Biden views Pa. flood damage
Returning to the area where he spent his childhood, Vice President Joe Biden on Friday promised the federal government will help residents beleaguered by record flooding that caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage after the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee inundated northeastern Pennsylvania with a foot or more of rain. Biden, who grew up in nearby Scranton, toured a heavily damaged neighborhood in Duryea, where homes were inundated by flooding that surpassed records set by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. He was joined by Gov. Tom Corbett, Sen. Bob Casey, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate and other officials.
Obama signs patent law overhaul
President Barack Obama signed into law Friday a major overhaul of the nation's patent system to ease the way for inventors to bring their products to market. Passed in a rare display of congressional bipartisanship, the America Invents Act is the first significant change in patent law since 1952. It has been hailed as a milestone that will spur innovation and create jobs. The bill is meant to ensure that the patent office, now facing a backlog of 1.2 million pending patents, has the money to expedite the application process. It now takes an average of three years to get a patent approved. More than 700,000 applications have yet to be reviewed. The law was backed by companies including Google and Apple as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Winter may repeat icy blast of 2010-11
The winter of 2011-2012 will probably be colder than normal for much of the northern United States, although a repeat of the worst of last year's East Coast snowstorms is unlikely, forecasters said Friday. A cooling in the Pacific Ocean known as La Niña is predicted to return this year, joined by another season of frigid Arctic blasts caused by pressure differentials over the North Pole and northern Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters predict the coldest weather from the Great Plains to the Great Lakes, along with heavy snows across the northern tier. The coming winter may be colder than both the 30- and 10- year averages, increasing heating demand, said Travis Hartman, a meteorologist at MDA EarthSat Weather in Gaithersburg, Md.
Deal averts largest municipal bankruptcy
Jefferson County commissioners Friday approved a settlement with holders of $3.14 billion of sewer debt to avert what would have been the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. The terms of the agreement include $1.1 billion in concessions from creditors. JPMorgan Chase, which arranged most of the debt, would take the biggest loss. The deal also calls for three annual sewer-rate increases of 8.2 percent, followed by future annual boosts of no more than 3.25 percent.