NEWS OF THE DAY
_1 Traffic deaths: Traffic fatalities surged about 8 percent in the first nine months of last year, continuing an alarming upward spiral that began in late 2014, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates released Friday. The increase comes at the same time Americans are putting more miles on the road than ever, the government said. But the rise in deaths is outpacing the increase in travel. Vehicle miles traveled in the first nine months of 2016 rose about 3 percent. There were 1.15 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in the first nine months of 2016, up from 1.10 fatalities during the same period in 2015.
_2 Mileage standards: The Environmental Protection Agency moved Friday to cement strict fuel economy requirements that force the auto industry to make new cars and trucks significantly more efficient, a decision that will be difficult for the incoming Trump administration to undo. The EPA said in late November that it had completed a required midterm review of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards put in place in 2012 and decided they should not be relaxed as requested by the auto industry. The move in the waning days of the Obama administration brought protests from the industry, which accused the agency of playing politics with a rushed determination.
_3 Rebel leader plea: With dozens of supporters packing a Miami federal courthouse, a former Haitian coup leader and recent senator-elect pleaded not guilty Friday to decade-old U.S. drug trafficking charges. Guy Philippe entered the plea to a three-count cocaine smuggling and money-laundering conspiracy indictment dating to 2005 that carries a maximum life prison sentence. Philippe, 48, was flown to the U.S. to face the charges after his arrest last week in the Haitian capital of Port-auPrince. A leader of the 2004 coup that toppled then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Philippe had recently been elected to the Haitian Senate and was days away from being sworn in when he was arrested.
_4 Space walk: The International Space Station’s solar power grid got three more top-of-the-line batteries Friday during the second spacewalk in a week. NASA controllers in Cape Canaveral describe the lithium-ion batteries as critical upgrades to the space station’s solar power system. Eighteen more need to be installed over the next two to three years, for a total of 24. The new batteries can hold more charge and keep it longer.
_5 Payment in pennies: A Virginia man used 300,000 pennies to pay sales tax on two cars at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Nick Stafford delivered five wheelbarrows full of change, mostly pennies, at the DMV office in Lebanon on Wednesday. The coins weighed in at 1,600 pounds. Stafford said he paid in coins to “inconvenience” the DMV. Stafford was upset because he was unable to find out the direct number to the Lebanon DMV until filing a Freedom of Information Act request. He later sued the state because he says he was denied direct phone numbers to other DMV offices in his area.
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