Here's what's happening across the United States and around the world today.
Rain hits Northern California as powerful storm moves inland; will slowly head south
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pacific storms are pushing across part of the West Coast today, where residents have been stocking up on supplies and filling sandbags.
Moderate rain and gusty winds began hitting the area north of San Francisco last night, but the National Weather Service says heavier rain is expected in coming hours across the region. As much as 8 inches of rain could fall on coastal mountains over a 24-hour period.
Public schools in several Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, and some private schools have canceled classes for today.
Farther north, there are flood watches and warnings in much of western Washington and concerns that saturated soils will bring the risk of mudslides.
Forecasters say the storm will slowly advance toward the south through the day today and winds will also pick up. Ski resorts in the northern Sierra Nevada could get more than 2 feet of snow. The storm is later expected to pound Southern California, before a weakening as it moves east through Nevada, Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico.
CIA battles Senate Democrats over torture report
WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA and several of its past leaders are stepping up a campaign to discredit a Senate investigation into the CIA's harrowing interrogation practices after 9/11, concerned that history may define them as torturers instead of patriots and expose them to legal prosecution worldwide.
The Senate Intelligence Committee's report doesn't urge prosecution for wrongdoing, and the Justice Department has no interest in reopening a criminal probe. But the threat to former interrogators and their superiors was underlined as a U.N. special investigator demanded those responsible be prosecuted, and human rights groups said key CIA and Bush administration officials should be arrested if they travel overseas.
Current and former CIA officials pushed back, determined to paint the Senate report as a political stunt by Senate Democrats.
Death of Palestinian official blamed on tear gas; Palestinians, Israelis clash in West Bank
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli and Palestinian pathologists who performed an autopsy on a Palestinian Cabinet member have reached contradictory conclusions.
The Palestinian doctor said Thursday that Ziad Abu Ain (ZEE'-ahd AH'-boo ayn) died as a result of a blow to his body, not of natural causes. The Israeli doctor says the 55-year-old's death was caused by the blockage of a coronary artery.
Abu Ain died Wednesday, shortly after a West Bank confrontation between Palestinian protesters and Israeli border police. An Israeli officer grabbed Abu Ain by the throat at one point. Troops also fired tear gas.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military says paramilitary border policemen have clashed with 60-100 rock-throwing Palestinians in the West bank city of Hebron. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests in the Hebron clashes.
Abu Ain's death has stirred Palestinian anger at a time of badly strained relations with Israel.
Hong Kong police make arrests, tear down tents within main pro-democracy protest camp
HONG KONG (AP) — Police in Hong Kong have begun arresting protesters who have refused to leave the main site of a pro-democracy protest, in a final push by authorities to retake streets occupied by activists for two and a half months.
Four officers carried away the first person by her arms and legs.
Many protesters have left the protest zone in Hong Kong's city center but dozens of students, pro-democracy lawmakers and others remain behind. The students at the front are lying down and locking arms.
Workers carrying out a court order earlier removed barricades on the edge of the protest site before officers moved in and tore down tents. They had warned protesters that they faced arrest if they did not leave.
Yemen's al-Qaida blames Obama for killing hostages
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A top al-Qaida leader in Yemen is blaming U.S. President Barack Obama for the recent deaths of American and South African hostages in a failed rescue operation.
Nasr bin Ali al-Ansi's video message, obtained by Site Intelligence on Thursday, is the first comment by the group after the deaths of Luke Somers and Pierre Korkie when U.S. special forces attacked an al-Qaida safe house attempting to rescue the pair.
Al-Ansi said he warned the U.S. against such attempts after a first failed rescue operation in November failed. He accused Obama of showing carelessness for the life of an American citizen. He added that the raid to try rescue the 33-year-old American journalist Somers, "caused things to go in a completely different way than we wanted."
China's ethnic region's capital to ban veiled robes
BEIJING (AP) — The regional capital of China's restive western region of Xinjiang has introduced a law banning veiled robes in public places.
The measure in the predominantly Muslim region comes as Beijing intensifies a campaign against religious extremism that it blames for the violence that has left hundreds dead in the past 20 months.
The law, announced by state media and judicial authorities Thursday, was passed by the Urumqi legislature but needs endorsement at the regional level before going into effect.
The announcement did not clarify what is considered a veiled robe.
Authorities target what they call manifestations of religious extremism, such as beards and veils. Critics say they are not necessarily expressions of extremism but cultural choices.
Apart from Uighurs, ethnic Han Chinese make up 41 percent of the population.
Spending bill teeters amid Democratic discontent
WASHINGTON (AP) — Growing opposition among Democrats and persistent opposition from the tea party Republicans has left a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill teetering as many lawmakers find more in the measure to dislike than like.
Two items are particularly toxic to Democrats whose votes will be needed to pass the measure, neither of which was disclosed until late in the talks. One would weaken the regulation of risky financial instruments and another would allow rich people to flood political parties with more cash.
A provision aimed at shoring up a financially weak multiemployer pension fund was drawing fire from AARP and labor union allies over a major change in labor law that would permit plans to cut pensions of current retirees in badly underfunded plans. A House vote is set for Thursday.
Congress puts potatoes on menu for low-income moms
WASHINGTON (AP) — It's a political victory for the popular potato.
For the first time, low-income women would be able to pay for potatoes with government-subsidized vouchers issued by the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.
The potato provision is part of a massive spending bill expected to be approved by year's end.
White potatoes have been excluded from WIC since fruits and vegetables were first allowed under the program in 2009. The Institute of Medicine had recommended they be left off of WIC vouchers, saying recipients of the aid already eat enough white potatoes.
The potato industry has aggressively lobbied for inclusion in the WIC program, saying it's not as much about sales as the perception that potatoes aren't as nutritious as other vegetables.
ECB issues new dose of stimulus for slow economy
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The European Central Bank has handed out 130 billion euros ($162 billion) in cheap, long-term loans to banks — part of its effort to stimulate the eurozone economy.
The amount was closely watched in the markets because ECB president Mario Draghi has said the bank will add roughly 1 trillion euros in new stimulus in coming months.
The amount taken by banks was about what market analysts had expected.
Still, some think it's too low to help achieve the 1 trillion target — and makes it more likely that the ECB will have to resort to new stimulus programs to do that. That could include large-scale purchases of government bonds.
The economy of the 18 countries that use the euro grew only 0.2 percent in the third quarter.
Warsaw: unprecedented Russian activity in Baltic
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's defense minister says that there has been "unprecedented" activity by Russia's navy and air force in the Baltic Sea region in recent days.
Tomasz Siemoniak said Thursday that the majority of the incidents involved Russian operations in international waters and airspace, and that Sweden was the country most affected.
Siemoniak said Poland does not see Russia's show of military strength as a preparation for war. Instead, he called it a Russian attempt to test NATO, adding "but it doesn't help to build good relations and trust."
FDNY: 6 injured when car jumps curb in Manhattan
NEW YORK (AP) — Six people have been taken to New York's Bellevue Hospital after a car jumped a curb in midtown Manhattan and struck them.
It happened at about 10 p.m. Wednesday on West 34th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues in the Herald Square shopping district in front of Forever 21, a retail clothing and accessories store.
A fire department spokesman says the injured have been taken to Bellevue hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
Police say the driver, a woman who struck multiple vehicles, is being investigated for possible drunken driving or related offenses.
An eyewitness, Milton Garcia, tells WABC-TV the driver hit a person then drove into oncoming traffic and collided with a car before hitting a couple of people on the sidewalk.
No other information was immediately available.
Police: Car of missing Southern California family of 6 found with woman's body in trunk
MONTEBELLO, Calif. (AP) — Police have found the car that belonged to a Southern California couple and their four young sons, and the body of a woman was discovered in the trunk.
Daniel and Erica Perez and their sons whose ages range from 6 to 11 have not been seen since Friday and neither adult had been answering their phone. Police say family members have told investigators the couple's marriage was unstable and there was a history of domestic violence.
Police say the family's Honda Accord was found near a hospital about a half-mile from their home in Montebello, about 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Police are not identifying the woman whose body was found or cause of death. However, they do say Daniel Perez is now considered a person of interest.
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