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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Vermont is abandoning its plan to establish a single-payer health care system under the Affordable Care Act, its governor announced Wednesday, a blow to reformers who hoped the state could set a national example. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) said that he was nixing the plan because it would require large tax increases to fund. The state had been working for years on a plan to institute a single-payer system in 2017, when Obamacare allows states to propose alternative reforms to extend health coverage and control costs. read more


Sheriff Steve Kozisek identifies the man who suffered a gun shot wound on Monday morning as 46-year-old Richard L. Fipps. The Sheridan County (Wyoming) resident was on Murphy Gulch Road accompanied by Murphy and another employee when they stepped out of the truck to remove the snow chains from the vehicle. Fipps had a dog in the vehicle which he had ordered to move from the front seat into the back. While the dog was roaming around the back seat of the truck, it stepped on a loaded 300 Winchester Magnum which caused the gun to discharge. According to Kozisek, Fipps was outside of the truck when the bullet shot through the cab of the truck into Fipps left arm. read more


After Sony decided to abort the release of The Interview in light of terrorist threats, apparently from North Korean cyber bullies, a Dallas-area movie theater tried to offer a patriotic response: A free screening of Team America: World Police instead. But Paramount Pictures, which owns the rights to the movie, has told independent theaters that they cannot screen it.


In a year-end news conference before Russian and foreign media, President Vladimir Putin predicted Thursday a recovery in two years despite a looming recession, crashing ruble and growing fears about the financial instability. "Rates of growth may be slowing down, but the economy will still grow and our economy will overcome the current situation," Putin said. "I believe about two years is the worst-case scenario. After that, I believe growth is imminent." He said the West is demanding too many concessions from Russia. "They are trying to chain the bear. And when they manage to chain the bear, they will take out his fangs and claws," he said. "This is how nuclear deterrence is working at the moment." read more


Michael D. Shear, New York Times: President Obama's decision on Wednesday to radically shift United States policy toward Cuba is the latest and most striking example of a president unleashed from the hesitancy that characterized much of his first six years in office. The announcement, made in a speech to the nation from the Cabinet Room of the White House, follows similar decisions by Obama in recent weeks to defy Republicans on immigration, climate change policy, the regulation of the Internet and negotiations with Iran. read more


About 25 families in eastern Ohio have been unable to live in their houses for the past three days because of a natural gas leak at a fracking well that crews cannot stop. Bethany McCorkle of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said crews lost control of the Monroe County well on Saturday. Families were evacuated from about 25 houses within a 1.5-mile radius of the well, located near the Ohio River about 160 miles east of Columbus. The well is not on fire, but the gas could be explosive. "There's still a steady stream of natural gas coming from the wellhead," McCorkle said. read more


American troops in Iraq had their first actual battle with ISIS troops after the Islamist militants tried to overrun a base, an encounter that left the ISIS troops decimated and in retreat. The attack took place near the Ein al-Asad base, which includes close to 100 U.S. military advisers. The U.S. troops, armed with "light and medium weapons," and were able to inflict casualties against the ISIS fighters, forcing them to retreat, Shafaq News reported. The American troops were also aided by fighter jets, which directed air strikes against the ISIS troops that "silenced their heavy sources of fire." "US forces intervened because of ISIS started to come near the base, which they are stationed in so out of self-defense," said Sheikh Mahmud Nimrawi. The incident was the first time that American troops clashed with ISIS forces on the ground in Iraq. read more


Parents are outraged after an elementary school punished their blind child by replacing his cane with a pool noodle. Dakota Nafzinger attends Gracemor Elementary School in Kansas City. The 8-year-old was born without eyes because of Bilateral Anopthalmia. School District Spokeswoman Michelle Cronk said that after Dakota hit somebody with his cane on while riding the bus, they took away his cane and gave him a pool noodle because he needed something to hold. Cronk said Dakota fidgets without his cane. read more


Breaking ranks with other likely Republican presidential hopefuls, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said in a radio interview that opening up trade with Cuba is "probably a good idea." He said, "The 50-year embargo just hasn't worked. If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn't seem to be working and probably it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship. In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea."


Evidence of life on Mars could have been found by NASA's Curiosity Rover. Mysterious spikes of methane that cannot easily be explained by geology or other theories have been found by one of the instruments on the robot, which landed on the planet in 2012. Scientists can't be sure what is causing the spikes, but it is possible that it could be very small, bacteria-like living organisms. If the gas is coming from living, breathing microbes then it would mark one of the biggest discoveries in history. On Earth, 95% of methane comes from microbial organisms.


Police are looking for a man in a red suit and a white beard who robbed a San Francisco Wells Fargo bank during the city's SantaCon street party last weekend. After the robbery, he reportedly slipped into the crowd of hundreds of others red-suited merry-makers who were drinking and partying in the streets around Union Square. "The suspect decided to take advantage of this event dressed as a Santa," said SFPD spokeswoman Grace Gatpandan. read more


Electronic Frontier Foundation: The public got an early holiday gift today when a federal court agreed with us that six weeks of continually video recording the frontyard of someone's home without a search warrant violates the Fourth Amendment. In United States v. Vargas local police in rural Washington suspected Vargas of drug trafficking. In April 2013, police installed a camera on top of a utility pole overlooking his home. Even though police did not have a warrant, they nonetheless pointed the camera at his front door and driveway and began watching every day. read more


Nate Cohn, New York Times: Cuban-Americans represent a meaningful number of voters in a battleground state, Florida, that may be critical in the 2016 presidential election. Their political allegiances also seem to have shifted significantly toward Democrats in recent years, which raises the possibility that President Obama's new policy could accelerate the shift -- or undo parts of it. read more


A TV weatherman for KCEN in Waco, Texas, was shot at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday outside his station's studio. Patrick Crawford was getting into his car when he and the gunman exchanged words. Crawford was shot multiple times by a semi-automatic handgun and was able to drive away from the gunman, crashing on an access road at Interstate 35 200 feet from the station. He's undergoing surgery at a Temple hospital and police are searching for the gunman.


Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif rushed to Kabul on Wednesday to deliver a warning to Afghan authorities to take decisive action against sanctuaries of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Raheel is traveling to the Afghan capital after security agencies found evidence that the Peshawar attack, which killed 141 people, including 132 children, was planned inside Afghanistan by the Mullah Fazlullah group. A security source told the Express Tribune that Pakistan would want immediate action against TTP hideouts. "If Afghan authorities fail to act this time, we will explore all options, including hot pursuit," the source said.


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