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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

Brutal winter means higher heating bills

Wednesday, 05 February 2014 02:37 Published in Local News

   The extreme cold this winter is bringing some unwanted news to utility customers in the Midwest and Northeast -- higher heating bills.

   As many in Missouri and Illinois have already seen, propane rates have skyrocketed in the past few weeks.  Gas and electric rates aren't changing, but utility company's say customers should still expect to see higher bills starting this month.  

  A jump in demand because of the brutal winter weather is to blame, according to utility providers.  Demand for natural gas reportedly hit an all-time high during the first week in January.  

   The situation isn't expected to improve any time soon, as forecasters are calling for more cold weather over the next few weeks.

Obama: 7 new 'climate hubs' to help rural areas adapt

Wednesday, 05 February 2014 01:39 Published in National News
   WASHINGTON (AP) — Aiming to help rural communities deal with climate change, the Obama administration is creating seven regional "climate hubs" that will serve as clearinghouses for information and outreach about extreme weather across the U.S.
   Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was to announce the new hubs Wednesday at the White House. The hubs fulfill one aspect of a broader climate change plan that President Barack Obama unveiled last year.
   Based at existing Agriculture Department facilities, the hubs aim to help farmers and rural communities fight climate change and adapt to weather changes. The hubs will assess local climate risks, such as drought and wildfire, then develop plans for dealing with them, such as improved irrigation techniques.
   Citing environmental changes such as longer fire seasons and intense droughts, the Agriculture Department said the hubs would help mitigate the unique implications that climate change poses for rural areas and the people who live there. The goal is to synchronize the federal government's preparation and resources with what other entities, such as universities, tribal communities and state governments, are doing to prepare for shifting temperatures.
   The seven regional hubs will be housed in forest service stations or government research labs in Ames, Iowa; Durham, N.H.; Raleigh, N.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; El Reno, Okla.; Corvallis, Ore.; and Las Cruces, N.M. Three smaller, additional "sub-hubs" will be created in Houghton, Mich.; Davis, Calif.; and Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.
 

Bombings kill at least 16 in Iraqi capital

Wednesday, 05 February 2014 01:28 Published in National News
   BAGHDAD (AP) — Multiple bombings rocked central Baghdad on Wednesday, striking mainly near the heavily fortified Green Zone where key government offices are located and killing at least 16 people, Iraqi officials said.
   The attacks were the latest in a relentless push by Sunni militants to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government's efforts to maintain security in Iraq, two years after the pullout of American troops from the country.
   There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings but such systematic and brazen attacks against government buildings, security forces and Shiites in general bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq. The terror group has become emboldened by the successes of its fellow militants in the civil war next door in Syria and by widespread Sunni anger at the government.
   The deadliest of Wednesday's attacks took place across the street from the Foreign Ministry building, when two parked car bombs went off simultaneously in two different parking lots. Those explosions killed at least seven people and wounded 15, a police officer said.
   Shortly afterward, a suicide bomber walked into a nearby falafel restaurant where he set off his explosives-laden belt, killing five people and wounding 12, the officer added. The restaurant and others around it are often used by officials or visitors waiting for security escorts to take them inside the Green Zone.
   Also Wednesday morning, a parked car bomb went off in Khilani Square in the Iraqi capital's commercial center, killing four people and wounding eight, another police officer said.
   Two medical officials confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to media.
   Iraq has seen resurgence in violence over the past year. According to U.N. figures, 2013 had the highest death toll since the worst of the country's sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007. The U.N. said violence killed 8,868 last year.
   Al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq has in the past staged spectacular attacks on Iraqi government ministries such as in August 2009, when suicide bombers hit the Finance Ministry and the Foreign Ministry ministries, killing more than 100 people. The bombings were quickly claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq, as the group was known at the time.

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