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Tornado blamed for high winds, death

BUFORD, GA. --- Officials on Wednesday confirmed that strong winds that destroyed 50 houses in Buford the day before were caused by a powerful tornado with gusts of up to 130 mph.

The National Weather Service said the tornado hit Buford on Tuesday afternoon. Gwinnett County police said a tree fell over onto a car, killing 54-year-old Matthew Mitchell of Conyers. Police believe strong wind gusts blew the tree over.

The severe weather was part of a system that has brought suspected tornadoes to several Southeastern states since Monday, from Louisiana to South Carolina. The system was headed toward the Northeast on Wednesday, with colder air turning the rain into snow.

Georgia Power critics seek limit to costs

ATLANTA --- Critics of Georgia Power said the company should further limit electricity costs as its executives gave their first testimony Wednesday about a plan to raise power prices, though by less than first proposed.

The Southern Co. subsidiary filed a proposed settlement last month calling for higher electricity prices over three years, resulting in an increase of more than $15 for the average household electricity bill by 2013. Georgia Power offered to lower its target profits from a plan it unveiled in July. It ditched a proposal to speed up rate increases if profits fall below those targets.

Members of the Public Service Commission are expected to vote Dec. 21 on the settlement reached between the utility and the PSC staff. Though the PSC is not bound to the settlement, the agreements have previously provided the framework for a final decision.

Haley to pursue opting out of health care law

COLUMBIA --- South Carolina Gov.-elect Nikki Haley said Wednesday she will ask President Obama to allow states to opt out of the new federal health care law.

Haley said that will be her top request as governors-elect of both parties meet with Obama today.

"Rather than mandating health care on South Carolina, please allow me and the state of South Carolina to show true solutions and prove why we don't need that mandate rather than forcing it down on us," she said she will say. "South Carolina doesn't want it. We will solve it ourselves without that intrusion."

The comments came after Haley and other Republican governors-to-be met with incoming House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Congressman-elect will skip black caucus

COLUMBIA --- South Carolina's first black Republican congressman in more than a century won't join the Congressional Black Caucus.

Tim Scott said Wednesday that the caucus's ideals don't match his goals or vision for America.

"The more I thought about it, the more I realized is I have always been a guy who has lived in an integrated world," Scott said.

Scott, 45, downplayed his race throughout his campaign as he beat eight other Republicans, including the sons of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond and the late Gov. Carroll Campbell. He then easily won his conservative coastal South Carolina district to become the state's first black Republican congressman since Reconstruction.

Next month, Scott and Florida's Allen West will become the first black Republicans to serve in the U.S. House since J.C. Watts of Oklahoma retired in 2003.

In other news

A LOCKDOWN AT Clayton State University has been lifted after a bomb threat. University spokesman John Shiffert said authorities found no suspicious packages on the Morrow, Ga., campus Wednesday after a building-by-building sweep.


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Kettle donations rise in 2014

After a disappointing showing last year, donations to the Salvation Army's local Red Kettle Campaign have risen nearly 20 percent in 2014.
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