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Jan. 24, 2013 at 10:00 PM
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R.I. House passes same-sex marriage bill

PROVIDENCE, R.I., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The Rhode Island House of Representatives Thursday voted to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

The House voted 51-19 in favor of the bill, which removes gender-specific language from existing law to define marriage as the "legally recognized union of two (2) people," The Providence Journal reported.

Announcement of the final vote prompted a standing ovation by House members, the newspaper said, but the bill's future in the state Senate was unclear.

Even though House Speaker Gordon Fox was a lead co-sponsor and 42 of the body's 75 members signed on as co-sponsors, the newspaper said it may be weeks, or even months, before the bill even gets a hearing in the Senate.

NTSB: 787 battery problem 'serious'

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The National Transportation Safety Board Thursday called the battery fires aboard at least two Boeing 787 Dreamliners "a very serious safety concern."

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said a full forensic investigation is under way into the incidents.

"This is a very serious air safety concern," Hersman posted on Twitter.

Boeing's fleet of Dreamliners -- its newest and most advanced plane -- was grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration by a series of electrical fires related to its lithium-ion batteries.

In two of the latest incidents, a fire broke out in a Japan Airlines 787 Dreamliner at Logan Airport in Boston, after passengers had deplaned. Another incident caused an All Nippon Airways Dreamliner to make an emergency landing in Japan.

As part of the investigation, the NTSB disassembled the batteries and determined they had not exceeded their designed voltage of 32 volts. However, Hersman said, it appeared the batteries had short-circuited in at least the Boston case, The Hill reported.

"We know the lithium ion battery experienced a thermal runaway, we know there were short circuits, and we know there was a fire," Hersman said, cautioning, "We are not determining the cause of the event, just sharing some characteristics."

Conn. school shooting panel meets

HARTFORD, Conn., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- A commission aimed at preventing school shootings in Connecticut began work Thursday with Gov. Dannel Malloy saying the right to own guns is not limitless.

Malloy said he supports the Second Amendment, which includes the right "to keep and bear arms," the Hartford Courant reported.

"That right cannot come at the expense of public safety," Malloy said.

Malloy appointed the Sandy Hook Commission after 20 students and six staff members were killed Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Adam Lanza, 20, using guns that his mother owned legally, killed her before driving to the school, killed 26 and then took his own life after police arrived.

The governor told members of the commission that the March 15 date set for recommending changes in state laws is not a hard one and that studying issues carefully is more important.

Several members of the panel are prominent in psychology and psychiatry. Malloy said that in the United States violence has been "destigmatized," while being branded as mentally ill and seeking treatment has not.

Sandy-struck residents left in the cold

NEW YORK, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Residents of the New York area recovering from Superstorm Sandy are dealing with a winter storm that has brought brutally cold temperatures, officials say.

The mercury in New York and New Jersey has been 10 to 15 degrees F. below average and temperatures are expected to fall into the teens the next few nights, The New York Times said.

Many residents had boilers ruined by flooding from Sandy and have not had work completed on new heating systems. As of Tuesday construction teams had restored hot water, heat or electrical power to nearly 12,300 residents in 7,100 buildings, a spokesman for New York's Mayor's Office of Housing Recovery said.

Work is continuing on about 1,200 buildings, many of which still don't have heat.

The director of a coalition of 40 faith-based organizations in Queens called on the Mayor Bloomberg to spend more money getting heat in people's homes.

In Long Beach, a center giving away space heaters ran out. The site coordinator, James Hodge, says he doesn't have heat in his own home.

The chief of the volunteer Gerritsen Beach Fire Department, Doreen Greenwood, has gone out every night in an ambulance giving space heaters to anyone who needs one.

Navy to begin breath testing sailors

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. Navy sailors will have their breath tested beginning in February in a drive to reduce alcohol abuse, fleet officials said in a joint statement.

Breathalyzer testing will begin Feb. 4, with all service members being tested by May, the Navy Times reported.

In a statement issued by both Fleet Forces and Pacific Fleet, Adm. Bill Gortney and Adm. Cecil Haney said, "We must educate service members on the responsible use of alcohol and deter alcohol abuse in the fleet, in home part and on deployment."

Service members who report to duty drunk "place themselves, their shipmates and our equipment at risk," they wrote Tuesday.

A pilot program was conducted last year and was expected to be roll out fleetwide before 2013.

The move was announced in March 2012 to curb binge drinking in the fleet.

The testing will be non-punitive. Policies and procedures for the program were expected to be released shortly.

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