Obama website: consumers trying to sign up this month to avoid breaks in coverage

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama’s new and improved health care website faces yet another test in just a couple of weeks, its biggest yet. If HealthCare.gov becomes overwhelmed by an expected year-end crunch, many Americans will be left facing a break in their insurance coverage.

Until now, the main damage from the website’s technology woes has been to Obama’s poll ratings. But if it chokes again, it will be everyday people feeling the consequences.

Some of those at risk are among the more than 4 million consumers whose individual policies have been canceled because the coverage didn’t comply with requirements of the new health care law. A smaller number, several hundred thousand, are in federal and state programs for people whose health problems already were a barrier to getting private insurance before the overhaul.

"The chances are almost 100 percent that someone who would like to continue coverage next year and intends to secure it is not going to be able to do it," said Mark McClellan, who oversaw the rollout of the Medicare prescription drug benefit under President George W. Bush.

"It’s important to recognize that none of these programs are going to work perfectly from the start and a big part of implementation is having mechanisms in place that anticipate problems and help mitigate their effects," added McClellan, now a health care policy expert with the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

NTSB: Train going too fast at curve before wreck, no problem seen with the brakes

YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) -- A commuter train that derailed over the weekend, killing four passengers, was hurtling at 82 mph as it entered a 30 mph curve, a federal investigator said Monday. But whether the wreck was the result of human error or brake trouble was unclear, he said.

Asked why the train was going so fast, National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said: "That’s the question we need to answer."

He would not disclose what the engineer operating the train had told investigators. Weener said investigators were examining the engineer’s cellphone -- apparently to determine whether he was distracted.

Weener said the information on the locomotive’s speed was preliminary and extracted from the Metro-North train’s two data recorders, taken from the wreckage after the Sunday morning accident in the Bronx.

He said the throttle went to idle six seconds before the derailed train came to a complete stop -- "very late in the game" for a train going that fast -- and the brakes were fully engaged five seconds before the train stopped.

Sales taxes on Internet purchases: Court won’t stop state law requiring collection

WASHINGTON (AP) -- On perhaps the busiest online shopping day of the year, the Supreme Court refused to wade into a dispute over state sales taxes for purchases on websites like Amazon.com, an outcome likely to prompt more states to attempt to collect taxes on Internet sales.

Monday’s court action means "it might be the last Cyber Monday without sales tax," said Joseph Henchman of the Washington -based Tax Foundation.

It’s all part of a furious battle -- also including legislation in Congress -- among Internet sellers, millions of buyers, aggrieved brick-and-mortar stores and states hungry for billions of dollars in extra tax revenue.

The high court without comment turned away appeals from Amazon.com LLC and Overstock.com Inc. in their fight against a New York court decision forcing them to remit sales tax the same way in-state businesses do. This could hurt online shopping in that state, since one of the attractions of Internet purchasing is the lack of a state sales tax.

And the effect could be felt far beyond New York if it encourages other states to act. The National Council of State Legislatures estimates that states lost an estimated $23.3 billion in 2012 as a result of being unable to collect sales tax on online and catalog purchases.

Cyber deals have stretched out over the month but Monday still expected to be busiest

NEW YORK (AP) -- Power up and shop.

Millions of Americans took advantage of online deals ranging from free shipping to hundreds of dollars off electronics and half-price clothing Monday, which was expected to be the busiest online shopping day of the year.

The spending surge on so-called Cyber Monday came after a disappointing holiday weekend in stores. And it showed that Americans are increasingly comfortable buying items on tablets and smartphones.

Early results showed online shopping was up 18.7 percent compared with the same time last year, according to figures by IBM Benchmark. Mobile traffic, which includes smartphones and tablets, accounted for 30 percent of all online traffic.

Brandon Harris, 27, from Memphis, Tenn., started shopping at midnight Sunday and by Monday had spent around $300 and completed half of his Christmas shopping.

Amazon.com considering unmanned aircraft to deliver quicker than a pizza

NEW YORK (AP) -- Amazon is working on a way to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less -- via self-guided drone.

Consider it the modern version of a pizza delivery boy, minus the awkward teenager.

Amazon.com Inc. says it’s working on the so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project but it will take years to advance the technology and for the Federal Aviation Administration to create the necessary rules and regulations.

The project was first reported by CBS’ "60 Minutes" Sunday night, hours before millions of shoppers turned to their computers to hunt Cyber Monday bargains.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in the interview that while his octocopters look like something out of science fiction, there’s no reason they can’t be used as delivery vehicles.

Facing massive protests, Ukraine leader asks to resume talks with EU

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Facing huge anti-government demonstrations after spurning a deal with the European Union, Ukraine’s embattled president sought Monday to quell public anger by moving to renew talks with Brussels.

The opposition, meanwhile, scrambled to secure enough votes in parliament to oust the Cabinet and try to force an early presidential election, in the biggest unrest in the country since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

President Viktor Yanukovych struggled to reaffirm his grip on power as thousands of demonstrators besieged government buildings in Kiev, his party suffered defections and three cities in the west of the country openly defied the central government.

The protests were sparked by Yanukovych’s decision to ditch the political association and free trade pact with the EU, followed by the violent dispersal of a small peaceful rally in Kiev over the weekend.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who strongly opposed the EU deal, denounced the opposition protests in Kiev as "pogroms."

Army to take over security in Lebanon’s second-largest city for 6 months after clashes

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AP) -- The government authorized the army Monday to take charge of security in Lebanon’s second-largest city of Tripoli for six months following deadly sectarian clashes by rival sides stemming from the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Many fear that the violence in Tripoli -- only 18 miles (30 kilometers) from the Syrian border -- could tip the rest of Lebanon back toward chaos. At least 12 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in the latest fighting that broke out Saturday.

The decision by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati after a high-level security meeting at the presidential palace is meant to allay fears that the fighting was spreading out of control in the northern port city. But the army is weak and has been largely unable to stop the violence. Dozens of soldiers have been killed and wounded in Tripoli this year, often caught in the crossfire between rival gunmen.

Sectarian clashes linked to the war in Syria often flare in Tripoli between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Lebanon is divided into a patchwork of sects, including Sunnis, Shiites and Christians. Syria’s rebels are dominated by its Sunni Muslim majority, and Lebanese Sunnis mostly support their brethren across the border, while Lebanese Shiites have staked their future with the Assad regime. The Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah has played a critical role in recent battlefield victories for forces loyal to Assad.

Powers of military raise concern over rewrite of Egypt’s constitution

CAIRO (AP) -- Extensive amendments of the constitution adopted under Egypt’s ousted Islamist president give the military more privileges, enshrining its place as the nation’s most powerful institution and the source of real power, while removing parts that liberals feared set the stage for the creation of an Islamic state.

The new draft constitution is a key first step in implementing a political transition laid down by the military after it removed Mohammed Morsi from power. A 50 member panel declared the draft finished Monday, paving the way for a nationwide referendum within 30 days to ratify the document.

The military-backed government has heralded the draft charter as a step toward democracy -- seeking to prove the credentials of the post-Morsi system amid continuing protests by Islamists furious over the coup against the country’s first freely elected president.

The amended document enshrines personal and political rights in stronger language than past constitutions. But rights experts express fears that the political power carved out for the military could leave those rights irrelevant.

One key clause states that for the next two presidential terms, the armed forces will enjoy the exclusive right of naming the defense minister, an arrangement that gives the military autonomy above any civilian oversight and leaves the power of the president uncertain. The charter does not say how the post will be filled following that eight-year transitional period.