WASHINGTON -- 'Twas the day before Christmas and all across the federal government, workers were enjoying an extra day off after President Barack Obama issued an executive order closing offices Monday and excusing all but postal service employees from duty.
The estimated cost for shutting down the government for a day is $100 million.
The decision to grant federal employees a four-day weekend came after 28,257 people signed an online petition on the White House "We the People" website requesting it.
"Federal employees have had a pay freeze for the past several years and the pay and benefits for the federal workforce have been under serious attack during the national elections held this year," said the petition, which was started on Dec. 1.
Revamp after Sandy
NEW YORK -- One slice of Hurricane Sandy's $80 billion in economic damages was $3.3 billion just to repair the New York-New Jersey electrical grid -- a casualty that's inspiring utilities to re-engineer their disaster plans.
The worst-ever U.S. storm has power companies including Consolidated Edison Inc. and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., New York and New Jersey's largest, considering flying drones to get fast snapshots of destruction, reinforcing power poles with concrete and building "self-healing" networks that reroute electricity around damaged circuits.
1 killed, 1 hurt at bar
BELLEVUE, Wash. -- A 30-year-old Seattle man was shot and killed and another man wounded after an altercation at a crowded bar in Bellevue, Wash., early Monday, police said.
The shooting broke out just after 1 a.m. at Munchbar at Bellevue Square, an upscale shopping center about 10 miles east of Seattle, said Carla Iafrate, a spokeswoman for the Bellevue Police Department. More than 600 people were inside the venue.
Bush to remain in hospital
HOUSTON -- Former President George H.W. Bush, 88, will spend Christmas in a Houston hospital after developing a fever and weakness following a monthlong, bronchitis-like cough, his spokesman said Monday.
"He's had a few setbacks. Late last week, he had a few low-energy days followed by a low-grade fever," Jim McGrath, Bush's spokesman in Houston, told The Associated Press. "Doctors still say they are cautiously optimistic, but every time they get over one thing, another thing pops up."
Idaho senator charged
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, was charged with driving under the influence in Alexandria, Va., Sunday, police said. Mr. Crapo in a statement acknowledged the incident and apologized for it.
Mr. Crapo, 61, a Mormon with a political reputation for social and fiscal conservatism, has said in the past that he abstains from alcohol.
According to the statement released by his office, Mr. Crapo was initially pulled over by Alexandria police for running a red light. He was subsequently also charged with driving under the influence, a misdemeanor in Virginia.
He was taken into custody after failing several field sobriety tests, police said. They indicated his blood alcohol level was later measured at .110 -- it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level above .08.
"I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance," Mr. Crapo said in the statement.