WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Friday set the first national standards for waste generated from coal burned for electricity, treating it more like household garbage rather than a hazardous material.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Health officials are warning consumers to avoid prepackaged caramel apples because they are linked to four deaths and more than two dozen illnesses in 10 states.
Caramel apples are most popular around Halloween, and the outbreak started just before then, in mid-October. But the commercially produced variety can have a shelf life of a month or more, and some may still be on store shelves.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it knows of 28 cases in which people were sickened with the same strains of the bacterial illness listeria, and at least 26 were hospitalized. Of those, five died. Listeriosis contributed to four of the deaths; a fifth person who died had a strain of listeria linked to the caramel apples, but health officials do not think listeriosis caused that person's death.
The agency said that 83 percent of the ill people who were interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before getting sick.
The CDC said the investigation into the deaths and illnesses is "rapidly evolving." Christopher Braden, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said the agency is still trying to determine which brands are involved and how caramel apples may have become infected. He said there is no reason at this point to stop eating plain apples or other caramel products.
Two of the deaths were in Minnesota, and health officials in that state said those who fell ill there purchased the caramel apples from the stores Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike's Discount Foods. Those stores carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples, none of which are still available for purchase, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. They said other brands and store locations may be impacted as the investigation continues.
The CDC said the other two deaths were in Texas and California. The agency said illnesses also occurred in Arizona, California, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. Missouri and New Mexico had the most illnesses, with five each.
Listeria is a foodborne illness that is especially dangerous to pregnant women, newborn babies, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. It rarely causes serious illness in healthy people and can be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea.
Because it can be so serious for some people, outbreaks of listeria generally cause more deaths than other pathogens such as salmonella or E. coli. An outbreak of listeria linked to Colorado cantaloupe in 2011 caused 33 deaths.
The CDC said that the outbreak linked to the caramel apples began Oct. 17 and the last known illnesses started Nov. 27. The agency said illnesses that have occurred since early December may not have been reported yet. Those sickened ranged from seven to 92 years old, with a median age of 64 years.
Nine of the illnesses involved either a pregnant woman or an infant, the CDC said. Listeria is dangerous for pregnant women because the illness can be passed to an unborn baby even if the mother is not showing signs of illness. It can sicken a newborn or lead to miscarriage, preterm delivery or stillbirth. The CDC said no miscarriages or fetal losses were reported in this outbreak.
Unusually, three cases of meningitis linked to the listeria were reported in older children, the agency said. Those three children were not among the deaths, Braden said, but the CDC is "very concerned" that those cases occurred in otherwise healthy children. While listeria can infect newborns, "usually we would not see this kind of infection in healthy older children," Braden said.
Braden said there may have been more illnesses in children because kids are more likely to eat caramel apples, or possibly because the apples were heavily contaminated.
He said anyone with commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples at home should throw them away, taking care to wrap them up well so animals or people going through trash don't eat them.
AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe in New York, Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis and Diana Heidgerd in Dallas contributed to this report.
Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mcjalonick
Nine years of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" came to an end Thursday night along with its mythical presiding pundit, as the real-life Stephen Colbert bade the audience farewell.
He was last seen gliding through the clouds in the backseat of Santa's sleigh beside Alex Trebek (don't ask).
Before that, after offing the Grim Reaper and declaring himself immortal (don't ask), he led a glorious singalong in the studio with a room of luminaries ranging from "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, Andy Cohen and Big Bird to George Lucas, Arianna Huffington and Henry Kissinger.
With Randy Newman at the piano, the gathered sang the poignant pop standard whose lyrics go, "We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when. But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day."
Actually, Colbert fans know they'll be meeting him again in a few months, this time playing himself as the new host of CBS' "Late Show" taking over for David Letterman, who exits next May.
But none of that mattered during Thursday's bittersweet finale.
At the top of the show, Colbert greeted his followers and set straight any newcomers: "If this is your first time tuning into 'The Colbert Report,' I have some terrible news. ..."
He announced as "a little happy news" for Colbert Nation that a raffle for his flashy anchor desk and his adjoining fireplace set had raised $313,420 for charity.
In discussing his legacy — something this delightfully self-absorbed host was always happy to do — Colbert fired back against the "thinkerati" who, he charged, were questioning his impact.
"But I'm not here to brag about how I changed the world," he went on. "I did something much harder: I 'samed' the world. Does that sound stupid? Well, they said I sounded stupid back in 2005. So THAT'S the same!"
"The Colbert Report" (both t's were always silent) premiered in October 2005 as a spoof of the show hosted by Fox News Channel personality Bill O'Reilly. But the Colbert character developed into a shrewdly satirical observer, preaching the opposite of what real-life Stephen Colbert meant to put across. For this nightly display of Opposite Day, Colbert won a devoted audience of so-called "heroes," plus critical acclaim and two Peabody Awards, which noted that "what started as a parody of punditry is now its own political platform."
An actor, comedian and improv virtuoso, Colbert had created his Stephen Colbert alter ego in 1997 as a "senior correspondent" for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
Then he graduated to a show of his own, where he not only exposed the failings and fumblings of government, society and the media, but he also got directly involved in these issues.
He formed a Super PAC, "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow," which solicited donations as a demonstration of how money distorts the electoral process.
In 2007, he announced he would be running for president — but only in his native state, South Carolina, whose Democratic Party voted to keep his name off the ballot. With Stewart, he in 2010 staged a "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" as a live TV extravaganza that drew tens of thousands to Washington's National Mall.
Quite a legacy. Was it enough?
"If all we achieved over the last nine years was to come into your home each night and help you make a difficult day a little bit better," said Colbert, for a moment almost getting sentimental — "man, what a waste!"
As usual, he was preaching the opposite of truth.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press.
MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) — Defiantly declaring that FIFA is no longer in crisis, Sepp Blatter said Friday the decision to hold the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar won't be revoked and the governing body will publish a confidential probe into the process that picked those countries as hosts.
The decision by the FIFA executive committee to publish ethics investigator Michael Garcia's report, with witnesses' names taken out, is aimed at lifting the cloud of suspicion that has dogged the 2018 and 2022 tournaments in Russia and Qatar and the December 2010 vote that sent the World Cup to those countries for the first time.
Blatter said only if major new evidence of bidding irregularity comes to light could those votes be reconsidered.
"There is no reason to say that our decisions were wrong. So we will go on sticking to our decisions," Blatter said, speaking through a translator. "There must be huge upheaval, new elements must come to the fore, in order to change this."
The 78-year-old Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term as president, said the decisions by the FIFA executive committee will allow the governing body to move on from four years of controversy.
"We have been in a crisis," Blatter said. "The crisis has stopped because we again have the unity in our government."
All 25 voting members of the executive committee, including three of them placed under investigation by Garcia before he suddenly resigned in protest this week, agreed that the findings of the American lawyer's two-year probe into the 2018 and 2022 voting should be published, Blatter said.
That will happen after the investigations that Garcia initiated into those three people and two others are concluded, he added. Those probes are now in the hands of Cornel Borbely, Garcia's former deputy now promoted in his place.
"There comes a situation where there must be shown unity and there must be shown a determination to end a situation which has created a lot of problems," Blatter said.
The turnaround — FIFA had previously insisted that the 430-page investigation must remain confidential — follows Garcia's resignation this week and parting accusations that FIFA leadership is weak and that the organization cannot be reformed. That increased pressure on FIFA to publish his findings.
"The pressure to do so was very, very strong," executive committee member Theo Zwanziger said. "There were quite a few voices against the publication of the report but there was a very long discussion.
"The fallout from not publishing is worse than transparency," Zwanziger added. "It's a good day for FIFA."
Blatter noted, however, that Garcia's work can only be published after FIFA's strict secrecy rules have been satisfied and the investigations against the five people have been closed.
They include three current FIFA executive committee members — FIFA vice president Angel Maria Villar of Spain, Michel D'Hooghe of Belgium and Worawi Makudi of Thailand. There are also cases against Franz Beckenbauer, the Germany great and former FIFA executive committee member, and former Chile football leader Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who led FIFA's inspection team that evaluated the nine World Cup candidates in 2010.
If any of those five individuals are found guilty of wrongdoing they can appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport, potentially further delaying the publication of the full investigation.
"Let us hope that the report can now be published as quickly as possible. The credibility of FIFA depends on it," said UEFA President Michel Platini, a FIFA vice president and member of the executive committee.
Domenico Scala, who heads a FIFA audit panel and recommended to the FIFA executives that they should agree to publish Garcia's findings in "an appropriate way" with some redactions, said he could not predict when the report will finally see the light of day.
"I hope fast," Scala said. "Frankly speaking, I don't know."
Until now, the only indication of what might be in Garcia's report has come from a 42-page summary prepared by FIFA ethics judge Joachim Eckert. Garcia, however, complained that Eckert's summary misrepresented his findings. He appealed to FIFA and then resigned on Wednesday after his appeal was rejected.
Blatter, sounding combative, again indicated that he will stand for re-election next year and brushed aside suggestions that his leadership is weak.
"It is not my duty to evaluate myself. If you claim that I am a weak leader, then kindly ask the members of the executive committee," Blatter said. "This about weak leadership, let's leave that aside. I am what I am."
Dealing with the Garcia report overshadowed other important decisions from the meeting. Notably, the executive committee said it wants an independent body to be created to ensure that Qatar tackles widely documented labor abuses. Hundreds of migrant workers have died, many apparently from cardiac arrest, in the huge construction drive to ready the Gulf nation for 2022.
"Regarding Qatar and the question of human rights ... FIFA is putting pressure on," Zwanziger said.
In other decisions, FIFA:
—Chose June 14, 2018, for the opening game of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with the final on July 15.
—Boosted prize money for the Women's World Cup by 50 percent from $10 million to $15 million for the 2015 edition, with $2 million for the winning team.
—Opened the possibility for international referees to continue beyond the age of 45 if they pass annual fitness tests.
AP Sports Writer Rob Harris in London and Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this report.
HAVANA (AP) - Everyone in Cuba is talking about the abrupt turn in relations with the United States, with one notable exception: Fidel Castro
The larger-than-life retired leader of Cuba so far has made no public comment about the announcement that the U.S. will restore diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of hostility. His brother, President Raul Castro, broke the news to the nation in a TV address and may appear again Friday as the Cuban National Assembly holds one of its twice-annual sessions.
For years after he left office in 2006 due to illness, Fidel Castro penned editorials that dutifully were printed in all official media and read verbatim on state TV newscasts. Last year, he said he also was retiring as a columnist, but has since published occasional opinion pieces to comment on world events.
It's not entirely unusual that Castro, 88, has yet to weigh in on this week's news. He waited six days before commenting on the death of close friend and ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2013.
The elder Castro rarely appears in public, and little information about him is officially disclosed, including where he lives. But as before, his silence causes many to wonder.
"I think that Fidel is a little bit older and his activities are very limited, that's for certain," said Maria Teresa Ojito, a 66-year-old language teacher.
But, she said, "I'm not very worried because Raul is the one who's running the country. ... Really, the one who has to make decisions these days and enter into dialogue is Raul, not Fidel."