Mother: Teen didn't steal plane in crash

The mother of a teen killed along with two friends in a plane crash near Jasper, Ala., said her son had his own key to the plane and had flown it many times. Authorities have said they believed the plane was taken on a joy ride without the owner's permission. But Sherrie Smith said the owner of the plane had let her son Jordan, 17, fly it many other times and had given her son the key.


Feds: Delay worsened Yellowstone oil spill

Delays in Exxon Mobil's response to a pipeline break beneath the Yellowstone River made the spill far worse than it otherwise would have been, federal regulators said. Transportation Department investigators said pipeline controllers in Houston could have reduced the volume of the 1,500-barrel spill by about two-thirds had they isolated the rupture as soon as problems emerged. Instead, crude drained from the 12-inch pipeline for another 46 minutes before a valve near the river was closed. The July 1, 2011, spill fouled 70 miles of the river's banks.


Officials refuse release of gun permit records

Two weeks after a White Plains, N.Y.-based newspaper published the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in New York's Westchester and Rockland counties, officials in Putnam County said they will block the release of their own permit records requested by the Journal News. "I have over 11,000 pistol permit holders, and I refuse to put their lives and their families' lives in danger," County Clerk Dennis Sant said.


Investment group buys 'Field of Dreams' site

An investor group led by an Illinois couple has completed its purchase of the famed "Field of Dreams" movie site in Iowa made famous in the 1989 Kevin Costner baseball classic with plans to preserve it and build an adjacent baseball training and tournament complex. Go the Distance Baseball LLC, which counts baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs among its investors, closed on the Dyersville, Iowa, property last week for $3.4 million plus interest in a deal two-plus years in the making. All-Star Ballpark Heaven is scheduled to open with 12 fields and 60 team "clubhouses" for lodging in 2014.


Opposition demands details on Chavez

Amid rising uncertainty about whether Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is healthy enough to remain in office, opposition leaders demanded the cancer-stricken leader's administration say whether he expects to be sworn in Jan. 10. If Chavez is too ill to return from Cuba, where last month he underwent his fourth cancer-related surgery since June 2011, then the government should follow constitutional guidelines and call an election within 30 days, opposition leader Ramon Guillermo Aveledo said.


Stampede survivors, police blame barricades

Survivors of a stampede that killed 61 people after a New Year's Eve fireworks display in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan said that makeshift barricades stopped them from moving along a main boulevard, causing the crush of people that killing mostly teenagers and children. Police said the barricades were tree trunks, and local reports blamed thieves for putting them up so that pickpockets could steal money and cellphones from some of the 50,000 who had gathered for the show.


Top militant among 13 killed in drone strike

Pakistani intelligence officials say two U.S. drone strikes in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan early Thursday killed 13 people, including a senior militant commander who had a truce with Pakistan's military. The five officials said that the commander, Maulvi Nazir, was reportedly among nine people killed in the first strike, in the village of Angoor Adda in South Waziristan. Residents in both Angoor Adda and Wana, the biggest town in South Waziristan, said they heard announcements on mosque loudspeakers announcing Nazir's death. Reports of individual deaths are difficult to verify independently.