Underneath Seattle, something unknown has blocked the progress of the biggest-diameter tunnel-boring machine in use on the planet, a high-tech, largely automated wonder called Bertha. At five stories high with a crew of 20, the cigar-shaped behemoth was grinding away underground on a two-mile-long, $3.1 billion highway tunnel under the city's waterfront on Dec. 6 when it encountered something in its path that managers still simply refer to as "the object." The object's composition and provenance remain unknown almost two weeks after first contact. read more
A federal judge in Brownsville, Texas, has accused the Department of Homeland Security of aiding those who smuggle children into the country by delivering them to their undocumented parents. In an opinion delivered last week in the trial of an immigrant smuggler, District Judge Andrew S. Hanen criticized the DHS practice of reuniting undocumented immigrant children with their parents who are known to be in the United States illegally as "a dangerous course of action" that endangers children and ultimately funds Mexican drug cartels, which control human smuggling and trafficking routes through Texas.
Aaron Cline Hanbury, The Atlantic: The author's death barely made headlines 50 years ago when he died on the same day as JFK and Aldous Huxley. But today, his writings are more relevant than ever. amid all of the attention to these three men during the past year -- new biographies, films, conferences, magazines, articles -- the legacy of Lewis stands out in relation to both those of the 35th U.S. president and of the prescient Brave New World author. As Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. puts it in Publishers Weekly, "While Huxley is now largely forgotten and Kennedy remains a symbol of lost promise, Lewis lives on through his novels, stories, essays, and autobiographical works." read more
President Barack Obama's half brother is publishing an autobiography that claims their father, Barack Obama Sr., was a domestic abuser. In his book, Mark Ndesandjo says Obama Sr. meted out alcohol-fueled beatings to Ndesandjo's mother, who he married after divorcing Stanley Ann Dunham, the president's mother. He also allegedly held a knife to her throat after she got a restraining order against him. Ndesandjo grew up in Kenya and moved to the U.S. for college, earning three degrees. He first met the president in 1988.
Three Los Angeles officers have been temporarily relieved of patrol duty after a departmental review found they fired 22 shots and killed the unarmed driver of a Corvette following a high-speed chase Friday night. Police opened fire at Brian Newt Beaird, 51, after he slammed his sports car into a Nissan at a downtown L.A. intersection, drove the vehicle onto the curb and hit a tree, and then got out and tried to walk away from the vehicle. "After hearing the preliminary briefing, I am very concerned about the circumstances that led up to and resulted in this officer involved shooting," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. read more
President Barack Obama sought to close the books on a rocky 2013 for his administration and set the stage for a "year of action" in 2014. "I firmly believe 2014 will be a breakthrough year for America," Obama said at a press conference. Asked what his biggest mistake has been over the past year, Obama said it was the rollout of online insurance portal. He put it bluntly: "We screwed it up." Obama. But he also revealed Friday that a half million Americans had enrolled in health insurance plans via federal insurance exchanges in the first half of December, reflecting a dramatic improvement.
The ceiling of central London's historic Apollo Theatre collapsed Thursday during a performance to a nearly packed house, injuring scores of people. "We heard a creak, somebody screamed, somebody from over there said, 'Look out!' and then the ceiling kind of creased in the middle and then just collapsed," said a theatergoer named Hannah. Within an hour, a spokesman for the fire department said everyone had been freed from the building, which was at or near its 775-seat capacity. The theater's website said The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was being performed when the accident occurred.
Spending by consumers helped drive the U.S. economy to better than expected 4.1% growth between July and September, the highest since 2011. The GDP report suggests that the U.S. economy entered the fourth quarter of this year "with more momentum than had previously been thought to be the case," said Richard Moody, chief economist of Regions Financial, "and we expect that momentum to build further in 2014."
Thanks to EPA regulations, state regulations, and military goals, traditional lead ammo is on its way out and "green bullets" are on their way in. Even the military has set 2018 as its target date to have troops operating lead-ammo-free. With the military committing to the switch, the EPA making smelting a tougher business, and governors passing state-level lead ammo bans, experts say "lead bullets will be all but phased out within a few years in favor of so-called green bullets."
New Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that same-sex marriage is legal, validating initiatives in several counties allowing the practice in the absence of a specific state law. The ruling on Thursday means that New Mexico joins 16 states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage. A state district court judge ruled earlier this year that it violates New Mexico's constitution to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, basing the ruling on a 1972 state constitutional amendment that prohibits discrimination "on account of the sex of any person."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is in the hospital and will not be working on Friday, his office announced. "Early this morning, Senator Reid was not feeling well and as a precaution decided to go to the hospital," said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson. "Tests have been conducted and everything is normal." read more
At his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis urged Christians to imitate Jesus Christ by being humble and "small among the small," taking on the ideology of the "Prosperity Christians" who think God rewards believers with material wealth. "It is an ugly thing," he said, according to Vatican Radio, "when you see a Christian who doesn't want to humble himself, who doesn't want to serve, a Christian who struts about everywhere: it's ugly, eh? That is not a Christian: that's a pagan!" read more
Quartz, a business and marketing website, recently released data on the Facebook dating app Are You Interested, which connects single people with others within the confines of their Facebook networks. Quartz' data are based on a series of yes-or-no questions about who users are interested in, as well as response rates between users, once notified of a potential suitor. The data show that white men and Asian women receive the most interest, whereas black men and women receive the least amount of interest. read more
In a Freedom of Information Act victory, a federal judge has slapped the Obama administration for its secretive ways and ordered officials to turn over a bland-sounding foreign policy document. U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle, a Clinton appointee, blasted the administration for trying keep secret a memo on foreign aid, writing: "The government appears to adopt the cavalier attitude that the president should be permitted to convey orders throughout the executive branch without public oversight ... to engage in what is in effect governance by 'secret law.'" The Center for Effective Government filed a FOIA request in 2011 for the document, which is not classified and has been widely distributed within executive agencies. The Obama administration nonetheless sought to keep the document to itself, claiming an executive communication privilege under FOIA. read more
For the first time since the 1959 revolution, Cubans will have the right to buy new and used vehicles from the state without government permission, another step toward greater economic freedom on the communist-led island. Under a reform introduced two years ago, Cubans can buy and sell used cars from each other, but must request authorization from the government to purchase a new vehicle or second-hand one, usually a relatively modern rental car, from state retailers. The Communist Party newspaper, Granma, said the new regulations "eliminate existing mechanisms of approval for the purchase of motor vehicles from the state." read more