USA

Hundreds of new state laws went into effect as 2008 began, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Among the laws are one in New York establishing the country's first airline passenger bill of rights, another in Massachusetts mandating health insurance for all residents, and a toughest-in-the-nation Arizona statute against illegal immigration. Illinois becomes the 22nd state to essentially ban smoking in all indoor public places, and in Texas all school employees must submit to criminal fingerprint checks.

The Cincinnati Post said goodbye with its final edition Monday, its presses quieted after 126 years. Like other afternoon newspapers, the Post and its sister Kentucky Post edition had struggled for decades. In the Post's final year, daily circulation was less than a tenth of the 270,000-plus it enjoyed in 1960.

Internet users are more than twice as likely to patronize libraries as non-Internet users, according to a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The findings turn thinking upside down about library users, an author of the report says. Of the 53 percent of Americans who visited a library last year, the biggest users were tech-loving 18- to 30-year-olds. Above, young adults use a computer terminal at the Martin Luther King Library in Washington.

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A group of more than a dozen current and retired US political figures of both parties have planned a closed-door meeting at the University of Oklahoma Jan. 7 to urge presidential candidates to close the partisan divide. Some have speculated that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the scheduled participants, may use the occasion to jump into the race as an independent candidate.

In its ongoing effort to honor and preserve America's classic

Atlanta, which is at the center of a historic drought that affects more than one-third of the Southeast, managed to escape its driest year ever with several days of rain. The wet spell barely nudged 2007's total rainfall over 31.8 inches, the previous low set in 1954.

The Puget Sound Partnership, which lawmakers created this year to clean up the arm of the Pacific Ocean that connects to inner-coastal areas of Washington State, including Seattle, says it should have a preliminary report by September. Researchers have studied the situation for decades, but now, for the first time, the new agency expects to establish goals to achieve a healthy sound by 2020.

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