News from the Associated Press - December 30, 2013

Associated Press
December 30, 2013

Flu activity now widespread in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Flu season appears to be in full swing in Pennsylvania, with health officials reporting outbreaks in at least half the regions of the state.

The state Health Department confirms nearly 1,200 cases of influenza between Sept. 29 and Dec. 21.

The hardest-hit areas are in western Pennsylvania, led by Allegheny and Blair counties.

Flu is usually the worst in January or February, although last year the illness hit the U.S. very hard in early December.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year's flu season landed about 381,000 people in the hospital nationwide. That's the most since at least 2005.

A contributing factor: The flu vaccine was only 51 percent effective overall.


Freighter runs aground in St. Lawrence Seaway

CAPE VINCENT, N.Y. (AP) - Efforts are underway to refloat a freighter grounded at the entrance to the St. Lawrence Seaway near Watertown.

The Coast Guard says the 656-foot ship carrying 20,000 tons of wheat from Duluth, Minn., had planned to exit the Seaway before it closed for the winter on Monday but it ran aground near Tibbetts Point, N.Y.

The Coast Guard says a dive survey confirmed that the hull was resting aground and that there was significant damage to the propeller. McKeil Marine was hired to conduct salvage operations, including off-loading cargo to a barge so the ship can be refloated.


Justice Sotomayor to helm Times Square ball drop

NEW YORK (AP) - The countdown to the new year in Times Square is getting some high-profile help - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The organizers of the annual celebration announced Sunday that Sotomayor will lead the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to signal the descent of the Times Square New Year's Eve ball.

Sotomayor was appointed to the court in 2009. She is a native of the Bronx.

The giant New Year's Eve ball is covered in more than 2,600 crystal triangles and lit from within by more than 32,000 lights.

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