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More than 400 new laws take effect Tuesday in U.S.

In 2013 in Illinois, motorcyclists will be able to "proceed through a red light if the light fails to change." In Kentucky, releasing feral or wild hogs into the wild will be prohibited. And in Florida, swamp buggies will not legally be considered motor vehicles.

On Jan. 1, as crowds of people toast to a new year, more than 400 news laws across the country will take effect - and possibly improve life for some.

"The laws that state governments deal with are really the laws that impact people on a daily basis," said Jon Kuhl, a spokesmanfor the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks the bills. "Whether amending or updating laws or enacting brand new legislation, it was an active year."

In addition to the new laws of 2013, more than 29,000 lawswere passed by state legislatures this year, Kuhl said. Many dealt with healthcare, education, gay rights, child safety and the Internet.

In several states, including Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware, lawmakers made it illegal for employers to either require or request social-media passwords from job applicants or employees. Some of those laws are already in effect. However, similar bills passed in Illinois and California become law Tuesday.

Document

New year to bring 876 new laws to California

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© The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli
In this Aug. 31, 2012 file photo, Gov. Jerry Brown, right, meets with Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, left, and Senate Speaker Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, after the Legislature approved a public workers compensation reform plan at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif.
Homeowners behind on their mortgage payments and negotiating with their banks to find a way to work things out won't have to worry about getting a surprise foreclosure notice.

Women will have expanded access to birth control, as registered nurses will be able to dispense contraceptives such as the pill.

Apartment dwellers concerned about the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning will be able to breathe easier.

Employers will not be allowed to require workers or job applicants to divulge their social media accounts or provide passwords to them.

Those are among the legal changes in California that will kick in Tuesday as a result of some of the 876 laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. By historic standards it was a somewhat low number but was the most new laws put on the books in the state since 2006.

The following is a list of some new laws. More information on them is available by searching the bill number under "Bill information" at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov.

Fireball 2

North Carolina man, charged with theft of 100 meteorites

Brian Koontz
© Transylvania County Sheriff's Office
Brian Koontz

A North Carolina man was charged Saturday night with the theft of 100 meteorites from a science education center. Police are still searching for a second suspect.

Brian Koontz, 29, is being held at Transylvania County jail on charges of breaking and entering, larceny and injury to personal property, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

Video surveillance shows two thieves breaking into the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute near Rosman around 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve. The thieves allegedly took meteorites that were on loan to the institute, in addition to taking television monitors, overhead video projectors, a microscope and other scientific instruments.

Sheriff's detective Wade Abram says most of the stolen items were recovered from one of the suspect's homes.

Source: The Associated Press

Snakes in Suits

Emerald Coal sued in Pennsylvania for allegedly polluting waterways

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A citizens' group has sued a longwall mining company in southwestern Pennsylvania, claiming it is polluting key waterways - including at least one high-quality fishing stream - that feed the Monongahela River.

The Center for Coalfield Justice, based in Washington, Pa., filed the federal lawsuit Friday in Pittsburgh against Emerald Coal Resources LP, which operates the Emerald Mine in Waynesburg, Greene County. The citizens' group is being backed by the Earthrise Law Center in Norwell, Mass.

The lawsuit contends Emerald Coal has violated pollution levels for iron, manganese, aluminum and other pollutants more than 120 times in the past 12 months and more than 400 times in the past five years. The group is basing those claims on violations the company has been self-reporting to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Emerald's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit as part of the federal Clean Water Act.

"Plaintiff and its members reasonably fear harm from using the waters affected by Emerald's illegal discharges, recreating in and near such waters, and eating fish caught in such waters," the lawsuit said. "Due to the chronic and persistent nature of these violations, there is more than a reasonable likelihood of ongoing permit violations in the future."

Bomb

Couple arrested in New York after police claim to find cache of weapons and bombmaking explosives in their apartment

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© Facebook
The privileged daughter of a prominent city doctor, and her boyfriend - a Harvard grad and Occupy Wall Street activist - have been busted for allegedly having a cache of weapons and a bombmaking explosive in their Greenwich Village apartment.

Morgan Gliedman - who is nine-months pregnant - and her baby daddy, Aaron Greene, 31, also had instructions on making bombs, including a stack of papers with a cover sheet titled, "The Terrorist Encyclopedia,'' sources told The Post yesterday.

People who know Greene say his political views are "extreme," the sources said.

Cops found the stash in the couple's West Ninth Street home Saturday when they went there to look for Gliedman, 27, who was wanted for alleged credit-card theft.

A detective discovered a plastic container with seven grams of a white chemical powder called HMTD, which is so powerful, cops evacuated several nearby buildings.

Police also found a flare launcher, which is a commercial replica of a grenade launcher; a modified 12 gauge Mossberg 500 shotgun; ammo; and nine high-capacity rifle magazines, the sources said.

Comment: The New York Post had earlier published police claims that the couple were part of the Occupy Wall street movement, but later retracted this statement when 'spokespersons' for OWS said there was evidence of any connection:

Occupy Wall Street Denies Link To Young Couple Busted With Bombmaking Materials


Bad Guys

Man charged in burning of Los Angeles homeless woman

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The bench on which a woman was sleeping Dec. 27 when she was set on fire.
A 24-year-old Los Angeles man was charged Monday with attempted murder after a homeless woman was set on fire last week as she slept on a suburban bus bench, the district attorney's office said.

Dennis Petillo is scheduled to be arraigned in Superior Court on the attempted murder charge and an additional count of aggravated mayhem, said Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney. Carney will ask that Petillo's bail be set at $1.03 million.

Prosecutors say Petillo threw a flammable liquid on the 67-year-old woman then set her on fire last Thursday. She remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition, officials said.

Police have released no motive for the crime that shocked the San Fernando Valley community of Van Nuys, where the woman had made her home on the streets for years.

Evil Rays

2012: The year of the suicide

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© Credit: AP
Don Cornelius, Tony Scott and Jovan Belcher
Suicide rates among Americans are steadily rising and have been for years. Why are we killing ourselves?

Let's call 2012 the year of the suicide: On Friday, the Department of the Army released a report revealing that suicides continue to outnumber combat-related deaths among American soldiers - an average of one suicide a day - a number that's increasing despite the fact that the armed forces have installed new training and awareness programs over the past few years. Stateside, suicide has become the leading cause of death by injury, and is the 10th leading cause of death overall. According to a CDC report released over the summer, suicide attempts by high-school students has risen to from 6.3 percent in 2009 to 7.8 percent in 2011, and accounts for 13 percent of all deaths among people between the ages of 10 and 24 - the third leading cause of death in that age group.

These are sobering statistics. And with the statistics comes more data to explain them: The Washington Post reported that "the stress on the force after more than a decade of lengthy and multiple deployments for many troops in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," while Defense Secretary Leon Panetta attributed the high rate to "substance abuse, financial distress and relationship problems ... that will endure beyond war." Among civilians, the number of suicides have been attributed to the recession - historically, there is a spike with every economic downturn. And 20 percent of high-school teenagers say they are being bullied - 16 percent say they've been cyber-bullied through texting, IM-ing, email, and Facebook or other social media.

Eye 2

Ruthless smuggling rings put rhinos in the cross hairs

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© NY Times
Ranch workers and a veterinarian helped to raise a sedated rhino after it was dehorned at a ranch outside Johannesburg in an attempt to prevent poaching.
They definitely did not look like ordinary big-game hunters, the stream of slender young Thai women who showed up on the veld wearing tight bluejeans and sneakers.

But the rhinoceros carcasses kept piling up around them, and it was only after dozens of these hulking, relatively rare animals were dead and their precious horns sawed off that an extravagant scheme came to light.

The Thai women, it ends up, were not hunters at all. Many never even squeezed off a shot. Instead, they were prostitutes hired by a criminal syndicate based 6,000 miles away in Laos to exploit loopholes in big-game hunting rules and get its hands on as many rhino horns as possible - horns that are now worth more than gold.

"These girls had no idea what they were doing," said Paul O'Sullivan, a private investigator in Johannesburg who helped crack the case. "They thought they were going on safari."

The rhino horn rush has gotten so out of control that it has exploded into a worldwide criminal enterprise, drawing in a surreal cast of characters - not just Thai prostitutes, but also Irish gangsters, Vietnamese diplomats, Chinese scientists, veterinarians, copter pilots, antiques dealers and recently an American rodeo star looking for a quick buck who used Facebook to find some horns.

Camcorder

Caught on tape: Dramatic rescue of man who fell into frozen lake

A man fell through a frozen lake in Wrightwood Christmas day and the dramatic rescue was caught on tape.

The incident occurred at Jackson Lake.

According to witnesses, people were sledding on the lake believing it was frozen over enough to support their weight but an unidentified man fell through around noon.

As a crowd tried to help him, other people started to fall through. Witnesses said at least a dozen people ended up in the water.

Some in the crowd threw inner tubes in an effort to help.

Acton resident Mickey Herman captured the entire ordeal on tape.


Chart Pie

NYPD sued in record numbers

NYPD
© Agence France-Presse/Getty Images/Mario Tama
It's another red-letter year for New York's boys in blue: the New York Police Department has spent $185 million to settle lawsuits filed during fiscal year 2011.

In all, 8,882 suits were filed against the NYPD during the last fiscal year, an increase of 10 percent from the year prior. That tally also sets the record for the most claims against a single police agency filed during the last fiscal year.

The news comes upon the release of a report from New York Comptroller John Liu, who analyzed settlements paid by the city between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011. The New York Daily News reports that figures for fiscal year 2012 have not yet been made public.

Although the amount of claims against the NYPD has only increased by 10 percent, the total monetary pay out issued by the city surged by roughly 35 percent. In the year prior, the total pay out for suits against the NYPD amounted to only $137.3 million.

The city should "explore a unified method to track individual officers named in claim suits and the payouts," Liu's report reads.

Taking into account all payouts signed-off by the city, NYC spent $550.4 million to settle personal injury and property damage claims in fiscal 2011, a figure which comes out to roughly $70 spent for every citizen in all of New York City. In the fiscal year prior, the city spent only $522 million to settle claims.