From AP REPORTS
Drunk man took lawn mower to liquor store in a snowstorm to buy more, Michigan police say
ADRIAN, Mich. (AP) – A man was charged with drunken driving after going through two bottles of wine, cutting through a snowstorm on his lawn mower and riding down the center of the street to reach a liquor store, authorities said.
Police found Frank Kozumplik, 49, homeward bound on a John Deere tractor Saturday night, toting four bottles of wine in a paper bag, officials said.
He told officers that his wife had taken their car to work, and that the mower was the only way he could reach the store, two miles from home.
His blood alcohol level was 2 1/2 times Michigan's legal driving limit of 0.08 percent, police told WLEN-FM. They arrested him and confiscated the mower.
Kozumplik declined to comment Monday night.
Missile strike kills 12 militants in northwestern Pakistan, officials say
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A missile destroyed a suspected militant hideout in volatile northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 12 people, officials said. In other clashes in the area, militants killed a soldier and injured four more.
The fighting came a day after gunmen held dozens of students and teachers hostage for about five hours at a school in a nearby district.
The air attack occurred after midnight in Khushali Torikhel, a village in North Waziristan, a tribal region bordering Afghanistan, an intelligence and a government official in the region said. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
The intelligence official described the victims as "local Taliban."
Neither the government nor the Pakistani military had any immediate comment.
House nears action on stimulus proposal as Senate plans add-ons for senior citizens
WASHINGTON (AP) — The $150 billion economic aid package on a fast track to passage in the House faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where lawmakers in both parties are seeking to tack on billions for senior citizens and the unemployed.
The House planned a Tuesday afternoon vote on its plan to speed rebates of up to $600-$1,200 to most income earners while giving tax breaks to businesses.
A Senate panel was to vote Wednesday on a $156 billion version, which gives $500-$1,000 rebates to a broader group, including older Americans living off Social Security and wealthier taxpayers, and would extend unemployment benefits. Senate leaders hope to pass it by week's end, said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
The action put the Senate on a collision course with President Bush, who has cautioned against adding to a carefully negotiated package that brought together House Democrats and Republicans, both of whom surrendered cherished proposals to reach a deal. The White House and congressional leaders agree it is critical to enact an economic recovery package as soon as possible to help head off a recession and boost consumer confidence.
"The Senate is threatening to create partisan conflict by trying to put in additional programs," said Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman.
25 killed in bus crash in China as icy weather disrupts travel during busy holiday season
GUANGZHOU, China (AP) — Some of the worst winter weather to hit southern China in decades took 25 more lives Tuesday when a bus plunged off an icy road, adding to the chaos the snow storms have caused during the nation's peak travel season.
Numerous cities suffered blackouts as heavy snowfalls caused power lines to snap and hampered the delivery of coal, used to generate most of China's electricity. Around 50 deaths so far have been blamed on the weather.
The storms also stranded travelers, among them hundreds of thousands of migrant workers heading home for the Chinese New Year. The holiday, which begins Feb. 7, is China's most festive. For many migrants, it is their only chance to visit their families, and by Tuesday many had given up trying to go.
Premier Wen Jiabao visited Changsha, capital of central Hunan province, which has suffered its heaviest snowfall levels since 1954, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Wen issued instructions to clear ice from roads and power cables. Much of the disruption to the grid has been blamed on the accumulation of ice and snow on power lines, weighing them down and causing them to snap.
Car bomb blast outside police station in Algeria kills at least 2, officials say
THENIA, Algeria (AP) — A car bomb exploded Tuesday outside a police station in northern Algeria, killing at least two people and wounding several others, the Interior Ministry said. Witnesses and security officials put the death toll at least three.
The blast hit the city of Thenia, about 40 miles east of Algiers, early in the morning.
Officers opened fire on a vehicle that was speeding toward the local police station. The vehicle exploded short of the building, leaving a 6_-foot-wide crater.
The force of the blast stopped a clock on nearby City Hall and damaged surrounding buildings.
The Interior Ministry said at least two were killed. Earlier, security officials had said the bombing killed at least three people and wounded several others.
McCain, Romney work to get voters to polls for Florida presidential primary
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney spent a week hammering each other on the economy and national security heading into the Florida presidential primary that could solidify one man as the party's front-runner.
All that was left to do Tuesday was urge people to vote.
Critical phone calls, negative radio ads, and bitter, personal exchanges marked the final hours before the primary. The contest offers the winner the state's 57 delegates to GOP nominating convention and serves as a gateway to the 20-plus states with nominating contests on Feb. 5.
Recent polls show McCain, the Arizona senator, and Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, in a dead heat; both hope a Florida win will provide a burst of energy heading into the virtual national primary a week later.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who has lost six straight contests, is seeking a win to remain a viable candidate. But he is far behind in the polls, and a poor showing could force him to abandon his bid. Also lagging is Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who hasn't won since the Iowa caucuses nearly a month ago and hardly competed in Florida.
Borrowing costs likely to drop as Fed weighs another rate reduction
WASHINGTON (AP) — Individuals and businesses are likely to see their borrowing costs drop further as the Federal Reserve weighs another interest-rate reduction to bolster a sagging economy.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues are scheduled to open a two-day meeting Tuesday afternoon to plot their next move on interest rates. The closed-door gathering comes amid growing fears the country is either on the brink of a recession or has already started slipping into one given the strains from a housing market collapse, a global credit crunch and turbulence on Wall Street. The country's last recession was in 2001.
Many economists believe the Fed will lower its key rate, now at 3.5 percent, by as much as one-half percentage point to 3 percent when policymakers wrap up their meeting Wednesday afternoon.
If that scenario plays out, commercial banks would be expected to lower their prime lending rate by a corresponding amount — from 6.5 percent to 6 percent. The prime rate applies to certain credit cards, home equity lines of credit and other loans. Should all this happen, then both the Fed's key rate and the prime rate would be at nearly three-year lows.
In an emergency gathering convened by Bernanke last week, the Fed ordered a rare, three-quarter-point reduction to its key rate. That move came after stocks worldwide plummeted, intensifying recession fears. The Fed's action has helped to restore some confidence among skittish investors. However, financial markets remain fragile.
Writers Guild of America gives OK for members to work on Grammy Awards
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Grammy Awards will be in full voice next month, with the striking writers guild agreeing to allow its members to work on the show.
The Writers Guild of America gave its blessing last week to a picket-free Grammys. Now that the guild's board of directors decided Monday to sign an interim agreement for the Feb. 10 ceremony, the Grammys will escape the fate that befell this month's Golden Globes.
The Globes were stripped of stars and pomp when the guild wouldn't agree to an interim deal and the Screen Actors Guild encouraged its members to boycott the ceremony, which was reduced to a news conference.
The agreement allowing guild-covered writing for the Grammys is in support of union musicians and also will help advance writers' own quest for "a fair contract," the guild said in a statement.
"Professional musicians face many of the same issues that we do concerning fair compensation for the use of their work in new media," Patric M. Verrone, president of the guild's West Coast branch, said in the statement.
Gunmen release over 200 students taken hostage at Pakistan high school after failed kidnapping
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) – Gunmen briefly seized control of a high school in volatile northwestern Pakistan on Monday, the government said, holding more than 200 students and teachers hostage for hours before surrendering to surrounding security foces.
The seven gunmen gave themselves up to a delegation of tribal negotiators, Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said.
The gunmen barged into the school near the town of Bannu after a chase and firefight with police that killed an eighth gunman and wounded a policeman.
The chase began after they abducted the health chief of a neighboring district and two of his relatives, who were later freed, also unharmed.
Federal prison in McKean Co. gets new warden
BRADFORD, Pa. (AP) – The federal prison in McKean County has a new warden.
Francisco Quintana took over the Federal Correctional Institution on Jan. 20. He replaces Helen Marberry, who became warden of the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.
Quintana began his career as a correctional officer at the federal prison in Marion, Ill. He was warden at the Federal Correctional Complex in Beaumont, Texas.
W.Va. mayor stuck at Calif. airport uses magazine to prove his identity to security guards
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – Charleston Mayor Danny Jones had a problem as he tried to get through the security gate at a California airport: He had misplaced his driver's license, and the expired one in his wallet wouldn't do.
The guards at John Wayne Airport in Orange County searched his bag, he told the Charleston Daily Mail for a story published Monday.
Then he remembered picking up a copy of Charleston Magazine while on his way to the West Coast for a little rest and relaxation.
Inside was a photograph of him standing in downtown Charleston and an article Jones had written as mayor welcoming visitors to the state capital.
Only then was he allowed to board his flight home.
Canadian leader presses for more NATO help in Afghan mission
TORONTO (AP) – Canada will extend its military mission in Afghanistan only if another NATO country puts more soldiers in the dangerous south, the prime minister said Monday, echoing the recommendation of an independent panel to withdraw without additional forces.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government is under pressure to withdraw its 2,500 troops from Kandahar province, the former Taliban stronghold, after the deaths of 78 soldiers and a diplomat. The mission is set to expire in 2009 without an extension by Canadian lawmakers.
European allies' refusal to deploy to Afghanistan's dangerous south and east has opened a rift with Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and others which, along with the United States, have borne the brunt of Taliban violence.
John Manley, a former Liberal deputy prime minister and foreign minister who led the panel that released last week's report, said that if another NATO country cannot muster 1,000 troops for Kandahar "then Canada should signal its intent to transfer its responsibility for security in Kandahar."
Harper he would begin negotiating with allies prior to the next meeting of NATO leaders in early April.