Snow in 49 States: USA Today: "Snow is on the ground in 49 out of the 50 states — only the Sunshine State of Florida is completely snow-free, according to a map produced Thursday morning by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (This doesn't mean that those 49 states are snow-covered, of course, only that some part of each state has snow.) Although [the] map doesn't show it, there is snow in Hawaii, where webcams are showing snow on the high peaks of the mountain volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. The map also doesn't include Alaska, but it's a given that most of that state is snow-covered this time of year. A quick check with the National Weather Service forecast office in Fairbanks found 19 inches of snow on the ground there."
Perspective: Associated Press: "For those who shivered through January, this may be hard to believe: Nationwide, the average temperature for the month was about normal because a warm West offset a cool East. January in the Lower 48 states was the 53rd coldest of 120 years of record-keeping, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday. The average was 30.3 degrees, only one-tenth of a degree below normal for the month. While Alabama had its fourth coldest January on record, California and Alaska had their third warmest. ... And even though it seemed like it snowed a lot in the East, the snow on the ground in January in the Lower 48 was the 16th smallest in 48 years of record-keeping by the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. Snow cover was above average in the Northern Plains, Midwest and Northeast but below average in the Rockies and the West."
Afghan Frees Prisoners Over U.S. Objections: New York Times: "The Afghan government on Thursday released 65 prisoners over the objections of the American military, which said they were dangerous insurgents responsible for killing its soldiers and might return to the fight. The 65 detainees left the Bagram prison in the morning, and were taken away in vehicles belonging to the Afghan National Army’s military police, who are in charge of the facility. American military guards are also present at the prison but were not in evidence. The police vehicles took them to a small bazaar on a main road, where they were transferred to taxis. ... American military officials have been publicly scathing in their criticism of the releases, which have brought relations between the two allies to a low point at a time when talks on a long-term Western military presence have stalled. In a statement, the American military expressed 'strong concern about the potential threats these detainees pose to coalition forces and Afghan security forces and civilians.'"
How Snowden Got the Passwords: Washington Post: "A National Security Agency employee has resigned from his job after admitting to FBI investigators that he allowed Edward Snowden, then an NSA contractor, to use his personal computer credentials to gain access to classified information, according to an agency memo. The unidentified employee was not aware that Snowden intended to use the password to obtain classified material for the purposes of disclosure, said the memo, which was first reported by NBC News. The employee is one of three individuals who have been under investigation for their unwitting involvement in Snowden’s effort to remove the material in what may well be the largest breach of classified information in history. None was accused of collusion, a senior U.S. official familiar with the investigation said."
Ted Cruz's New Cause: Huffington Post: "It seems Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has taken up a new cause in Congress -- defending states' right to regulate marriage. Amid a wave of court decisions striking down anti-gay marriage laws in states, the Texas Republican introduced a bill to the Senate Wednesday to amend U.S. law 'with regard to the definition of 'marriage' and 'spouse' for Federal purposes and to ensure respect for State regulation of marriage.' Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is the bill's only co-sponsor so far. The bill's authors sent out a release about the bill Thursday afternoon, saying 'it will ensure the federal government gives the same deference to the 33 states that define marriage as the union between one man and one woman as it does to the 17 states that have chosen to recognize same-sex unions.'"
The New Solar Model: Mercury News: "The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, sprawling across roughly 5 square miles of federal land near the California-Nevada border, formally opens Thursday after years of regulatory and legal tangles ranging from relocating protected tortoises to assessing the impact on Mojave milkweed and other plants. The $2.2 billion complex of three generating units, owned by NRG Energy, Google and Oakland-based BrightSource Energy, can produce nearly 400 megawatts -- enough power for 140,000 homes. It began making electricity last year. Larger projects are on the way, but for now, Ivanpah is being described as a marker for the United States' emerging solar industry. While solar power accounts for less than 1 percent of the nation's power output, thousands of projects from large, utility-scale plants to small production sites are under construction or being planned, particularly across the sun-drenched Southwest."
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