US: Sen. Wyden in line to head powerful Finance Committee

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WASHINGTON – President Obama's decision to tap Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus as the next U.S. ambassador to China paves the way for Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden to take over one of the most powerful congressional committees, with jurisdiction over the tax code, health care and trade policy.
 
Wyden, 64, is best known recently for his role on the Intelligence committee as a forceful critic of broad data gathering by U.S. intelligence agencies.
 
He was already expected to take over the Finance gavel in 2015, but it could occur sooner than expected as Baucus will exit the Senate as soon as his nomination is confirmed by his colleagues.
 
Baucus had already announced he was not seeking re-election. The panel's second-ranking Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is also retiring. Wyden is third ranking. Senate Democrats have generally adhered to strict seniority rules in awarding chairmanships.
 
"The Senate Finance Committee has many important responsibilities which include promoting job creation, ensuring competitiveness and stabilizing the nation's fiscal health," Wyden said in a statement. "I also look forward to continuing my work on preserving the Medicare guarantee and protecting retirement security, updating the nation's tax system with a focus on growth, fairness and efficiency and ensuring that fiscal policy supports keeping jobs here in America."
 
If Wyden assumes the Finance chairmanship early next year, it will scramble other chairmanships. He currently chairs the Energy and Natural Resources panel, which he will have to vacate. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is next in line for the gavel on that committee.
 
Baucus and his House counterpart, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., had a shared ambition to rewrite the federal tax code in this Congress. But Baucus is now on track to leave early, and Camp's term as chairman expires next year, effectively diffusing their effort.
 
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will seek the Ways and Means gavel next year. House Republicans set term limits for chairmen and do not follow strict seniority rules so lawmakers can be challenged for chairmanships.
 
Wyden has a moderate-to-liberal voting record, a history of breaking with party orthodoxy and a willingness to partner with GOP colleagues. He has worked with Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., on legislation to simplify the tax code. He also partnered with Ryan on a 2011 bill to overhaul the Medicare system, but it picked up no steam in a divided Congress.
 
Contributing: Raju Chebium, Gannett Washington Bureau
 

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Obama praises new IRS commissioner

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President Obama welcomes the Senate vote Friday to confirm a new commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.
 
Obama's statement:
 
"I applaud the bipartisan majority of Senators who today confirmed John Koskinen as the next commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. John has decades of private and public-sector experience, and he has led institutions in challenging times.
 
"Throughout his career, John has always acted with the absolute integrity Americans demand from those in public service, and his strong leadership and unquestioned expertise make him the right person to lead the IRS.
 
"I want to thank Daniel Werfel for his outstanding service as principal deputy commissioner of the IRS, and I look forward to working with John as he takes on this new role."
 

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Battle over ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ sign heats up

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Read Time:1 Minute, 54 Second
Pitman, N.J., a 2-square-mile town with 9,000 residents, has the slogan "Everybody loves Pitman." But lately, not everyone agrees.
 
An Atheist group, based out of Wisconsin, is now offering a $2,000 reward for information on the arsonist that tried to light the group's "Keep Saturn in Saturnalia" billboard on fire.
 
The billboard is the Freedom from Religion Foundation's protest against a "Keep Christ in Christmas" sign that hangs over Pitman's main street. Saturnalia refers to an ancient festival in December that once honored the Roman god Saturn.
 
The group has been protesting the sign for a few years saying it violates the separation of church and state.
 
"This has been a really long saga. I have been working on this since 2011," said Andrew Seidel, attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. "We'd appreciate it if they started obeying the Constitution."
 
The attempted arson isn't the first protest of the billboard.
 
First there were yard signs that said "Keep Christ in Christmas" in front of the billboard, then a man in a Santa Claus costume with a sign, then a family tried to hang a picture of Jesus on top of the billboard.
 
"It's an ongoing battle that just proves people are too sensitive," says Danielle Roberts, 24, of Pitman, N.J. "The law is clear. While people are entitled to believe in whatever they choose, Pitman should not be giving preferential treatment to one belief over another."
 
Pitman says it has no plans on forcing the banner to come down.
 
"I'm split, because I really don't care what anyone chooses to celebrate or for what reasons, but the Christmas sign goes up in the middle of the street and no one says anything," Tyler Lovelace, 22, says. "The second something opposes popular opinion in Pitman, I get 50 people complaining about it and people trying to burn it to the ground."
 
As for resident Robert Eck's opinion? "Just keep the nog in eggnog."

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Justin Bieber’s House Guest Is “Fine,” Ambulance Called “Out of an Abundance of Caution,” Source Says

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Apparently Justin Bieber takes extra special care of his house guests. After TMZ reported the superstar called an ambulance to his Calabasas home early in the morning on Dec. 14, Us Weekly has learned that the female guest is doing alright following an incident in which she was found unconscious. 

A source tells Us, "There's no issue. A call was made out of an abundance of caution, but the woman was given some food and liquids, and she's fine and went home."

The local sheriff's department told Us that they never visited Bieber's home and has no information about the incident. 

TMZ reported that the ambulance call was made after a 20-year-old female house guest went unconscious in the "Boyfriend" singer's home. When the woman regained consciousness, she asked for the ambulance to be called off.

According to TMZ, the female guest was attending a party thrown by the 19-year-old star, and alcohol was said to be involved with her condition. 

This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Justin Bieber's House Guest Is "Fine," Ambulance Called "Out of an Abundance of Caution," Source Says

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Hillary Clinton may affect campaigns far ahead of 2016

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Hillary Rodham Clinton looms large as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, but she could be a major factor in the 2014 elections too.
 
Ready for Hillary, the group organizing supporters nationwide for a potential Clinton presidential campaign, says it will ask its members to support candidates endorsed by Clinton in the 2014 midterm elections, and to push her policy agenda over the next two years.
 
In addition, Clinton could decide to campaign for 2014 Democratic candidates, many of whom are old friends and allies. She helped two candidates get elected this fall — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Doing the same in 2014 could help her amass support for a presidential run and help retain a Democratic-controlled Senate for a future President Clinton to work with. It could also help her decide whether she still has enough fun doing it to run for the presidency again.
 
Democratic campaign committee operatives say they hope Clinton will stump for her party in 2014, though they won't say so on the record because she hasn't yet discussed doing so. Republicans say they're sure she will.
 
"We anticipate there will be some appearances … on the campaign trail and some testing in some of these races for themes and things that might work for the prospective Clinton campaign,'' said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
 
Clinton's office would not comment on whether she will campaign for Democrats next year. "It's still 2013, so a bit too early to start addressing 2014,'' spokesman Nick Merrill said.
 
Clinton isn't likely to become a candidate herself until after the 2014 elections, if ever. "She thinks the country should spend at least another year working very hard on the problems that we have,'' former president Bill Clinton said earlier this month on CNN. "It's a big mistake, this constant four-year peripatetic campaign.''
 
He is expected to pitch in next year: he has already appeared at a fundraiser for Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor and made a video for the campaign of Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky.
 
"I think you will see President Clinton (on the trail), I can say that for certain,'' said Matt Canter of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
 
Political operatives say they can't imagine Hillary Clinton not campaigning in 2014 if only because she again has close ties to several candidates, including Pryor, Grimes and New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, whose husband was Clinton's state chairman in 2008. Guy Cecil, who is charged with preserving the Democratic majority in the Senate as executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, served as Clinton's field director during her 2008 presidential run.
 
If Clinton helps Democrats win in 2014, it would solidify the support of a pro-Hillary swath of the political elite well before the first 2016 primary. But if Democrats lose widely in midterm elections, that could tarnish her.
 
"It's a matter of political momentum, who's on the winning side and who's on the losing side of that debate,'' Dayspring said. "Are they yesterday's news or are they tomorrow's news? If she associates herself … with losing candidates or the candidates of yesterday, that's a risk.''
 
Whether Clinton is campaigning next year or not, the people who want her to be president will be.
 
Ready for Hillary says it will be active in 2014 races that Hillary supports, just as it directed its members to help McAuliffe after Clinton campaigned for him this year. The group says it has raised $1.25 million and has 25,000 donors and 1.1 million "likes" on its Facebook page.
 
"We know that we have an opportunity to take the energy and excitement that people have about a potential Hillary candidacy and communicate with those supporters in a way that's helpful to the Democratic Party as a whole,'' spokesman Seth Bringman said.
 
"We're going to look to engage our supporters in those elections….They're very excited about 2016 but there are issues and efforts that are very important in the meantime.''
 
Getting Hillary Clinton supporters to work on 2014 issues and campaigns "serves two goals: to help pass policy or legislation that matters to the supporters of Ready for Hillary, and it allows us to develop the volunteer organization,'' said senior adviser Mitch Stewart.
 
The 2 million volunteers who worked for Obama's re-election were the result of early efforts by Organizing for America, said Stewart, who was national director of that group and then the Obama campaign's battleground states director. "You can't manufacture that size of organization in six months. The earlier you start the bigger it will be.''
 
EMILY's List, which backs pro-abortion rights Democrats, is raising money and support for 2014 candidates including Kentucky Senate candidate Allison Lundergan Grimes, but at the same time involving members in its Madam President program, which recruits supporters for a woman female presidential candidate. The group has held Madam President town-hall-style meetings in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states of the 2016 race, and will hold a third in Nevada next month.
 
"It's really about making sure that we're building that base of support and capturing that momentum,'' spokeswoman Marcy Stech said. "There will be a woman on the ticket in 2016. That is our hope and that is what our campaign is about.''
 
A new Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows.Democrats overwhelmingly approve of Clinton, with 89% saying they have a positive opinion about her. Iowa Republicans favor Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin; he gets a 73% positive rating.The ratings put the two the forefront of the potential 2016 presidential candidates in the nation's kick-off voting state.

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Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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30 mass killings, 137 victims: A typical year

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Amario Dominguez III was only 6 months old when he was shot in the head in Oklahoma City in August. The infant was the youngest victim of a mass killing this year. The oldest: Dottie and Bob Pape, both 84, of Fernley, Nevada, shot during an apparent robbery.
 
Amario and the Papes are three of the 137 people who died in 30 mass killings in 2013.
 
In the year since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School horrified the world and prompted calls for laws that would prevent mass killings, little has changed. The violence and victims in 2013 are in line with the average since 2006 — 29 mass killings and 147 victims a year,according to an exclusive USA TODAY database.
 
"Everyone is always asking 'Why are these mass killings increasing?' '' says criminologist James Alan Fox, professor of criminology at Northeastern University. "They are not.''
 
The perception of a dramatic increase is understandable given the attention killings receive, says Fox, professor of criminology at Northeastern University and co-author of Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder.In an effort to look behind the bloodshed, USA TODAY examined FBI data and hundreds of media reports and police documents and compiled a database of mass killings — four or more people killed, not including the killer — from 2006 to date. The numbers tell a chilling story. Beyond the numbers, the horror and pain of the sudden and senseless loss of 137 souls resonates among family, friends, communities and, in some cases, the nation.
 
The USA TODAY analysis shows the killings fall into three main categories: Public massacres, family violence and deaths that are linked to other crimes — robbery, burglary, drug deals.
 
HIGH PROFILE BUT RARE
 
It is the public killings that attract the most attention.
 
Mass violence carried out in broad view, often with a deranged gunman bent on sending some sort of message, horrifies the public and draws intense media coverage that far exceeds the violence with smaller numbers of victims or in homes or other private places.
 
Yet mass killings account for just 1% of all murders nationally. Public massacres, such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last Dec. 14 or the rampage at a movie multiplex in Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012, account for one in six deaths by mass killing,
 
Five mass killings in public places this year left 31 people dead. The deadliest day in 2013 was Sept. 16, when 12 people were gunned down in the Washington Navy Yard. Aaron Alexis, 34, a Navy subcontractor, also injured eight people before police killed him.
 
"A public shooting, it could happen at any place, any time, to anyone – even you,'' Fox says. "Much more common are family annihilations, where a guy kills his wife, children and himself.''
 
The Richard family had no warning of the two pressure-cooker bombs that would go off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing 8-year-old Martin and tearing apart their family.
 
"An hour doesn't go by that we don't feel the agony of Martin's death and the senseless way it came about," the Richard family said on their blog in August, the most recent entry. "The pain is constant and even the sweetest moments can become heartbreaking when we are struck by the realization that "Martin would have loved this.' "
 
In addition to Martin, two other people died in the bombings, and 264 were injured. Three days later, a police officer was shot. Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed by police; his brother, Dzhokhar, is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction.
 
FAMILY MEMBERS TARGETED
 
The most common mass violence is within families.
 
Family killings make up just over half the mass murders in the USA, on average. This year, there have been 13 mass killings within families, leaving 56 people dead.
 
The most likely killers are husbands and fathers, followed by sons in their late teens or early 20s, says Jack Levin, a criminology and sociology professor at Northeastern.
 
"When people think of mass murder, they think of shopping malls, cinemas and schools, and yet the largest number of mass killings are in families,'' he says. "We don't think a family member would turn on his own relatives. It scares people too much.''
 
Often the killer has experienced long-term, chronic depression and frustration, Levin says, and there may be a triggering event such as a divorce, a child custody battle, loss of a job or worries about money. In their twisted thinking, they may conclude their family is better off dead.
 
"They are thinking that life is miserable in this cruel, cruel world, and they don't want their children to have the same life,'' says Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
 
Sons who kill often have severe mental illness, display a lack of empathy or were abused or neglected, Duwe says.
 
The massacre in Oklahoma City in August fit that pattern. Daniel Green, 40, was charged with using a semiautomatic handgun to kill four family members, including his mother, sister, a niece and Amario, his nephew. Green's father, Raymond Green, 65, says his son was a schizophrenic and killed the very people who tried to get him help during a 20-year battle with mental illness.
 
Raymond Green says he was unable to get his son committed to a mental health facility. "He is still oblivious that he did anything wrong at all,'' he says.
 
Green has pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder and is being held on a mental health floor of the local jail.
 
"Jails are the new inpatient mental health facility,'' says Gina Walker, Daniel Green's public defender.
 
Family killings claimed another victim not yet 1. Donavan Duell was 13 days short of his first birthday when he died in a house fire in Schenectady, N.Y., with his father, brother and sister. Federal authorities have charged Robert Butler, 27, in the arson killings of David Terry, 32, and the children. The fire left another child, Safyre Terry, 5, severely burned. Prosecutors allege that Butler used gasoline to torch the home where he had lived before Terry kicked him out.
 
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE
 
About one-third of mass killings are linked to robberies, drug deals or other crimes.
 
Robbery appears to have been the motive in the deaths of Bob and Dottie Pape, who had been married 60 years. They were among five people killed in a crime spree on Mother's Day weekend in northern Nevada. Jeremiah Bean, 25, is accused of killing the Papes in their home in Fernley, Nev., setting it on fire and stealing their car, and killing a second couple a half-block away. Authorities accuse him of killing a fifth person and stealing a truck when the Pages' car broke down near Reno, 30 miles away.
 
Bob, an Army veteran and avid outdoorsman, and Dottie, a scavenger for a good deal on Christmas décor at a garage sale, were well-loved members of their community.
 
Daughter in-law Terry Pape, told KOLO-TV that Dottie will be remembered for "the way she treated people and the forgiveness she would have even for that man sitting in jail."
 
In late July, a shooting in Clarksburg, W.Va., left four people dead, two of them bystanders who happened along during a drug dispute, police say.
 
Sidney Muller, 27, a former Marine who saw combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, is charged with killing four people in and outside a wood-frame home on Locust Avenue in Clarksburg, W.Va.
 
Police Det. Sgt. Jason Webber says police believe Muller shot and killed two friends in a disagreement over a drug debt. He says they had trafficked in Percocet, which contains the narcotic oxycodone.
 
As he left the home in pre-dawn darkness, Muller encountered a father and son delivering newspapers and shot both in the head, execution-style, on the spot, police allege. Killed were Fred Swiger, 70, and his son Freddie, 47.
 
"Unfortunately, two people who were in the wrong place got killed,'' Webber says.
 
The Rev. Jim Dittmar, who presided over the funeral, says it wasn't the Swigers who were in the wrong place. They were faithfully on their route, just like they were every morning — a staple of the community and more than just deliverymen.
 
"They were willing to lend a hand or share or just talk. They were willing to shovel a walk of those who could not. They were willing to report suspicious activity or unsavory characters in the neighborhood," Dittmar says. "They were acting as concerned citizens when they were executed in cold blood."
 
Contributing: Yamiche Alcindor, Natalie DiBlasio, Paul Overberg

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Spokesman: Rev. Billy Graham’s health ‘holding steady’

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — While recent updates on the Rev. Billy Graham's health by his family members have ranged from gloomy to upbeat, his condition has remained relatively unchanged for weeks, a close associate said.
 
Graham has been in a weakened condition since his 95th birthday party Nov. 7, but his vital signs are still strong, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association spokesman Mark DeMoss said Sunday.
 
"People keep saying different things, some good and some not so good," said DeMoss. "But he's about the same. I think everybody's intentions are good. The family members want everybody to pray for Mr. Graham, and I understand that."
 
DeMoss said he is in daily contact with Graham's medical staff.
 
"I think everybody is concerned about Mr. Graham, but we're not getting any different reports from the medical staff," he said. "I'm checking in every day, and there has not been a change for better or worse in the last number of weeks. He's weak, he's at home and his vital signs are good — his pulse, his heartbeat, his blood pressure. He's not in any immediate danger."
 
Widespread speculation that Graham's health may be deteriorating started last week when his son, Franklin Graham, told a Charlotte, N.C., TV station that his father had been in declining health since the birthday party and asked for prayers for him.
 
Also last week, the evangelist's grandson, Will Graham, in comments at a California church, said his grandfather "is not doing well" and that "It's time to go home."
 
But on Saturday, the Rev. Graham's nephew, Mel Graham, said in a TV interview he was encouraged because his uncle seemed stronger late in the week.
 
"I think we're holding steady," DeMoss said.

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Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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US: Which state has the worst drivers?

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Read Time:3 Minute, 51 Second
Drivers ask the question every time they see another motorist sending texts while barreling down the interstate at 75 mph, or changing lanes without signaling, or hanging a left on red:
 
Does (INSERT STATE HERE) have the worst bleeping drivers in the country?
 
Just about every year, one organization or another tries to provide an answer, based on factors as varied as how many people could pass their state's written driving test, how many citations are written for distracted driving and how likely people are to die in a motor-vehicle crash.
 
The latest such survey is from CarInsuranceComparison.com, a website for people to compare features of various automobile insurance companies. For its worst drivers rankings, the website compiles data on fatality rates per 100 million miles traveled, citations for failure to obey traffic signals and seat belt laws, DUI infractions, and tickets for speeding and careless driving. It collects data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Motorists Association and MADD.
 
And the winner is — drumroll, please — Louisiana.
 
According to CarInsuranceComparison.com, drivers in the Pelican State were propelled to No. 1 by finishing in the top five for failure to obey, speeding tickets and careless driving. Louisiana drivers also won this dubious distinction in last year's rankings.
 
Jeffrey Crews, vice president of CarInsuranceComparison.com, says the ranking generates lots of conversation and debate. "There are several reasons for that," he says. "One, it's the holiday season. People are traveling, and that comes into play. Plus, this is something that always comes up. Somebody is always saying, 'This is a horrible state to drive in.' And they can take this and say 'I told you so.'
 
"Plus, people use it as a little prod to kind of jab at each other," he says.
 
These kinds of rankings are seldom purely scientific, but they sure get people talking.
 
A 2011 ranking by GMAC Insurance (now National General Insurance) found that some of the nation's worst drivers weren't in a state at all but in Washington, D.C. The insurer based its rankings on how well — or how little — drivers understood rules of the road where they lived. It found that just 71% of drivers in the nation's capital were capable of passing a written driving test.
 
A 2010 ranking by The Daily Beast analyzed federal crash data and weighed fatal crashes in which driver error — such as DUI, running a stop sign or inattentive driving — was a factor. It found the worst drivers were in North Dakota, followed by Montana, Kentucky and Louisiana.
 
Another recent report, insurer Allstate's ninth annual "America's Best Drivers Report" in August, found that the USA's best drivers, based on Allstate crash claims data, are in Fort Collins, Colo.
 
The Best Drivers Report "was created to boost the country's discussion on safe driving," according to Michael Roche, the company's senior vice president of claims. "Best Drivers has generated a lot of attention, which we think is a very good thing."
 
The CarInsuranceComparison.com report has neither New Jersey nor New York in the top 10, which is going to be shocking for people such as David Alston, a New Jersey school bus driver who has long argued that his state, along with New York, wins the title hands-down.
 
Alston, who has logged more than 230,000 miles in each of his last two personal vehicles, says he has seen it all: In 2004, a drunk motorcyclist killed himself when he slammed into Alston's car at 65 mph, just months after Alston's mother was hit by an unlicensed driver in Montclair; he saw a motorcyclist decapitated in a crash near Newark International Airport.
 
"I see people driving with no lights on in pitch black, in snow, rain, fog," he says. "People tailgate me on my school bus. People blow through stop signs. It's unbelievable. New Jersey's got to be No. 1 or No. 2 for worst drivers."
 
States with the worst drivers:
 
1. Louisiana
 
2. South Carolina
 
3. Mississippi
 
4. Texas
 
5. Alabama
 
6. Florida
 
7. Missouri (tie)
 
7. North Carolina (tie)
 
9. Montana
 
10. North Dakota
 
Source: CarInsuranceComparison.com

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Politicians move to rake in more campaign cash

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WASHINGTON — Politicians in states from Alabama to Wyoming will be able to rake in bigger contributions for their campaigns, as states race to boost donation limits in response to the flood of outside money in politics.
 
At least eight states have approved higher contribution limits this year and lawmakers in a ninth, Michigan, approved a measure Thursday that would double to $6,800 the amount of money a candidate for statewide office can accept from individuals.
 
In Wisconsin, meanwhile, a Senate panel will hold a public hearing Wednesday on a measure that would double contribution limits to $20,000 for candidates for governor, state Supreme Court seats and other statewide offices. The measure, which also would increase the amount of money state legislators can receive, passed the state's General Assembly in June.
 
"This is largely a reaction to the changed landscape after Citizens United where so-called outside organizations are able to accept unlimited donations from any source and in some cases can outraise and outspend the candidates and the parties by substantial amounts," said Larry Norton, a veteran Washington campaign-finance lawyer who served as general counsel of the Federal Election Commission.
 
"The motivation in lifting limits on contributions to candidates' committees and to parties is to help make them more competitive with the outside organizations," he said.
 
The Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision struck down a long-standing ban on the use of corporate and union funds for independent political spending. That decision, along with separate federal ruling two months later, helped spur the creation of super PACs that can raise unlimited amounts to elect or defeat candidates.
 
Super PACs reported spending more than $609 million to influence last year's federal elections, according to a tally by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Experts say these mega PACs are likely to spread to more states next year when 36 governors' seats are in contention.
 
Thirty-eight states now allow the equivalent of super PACs to participate in their elections, and there is no legal obstacle to their creation in other states, said David Mitrani, an attorney who specializes in federal and state campaign-finance law.
 
Wyoming became the first state this year to increase contribution limits when Republican Gov. Matt Mead signed a bill in March increasing to $2,500 per election the amount of money gubernatorial and other statewide candidates could accept from individuals, up from $1,000. Donations to legislative candidates rose $1,500, an increase of $500.
 
Federal contribution limits are higher, allowing an individual to donate $2,600 for a primary or general election to a candidate for Congress or the White House.
 
Other states that have boosted limits include Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina and Arizona, where a court has put on hold the state's new law.
 
"It enables more speech by more people," David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, said of the increased limits. "We think that part of the spirit of the First Amendment is people being able to speak about what they believe in." Keating, a plaintiff in the federal case that made super PACs possible, would like states to discard limits entirely.
 
Edwin Bender, executive director of the non-partisan National Institute on Money in State Politics, said the higher caps make it easier for candidates to raise money, but they don't necessarily increase the donor pool.
 
In Missouri, state-level candidates raised nearly $2.3 million from small donors in the 2008 election, according to data analyzed by Bender's group. Four years later, after the state dropped all limits on the size of donations, small contributions shrank to $858,000.
 
"Higher limits give candidates with limited time the incentive to go after larger donors and ignore their base," Bender said.
 
Opponents of the measures say they also give a handful of givers a disproportionate influence over politicians and policy.
 
Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network said few donors are clamoring to give more. In the 2010 election, just 820 Michigan residents hit the limit on the donations they could give to gubernatorial candidates, he said.
 
Big political givers "already exert more influence than 99.99% of the state's population," he said. "They don't need to double their leverage."
 
The Michigan measure increases the frequency of disclosure reports for candidates, but bars extending campaign-finance reporting requirements to so-called "issue ads" that can criticize a political candidate but stop short of calling for the election or defeat of a candidate.
 
Michigan state Sen. Arlan Meekhof,a Republican who sponsored the bill, said the goal was to modernize a campaign-finance system that had not been updated since the late 1970s. Increasing the contribution limits and exempting issue ads from disclosure protect free speech, he said. Donors to issue-ad campaign could be "subject to harassment" for their advocacy of controversial issues.
 
"You shouldn't be attacked for having a personal view on an issue," he said.

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Victim of Colorado school shooting clinging to life

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Read Time:3 Minute, 54 Second
ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — A stunned community had a prayer vigil Sunday in support of Claire Davis, 17, who was clinging to life after being shot in the head Friday by a fellow student at Arapahoe High School.
 
The horse lover, babysitter and "great student" remained in critical condition at Littleton Adventist Hospital. Her school cancelled Monday classes.
 
Colorado's governor asked the nation Sunday for prayers for Claire.
 
Gov. John Hickenlooper credited security procedures adopted after the 1999 massacre at nearby Columbine High School for helping put a quick end to the shooting.
 
"We all have to keep Claire in our thoughts and prayers," he told CBS' Face the Nation.
 
Claire's parents "are remarkable people. I feel so directly their suffering. … They raised this beautiful young woman who had her whole life ahead of her," Hickenlooper told the Associated Press.
 
August Clary, a classmate and friend, said horsemanship is a big part of Claire's life. She spends long hours training her horse, Graphite, August said.
 
"A very sweet girl. She's really smart, really bright," said August, who has known Claire since freshman year. He had government class with her Friday morning.
 
"She wouldn't hurt a fly. She's just a really great girl, and we hope she's gonna be OK."
 
Pierson was "a funny kid," August said. "He's smart. He's in the Eagle Scouts, a very intelligent kid. Did not like being wrong. If you're arguing with him … that's a feat if you win an argument against him."
 
Hundreds of students, parents and community members filled a local park Saturday night for a candlelight ceremony, expressing shock and pain at the tragedy that unfolded at the Centennial school.
 
"It didn't feel real until you see everybody" at the vigil, said Summer Skrzypek. "She was a good friend and was always there if you needed her."
 
Students sang the school fight song and reminded each other that "Warriors" stick together. They shouted out words of encouragement, held a moment of silence and prayed.
 
Claire's neighbors were trying to process news of the shooting. Walter Bushnell told The Denver Post that Claire's grandmother had told him Claire was the victim.
 
"I just thought, 'Oh, my God, it's her' — it's just tragic," Bushnell said. "I'm just in shock."
 
Matt DeNero, who lives across the street from the Davis home, told the Post she was outgoing, a good athlete and great student.
 
"We've watched her grow up since she was 2," DeNero said.
 
On Saturday, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson called Davis "a young woman of principle. She is a young woman of purpose…. She was an innocent victim of an evil act of violence."
 
Robinson said Karl Pierson, 18, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot, entered the school armed with a shotgun he bought legally, rounds of ammunition strapped across his body, a machete and a backpack with three Molotov cocktails.
 
Pierson, in less than two minutes, fired five shots and ignited one of the Molotov cocktails before running to the back of the school library and killing himself, Robinson said. Robinson credited the quick response of a sheriff's deputy assigned to the school with stopping a mass murder.
 
"The shooter knew the deputy was in the area," Robinson said at a news briefing. "We believe that the response … was absolutely critical to the fact that we did not have additional injury or deaths."
 
Tracy Murphy, a librarian and debate team coach, was believed to have been the gunman's target. Pierson was unable to find Murphy, who coached Pierson and had disciplined him in September. Robinson said Claire's shooting appeared to be random.
 
The Davis family issued a statement Saturday saying Claire "has severe head trauma as a result of a gunshot. She needs your continued prayers."
 
The statement thanked family, friends, the community and the equestrian community for their outpouring of love and support, as well as the school for their continued support of the students and teachers."
 
The family also thanked first responders and medical personnel for "saving our daughter's life."

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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