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Congress approves $9.7 billion in Sandy flood aid

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The new Congress has passed a $9.7 billion bill to help pay flood insurance claims to homeowners, renters and businesses damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

The bill cleared the Senate following passage earlier Friday by the House. It replenishes the National Flood Insurance Program that was due to run out of money next week with some 115,000 Sandy-related claims as well as 5,000 from other floods unresolved.

The late October storm ravaged the coast from North Carolina to Maine, with the worst flooding occurring in New York City and its suburbs, Atlantic City, N.J., along the Connecticut coastline. Votes are planned later this month on another $51 billion aid package. The government already has spent more than $2 billion as part of the emergency response to the storm.

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Army Corps tamps down barge worries on Mississippi

ST. LOUIS (AP) â¿¿ Efforts taken to keep a crucial stretch of the drought-starved Mississippi River open to barge traffic should be sufficient to avert a shipping shutdown that the industry fears is imminent, Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard officials said Friday.

The corps said crews in recent weeks have made "fantastic" progress clearing treacherous bedrock from a channel about 150 miles south of St. Louis near Thebes, Ill. â¿¿ the portion of the river that has grown especially worrisome to barge operators moving an array of cargo to northern states and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Shipping groups warned this week that the waterway there could drop to a point â¿¿ 3 feet on the river gauge â¿¿ in which barge weight restrictions would have to be further tightened, effectively halting shipping.

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New search engine tailors its results for tablets

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ The makers of Blekko believe they've built a great alternative to Google, but they're also realistic. They know their two-year-old Internet search engine won't ever supplant Google as the most popular place to search on laptop and desktop computers.

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