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Nov. 21, 2012 at 10:00 PM   |   Comments

Penn Station trains stalled at rush hour

NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Train service in and out of New York's Pennsylvania Station came to a stop during rush hour the evening before Thanksgiving, railroad officials said.

A switching problem was blamed for the shutdown that began at 5:20 p.m. EST, The New York Times reported. Limited service resumed just before 7 p.m., officials said.

The electrical problem affected all trains, including Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road.

Long Island Rail Road spokesman Sal Arena said the electrical problem "affected a switch or switches right at the point where trains leave or enter Penn."

During the stoppage, police were not letting people into the station but didn't force those inside to leave, he said.

Because there had been extra trains running during the pre-holiday afternoon, Arena said, "we may not have as many people in Penn Station as we do on a typical Wednesday night."

"That said, they're still not going anywhere," he added.


Obamas help out at food bank

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama and his family spent an hour Wednesday assembling bags of food at a Washington food bank and giving them to needy families.

The president, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha were joined at the Capital Area Food Bank by Oregon State basketball Coach Craig Robinson, the first lady's brother, and members of his team.

A smiling President Obama asked each person who received a bag of food how they were doing.

A White House aide said the bags included carrots, apples and sweet potatoes -- including one that elicited an exclamation from Obama about how large it was.

The bags also included special White House boxes of M&Ms.

Helping out at the food bank has become an Obama family tradition. No one from the first family made a statement or acknowledged reporters who were on hand.


Report: Anthony looked online for info

ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Casey Anthony is likely to have done a computer search for the term "foolproof suffocation" on the day her daughter vanished, a Florida TV station says.

Anthony's lawyer, Jose Baez, mentioned the search in his book, "Presumed Guilty, Casey Anthony: The Inside Story." The search was not introduced at her trial for killing 2-year-old Caylee Anthony, and she was acquitted.

WKMG-TV aired an investigative report Tuesday night that says the search occurred an hour later than Baez said in his book, the Orlando Sentinel reported. That would put it after Anthony's father, George, left for work.

Caylee, whose skeletal remains were found months later near the home in Orlando she and her mother shared with her grandparents, was only reported missing a month after she was last seen in June 2008. Anthony at first claimed she had been taken by a babysitter and later, at her trial, said the child drowned accidentally and she reluctantly agreed with her father's demand to hide the body.

The TV station also said the Orange County sheriff's department still did not have most of the browser information from the Anthonys' computer when Casey was tried. The report was billed as information that might have convinced jurors to convict Anthony.


Iowa gov. questions future of straw poll

AMES, Iowa, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Iowa's Republican governor said he thinks it's time the state party did away with the quirky Ames straw poll of presidential hopefuls.

Every four years, Iowa Republicans are courted at the state fair held in Ames, where candidates -- and the horde of media following them -- brave the Midwest August heat to partake in some fried food, country music and the first indicator of strength in Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses, held early the following year, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad cited the straw poll's general failure to predict the caucus winner. Only twice since it began in 1979 has the Ames straw poll correctly predicted the winner of the Iowa caucuses -- in 1995 when Bob Dole won and again in 1999, when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush was proclaimed the victor.

In 2011, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won after investing heavily to bus in supporters from around the state and hiring country star Randy Travis to play a rally, only to see her candidacy fizzle in the months following, eventually finishing a distant sixth in the January caucuses.

"I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness," Branstad said. "It has been a great fundraiser for the party, but I think its days are over."

Others in the Iowa GOP defended the straw poll.

"Gov. Branstad is wrong, and this is not a decision he will make, anyway," said A.J. Spiker, chairman of the state GOP. "It is a decision the party and the candidates will make."

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