.S. remains focused on the region. Biden departs Sunday for Japan, China and South Korea. Biden will visit the DMZ Saturday following a ceremony honoring U.S. troops who died during the Korean War, which ended 60 years ago. The border visit will likely highlight the conflict over North Korea’s nuclear program. In Tokyo, Biden will meet with Japan’s prime minister and lawmakers. He’ll meet with China’s president in Beijing and with South Korea’s president in Seoul. Biden will also give a speech in South Korea on U.S. policy in Asia.
Big demonstrations beseige Ukraine KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A protest by about 300,000 Ukrainians angered by their government’s decision to freeze integration with the West turned violent Sunday, when a group of demonstrators besieged the president’s office and police drove them back with truncheons, tear gas and flash grenades. Dozens of people were injured. The mass rally in central Kiev defied a government ban on protests in the biggest show of anger over President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a political and economic agreement with the European Union.
Box Office • ‘Hunger Games’ brings in $75 million over weekend HOLLYWOOD — “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” earned a prodigious $75 million, while 3-D animated musical “Frozen” opened with $67 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. Both films bested the previous Thanksgiving record holder, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which earned $57.5 million in 2001 over a three-day period. “Frozen” is now the biggest Thanksgiving wide release opener ever. Lionsgate’s sequel and Disney’s frosty fete now hold the record for the highest domestic box office grosses for the three-day and five-day holiday weekend, as “Catching Fire” blazed the trail and “Frozen” slid in at No. 2. From Wednesday to Sunday, “Catching Fire” brought in $110.2 million, bringing the domestic total to $297 million. “Frozen” scored $93 million, topping Disney’s previous five-day champ, “Toy Story 2,” which earned $80.1 million in 1999.
New blue ribbon panels stumble on all that red ink WASHINGTON (AP) — Since the end of World War II, more than a dozen high-profile bipartisan panels have been convened to tackle the nation’s thorniest fiscal problems. Seldom have their recommendations spurred congressional action. Their ambitious, high-octane reports and recommendations are mostly gathering dust on government shelves. Right now, congressional negotiators are struggling with a way to head off another looming government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis that could strike early next year. A 29-member bipartisan panel faces a Dec. 13 deadline and daunting odds. History is not on its side. A bipartisan “supercommittee” tasked with finding ways to cut the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years crashed, burned and Murray expired last November. “We end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve,” its leaders, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a joint statement of frustration. A 2010-2011 deficit-reduction panel led by former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Democrat Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, produced a comprehensive deficit-cutting plan that was widely praised but mostly ignored, even by President Barack Obama, who created the group. Simpson called the plan
“the only one that irritates everybody” and therefore “the only one that will work.” Proposing a batch of highly detailed government spending cuts and tax increases, the recommendations won many bipartisan plaudits, but little support from either party. It failed, Simpson later suggested, because Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike “all worship the god of re-election.” The Grace Commission was created in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan to go after waste and inefficiency in the federal government. Headed by businessman J. Peter Grace, the commission produced hefty recommendations it claimed would save the government $424 billion over three years. Reagan and Congress largely ignored its report. One of the few special panels generally hailed as a success is the 1981-83 Social Security commission chaired by Republican economist Alan Greenspan, who later served for 19 years as Federal Reserve chairman under four different presidents. His panel is credited widely with rescuing the old-age benefit program from insolvency. It recommended an increase in the Social Security payroll tax, trimming some benefits, especially for younger retirees, and gradually raising the retirement age for full benefits. For once, Congress went along. But it was hardly a smooth ride. The panel quickly deadlocked, with Democrats opposing benefit cuts and Republicans opposing higher Social Security taxes. It came up with its big fix only after the direct, heavy intervention by Reagan and House Speaker Thomas P. O’Neill, D-Mass.
NTSB ofﬁcials trying to reach Alaska crash site ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Federal investigators on Sunday started documenting the wreckage of a plane crash in remote southwest Alaska that killed four people and injured six Friday night. A break in weather conditions allowed two investigators — from the National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration — on Sunday to reach the scene where a single-engine aircraft went down near the village of Saint Marys, said Clint Johnson, the chief of the NTSB’s Alaska regional office. “The goal is to document the wreckage at the accident site to the best of their ability, and be able to talk to witnesses,” Johnson said Sunday afternoon. He added that “it’s way too early to draw any conclusions” about what cause the accident. Investigators will be at the site for at least a day, possibly two, collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses, Johnson said. Another NTSB investigator in Anchorage also is hoping to interview survivors of the crash, he said. The Hageland Aviation
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Cessna 208 crashed at around 6:30 p.m. Friday four miles from Saint Marys. It left Bethel on a scheduled flight for Mountain Village and eventually Saint Marys but never reached Mountain Village. The airplane would have been flying in freezing rain with a mile of visibility and a 300-foot ceiling, a spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers has said. Johnson said the plane was equipped with an advanced electronic locator transmitter that went off on impact and sent a satellite signal with GPS coordinates alerting officials to the accident. At about 7 p.m. Friday, one of the survivors, Melanie Coffee, also made a frantic call for help resuscitating her 5-month-old baby, then walked nearly a mile to lead searchers hampered by cold and fog to the crash site. Saint Marys has about 500 people and is located 470 miles west of Anchorage. Like many Alaska villages, it is off the state road system. People routinely use small aircraft to reach regional hubs where they can catch another plane to complete trips to Anchorage or other cities.
A worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. A report by Iran’s official news agency quotes the country’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, saying the Islamic Republic needs more nuclear power plants.
Report: Iran now wants more nuclear power plants TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s nuclear chief said Sunday that the Islamic Republic needs more nuclear power plants, the country’s official news agency reported, just after it struck a deal regarding its contested nuclear program with world powers. Ali Akbar Salehi said the additional nuclear power would help the country reduce its carbon emissions and its consumption of oil, IRNA reported. He said Iran should produce 150 tons of nuclear fuel to supply five nuclear power plants. “We should take required action for building power plants for 20,000 megawatts of electricity” in the long term, Salehi said. The comments come
after Iran agreed to freeze part of its nuclear program in return for Western powers easing crippling economic sanctions. The deal requires Iran to cap its uranium enrichment level at 5 percent, far below the 90 percent threshold needed for a warhead. That 5 percent uranium can be used at nuclear power plants. Iran also pledged to “neutralize” its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium — the highest level acknowledged by Tehran — by either diluting its strength or converting it to fuel for research reactors, which produced isotopes for medical treatments and other civilian use. Iran says its nuclear
program is for peaceful purposes. Western powers fear Iran could use its nuclear program to make atomic weapons. Iran’s only nuclear power plant, near the southern port of Bushehr, produces some 1,000 megawatts of electricity. The plant came online with help from Russia, which will provide fuel for it through 2021. Salehi said Iran is in talks with several countries — including Russia — to build four more nuclear power plants to produce 5,000 megawatts of power in the near future. He said he asked moderate President Hassan Rouhani to include a line of credit in next year’s budget for expanding nuclear power plants.
Ohio lawsuit focuses on safety of gas drilling COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A closely watched lawsuit in Ohio is asking a question that’s burning in cities and towns throughout shale country: Can regulations in states eager for the jobs and tax revenues that come with gas and oil drilling trump local restrictions that communities say protect them from haphazard development? The case was brought by Munroe Falls, an Akron suburb of 5,000. It involves a well that Beck Energy Corp. began to drill — with the state’s permission — on private property in the city in 2011. In the process, the company sidestepped 11 local laws on road use, permitting and drilling, the city contends. The legal disagreement over whether Beck’s permit can pre-empt Munroe Falls’ local regulations reached the Ohio Supreme Court this summer. Both pro- and anti-drilling forces are watching the case because it’s further along in the courts than similar lawsuits in other states and the outcome could encourage or deter the implementation
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elsewhere of local laws to limit drilling. The case has implications for the spread of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial method of injecting sand, water and chemicals to free the gas from shale rock deep underground. The case in Munroe Falls centers on a traditionally drilled well, but the centralized oil and gas regulation that’s in question regulates both kinds. In the rich shale oil states of New York, where fracking is not yet legal and many communities have instituted pre-emptive bans, and Pennsylvania, where fracking is widespread, similar cases have been decided in favor of shared regulation, with municipalities overseeing such things as land use and aesthetics and the state overseeing safety and construction. The lawsuit cites Texas, California, Oklahoma and Colorado as states that use a shared system. “If this goes the way that I hope and pray it would go, it would restore some home rule to municipalities that has been taken away by the
state,” said Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson. “It would uphold our right to be able to zone certain areas and exclude certain uses and to allow those uses in other areas.” The 2004 state law under which Beck’s state permit was issued consolidated oil and gas production operations under the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The company said in court filings that the idea was “to end the confusion, inefficiency and delays under the earlier patchwork of local ordinances, and to ensure that Ohio’s oil and gas resources are developed on a uniform statewide basis.” Munroe Falls and its allies in the suit — including cities, villages, environmental groups and a host of local businesses — argue the law empowered the state to regulate drilling methods but gave it no authority to protect the interests of local communities. That “constitutional prerogative,” cities argue, has lain with Ohio’s local governments for nearly a century.
The News Sun is the daily newspaper serving Noble and LaGrange counties in northeast Indiana.