SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — With the fight over solving Illinois' worst-in-the-nation pension shortfall now headed to the courts, the financially troubled state faces a grim possibility: The plan could be tossed, and Illinois could wind up in an even deeper fiscal hole than the one it's in now.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama prodded Congress to raise wages and secure the social safety net as he issued an overarching appeal Wednesday to correct economic inequalities that he said make it harder for a child to escape poverty. "That should offend all of us," he declared. "We are a better country than this."
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal judge should strike down Utah's same-sex marriage ban because the precedent has been set by the U.S. Supreme Court and discrimination has gone on long enough, an attorney for three gay couples challenging the 2004 voter-passed law argued Wednesday.
The engineer, William Rockefeller, 46, told authorities he became dazed and lost focus shortly before the crash as the train took a curve at three times the speed limit, investigators said. The source said Metro-North commuter railroad trains such as the one on the ill-fated Poughkeepsie-New York City run are equipped with two safety systems to alert fatigued or distracted engineers.
The National Security Agency gathers nearly 5 billion records a day on the location of mobile telephones worldwide, including those of some Americans, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing sources including documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The records feed a database that stores information about the locations of "at least hundreds of millions of devices," the newspaper said, according to the top-secret documents and interviews with intelligence officials. The report said the NSA does not target Americans' location data intentionally, but acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellular telephones "incidentally." One manager told the newspaper the NSA obtained "vast volumes" of location data by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones.
By Edith Honan DANBURY, Connecticut (Reuters) - A teacher calmly explains she has been shot in the foot. Officials in Newtown, Connecticut, on Wednesday released audio recordings of emergency 911 phone calls from the Connecticut school shooting that killed 20 children and six educators almost a year ago, revealing raw emotion in the voice of the callers. The audio files may be the final pieces of evidence released about the tragedy that rocked the United States on December 14, 2012, when gunman Adam Lanza, 20, shot dead his mother at home and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary school, where he massacred 26 people before killing himself. In the final seconds, she grows more insistent, pleading with the 911 operator for help.
CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Between diplomatic headaches in Afghanistan and the Mideast, John Kerry spent happy hour Wednesday praising a wine-producing but poor Eastern European nation for resisting Russia's grasp.
A former paramedic who responded to a deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant was sentenced on Wednesday to 21 months in prison after pleading guilty to federal pipe bomb charges unrelated to the blast, prosecutors said. Bryce Reed, 31, pleaded guilty in October in U.S. District Court in Waco, Texas to conspiracy to make an unregistered destructive device and attempting to obstruct justice. Reed admitted conspiring with others from December 2012 to April 26 to make a pipe bomb and then trying to conceal it from investigators or destroy it after the April 17 plant explosion in West, Texas that killed 14 people, prosecutors said. Reed became one of the faces of the rescue effort in the aftermath of the blast.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The familiar black dog with the white chest and white front paws starred in past Christmases in President Barack Obama's White House, but America's first pooch had to let someone else in the picture this holiday season: his little sister, Sunny.
By Keith Coffman DENVER (Reuters) - A powerful Arctic cold front blanketed the western and central United States on Wednesday, dropping heavy snow on the Colorado Rockies across to the Great Lakes and bringing frigid temperatures across the region. Some mountain locations west of the Continental Divide could see up to 3 feet of snow before the system moves on, said Jim Kalina, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder, Colorado. The cold snap sent bitter chills across many areas of the U.S. west, and the storm stretched across the Dakotas to northeastern Minnesota where up to 3 feet of snow could fall along the north shore of Lake Superior, the weather service said. "We haven't seen a cold snap this early in the year that has lasted so long for 30 or 40 years," said Luke Robinson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Missoula, Montana.
By Joseph Lichterman DETROIT (Reuters) - The auction house Christie's put a price tag on one of Detroit's highest-profile city assets, its share of the Detroit Institute of Arts collection, stating that nearly 3,000 works controlled by the city are worth between $452 million and $866 million. The finding by Christie's, hired to place a value on art treasures that could become a contested element of the Detroit bankruptcy, puts a range of value on 2,781 works owned or partially owned by the city. The holdings represent only about 5 percent of the DIA's full collection, but with the finding Tuesday that Detroit is bankrupt under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code, it is possible the city may seek to monetize some of the artwork. Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr retained Christie's in August to appraise city-owned works as part of Detroit's bankruptcy case.