San Francisco

Apple unveils new iPod-phone hybrid, changes name

Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs announced yesterday the iPod maker’s long-awaited leap into the mobile phone business and renamed the company to just “Apple Inc.,” reflecting its increased focus on consumer electronics.

The iPhone, which will start at $499 when it launches in June, is controlled by touch, plays music, surfs the Internet and runs the Macintosh computer operating system. Jobs said it will “reinvent” wireless communications and “leapfrog” past the current generation of smart phones.

Washington

House passes new anti-terrorism legislation

Anti-terror legislation sailed through the House yesterday, the first in a string of measures designed to fulfill campaign promises made by Democrats last fall.

Patterned on recommendations of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, the far-reaching measure includes commitments for inspection of all cargo carried aboard passenger aircraft and on ships bound for the United States.

The vote was a bipartisan 299-128, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the rostrum to announce the passage of the first legislation to clear under the new Democratic majority.

Caracas, Venezuela

Chavez calls for nationalization of key industries

As Venezuela embarked on another six years under Hugo Chavez, the president announced plans to nationalize power and telecom companies and make other bold changes that will concentrate more power in his hands.

Chavez, who will be sworn in today for a third term that runs until 2013, also said he wanted a constitutional amendment to strip the Central Bank of its autonomy and would soon ask the National Assembly, solidly controlled by his allies, to give him greater powers to legislate by presidential decree.

“We’re moving toward a socialist republic of Venezuela, and that requires a deep reform of our national constitution,” Chavez said in a televised address after swearing in his new Cabinet. “We’re heading toward socialism, and nothing and no one can prevent it.”

Helotes, Texas

Massive mulch fire sparks confusion in small Texas town

The enormous mountain of branches and wood chips at a recycling operation in this small Hill Country town had drawn a few grumbles from neighbors before, but when it caught fire on Christmas, the sparks really began to fly.

Mayor Jon Allan wanted the county or state to extinguish it. The county looked to the property owner. And no one was immediately sure how to deal with all the potential health problems and environmental worries that might happen when the burning pile that looks like a volcano was doused.

The pile of mulch, which has been sitting in an open field for more than a decade, is about 400 feet long, 225 feet wide and 70 feet tall in the middle of a lot edged with trees.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

Notable Number

8.2 billion

Number of dollars that American consumers will lose this year on unredeemed, expired and lost gift cards, according to an estimate by the TowerGroup, a retail trade organization.

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