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40-car pileup in fog kills 2, injures 61

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Two men died and 61 were injured Thursday in a pre-dawn pileup involving about 40 cars, vans and other vehicles on a busy interstate that crosses New Orleans, closing the route for hours both ways, police said.

Drivers said they drove into thick smoke or fog that abruptly limited visibility on westbound lanes of Interstate 10 heading across eastern New Orleans. Those who came upon the scene said they heard injured motorists pleading for assistance.

Police said the dead were a pickup truck driver and a 54-year-old passenger in another pickup, both from Louisiana.

The highway is a major corridor for thousands of commuters who enter New Orleans each day from its eastern suburbs and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Those driving the route at the time of the wrecks said they suddenly found themselves in utter darkness, unable to see the lights of cars ahead.

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Eavesdropping law ruled constitutional

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A federal appeals court on Thursday said a 2008 law granting telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the National Security Agency with an email and telephone eavesdropping program is constitutional.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act passes constitutional muster.

The appeal concerned a case that consolidated 33 different lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf of these companies' customers.

The plaintiffs accuse the companies of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with NSA on intelligence gathering.

The case stems from new surveillance rules passed by Congress that included protection from legal liability for telecommunications companies that allegedly helped the U.S. spy on Americans without warrants.

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State highway closed by Irene reopens

STOCKBRIDGE, Vt. (AP) -- After hundreds of thousands of tons of rock were hauled out, Vermont celebrated the completion of the biggest engineering challenge following the flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Irene.

Four months after the storm hit, Route 107 between Bethel and Stockbridge was reopened Thursday. The state highway, a major east-west thoroughfare, was the last to reopen after being closed by flooding.

The road's reopening was marked with a ceremony at a Stockbridge school, where residents and state officials tossed fluorescent orange baseball caps into the air.

The repair of Route 107 posed one of the biggest tests after the Aug. 28 storm that left a dozen towns cut off from the world for days, damaged or destroyed more than 500 miles of roads and 200 bridges, killed six and reshaped much of the low-lying countryside.

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U.S. denounces Chavez for cancer comment

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration on Thursday denounced Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for questioning whether the U.S. might be behind a rash of cancer cases among Latin American leaders.

The State Department said Chavez's comments were "horrific and reprehensible." Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said they were not worthy of further response.

Chavez has long questioned whether the U.S. government could be plotting to oust him.

But earlier this week he went far beyond that, saying it was very strange that he and the leaders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay have struggled with cancer.

He said he wasn't accusing the U.S. and doesn't have any proof. But he asked, "Would it be strange if they had developed a technology to induce cancer and no one knew it?"