New Orleans regains residents

NEW ORLEANS - Despite slow progress in rebuilding some neighborhoods, New Orleans' population is nearing 300,000, or about 65 percent of its pre-Hurricane Katrina size, a new report says.

The report, compiled by urban-planning consultancy GCR & Associates and based on utility hookups, estimates the population at 295,450 and predicts it will surpass 300,000 soon. That will put it on par with cities like Tampa, Fla., and Pittsburgh and provide a "significant indication of New Orleans' sustained viability as a major city and as an anchor for a large metropolitan area," the report says.

Mayor Ray Nagin has pointed to population estimates as a key way to gauge the city's success at recovering from the 2005 storm.

- AP

Breaking news: Van crashes in

CHICAGO - A minivan crashed into the glass exterior wall of a downtown TV studio, jarring the building and startling the anchorman delivering the 10 p.m. news.

No one was injured in the crash Sunday at WLS. The driver, Gerald Richardson, 25, was jailed on charges of causing property damage and reckless driving.

The wreck could be heard on the air and caused anchorman Ravi Baichwal to jump and shout, "Ho!" The newscast continued, but a camera turned to show viewers the damage to the outside of the glass wall, which ordinarily lets passersby look into the studio. Police said the crash's cause was unclear.

- AP

Mine probe nears 5 months

HUNTINGTON, Utah - Nearly five months after the cave-in at Utah's Crandall Canyon mine, the cause of the original disaster is still under investigation, and the fate of the mine - and the trapped miners - is unresolved, officially at least.

The shaft has been walled off with cinder blocks, and makeshift memorials and Christmas wreaths serve as reminders of the twin disasters that took place there.

On Aug. 6, six miners were caught in the thunderous cave-in. Ten days later, three men were killed in another collapse while trying to tunnel through the mountain to the victims. After that, the rescue was abandoned.

The state refuses to declare the six miners dead without bodies, yet it is not known whether those can ever be recovered. The mine's co-owner, Murray Energy Corp., will not say whether it plans to reopen the mine, but such a move appears unlikely. Since the accident, the company has stripped the mine of conveyor belts and other equipment and let shafts fill with water, said James F. Kohler, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management official in Utah.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Many Christmas Eve

travelers around the country got what they wished for - few airport delays and mostly clear highways, despite a deadly weekend snowstorm in the Plains and the Midwest.