Recently in National Category

Mother Kills Two Children During Standoff

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By Alison Henderson
Two children are dead after a seven hour standoff Monday at the Laredo, Texas welfare office, according to a Washington Post report.

12-year-old Ramie Grimmer, who was shot and killed by her mother posted a "prophetic" message on Facebook during the stand-off that read "May die 2day," according to an LA Times report. 10-year-old Timothy Grimmer was also shot during the standoff, and died Thursday at San Antonio hospital from gunshot wounds.

The mother came to the office armed demanding food stamps after being rejected for an incomplete application.

"We closed the case on Aug. 8 because we hadn't received proof of her income," agency spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said in an email to the Washington Post. "If we had that, it's quite likely she would have been eligible for benefits."

Grimmer threatened employees and held the office supervisor hostage, according to the Washington Post report. Police later found Grimmer dead and her children in critical condition.

Laredo police police information officer, Joe Bezza said the case is still under investigation, according to the Washington Post report.

Horse Slaughter Ban Lifted in US

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By Alison Henderson

Congress lifted a ban Nov. 18 that will allow the slaughter of horses to resume in the U.S.

The ban, which began in 2006 did not stop horses from being slaughtered, according to a Patch report. During the ban, horses were shipped across national boarders for slaughter.

"As a result, nearly the same number of U.S. horses was transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010 - nearly 138,000 - as was slaughtered before domestic slaughter ceased," U.S. Rep Chris Murphy, D-5 said in an email to Patch.

Activists, including the animal rights group PETA, say that the new legislation will keep horses from the suffering they experienced when they were being transferred.

"This transport of live horses -- often in vehicles with low ceilings in which horses must hunch over, slipping and sliding on their own waste ... is an indictment of the horse-breeding and -ranching business. To reduce suffering, there should be a ban on the export of live horses, even if that means opening slaughterhouses in the U.S. again," PETA said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

Though currently no slaughterhouses in the U.S. are used to slaughter horses, several are expected to be up and running within the next few months, according to a Washington Post report.

TransCanada Agrees to Reroute Pipeline

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By Alison Henderson

At a news conference in Nebraska Monday, TransCanada announced its plans to reroute the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.

The pipeline would have carried oil from the Alberta tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas, travelling over the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska.

As one of the world's largest aquifers, the 174,000-mile water table is a main source of drinking water and irrigation for farmers in the Grain Belt.

After a new route is selected an environmental assessment will be completed, a process that is expected to set the project back by 12 to 18 months, according to a New York Times report.

A bill on the pipeline, offering up to $2 million from the state for a new environmental survey, is moving through the Nebraska legislature and will be voted on for a second time on Friday, according to a Reuters report.

Nebraska Gov. Heineman said Tuesday that he hoped Nebraska legislation would expedite the environmental impact statement for the Keystone pipeline.

"We support the pipeline, but we were opposed to the route through the Sandhills," Heineman said in the Reuters report. "The State Department heard our concerns and TransCanada has heard us."

New Census Data Shows Rise in Poverty

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The overall poverty rate in the U.S. is at 16 percent, according to new data from the Census Bureau.

The data was collected using a new poverty measure that takes living expenses, medical costs, government aid and regional differences into consideration.

Revealing an increase from the official poverty measure, the new data also showed higher poverty rates for Asians, Hispanics and the elderly, according to a Reuters report.

The rate of poverty among elderly rose from 9 percent to 15.9 percent because of Medicare and out-of-pocket medical expenses, according to an NPR report.

Dave Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute said the data shows that the social safety net is not doing as much as hoped.

"The programs we have right now are, if anything, inadequate," Cooper said in the Reuters report.

Government officials acknowledge flaws in the measurement and say it is a work in progress, according to the NPR report.

Coal Ash Spill Sparks EPA Debate

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By Alison Henderson

A coal ash spill at a We Energies facility in Caledonia, Wis. is causing debate over the lack of federal regulation on coal ash.

The spill, caused by a landslide, dumped about 2,5000 cubic yards of old coal ash into Lake Michigan on Wednesday, according to an Associated Press report.

Though the ash could harm fish habitats and contaminate the water with heavy metals, Ann Coakley, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said the spill likely has no significant environmental impact.

"Most will stay where it is and they'll scoop it out," Coakley said. "That's not to say none of it will migrate but it's likely not going to cause a great deal of environment

The EPA is proposing stricter regulation on coal ash in light of the spill, according to a Michigan Radio report.

A hearing in Chicago addressed the debate. Concerned Caledonia citizens and officials attended to advocate stronger federal regulation, according to a Racine Journal Times report.

Supporters of the coal industry suggested that stronger regulation could result in job loss and higher electricity costs, according to the Journal Times report.

Obama Proposes Student Loan Solution

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By Alison Henderson

Obama announced a plan to reduce student loan debt at a speech in Denver on Wednesday, according to a Washington Post report.

The program will run from January 1 to June 30, 2012 for students that took out their first loan in 2008 and plan to take out another in 2012.

The "Help Americans Manage Student Loan Debt" proposal will allow graduates to cap their federal student loan debt at 10 percent of their discretionary income. Remaining debt on the loans would be forgiven after 20 years.

This is expected to save graduates hundreds of dollars a month, according to the Washington Post report.

Obama's Domestic policy advisor Melody Barnes said that the initiative is a response to a "We the People" petition signed by 30,000 people and submitted to the White House website.

Despite the projected savings, several student loan groups have criticized the proposal, stating that it doesn't address rising tuition and the lack of well-paying jobs, according to a Reuters report.

"By focusing only on a limited group of students, the proposal does little for borrowers struggling to repay student loans in today's distressed job market," said the Education Finance Council in a prepared response.

Four Disabled Adults Found Locked In Basement

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By Alison Henderson

Four mentally disabled adults were found locked in the basement of a Philadelphia home Monday night, according to a Reuters report.

The victims were found malnourished and locked in a small room with no bathroom. One victim was chained to a furnace by his legs, according to the Reuters report.

In 1985 one of the accused suspects, Linda Ann Weston, was convicted of starving a 25-year-old to death and served eight years in prison, according to the Reuters report.

Weston, along with Eddie Wright, 50, and Gregory Thomas, 47, were arrested Sunday and charged with assault and kidnapping, according to an NBC report.

Police are also investigating whether the suspects were collecting money from the victims' disability and social security checks.

The victims were taken to the ghfj hospital and are listed in stable condition, according to an LA Times report.

Drug Test Becomes Step in Welfare Process

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Three dozen states are considering a law that requires citizens to pass a drug test to receive government benefits, according to a New York Times report.

The law has already passed in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, and Missouri. Kentucky State representative, Lonnie Napier, believes that it is important to ensure that government benefits are being used properly.

"The children in lots of cases are not receiving the benefits of the public assistance. And this is wrong," Napier told NPR.

Criticisms suggest that the requirement challenges Fourth Amendment rights and stereotypes the low-income and unemployed demographic. Others, like State Senate leader Arthenia L. Joyner, believe it is the wrong time, according to the New York Times report.

"There are millions of people seeking aid from the state for the first time because they have lost their jobs and they still have children to feed and bills to pay," Joyner said. "These people now are having to suffer the indignity of having to undergo a drug test."

An earlier pilot project in Florida with similar requirements cost the state almost $3 million, according to Mike Bender, state capitol reporter for Tallahassee bureau of the St. Petersburg Times, in an NPR report.

Apple Legend Steve Jobs Dies

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By Alison Henderson

Steve Jobs, co-founder and visionary of Apple Inc., died Wednesday at age 56, after an eight-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Jobs passed weeks after resigning from his position at Apple Inc. in late August because of health concerns.

"I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come," he said in a letter announcing his resignation, according to a Reuters report.

News of Jobs' death spurred immediate reactions on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.

Rachael Horowitz, Twitter spokesperson reported that after Jobs' death was announced, Twitter was receiving 6049 tweets per second, according to a Computer World article.

Introducing the iPod, iPhone, and iTunes among other widely used technologies Jobs changed the way computers are used. His unconventional style was reflected in his work. Even the name Apple is an example of his ingenuity.

"In an era when engineers and hobbyists tended to describe their machines with model numbers, he chose the name of a fruit, supposedly because of his dietary habits at the time," according to the New York Times.

Cantaloupe Kills 13

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By Alison Henderson

The deadliest outbreak of food borne illness in years has killed 13 people and infected at least 72 others.

The cause of the outbreak was linked to the bacteria, listeria. The bacteria was traced back to cantaloupes from a farm in Colorado.

Symptoms of a listeria infection are not immediately apparent and the numbers of reported infections are expected to increase in the coming weeks, according to an NPR report.

"After people get infected by food contaminated with the bacteria, it can take weeks for them to start having symptoms like fever and muscle aches," said Nell Greenfieldboyce, an NPR science correspondent.

The outbreak is causing some food distributors to be more cautious, looking to stricter regulations on the way food is grown, handled and cleaned, according to a report in the New York Times.

Stephen F. Patricio, a melon shipper and chairman of the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, said that cantaloupe sales in California were suffering though only Colorado cantaloupes were contaminated, according to the New York Times report.

"The entire melon category needs to look at the best practices and research that's been done by the California industry and others to best analyze their own risks," Mr. Patricio said. "Or we're all going to continue to suffer."

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