National briefs: Al Jazeera buys Current TV

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NEW YORK -- Al Jazeera on Wednesday completed a deal to take over Current TV, the low-rated cable channel that was founded by former Vice President Al Gore and his business partners seven years ago.

Current will provide the pan-Arab news giant with something it has sought for years: a pathway into American living rooms. Current is available in about 60 million of the 100 million homes in the United States with cable or satellite service.

Rather than simply use Current to distribute its English-language channel, called Al Jazeera English and based in Doha, Qatar, Al Jazeera will create a new channel, called Al Jazeera America, based in New York City. Roughly 60 percent of the programming will be produced in the United States, while the remaining 40 percent will come from Al Jazeera English.

Feds: Delay worsened spill

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Delays in Exxon Mobil Corp.'s response to a major pipeline break beneath Montana's Yellowstone River made an oil spill far worse than it otherwise would have been, Department of Transportation investigators said in a new report.

The July 2011 rupture fouled 70 miles of riverbank along the scenic Yellowstone, killing fish and wildlife and prompting a massive, months-long cleanup.

The report marks the first time federal regulators have highlighted specific actions by Exxon as contributing to the severity of the spill.

Alaska rig tough to examine

KODIAK, Alaska -- The U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Dutch Shell were fighting 70-mph winds and 40-foot swells as they tried to assess damage to a floating oil drilling ship grounded on a remote Alaskan island.

Based on observations from planes flying over the site, the rig, Kulluk, is stable and there don't appear to be any leaks, Coast Guard Captain Paul Mehler said during a news conference Tuesday. The Kulluk has approximately 139,000 gallons of ultra-low- sulfur diesel and 12,000 gallons of combined lube oil and hydraulic fluid on board.

Gun permit records refused

NEW YORK -- Less than two weeks after a White Plains, N.Y.-based newspaper published the names and addresses, obtained from public records, of handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties, officials in Putnam County say they will block the release of their own permit records requested by the newspaper.

County Clerk Dennis Sant said he and other officials were meeting Wednesday to discuss legal options for stopping the release of the permit information.

Meanwhile, Janet Hasson, the president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group said Wednesday that armed security personnel have been guarding its headquarters and a satellite office in West Nyack, N.Y., since last week.

Students move to new school

MONROE, Conn. -- Many Sandy Hook Elementary School parents expressed gratitude to teachers during an open house Wednesday at their relocated school in the neighboring town of Monroe, where their children are resuming classes today for the first time since the Dec. 14 shooting that left 20 students and six educators dead.

The Sandy Hook staff decided that the students' new school, the former Chalk Hill Middle School in Monroe, would be renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Paparazzo dies in L.A.

LOS ANGELES -- In the world of paparazzi, one image of the rich or famous can be like winning the lottery. But the hunt for that shot can be dangerous -- even deadly.

A 29-year-old photographer was struck by a car and killed on Tuesday as he darted across a street after snapping pictures of Justin Bieber's white Ferrari -- and the teen heartthrob wasn't even in the car. The incident brought the dangers of paparazzi's often aggressive work into harsh focus, and prompted some celebrities to renew their calls for tougher laws to rein in their pursuers.

-- Compiled from news services



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