(CNN) - It may have been the least productive year for Congress in history, at least in terms of passing laws fewer than 60 of which made it through the House and Senate and were signed by President Barack Obama.
Across the country, however, state lawmakers were busy getting more than 40,000 bills passed, ones that tackle everything from drones to food stamp benefits.
In Illinois for example, teenagers will no longer get to use tanning beds without a doctor's note. If you live in Delaware, visit the shark fin buffet while you can, a new law will make it illegal to own, sale, or distribute the controversial delicacy. And in California, new laws take effect that will let students take part in school sports, or use bathrooms based on their gender identity, regardless of the gender noted in their birth certificates.
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Just after sunrise on 15 February 2013, as commuters made their way along snow-covered roads to Chelyabinsk in south-west Russia, the clear blue sky was torn by a hurtling lump of space rock.
The meteorite appeared without warning, out of the sun, on a shallow trajectory. It thumped into the atmosphere at 12 miles per second and became a fireball. For a moment, the rock burned 30 times brighter than the sun.
Viktor Grokhovsky, a researcher at Ural Federal University, 200km to the north of Chelyabinsk, missed the beautiful, terrifying spectacle that morning, but within minutes was watching video of the event. He spent the rest of the day assembling a search party. The first of several set out at first light the next morning to interview eyewitnesses and recover pieces of the fallen rock.
It was rather easy to find fragments in the first days after the meteorite fell, because the chunks left holes in the snow, Grokhovsky told the Guardian. But as more snow fell over the next two weeks, the holes became covered over. The search was called off until the snow began to melt in the spring.
Nothing the size of the Chelyabinsk meteorite had fallen to Earth in 100 years, and never over an urban centre where its dramatic arrival would be captured by CCTV and dashboard video cameras installed by Russians wary of insurance scams and crooked police.
This was the first time in modern, medieval or ancient history when a meteorite fell in an area with a high density population. This type of meteorite is rare and a lot of material fell. All these factors give excellent opportunities for extraterrestrial substance research. The hazard from asteroids and comets, peoples behaviour in emergencies, and the shortage of astronomical education are all on the agenda, said Grokhovsky.
In a statement issued on Monday, Franklin Graham son of legendary televangelist Billy Graham and CEO of his Evangelical Association complained about Christians who were unwilling to fight beside Phil Robertson in the religious war against Christians and the biblical truths [they] stand for.
I appreciate the Robertson familys strong commitment to biblical principles and their refusal to back down under intense media pressure over Phil Robertsons comments in a recent interview, Graham wrote. As the Robertson controversy winds downat least for nowI have been amazed at how many churches have apparently ducked out on the issue (sin).
He chastised those churches that have fallen into the trap of being politically correct, under the disguise of tolerance.
God is not politically correct, he wrote, and He is certainly not tolerant of sin.
He continued by noting that [t]he Bible tells us that He is going to judge all sin one day; and anyone who is not found under the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, will face an eternity in hell separated from God.
Police in Knoxville have removed two vinyl banners bearing a white supremacist message from an Interstate 640 overpass.
Banners bearing the message diversity is a code word for white genocide in red ink were reported Monday morning by a 911 caller.
Officers took down the banners, which were about 30 inches tall and 123 feet long, from a Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge that spans the interstate.
Police arent sure who printed the banners or tied them to the overpass, but theyve offered to return them if the owner calls to claim them.
Banners or signs carrying similar messages have been displayed in recent months in Arkansas and Oregon, and flyers with the slogan were passed out at Eastern Kentucky University.
Anti-LGBT activists and other right-wing conservatives are calling for a boycott of the 2014 Rose Parade because of a parade float that will feature the wedding of a same-sex couple.
CBS Los Angeles reported on Monday that Aubrey Loots and Danny LeClair plan to formalize their partnership of 12 years atop a float sponsored by the AIDS Health Foundation in this years parade.
The two will be the first same-sex couple to get married in the parade. On its Facebook Page, the foundation announced that the two men will be married on top of a float made of thousands of flowers shaped into a white wedding cake. The float will be one of 45 featured in this years Rose Parade, a tradition that dates back 125 years.
The theme of the float will be Dreams Come True, which for LeClair and Loots, could not be more true.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation is about love is the ultimate protection. Weve taken it to love saves lives. This is about love, across the world, no boundaries. Were celebrating love, Loots said to CBS. This is also an opportunity, for us, to give a voice to people who dont have a platform like this to express their love, in this country and many other countries, too.
Good! It will make for a much better parade without 'them'...
"Based on the conclusions [reached in] the talks held with ... expert delegations, the implementation of the Geneva accord will start in the third ten-day of January," Baeidinejad was quoted as saying by Iranian Press TV. "The two sides managed to reach an understanding on the implementation of the agreement and now, their views and interpretations are the same."
The EU and the British government indicated however work remained to be done on how to implement the November accord. Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said the experts would report back to their capitals and contacts would continue to "finalize a common understanding of implementation." He declined comment on Iran's assertion that there was an agreement on the timetable for implementing the accord.
In London, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said progress had been made in the latest talks in Geneva, but some issues remained to be resolved. "Our aim is to bring the agreement into force as soon as possible," she said.
Western diplomats have said in the past that Jan. 20 was a possible implementation date, because that is when EU foreign ministers next meet in Brussels and could agree on the lifting of EU sanctions.
Western countries led by the United States fear that Iran's nuclear work has military goals and have imposed years of sanctions on Iran in an effort to force Tehran to curb its nuclear program.
Source: Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer confidence jumped this month on a better outlook for hiring and overall growth, supporting other signs that show the economy could accelerate in 2014.
The Conference Board said Tuesday that its index of consumer confidence rose to 78.1 in December, up from 72 in the previous month. November's figure was revised up from 70.4.
Consumer confidence is nearly back to where it was before the partial government shutdown in October. Steady job gains and a surging stock market have made Americans more optimistic about the economy and hiring both now and in the next six months.
"The upbeat consumer mood bodes well for spending in 2014," said Michael Dolega, senior economist at TD Economics.
Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/12/31/4578505/us-consumer-confidence-rises-on.html
LONDON (AP) -- A well-known privacy advocate has given the public an unusually explicit peek into the intelligence world's tool box, pulling back the curtain on the National Security Agency's arsenal of high-tech spy gear.
Independent journalist and security expert Jacob Appelbaum on Monday told a hacker conference in Germany that the NSA could turn iPhones into eavesdropping tools and use radar wave devices to harvest electronic information from computers, even if they weren't online.
Appelbaum told hundreds of computer experts gathered at Hamburg's Chaos Communications Conference that his revelations about the NSA's capabilities "are even worse than your worst nightmares."
"What I am going to show you today is wrist-slittingly depressing," he said.
Even though in the past six months there have been an unprecedented level of public scrutiny of the NSA and its methods, Appelbaum's claims - supported by what appeared to be internal NSA slideshows - still caused a stir.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- The deaths this year of three major Texas Republican donors, including a billionaire who died over the weekend, could signal a generational change for party kingmakers in the nation's largest GOP stronghold.
Harold Simmons, whose business interests ranged from energy to nuclear waste dumps, helped transform Texas from a Democrat-controlled state in the 1970s to a Republican stronghold by the turn of the century. Simmons' death Saturday came after Republicans lost home builder Bob Perry in April and businessman Leo Linbeck Jr. in June. For decades, all three helped bankroll political campaigns both in Texas and nationwide.
All three men were considered conservative renegades when they got involved in politics. However, as the state grew more conservative, they became part of the GOP mainstream.
The loss comes as Texas Republicans already were facing a turning point. Gov. Rick Perry, one of the donors' biggest recipients, isn't seeking re-election next year, and a new breed of GOP candidates such as tea party-backed U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has emerged in the state.
"It leaves a huge question mark for Republican candidates and political organizations that have relied on major contributions from those two or three individuals for the last decade," said Matt Mackowiak, a prominent Republican political consultant. "Their generosity made a huge difference in a lot of races over a long period of time, but it was their potential to always contribute more that probably prevented a lot of races from ever taking place at all by scaring off potential competitors.
Source: Associated Press
A civil liberties group sued the U.S. government Monday, saying various agencies have failed to provide adequate documents related to what it calls the sweeping monitoring of Americans' international communications.
The American Civil Liberties Union said in the lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan that its Freedom of Information Act requests since May had been largely ignored by the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the Department of State. It sought a court order to force the government to turn over information about the rules governing how it monitors the international calls and the emails of Americans.
The ACLU said it wants to learn what protections are given to Americans whose communications are monitored and whether they are legally sufficient. The lawsuit said legal standards and limitations are sought rather than operational details.
A government spokeswoman said there was no immediate comment.
In a blog, ACLU staff attorney Alex Abdo said revelations over the last year have increased the public's understanding about how the government conducts surveillance when it sweeps up Americans' international communication when it takes place on U.S. soil. But he said there was little known about an executive order which allows U.S. agencies to monitor Americans' communication in other countries.
Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/aclu-sues-government-international-calls-21375585
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