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  |   Jan. 8, 2013 at 5:19 PM
NOAA: 2012 was warmest year on record

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration says data shows 2012 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States.

The year saw a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn with an average temperature of 55.3 degrees F, a full degree above 1998, the previous warmest year, a NOAA release said Tuesday.

Every state in the contiguous 48 reported an above-average annual temperature for 2012.

Drought and dryness accompanied the warmth, NOAA said, with the average precipitation total for the year for the contiguous states at 26.57 inches, 2.57 inches below average, making 2012 the 15th driest year on record for the nation.

At the peak of drought conditions in July it covered 61 percent of the nation with the Mountain West, Great Plains and Midwest experiencing the most intense conditions.


Theater shooting flooded 911 center

AURORA, Colo., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Calls flooded the Aurora, Colo., 911 dispatch center during a theater shooting July 20, police said in testimony at a preliminary hearing for the suspect.

In all, 41 calls were taken in 10 minutes when a gunman opened fire, the first call coming about 18 minutes after "The Dark Knight Rises" began to play. It came from theater patron Kevin Quinonez. He told dispatchers, his voice partially drowned out by gunshots, "There's some guy ... after us."

James Holmes is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and weapons violations in the massacre that killed 12 people and injured 58 others.

A packed courtroom that included some victims and family listened intently as the 911 tapes were played, The Denver Post said Tuesday.

Later in the hearing, police described the scene at Holmes' apartment, which he told investigators after being taken into custody he'd left booby-trapped. Bomb squad members described a twisted scene with an apartment rigged to explode and several triggers left behind, including a blaring stereo Holmes had hoped would lure someone inside to trigger a trip wire. He also rigged a remote control to detonate bombs and left the trigger sitting next to a remote-controlled car outside, hoping a child would pick it up and set off the bombs, police said.

The testimony came during the second day of a preliminary hearing before Chief Judge William Sylvester. Prosecutors intend to prove they have enough evidence to proceed to trial.


NATO official: Afghan handover on schedule

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- "Green-on-blue" attacks by Afghan police and soldiers against members of NATO forces will not slow down the handover, NATO officials said Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Gunter Katz, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force,told a Kabul news conference Afghan forces are in charge in at least 80 percent of operations in 23 of the 34 provinces, Voice of America reported. He said by the end of the year the entire country "will be in the transition process."

"What we see is that all the districts that are in the transition process already gained security and the fighting is decreasing, and the security situation is becoming more and more stable," Katz said.

In 2012, there were 45 attacks by uniformed members of Afghan security forces on NATO soldiers with 61 victims. Most of the victims were from the United States, which has by far the largest force in Afghanistan.

A man believed to be a member of the Afghan National Army Monday killed a British soldier in Helmand province and wounded several other people. Katz said the attack was aimed at both British and Afghan troops.

The gunman was killed.


Reward offered for USAID workers' killers

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Two men convicted of killing a U.S. diplomat and a Sudanese man have been designated as terrorists, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday.

Abdelbasit Alhaj Alhassan Haj Hamad and Mohamed Makawi Ibrahim Mohamed escaped from prison in 2010 and are still on the run, U.S. officials said in a release. They were sentenced to death in 2009.

The U.S. government has offered $5 million rewards for information leading to their capture or death.

John Michael Granville, 33, who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Adbelrahman Abbas Rahama, a 40-year-old USAID employee serving as Granville's driver, were gunned down Jan. 1, 2008, as they left a New Year's Eve party in Khartoum. Granville, a career diplomat, was credited with an effort to supply solar-powered radios to people living in remote parts of Sudan so they could be informed about the impact of negotiations on Darfur and South Sudan. Abbas, a native of Juba, which is now the capital of South Sudan, had worked for USAID since 2004.

Three other men were involved in the killings and were convicted. Two escaped from a maximum-security prison in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, with Hamad and Mohamed, but one has been recaptured and the other killed.

A group apparently affiliated with al-Qaida post a video Dec. 28 purportedly showing the men's escape, the Sudan Tribune reported at the time.


Fuel leak delays flight from Boston

BOSTON, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A fuel leak delayed the flight of a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 from Boston to Tokyo, the second incident in two days involving the airline and the airport.

The aircraft, scheduled to take off from Logan International Airport at noon with 178 passengers aboard, returned to the terminal after the fuel leak was noticed, airport spokesman Matthew Brelis said.

Officials are determining whether 40 gallons of fuel spilled from the Dreamliner's left engine wing area, as airport fire crews and the Clean Harbors environmental company worked to clean up the fuel spill, the Boston Globe reported Tuesday.

There have been no injuries, Brelis said.

Monday a fire was discovered in the battery compartment of a different Japan Airlines Boeing 787 that had arrived at the airport from Tokyo. The problem was traced to an improperly installed bundle of wires connected to an auxiliary power battery, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement it was investigating both incidents.

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