Saturday, February 15, 2014

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Marijuana industry celebrates federal guidance on banking, but institutions remain wary

SEATTLE (AP) -- For marijuana dispensaries around the country, the days of doing business in cash -- driving around with bill-stuffed envelopes to pay the rent, or showing up at a state revenue office with $20,000 in paper bags for the tax man -- can't end soon enough.

It's not clear that the Obama administration's new guidance on pot-related banking is going to end them.

The Justice and Treasury Departments on Friday issued banks a road map for doing business with marijuana firms. The security-wary pot industry, including recreational shops in Colorado and medical marijuana operators elsewhere, welcomed the long-awaited news, but banking industry groups made clear that the administration's tone didn't make them feel much easier about taking pot money.

The banks were hoping the announcement would relieve them of the threat of prosecution should they open accounts for marijuana businesses, Don Childears, president of the Colorado Bankers Association, said in a written statement. It doesn't.

"After a series of red lights, we expected this guidance to be a yellow one," Childears said. "At best, this amounts to 'serve these customers at your own risk' and it emphasizes all of the risks. This light is red."

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Developing countries use big events to build reputations, but risk their reputations

BEIJING (AP) -- Playing host to the Olympics or World Cup can showcase an ambitious country's rise and cast a harsh light on its weaknesses.

This week in Sochi, the eye-popping cost of Russia's Winter Games and logistical fumbles got as much attention as figure skaters and snowboarders. But organizers say the problems will be forgotten quickly, while the infrastructure improvements, international attention to the region and new winter resort built for the games will be a legacy benefiting Russia for decades.

Russia is hardly alone. Brazil, South Africa, India and other rising star economies that shoot for an image boost by hosting sports mega-events can be forced to contend with accusations of mismanagement, graft and misplaced priorities.

This has been going on for half a century. The 1964 Tokyo Games helped post-war Japan show off its postwar revival and technical prowess, as viewers around the world marveled at rebuilt cities and the new bullet train. In 1988, South Korea used the Seoul Games to highlight a modern industrial economy. And just four years ago, South Africa used a successful World Cup to show how the nation had emerged from apartheid.

Brazil, eager to raise its global profile and attract investors, is taking on the daunting challenge of holding the World Cup this year and, just two years later, the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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In Volkswagen union vote, United Auto Workers fall 87 votes short of key victory in South

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- Just 87 votes at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee separated the United Auto Workers union from what would have been its first successful organization of workers at a foreign automaker in the South.

Instead of celebrating a potential watershed moment for labor politics in the region, UAW supporters were left crestfallen by the 712-626 vote against union representation in the election that ended Friday night.

The result stunned many labor experts who expected a UAW win because Volkswagen tacitly endorsed the union and even allowed organizers into the Chattanooga factory to make sales pitches.

The loss is a major setback for the UAW's effort to make inroads in the growing South, where foreign automakers have 14 assembly plants, eight built in the past decade, said Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group at the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank in Michigan.

"If this was going to work anywhere, this is where it was going to work," she said of the Volkswagen vote.

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'Juno' actress Ellen Page comes out as gay in speech to counselors for gay teens

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Actress Ellen Page who won the hearts of moviegoers as the pregnant teenager in the film "Juno" has come out as gay.

"I'm here today because I am gay," the 26-year-old actress said Friday -- speaking to a Las Vegas conference of counselors who work with teenagers who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual or queer, known as LGBTQ.

A video of her speech was posted on the Los Angeles Times website.

Page says that she suffered for years because she was afraid to come out.

"I'm standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain."

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Highlighting Calif. drought, Obama says US must figure out how to meet everyone's water needs

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) -- Drawing a link between climate change and California's drought, President Barack Obama says the U.S. has to stop thinking of water as a "zero-sum" game and must do a better job of figuring out how to make sure everyone's water needs are satisfied.

On a tour of central California on Friday, Obama warned that weather-related disasters will only get worse.

"We can't think of this simply as a zero-sum game. It can't just be a matter of there's going to be less and less water so I'm going to grab more and more of a shrinking share of water," Obama said after touring part of a farm that is suffering under the state's worst drought in more than 100 years.

"Instead what we have to do is all come together and figure out how we all are going to make sure that agricultural needs, urban needs, industrial needs, environmental and conservation concerns are all addressed," he said.

Even if the U.S. takes immediate action to curb pollution, the planet will keep getting warmer for a long time to come because of greenhouse gases that already have built up, he said.

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Anna Fenninger of Austria wins the Olympic super-G on a tricky course; Maria Hoefl-Riesch 2nd

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) -- Anna Fenninger became the third straight Austrian woman to win the Olympic super-G, finding a smooth way through a tricky and uneven course Saturday.

The 24-year-old Fenninger finished in 1 minute, 25.52 seconds, edging Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany by 0.55 seconds. Nicole Hosp of Austria was third.

Starting 17th and wearing a cheetah-themed print on her helmet, Fenninger flew along the course, hardly bothered by a track that grew more and more bumpy. She made sure the super-G title remained with Austria after Andrea Fischbacher took gold in 2010 and Michaela Dorfmeister did so at the 2006 Turin Games.

Skiers from Austria have dominated this Olympic event since the super-G began at the 1988 Calgary Games. The country has now won eight of a possible 24 medals.

"I don't know why we can win so much medals," Fenninger said of the discipline. "I think we just like it.

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Jury finds Utah man guilty of child abuse homicide in 2011 death of 16-year-old baby sitter

OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- It took a Utah jury just two hours to find a man guilty of killing a teenage baby sitter and dumping her body in the woods after prosecutors say he gave her a lethal dose of drugs during a night of sex that also included the man's wife.

Eric Millerberg, 38, faces up to life in prison after being convicted Friday of child abuse homicide, unlawful sexual contact with a minor, obstruction of justice and desecration of a dead body in the 2011 death of 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen.

Sentencing was set for March 18.

During a three-day trial, prosecutors brought detectives, medical examiners, prisoners and Millerberg's wife, Dea Millerberg, to the stand to show that he recklessly injected Rasmussen with lethal doses of heroin and methamphetamine.

Prosecutors told jurors that Eric Millerberg and his wife then dumped Rasmussen's body in the woods of northern Utah and lied to police as the girl's mother desperately searched for her for more than a month.

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Princes William, Harry help set sandbags in River Thames village hit by Britain's floods

LONDON (AP) -- Prince William and Prince Harry helped flood-hit British villagers protect their homes Friday, unloading sandbags alongside soldiers in a River Thames village.

The princes, who have both served in the armed forces, joined a work crew In Datchet, west of London, from about 6 a.m. on what aides said was a private visit.

The princes were not the only royals helping out. Their grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, has sent feed and bedding from the royal farms at Windsor to farmers whose land has been inundated.

England, which has been lashed by wind and rain since December, had its wettest January since records began in 1766, and the rain has continued this month. Storms this week have brought wind gusts of more than 100 mph (160 kph).

Floods have drenched the southwestern coast of England, the low-lying Somerset Levels and the Thames Valley west of London, where hundreds of properties have been swamped after the river burst its banks.

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Investigation ordered by NFL says 3 players engaged in a pattern of harassment against Martin

An investigation into the racially charged Miami Dolphins bullying scandal detailed widespread harassment in the team's locker room that extended beyond the two players at the center of the probe.

The NFL-ordered report stated there was a "pattern of harassment" committed by at least three players and extended to two lineman and an assistant trainer, all targets of vicious taunts and racist insults.

Lawyer Ted Wells released the report Friday, saying guard John Jerry and center Mike Pouncey followed Richie Incognito's lead in harassing Jonathan Martin, who left the team in October. They threatened to rape his sister, called him a long list of slurs and bullied him for not being "black enough."

In a statement emailed by a league spokesman, the NFL did not make any mention of possible punishment stemming from the case. The league only confirmed it had received the report and said it appreciated the Dolphins' cooperation with the investigation. Wells said he does not intend to comment further.

Martin is biracial, Incognito is white, and Jerry and Pouncey are black.

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Havana's Capri hotel, once a playground for mobsters and movie stars, reborn after restoration

HAVANA (AP) -- In its heyday, Havana's Capri hotel and casino was the playground of men known as The Blade and The Fat Butcher.

It was also a pleasure garden for headline stars who portrayed Mafiosi on the silver screen: George Raft, known for hoodlum roles such as Guino Rinaldo in 1932's "Scarface," was the casino's celebrity "greeter" and made his home in the 19th-floor penthouse.

Havana's hedonistic mob-and-movie-star days came to an end with Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, and the hotel drifted into a long, slow decline. But now the Capri is back in business after being closed more than a decade ago. Its rebirth is part of Cuba's latest bid to trade on its colorful pre-Communist past and attract tourist dollars to fund its socialist present.

"It's a feeling of that era (at the Capri). I think in Cuba you feel that in general," said Roberto Escalante, a 62-year-old Mexican university professor who was staying in the hotel this month during an academic conference. "It's very comfortable. It's missing some services still, but yes, you feel like you're back in those times -- which were good!"

Indeed, details such as the Capri's polished, art-deco granite floors with their flowery bronze inlays fit right into a city that still teems with finned Chevrolet and Cadillac classics. So do the graceful copper-colored lobby chandeliers, which like the floors are restored originals.

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