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DENVER (AP) — National Guard troops have resumed truck convoys to rescue people stranded by floodwaters in the cut-off Colorado community of Lyons.

An estimated 2,500 residents are being evacuated in an operation that began yesterday.

Helicopters are being used to airlift 295 residents of another isolated town, Jamestown.

The National Guard has also been airdropping food, water and other supplies to people stranded in narrow canyons in the Rocky Mountain foothills.

Evacuations are voluntary, but those who choose to stay with their homes could face weeks without power, water, sewer or cellphone service.

Days of heavy rain sent water rushing from the mountains into communities below, inundating farms and destroyed roads and bridges, turning neighborhoods and towns into islands.

The flooding affects parts of a 4,500-square-mile area, almost the size of Connecticut.

At least four deaths have been blamed on the flooding. Officials in hard-hit Boulder County say more than 170 people are unaccounted for. But they say that just means they haven't been heard from, not that they're actually missing.

Read more...

   BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — Russia's President Vladimir Putin says that Syria's move to join an international convention banning chemical weapons has proven its good faith.

   Speaking at a summit of an international security grouping dominated by Russia and China, Putin said Friday the move showed that Syria has "serious intentions to embark on that path."

   Syria made a formal bid Thursday to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. The U.N. welcomed the move, but said that it could take 30 days for Syria to become a member.

   Russia proposed on Monday that Syria surrenders control over its chemical weapons to the international community for its eventual dismantling to avoid a U.S. military strike, and Damascus quickly jumped at the offer. Top U.S. and Russian diplomats are holding talks in Geneva to discuss the plan's specifics.

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   WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S Solicitor General Donald Verrilli says employer challenges to the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act will likely be decided in the Supreme Court term that begins next month.

   Dozens of employers have said that providing contraceptive coverage would violate their religious beliefs.

   In a panel discussion Thursday, Verrilli predicted that the case could hinge on the justices' interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He said the federal law declares that "government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion unless the government has a compelling interest, and the burden imposed is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest."

   Verilli says at issue is whether corporations have religious rights, whether the burden on them is substantial, whether government has a compelling interest in making contraceptives available, and whether the mandate is the least restrictive means of doing so.

   Lower courts have issued conflicting rulings, with some blocking enforcement of the mandate until the issues are decided.

Read more...

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