In brief | Nation & World, March 4, 2014


Obama says tough decisions must be made as deadline nears in Israeli-Palestinian talks

WASHINGTON — Seeking to salvage an elusive Middle East peace plan, President Barack Obama pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday to make the “tough decisions” needed to move forward on talks with the Palestinians.

But facing a U.S.-imposed April deadline, the Israeli leader declared pessimistically that, “Israel has been doing its part and, I regret to say, the Palestinians have not.” Netanyahu’s comments underscored the slim prospects of reaching an agreement to the long-running conflict, despite a robust effort led by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Obama and Netanyahu spoke before an Oval Office meeting on a snowy Monday in Washington. The meeting marked a more direct foray into the peace negotiations by Obama, who will also meet at the White House later this month with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

While the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu has improved after early tensions, the two leaders still grapple with deep differences, particularly on Iran. Israel sees Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat and fears Tehran is using U.S.-led negotiations to stall while it builds a bomb.

Sunken oil pipelines raise spill fears in sensitive straits where two Great Lakes meet

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A freshwater channel that separates Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas is a premier Midwestern tourist attraction and a photographer’s delight, offering spectacular vistas of two Great Lakes, several islands and one of the world’s longest suspension bridges.

But nowadays the Straits of Mackinac is drawing attention for something that is out of sight and usually out of mind, and which some consider a symbol of the dangers lurking in the nation’s sprawling web of buried oil and natural gas pipelines.

Stretched across the bottom of the waterway at depths reaching 270 feet are two 20-inch pipes that carry nearly 23 million gallons of crude oil daily. They are part of the 1,900-mile Lakehead network, which originates in North Dakota near the Canadian border. A segment known as Line 5 slices through northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula before ducking beneath the Straits of Mackinac and winding up in Sarnia, Ontario.

The pipes were laid in 1953. They’ve never leaked, according to the system’s owner, Enbridge Energy Partners LP, which says the lines are in good shape and pose no threat. But a growing chorus of activists and members of Congress is demanding closer scrutiny as stepped-up production in North Dakota’s Bakken region and Canada’s Alberta tar sands boosts the amount of oil coursing through pipelines crossing the nation’s heartland.

Cold weather heats up sales for auto repairs shops, food delivery services and even lip balm

NEW YORK — The harsh winter has been rough for some businesses, but for a lucky few, the frigid weather means more cold, hard cash.

Ace Hardware is having its best winter in more than a decade for snow blower and shovel sales. Waterproof boots are on a long backorder at clothing maker L.L. Bean. And more people are staying home and ordering gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and booze from Delivery.com.

“The concept of a polar vortex doesn’t feel good, but it’s good for business,” said Kane Calamari, a vice president at Ace Hardware Corp.

Much of the country has been in a deep freeze. Only 32 winters have been colder in the last 119 years, according to Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at the National Climatic Data Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.

With more Americans stuck indoors, customers are ordering up more meals and arranging to have their laundry picked up through Delivery.com’s website and smartphone app. Sales at the company, which operates in major metro areas such as New York, Chicago and Washington D.C., rose 30 percent in January and February compared with the year before. Orders for soups, wine and vodka have spiked.

By wire sources