National News Archives for 2016-01

Grand Jury Indicts Producers of Planned Parenthood Videos

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- A grand jury has indicted two anti-abortion activists who made undercover videos alleging Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue to researchers for a profit, and said the abortion provider committed no wrong.

 

Planned

 

The grand jury in Houston, which investigated Planned Parenthood after the Center for Medical Progress released its undercover footage last year, indicted the center's founder and another activist on Monday - the first criminal charges against anyone in the anti-abortion group since the videos surfaced last year.

 

The videos provoked outrage among Republican leaders nationwide and prompted investigations by Republican-led committees in Congress and by GOP-led state governments. Planned Parenthood officials have denied any wrongdoing and say the videos are misleading.

 

Center for Medical Progress CEO David Daleiden and activist Sandra Merritt each face a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Daleiden also faces a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs.

 

The center's footage from the Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston showed people pretending to be from a company called BioMax that procures fetal tissue for research touring the facility. Planned Parenthood has said that the fake company sent an agreement offering to pay the "astronomical amount" of $1,600 for organs from a fetus. The clinic said it never entered into the agreement and ceased contact with BioMax because it was "disturbed" by the overtures.

 

In a statement announcing the indictment, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson did not provide details on the charges, including which records were allegedly tampered with. Her office said it could not disclose more information, and it was unclear when the indictments would be made public.

 

"We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast," Anderson, an elected Republican, said in her statement. "As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us."

 

Daleiden issued a statement saying his group "uses the same undercover techniques" as investigative journalists and follows all applicable laws.

 

"We respect the processes of the Harris County District Attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well," he said.

 

Planned Parenthood has said a few clinics in two states used to accept legally allowed reimbursement for the costs of providing tissue donated by some of its abortion clients. In October, Planned Parenthood announced that it would no longer accept reimbursement and would cover the costs itself.

 

The group called Monday's indictments the latest in a string of victories since the videos were released, saying 11 state investigations have cleared the nation's largest abortion provider of claims that it profited from fetal tissue donation.

 

"This is absolutely great news because it is a demonstration of what Planned Parenthood has said from the very beginning: We follow every law and regulation and these anti-abortion activists broke multiple laws to try and spread lies," said spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

 

The Texas video was the fifth released by the Center for Medical Progress.

 

Despite the center's lofty name, public filings suggest only a small number of people are affiliated with the nonprofit, none of whom are scientists or physicians engaged in advancing medical treatments. The people named as its top officers are longtime anti-abortion activists with a history of generating headlines.

 

Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood sued the center in a California federal court, alleging extensive criminal misconduct. The lawsuit says the center's videos were the result of numerous illegalities, including making recordings without consent, registering false identities with state agencies and violating nondisclosure agreements.

 

After the lawsuit was filed, Daleiden told The Associated Press he looked forward to confronting Planned Parenthood in court.

 

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New Federal Data Shows Nearly 3 Percent Rise in Child Abuse

NEW YORK (AP) -- The number of U.S. children victimized by abuse and neglect increased by nearly 3 percent in the latest annual reporting period, according to new federal data.

 

According to the report released Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services, the estimated number of victimized children in the 2014 fiscal year was 702,208 - up from 682,307 in 2013.

 

Child Abuse

 

The report estimated fatalities attributable to child abuse and neglect at 1,580 - up from 1,530 in 2013.

HHS said Rafael Lopez, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, had sought input from child welfare officials in states with the increases in reported abuse and neglect. According to Lopez, the officials cited substance abuse, mental health issues and domestic violence as factors contributing to the increased maltreatment.

 

"We need to shift our focus to the front-end prevention of child abuse and neglect and make sure that families get the help they need when they need it," Lopez said.

States with more than 30 percent increases in maltreatment over the past five years include Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, according to the report.

 

About 70 percent of the fatalities in 2014 involved children younger than 3, and parents were the perpetrators in 80 percent of the cases. Georgia, Illinois, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Michigan had the highest rates of child fatalities.

 

Overall, white children accounted for about 44 percent of the victims of maltreatment, black children about 21 percent and Hispanic children about 23 percent. Smaller percentages were Asian, Native American and mixed race.

 

Seventy-five percent of the victims suffered neglect, 17 percent were physically abused and 8.3 percent were sexually abused. The report tallied 58,105 children who were sexually abused in 2014 - down considerably from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992.

 

The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state.

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AP Sources: Bomb in San Bernardino Attack Was Poorly Built

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A homemade bomb left behind by the husband and wife who perpetrated a mass shooting at a California social services center failed to detonate because it was poorly constructed, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

 

The failure compelled Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 29, to drive around the area of San Bernardino, California, after the shootings that killed 14 people. They were apparently trying to set off the remote-controlled bomb, one of the officials said.

 

The officials were briefed on the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the case publicly.

 

Investigators believe the couple intended to detonate the improvised explosive device - placed in a bag left at the center that morning by Farook before the shooting - to kill emergency responders or possibly before their attack.

 

The plan to set off an explosive device as part of a wave of attacks is similar to an aborted 2012 plan by Farook and his longtime friend Enrique Marquez, who has been charged for his role in aiding the violence. The pair planned to explode pipe bombs on a freeway and then shoot emergency responders.

 

The device found at the scene in San Bernardino consisted of three pipe bombs, constructed with Christmas tree lights and attached to a remote-control toy car switched to "on." The couple had the remote with them in their rented SUV. It was found after the shootout.

 

The FBI is still trying to determine where the couple was or what they did during 18 minutes between the Dec. 2 attack and a shootout with authorities that left them dead.

 

Investigators have no details on the couple's whereabouts between 12:59 p.m. and 1:17 p.m. that day and worry that they may have met with someone, dropped by a storage unit or visited a residence. Authorities accounted for the couple's movements using traffic and surveillance cameras, witness accounts and other techniques.

 

While driving around San Bernardino and Redlands afterward, the couple appeared to drive aimlessly and stopped multiple times over a roughly 20-mile area, according to the FBI. They never strayed far from the location of their initial attack, and at one point appeared to be trying to drive closer. Farook and Malik also stopped by a nearby lake, which a dive team searched unsuccessfully for days, trying to find any abandoned electronic devices.

 

Detectives watching the area saw the couple driving toward their home in the SUV, and Farook and Malik died in a shootout with authorities.

 

One of the officials said the hard drive has still not been found, and the two cellphones, which were sent to the FBI lab, were so badly crushed that investigators have not yet been able to conduct a forensic examination on them.

 

One rifle used in the attack was modified in what appears to be an effort to make the gun fully automatic. But despite the installation of the required parts, the machining wasn't done properly and so the effort was unsuccessful, one official said. The errors constructing the explosive device and modifying the gun may indicate that the two killers were self-taught, but without potential electronic evidence on the couple's computer hard drive and phones, it is hard to know for sure, officials said.

 

The FBI has said there's no evidence that the attack was directed from overseas.

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Feared Weekend Snowstorm Arrives in US Capital Area

WASHINGTON (AP) -- One in seven Americans will get at least half a foot of snow outside their homes when this weekend's big storm has finished delivering blizzards, gale-force winds, white-out conditions and flooding to much of the eastern United States.

 

But in the nation's capital, the snowstorm promised to leave a much bigger impact. The first flakes of what could become two feet or more of wet, driving snow began falling in Washington just after 1 p.m., sloshing in from the Ohio River Valley looking just like the forecasts promised.

 

Conditions quickly became treacherous as the storm moved northeast. Arkansas and Tennessee got eight inches; Kentucky got more than a foot, and states across the Deep South grappled with icy, snow-covered roads and power outages. At least eight people died in traffic fatalities in the dangerous weather.

 

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser asked residents to "hunker down" and "shelter in place" through Sunday.

"The forecast does not show any evidence of lightening up," she said, stressing the "life and death implications."

 

The good news? Meteorologists appear to have gotten this storm right. Their predictions converged, and millions of people got clear warnings, well in advance. Blizzard warnings and watches stretch through New York City into New England, stopping just short of Boston, but the Washington area should get hit the hardest.

 

"This is probably going to be one of the top three snowfalls of all time for Washington," said Daniel Petersen, a forecaster at the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

 

As food and supplies vanished from store shelves, at least six states and the District of Columbia declared states of emergency. Schools, government offices and transit systems announced early closings around the region. Thousands of flights were canceled, colleges called off games, and bands postponed concerts.

 

As far south as Atlanta, people were urged to go home and stay there to avoid a repeat of the city's "icepocalypse," when a fairly light winter storm in 2014 caused commuter chaos for days.

 

All the ingredients have come together for a massive snowfall and gale-force winds, causing white-out conditions and dangerous flooding. The winds initially picked up warm water from the Gulf of Mexico; now the storm is taking much more moisture from the warmer-than-usual Gulf Stream, and swirling slowly over Virginia and Maryland.

 

Snowfall will likely continue for about a day and half in the Washington-Baltimore area, leaving accumulations of two feet or more wherever high winds don't blow. Philadelphia could get 12 to 18 inches and New York 8 to 10, although some forecasts suggest even more, Peterson said.

 

The snowfall could easily cause more than $1 billion in damage, weather service director Louis Uccellini said. Fortunately, temperatures will be just above freezing after the storm passes in most places, and there's no second storm lurking behind this one, making for a slow and steady melt and less likelihood of more floods, Peterson said.

 

Travel was already impossible across a wide swath of Kentucky on Friday. Nashville, Tennessee was gridlocked by accidents. Several drivers died on icy roads in North Carolina. In Washington, Baltimore, and Delaware, archdioceses reminded people that dangerous travel conditions are a legitimate excuse to avoid showing up for Sunday Mass.

 

In New Jersey, coastal flooding and the loss of beaches from high surf were major worries. Republican Gov. Chris Christie canceled presidential campaign events in New Hampshire, which should be spared from the storm. "I'm sorry, NH but I gotta go home - we got snow coming," Christie wrote on Twitter.

 

In Washington, the federal government closed its offices at noon Friday, all mass transit was shutting down through Sunday, and many people stayed home. President Barack Obama was hunkering down at the White House, while Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina addressed anti-abortion activists at the annual March for Life as the storm closed in.

 

"I would come here if it were thunderstorming," said Kristlyn Whitlock, 20, who came from Steubenville, Ohio, wearing four layers of pants and five layers of tops to stay warm.

 

As the snow began falling in Arlington, Virginia, the parking lot at a Safeway supermarket looked like the mall at Christmas, with drivers lining up to snag parking spaces.

 

In downtown Baltimore, social worker Sean Augustus raced home, stocked with flashlights and water.

"I think it's going to be a bad storm," but Baltimore tends to come together when disasters strike.

 

"This is when you'll see Baltimore city in a different light," Augustus said. "You'll see neighbors coming together to help each other. That's the side of Baltimore people rarely see."

 

A similar spirit was evident in Annapolis, where 350 midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy signed up to shovel people out.

 

Elsewhere, people woke to snow and ice, and then got stuck on dangerous roads. A jack-knifed tractor-trailer started "pure gridlock" around Nashville, where Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Bill Miller said snow plows and salt trucks couldn't keep up with the weather.

 

In the mountain town of Craigsville, West Virginia, people were buying a special rake to get snow off roofs, as well as the usual kerosene heaters, propane tanks and gas cans.

 

"It's going to be bad, probably," said Missy Keaton, the cashier at Hardware, That's Us. She said many people learned their lessons from Superstorm Sandy, which collapsed roofs in the area in 2012.

 

All major airlines have issued waivers for the weekend, allowing passengers to rebook onto earlier or later flights to avoid the storms. More than 6,000 flights were canceled Friday and Saturday - about 12 percent of their schedules, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware. By Sunday afternoon, airlines hope to be back to full schedules.

 

Train service could be disrupted by frozen switches, the loss of third-rail electric power or trees falling on wires. Across the region, track workers, power company employees, road crew members, firefighters and other first-responders were mobilized for the long weekend. In New York City, 79 subway trains will have "scraper shoes" to reduce icing on rails, the Metropolitan Transit Authority said.

 

"For our region, this is good timing," said Jeffrey Knueppel, general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which is suspending almost all service around Philadelphia Saturday. "Saturday is the day to stay home and Sunday will give us a chance to really clean things up."

At least one industry could benefit: Eastern ski resorts, which suffered from December's record high temperatures.

 

"We're thrilled," said Hank Thiess, general manager at the Wintergreen ski resort in central Virginia, where 40 inches was expected. "We're going to have a packed snow surface that will just be outstanding."

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US Confirms Additional Civilian Casualties From Airstrikes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. military says American airstrikes likely killed two civilians near the Islamic State group's defacto capital of Raqqa, Syria, last July. That's on top of eight other civilian deaths the military acknowledged last week.

 

Airstrike

 

U.S. Central Command said Friday that four other civilians were injured in three other July airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. It expressed regret for all the casualties.

 

In last week's report, Central Command said eight were killed and three injured in a total of five airstrikes in Iraq and Syria between April 12 and July 4.

 

Friday's statement said one additional civilian was killed in a July 4 airstrike against bridges near Raqqa, and one was killed in a July 11 airstrike near Raqqa that caused a secondary explosion from a vehicle crossing a bridge.

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Officials: Armed Travelers Trying to Board Planes Set Record

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal officials say a record number of airline passengers were caught last year trying to take guns on planes, and most of the weapons were loaded.

 

The Transportation Security Administration says 2,653 firearms were found in carry-on bags in 2015, a 20 percent increase over the previous year, which had been a record. More than four out of five were loaded.

 

Airports with the most gun discoveries were Dallas-Fort Worth, 153; Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, 144; Houston George Bush, 100; Denver, 90, and Phoenix, 73.

 

TSA screened 708 million passengers in 2015, 40 million more than in 2014.

 

Weapons of any kind are prohibited in carry-on bags. However, passengers can take guns with them when they fly if they are in checked bags, unloaded, properly packed and declared to the airline.

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Audit: Vegas Cabs Overcharging Public by $47 Million a Year

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- If the cash you doled out for a Las Vegas cab ride hurt your wallet, it's not all in your head - auditors in Nevada also think taxi rates are outrageous.

 

Las Vegas-area cabs are overcharging customers to the tune of $47 million a year, according to an audit released Tuesday of the Nevada Taxicab Authority, which regulates the rides in Clark County.

 

Taxi Overcharge

 

Auditors for the governor's finance office blamed a $3 credit card processing fee that they say is much higher than in other cities and probably shouldn't exist. They also criticized a decision to increase a fuel surcharge even as gas prices are tanking and said having the surcharge at all is unique among the 12 major Western cities that the taxi board tracks.

 

"The board's decision is a windfall for the industry, which is able to pass additional operational costs on to the public," the audit says. "These are mostly tourist/visitor dollars that would otherwise likely be spent elsewhere in the local economy."

 

The criticism comes a few months after ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft started operating in Nevada with promises of cheaper and more convenient rides. The taxi industry, which makes big bucks taking tourists on a 5-mile trip from the airport to the Strip, fought hard against allowing the companies before losing its battle in the Legislature last spring.

Representatives of a union representing many area taxi drivers said they have long fought to end the credit card fees, arguing they enrich the cab company but hurt drivers. For example, some passengers mistakenly believe it is a tip for the driver and skip the gratuity.

 

"It is absolutely, utterly ridiculous to have a credit card fee of $3. That's absurd," said Sam Moffitt, a union organizer representing drivers of the large taxi company Yellow-Checker-Star. "The drivers do not get any portion of that money."

 

Gene Auffert, CEO of Yellow-Checker-Star, declined to comment. Kimberly Maxson-Rushton, director of a Las Vegas-area taxi company association, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

 

Uber spokeswoman Taylor Patterson declined to comment on the audit, except to say her company will continue to offer affordable rides to Nevadans.

 

Auditors say a cab fuel surcharge that regulators approved last summer is based on a federal gas-price average that's higher than Las Vegas rates. They say the fee structure, which the taxi industry supports, is designed so customers pay a full 12 cents more per mile once gas hits $3.25 a gallon, instead of kicking in gradually depending on how high gas prices rise.

 

The audit panned the $3 credit card transaction fee, saying it far exceeds the cost of cab companies accepting cards. State agencies pay 8.5 cents to Wells Fargo per credit card transaction, auditors said, and taxicab regulatory agencies in other cities allow fees between 3.8 percent and 5 percent of the total fare.

 

The $3 fee accounts for about 17 percent of the total average cab fare in Clark County and should be immediately reduced to 90 cents at most or halted altogether, auditors said.

 

"The credit card fee structure provides multiple opportunities for the industry to maximize revenue at the expense of the public and local economy," auditors said, noting that many large cities don't charge extra for credit card processing.

 

Auditors were so critical of the Nevada Taxicab Authority that they recommended abolishing it and turning over its duties to the county or the state Transportation Authority, which oversees cabs in other parts of Nevada.

 

Ron Grogan, chief of the authority, said the taxi board would have to discuss the recommendations before making changes. But he acknowledged that his agency had probably outlasted its usefulness.

 

The state Department of Business and Industry "recognizes that for many years the Taxicab Authority has been unable to institute the best practices of the industry due to a complex regulatory structure and add-on laws," he said. "Regulatory laws must be modernized."

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Obama Proposes New Unemployment Insurance Plan

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is proposing a set of changes to unemployment insurance that he says would offer more security to out-of-work Americans and encourage more people to rejoin the workforce.
 
Obama's plan would expand coverage to many part-time and low-income workers and would also expand wage insurance programs, aiming to soften the transition for people who take lower-paying jobs.
 
Obama also wants to require states to provide at least 26 weeks of unemployment insurance. Nine states fall short of the benchmark.
 
In his media weekly address, Obama says his proposal will modernize the unemployment insurance system and encourage workers to switch careers and develop new skills to adapt to a changing economy.

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Rescuers Look for 12 Aboard Marine Helicopters That Colided

HALEIWA, Hawaii (AP) -- Two Marine helicopters carrying 12 crew members collided off the Hawaiian island of Oahu during a nighttime training mission, and rescuers are searching a debris field in choppy waters Friday, military officials said.

 

Helicopter

 

There was no immediate word on what caused the crash or if any survivors have been found.

 

The transport helicopters each had a crew of six from Marine Corps Base Hawaii and crashed just before midnight Thursday, officials said. No other passengers were aboard the CH-53Es, which came from the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Capt. Timothy Irish said.

A Coast Guard helicopter and C-130 airplane spotted a debris field 2 1/2 miles offshore early Friday. The debris covers an area of 2 miles, Irish said.

 

The search includes aircraft from the Navy and Air Force, a Honolulu Fire Department rescue boat and Coast Guard cutters, officials said.

 

"It is a true search-and-rescue effort, and it is ongoing," Irish said just before daybreak on Oahu, where a steady rain was falling on the North Shore.

 

A swell approaching the area will bring dangerous 30- to 40-foot waves to beaches and 10- to 20-foot seas near the rescue operation, National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Foster said. Winds will be relatively calm at 10 mph or less.

 

The crash comes less than a year after the Marine Corps' new hybridized airplane-and-helicopter aircraft crashed during a training exercise, killing two Marines. The MV-22 Osprey went down last May with 21 Marines and a Navy corpsman on board.

 

In 2011, one serviceman was killed and three others were injured when a CH-53D Sea Stallion chopper crashed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

 

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Associated Press writers Caleb Jones in Honolulu, Bob Lentz in Philadelphia and Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.

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Snyder Asks Obama for Emergency Declaration in Water Crisis

FLINT, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has asked President Barack Obama to issue an emergency and major disaster declaration amid a drinking water crisis in Flint that began months ago, and the state attorney general announced Friday that his office would investigate how the situation was handled.

 

Water Flint

 

Snyder's office said late Thursday it had asked for the declarations and is seeking additional federal aid for both individuals and public agencies involved in the effort to provide Flint residents with clean drinking water.

 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday it was reviewing the request and would make a recommendation to Obama as "expeditiously as possible."

 

Flint's tap water became contaminated with too much lead after the city switched its water supply in 2014 to save money while under state financial management. Local officials declared a public health emergency in October. Residents already are being urged to use drinking water filters, which are being distributed for free along with bottled water.

 

"We are utilizing all state resources to ensure Flint residents have access to clean and safe drinking water and today I am asking President Obama to provide additional resources as our recovery efforts continue," Snyder said in the statement.

 

If Snyder's request is approved, the individual assistance could include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and the public assistance would help agencies such as city schools and the water system.

 

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said she was glad to see Snyder move forward with the request. She was elected in November, unseating the incumbent mayor who led the city during the public health emergency, and in December declared a state of emergency.

 

"This should have been done a long time ago. This crisis didn't just happen. ... It has been a long time coming," she told WWJ-AM.

 

Snyder said Friday that Weaver's full authority as mayor should be restored. Flint, which has chronically poor finances, is being run day to day by a city administrator with oversight from a state advisory board.

 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that his office would investigate to determine what, if any Michigan laws were violated in the water mess.

"The situation in Flint is a human tragedy in which families are struggling with even the most basic parts of daily life," Schuette said in a statement.

 

Federal prosecutors said earlier this month they're working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on an investigation. And the state auditor general and a task force earlier faulted the Department of Environmental Quality for not requiring Flint to treat the river water for corrosion and for belittling the public's fears.

 

For more than a year, water drawn from the Flint River leached lead from old pipes into homes after the city switched its drinking water. Flint has since returned to Detroit's system for its water, but officials remain concerned that damage to the pipes caused by the Flint River could allow them to continue leaching lead. Exposure to lead can cause behavior problems and learning disabilities in children as kidney ailments in adults.

 

Snyder declared an emergency last week. He pledged this week that officials would contact every household in Flint to check whether residents have bottled water and a filter and whether they want to be tested for lead exposure while his administration works on a long-term solution. On Tuesday, he activated the National Guard to help in distributing water, filters and other supplies and asked for help from FEMA in coordinating a recovery plan. FEMA has appointed a disaster recovery coordinator.

 

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat who represents the Flint area, has consistently criticized Snyder's response to the issue and advocated for greater federal assistance. He said Friday that he was glad to see Snyder's request.

 

Kildee said in a statement that "thousands of children of Flint who have been poisoned are the victims in this situation." He said Snyder's request "is an important step toward making sure they get the help they need."

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FBI: No Evidence Man Who Attacked Cop Part of Organized Cell

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The head of the FBI said Thursday the agency has found no indication that the man who ambushed a Philadelphia policeman was part of an organized terror cell or that there are plans for another such attack in the city.

 

FBI No Terror Cell

 

But FBI Director James Comey said the agency continues to investigate the Jan. 7 shooting of Officer Jesse Hartnett as a terrorist attack. The decision to do was made almost immediately after Edward Archer of Yeadon confessed, telling authorities he was "following Allah" and that he pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State group, Comey said.

 

"We are working hard to understand motives ... and whether there might be anyone else involved," said Comey, who spoke in Philadelphia and limited his comments due to the ongoing investigation.

Archer is charged with attempted murder but hasn't entered a plea and is being held without bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 25. A lawyer recently assigned to defend Archer has declined to comment on the case.

 

Authorities say Archer, 30, opened fire on Hartnett's marked cruiser, firing more than a dozen shots at point-blank range. After being hit three times in the arm, Hartnett was able to get out of the car, return fire and hit Archer in the buttocks. Archer was apprehended about a block away, according to police.

 

Hartnett, 33, remains hospitalized and will require multiple surgeries for his injuries. Police Commissioner Richard Ross said Hartnett's arm is "basically destroyed" from the shooting. Comey visited briefly with the officer during his visit.

 

Hours after the ambush, police said Archer told authorities he believed the police department defends laws that are contrary to the teachings of the Quran. His mother told The Philadelphia Inquirer he had been hearing voices. Comey declined to comment on Archer's mental state.

 

Archer's remarks to police triggered the FBI's probe into the shooting as potential terrorism.

 

Comey said the Islamic State group has "for many months now, been trying to motivate people to kill police officers and military service members."

 

Local and federal investigators are investigating Archer's possible outside ties to terrorism, including whether and how he may have been radicalized. The FBI believes Archer traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2011 and to Egypt in 2012 and is probing the purpose of those trips.

 

Comey declined to say whether Archer had been radicalized.

 

Imam Asim Abdur Rashid of the Masjid Mujahideen told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Archer was a frequent member at the mosque and traveled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj.

 

Philadelphia police also are investigating a tip received last week from a woman claiming Archer "had an affiliation to a group with radical beliefs."

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JACKPOT! Winning Powerball Tickets Sold in Multiple States

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- An eye-popping and unprecedented Powerball jackpot whose rise to $1.6 billion became a national fascination will be split three ways.

 

The winners' identities remain a mystery, but they bought their tickets in Florida, Tennessee and a Los Angeles suburb where even lottery losers were celebrating Thursday that such heady riches were won in their modest city.

 

The winners of the world-record jackpot overcame odds of 1 in 292.2 million to land on the numbers drawn Wednesday night, 4-8-19-27-34 and Powerball 10. They can take the winnings in annual payments spread over decades or a smaller amount in a lump sum.

 

The California ticket was sold at a 7-Eleven in Chino Hills, California, lottery spokesman Alex Traverso told The Associated Press. The winning ticket in Tennessee was sold in Munford, north of Memphis, according to a news release from lottery officials in that state. The winning Florida ticket was sold at a Publix grocery store in Melbourne Beach.

 

The California store and its surrounding strip mall immediately became a popular gathering spot in the usually quiet suburb of 75,000 people. Hundreds of people, from news crews to gawkers, crowded the store and spilled into its parking lot.

 

They cheered and mugged for TV cameras as if it were New Year's Eve or a sporting event. Many chanted, "Chino Hills! Chino Hills!" in celebration of the city.

"It's history. We're all so excited for our city," Rita Talwar, 52, who has lived in Chino Hills for 30 years, told the local newspaper, the San Bernardino Sun.

 

Some took selfies with the store clerk on duty, who became an instant celebrity and may well have been the man who sold the ticket after being on duty for much of the run-up to Wednesday night's drawing.

 

"I'm very proud that the ticket was sold here," the clerk, M. Faroqui, told the Sun. "I'm very happy. This is very exciting."

 

The 7-Eleven will get a $1 million bonus for selling the winning ticket, Traverso said.

 

No details were immediately available about the Florida winner.

 

The estimated jackpot amounts had risen steadily since Nov. 4, when it was reset at $40 million. Texas Lottery executive director Gary Grief has said this Powerball offered "absolutely" the world's biggest jackpot.

 

Not that there aren't large jackpots elsewhere. Spain's massively popular Christmas lottery, known as "El Gordo," is ranked as the world's richest, though it doles out a single jackpot among millions of prizes, instead of one large jackpot like the Powerball. El Gordo last month showered 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) across the country.

 

Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

 

But residents in the six states that don't participate found ways to get their hands on tickets. Some of the biggest Powerball sales have come from cities bordering states that don't sell the tickets, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. The association oversees the Powerball Lottery, but management rotates annually among member states.

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No Charges for Man Who Killed Son He Mistook for Intruder

CINCINNATI (AP) -- No charges will be filed against a man who fatally shot his 14-year-old son after mistaking him for an intruder.

 

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters said Wednesday that the man, 72, won't be charged in the Tuesday morning shooting in the basement of the Cincinnati-area home.

 

The man had watched his son, Georta Mack, walk to the school bus and the boy later called his father to say he was on the bus, Deters said in his statement.

The man later heard a noise in the basement and got his .45 caliber handgun before investigating, according to the prosecutor. The father told authorities that when he opened a closet door, Georta jumped out and yelled, "Boo!"

 

The startled man, whose name wasn't released, fired a shot that hit the boy in the neck.

 

"He scared me!" the distraught father said in his 911 call. "I thought he was in school. I heard noise, so I went downstairs looking and he jumped out at me. .... Oh, God. Get here quick!"

 

Police said the teen had headed to the bus stop but apparently decided he wasn't going to school and came back home through a back door.

 

Deters said all the forensic evidence matched the father's account of what happened and no charges were appropriate.

 

"There is only one word for this - tragedy," Deters said. "It is impossible to imagine how horrible this father must feel for mistaking his son for an intruder."

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In Record Powerball Game, a Look at Winners and Losers

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- When the largest-ever lottery prize is finally awarded, the winners and losers will extend well beyond the lucky few who hit the jackpot and the multitudes of disappointed ticket buyers. Here's a breakdown of how Powerball affects the players, the public and others.

 

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WINNER: GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS

The biggest Powerball winner is actually state government in the jurisdictions that participate. That's 44 states as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

 

Each jurisdiction spends the money raised through the lottery differently, with the rules determined by state Legislatures. In some states, the money goes directly to education or college scholarships. Elsewhere, it might fund transportation. Some states send it to their general fund, where lawmakers decide how to use it.

 

The money raised by a state depends on ticket sales, with larger-population states usually generating more money.

 

In fiscal year 2015, for example, Powerball and other lottery games generated $74.5 million for Iowa's general fund. In California, the nation's most populous state, the games raised about $1.3 billion for education in the 2014 fiscal year.

 

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WINNER: CONVENIENCE STORE OWNERS

 

Owners of convenience stores and other ticket-selling locations earn a small percentage of each sale, but more important, people often buy something extra when they stop for Powerball tickets.

 

The Kum & Go chain, which has 430 gas stations and convenience stores in 11 mostly Midwestern states, has seen a significant increase in sales from the Powerball rush, though spokeswoman Kristie Bell declined to give specific figures.

 

At the tiny Marketplace shop in downtown Des Moines, owner Anastasia Walsh said her overall sales have been up about 10 percent in recent weeks because of all the Powerball sales.

 

"I couldn't do anything else. I couldn't even eat," Walsh said. "I couldn't even sit down because I'm constantly standing up. I mean there's people lined up. It's crazy."

 

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WINNER: THE WINNERS OF SMALLER PRIZES

 

Lottery officials often note that while the jackpot gets all the attention, far more players get a nice consolation prize of $1 million for matching the five white balls but missing the Powerball. And if they pay an extra dollar when they buy their ticket, that prize can double to $2 million.

 

In last Saturday's drawing, 25 people matched the five numbers and won $1 million, and three players paid the extra buck and won $2 million. Players also receive much smaller prizes for matching as few as three numbers or just the Powerball.

 

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WINNER: THE ACTUAL WINNNERS

 

There hasn't been a winner since early November, and that's why the jackpot has grown so large, from an initial $40 million to $1.5 billion.

 

As more people play Powerball, the chances for a winner improve, simply because more of the 292.2 million possible number combinations are covered. The chances also grow that more than one person will match the five white balls and one red Powerball, meaning the prize could be divvied up between two or more winners.

 

A single winner could choose between an annuity paying $1.5 billion over 30 years or a lump sum of $930 million. Those figures are before federal and state taxes, which generally eat up close to half of the money.

 

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LOSER: PROBLEM GAMBLERS

 

In the past week, calls to the Washington-based National Council on Problem Gambling's help line have soared, largely because of interest in the Powerball jackpot, Executive Director Keith Whyte said.

 

The council suddenly has so much attention that its website crashed earlier in the week from all the extra traffic.

 

Whyte said the surge in interest in Powerball is especially difficult on people who have managed to stop gambling but now find their friends and co-workers talking about the big prize.

 

"It does glamorize it," he said. "It seems like everyone is doing it and if not, what's wrong with you?"

 

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LOSER: STATISTICIANS

 

Pity those who study statistics and other forms of math, as so many people across the country dream of a prize against all odds.

 

The odds of 1 in 292.2 million are even worse than the 1 in 175 million odds that were in place until last fall, when the Powerball system was changed to build bigger jackpots.

 

"The odds are so large," said Scott A. Norris, an assistant professor of mathematics at Southern Methodist University, "that people don't have any sense of what they mean."

 

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High Court Raises Doubts Over Puerto Rico Sovereignty

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday raised doubts about whether Puerto Rico should be treated as a sovereign state with powers that go beyond its status as a territory of the United States.

The justices considered the question during arguments in a criminal case involving two men who claim that Puerto Rico and the federal government can't prosecute them for the same charges of selling weapons without a permit.

 

The double jeopardy principal prevents defendants from being tried twice for the same offense. But there is an exception that allows prosecution under similar state and federal laws, since states are considered separate sovereigns.

 

Several justices said Puerto Rico's power to enforce local laws really comes from Congress, which in theory could take it away.

 

The case has broad political and legal implications that could affect Puerto Rico on issues ranging from taxation and bankruptcy to federal benefits. It comes as the high court prepares to hear a separate dispute later this year over whether the financially struggling Puerto Rican government can give its municipalities the power to declare bankruptcy.

 

The Caribbean island of 3.5 million people is a U.S. territory acquired in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. But it gained a measure of autonomy in 1952, when it adopted its own constitution with the approval of Congress and was allowed to pass its own local laws.

 

Justice Elena Kagan said that history means the ultimate source of the island's legal power is Congress.

"If Congress is in the driver's seat, why isn't Congress the sole source of authority?" she asked Christopher Landau, the lawyer representing Puerto Rico.

 

Landau said that under Puerto Rico's constitution "the political power of the commonwealth emanates from the people." He said Congress had essentially relinquished control over Puerto Rico's internal affairs when it allowed the island to create its own laws and government.

 

But Justice Antonin Scalia said that doesn't mean Congress couldn't change the law.

 

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the daughter of Puerto Rico-born parents, seemed sympathetic to the argument that Congress meant to confer sovereignty when it approved the island's constitution - even if Puerto Rico is not quite equivalent to a state.

 

"Before 1952, Congress could veto Puerto Rico's laws," Sotomayor said. "It has relinquished that right."

The case involves Luis Sanchez Valle and James Gomez Vazquez, who pleaded guilty in federal court to selling illegal firearms. When Puerto Rican officials later charged them under local laws, they moved to dismiss the charges on double jeopardy grounds.

 

The Puerto Rico Supreme Court ultimately sided with the men, ruling that the island is not a separate sovereign.

 

Arguing for Valle and Vazquez, lawyer Adam Unikowski said the issue is simple: "States are sovereign, territories are not."

 

Some justices appeared to search for a middle ground. Justice Stephen Breyer said an opinion saying Puerto Rico is sovereign would have "enormous implications." But he suggested the court could find that the island has some aspects of sovereignty that would apply more narrowly to double jeopardy.

 

"There are different kinds of territories," Breyer said.

The Obama administration has angered Puerto Rican officials by insisting that the island remains a territory subject to the control of Congress.

 

Justice Department lawyer Nicole Saharsky told the justices that Congress has allowed "increasing self-government" in Puerto Rico and there is no reason to think lawmakers change that. But she said Congress could revise the arrangement because the island remains a territory.

 

"Congress is the one who makes the rules," Saharsky said

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Powerball Jackpot Remains at $1.5 Billion

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A lottery official says the estimated Powerball jackpot remains at $1.5 billion, still the largest lottery jackpot in the world.

 

Kelly Cripe of the Texas Lottery says 85.8 percent of possible number combinations have been selected ahead of the drawing scheduled for Wednesday evening.

 

The odds of matching all six numbers to win the jackpot are 1 in 292.2 million.

 

The $1.5 billion prize would be paid in annual payments over 29 years or the winner could opt for a lump-sum payment of $930 million.

 

Cripe says if no one wins the jackpot Wednesday, the estimated jackpot for Saturday's drawing will increase to $2 billion, with a cash value of $1.24 billion.

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Michigan National Guard, FEMA Help Flint Amid Water Crisis

FLINT, Mich. (AP) -- Members of the Michigan National Guard began arriving in Flint on Wednesday for briefings on the drinking water crisis ahead of a larger contingent of Guardsmen who will help distribute bottled water, filters and other supplies to residents.

 

Gov. Rick Snyder had activated the National Guard late Tuesday, and Lt. Col. William Humes confirmed about a half-dozen representatives arrived Wednesday morning.

 

Flint's tap water became contaminated with too much lead after the city switched its water supply in 2014 to save money while under state financial management. Local officials first declared a public health emergency in October in response to tests that showed children with elevated levels of lead.

 

On Tuesday, Snyder also requested support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in coordinating a recovery plan with other federal agencies that have the programs, authorities or technical expertise to help. FEMA appointed a disaster recovery coordinator to assist, spokesman Rafael Lemaitre said.

 

About 30 Guardsmen will be in place by Friday, enabling American Red Cross volunteers to join the door-to-door efforts that began Tuesday instead of staffing sites where residents can pick up free bottled water, filters, replacement cartridges and home water testing kits.

 

Genesee County sheriff's Capt. Casey Tafoya said volunteers and police hoped to get to 500 to 600 houses a day in a city of about 99,000 residents with an estimated 30,000 households.

 

State troopers and sheriff's deputies escorted eight teams as they trudged through cold temperatures and 3 inches of snow, with more falling. Flyers were left at homes where no one answered, giving the location of where to pick up the items later.

 

"We plan to go every day this week, and we'll continue until everyone has safe drinking water," state police Lt. Dave Kaiser said.

 

Flint police meanwhile warned people to be wary of scammers. Chief James Tolbert said his department has received reports of people selling water filters even though filters are being distributed for free.

 

"It is unconscionable that some residents would try to take advantage of others coping with this water situation," Tolbert said.

 

For more than a year, water drawn from the Flint River leached lead from old lines into homes after the city switched its drinking water. Exposure to lead can cause behavior problems and learning disabilities in children.

 

Flint has since returned to Detroit's system for its water, but officials remain concerned that damage to the pipes caused by the Flint River means that lead could continue to impair supply. They also want to ensure monitoring protocols are properly followed.

The state auditor general and a task force created by Snyder have faulted the Department of Environmental Quality for not requiring Flint to treat the river water for corrosion and belittling the public's fears. The agency's director stepped down last month.

 

The task force also raised concerns about a lack of organization in responding to the disaster.

 

Snyder, who has also faced criticism, said Monday that the water situation is a "crisis" and last week declared an emergency.

 

The Republican said that since October, more than 12,000 filters have been distributed, more than 2,000 blood tests have been done - uncovering 43 cases of elevated lead levels - and more than 700 water tests have been conducted.

 

"I trust the good men and women of the National Guard will jumpstart the Snyder administration's lackluster response to this public health crisis," Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said in a statement. "Sadly, myself and many leaders of my community have advocated for this type of response for months."

 

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat who represents the Flint area, said: "It is the state's ultimate responsibility to act and make it right. Flint residents are the victims in this crisis and they deserve a more urgent response equal to the gravity of this crisis."

 

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Eggert reported from Lansing, Michigan.

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Pentagon: 2 US Navy Boats Held by Iran but Will be Returned

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two small boats that drifted into Iranian waters after experiencing mechanical problems. Iran accused the sailors of trespassing but American officials said Tehran has assured them that the crew and vessels would be returned safely and promptly.

 

The sailors, nine men and one woman, were being held overnight at an Iranian base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf, and were expected to be transferred to a U.S. ship in the region on Wednesday morning local time. Officials said they believe the U.S. had spoken to one of the crew, and all 10 were fine and uninjured.

 

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told The Associated Press that the Riverine boats were moving between Kuwait and Bahrain when the U.S. lost contact with them.

 

U.S. officials said that the incident happened near Farsi Island in the middle of the Gulf. They said some type of mechanical trouble with one of the boats caused them to drift into Iranian territorial waters near the island, and they were picked up by Iran.

 

The semi-official Iranian news agency, FARS, said the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's navy has detained 10 foreign forces, believed to be Americans, and said the sailors were trespassing in Iranian waters.

 

"We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and the vessels will be returned promptly," Cook said.

 

The incident came amid heightened tensions with Iran, and only hours before President Barack Obama was set to deliver his final State of the Union address to Congress and the public. It set off a dramatic series of calls and meetings as U.S. officials tried to determine the exact status of the crew and reach out to Iranian leaders.

 

Secretary of State John Kerry, who forged a personal relationship with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif through three years of nuclear negotiations, called Zarif immediately on learning of the incident, according to a senior U.S. official. Kerry "personally engaged with Zarif on this issue to try to get to this outcome," the official said.

 

Kerry learned of the incident around 12:30 p.m. EST as he and Defense Secretary Ash Carter were meeting their Filipino counterparts at the State Department, the official said.

 

Officials said the sailors were part of Riverine Squadron 1 based in San Diego and were deployed to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain. When the U.S. lost contact with the boats, ships attached to the USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier strike group began searching the area, along with aircraft flying off the Truman.

Officials said a radio signal from one of the boats showed that they were on Farsi Island, setting off efforts to contact the Iranians. The Riverine boats were not part of the carrier strike group, and were on a training mission as they traveled between Kuwait and Bahrain, officials said.

 

The Riverine boats are not considered high-tech and don't contain any sensitive equipment, so there were no concerns about the Iranians gaining access to the crafts.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the sensitive incident publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

 

Republican lawmakers seized on the incident as further evidence that Iran is not to be trusted. The House was scheduled to vote Wednesday on GOP-backed legislation that would give Congress greater oversight of the landmark Iran nuclear agreement, which Republicans have derided as a victory for Tehran.

 

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said it was "unthinkable that the administration would lift sanctions and permit Iran to receive billions of dollars in sanctions relief under the nuclear agreement, even as the regime brazenly violates its international obligations and rushes to develop the ballistic missile capability to deliver a potential nuclear weapon to the United States."

The incident came on the heels of an incident in late December when Iran launched a rocket test near U.S. warships and boats passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

 

Meanwhile, Iran was expected to satisfy the terms of last summer's nuclear deal in just days. Once the U.N. nuclear agency confirms Iran's actions to roll back its program, the United States and other Western powers are obliged to suspend wide-ranging oil, trade and financial sanctions on Tehran. Kerry recently said the deal's implementation was "days away."

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I-70, I-74 Near Ohio Line Reopening After Pileups

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana State Police say two interstate highways near the Ohio border are reopening after being closed for multi-vehicle pileups.
 
Police say westbound lanes of Interstate 70 near Richmond have reopened after being closed for 7 1/2 hours for a crash involving nine semitrailers and four passenger vehicles.
 
Police also say eastbound lanes of I-74 about 20 miles west of Cincinnati, Ohio, have reopened following two crashes in westbound lanes that collected about 40 vehicles. They say I-74 westbound lanes would reopen after highway crews spread salt and repaired damage to the roadway.
 
The I-74 and I-70 crashes occurred about 11 a.m. EST amid snow squalls fueled by winds gusting up to 40 mph.

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Powerball Jackpot Increases Again to $1.5B on Strong Sales

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The world's largest lottery jackpot has grown to $1.5 billion because of continuing strong Powerball ticket sales.
 
Lottery officials increased their estimate of the huge jackpot for the second day in a row Tuesday because of immense interest in the prize.
 
The record-breaking Powerball jackpot could grow yet more before Wednesday's drawing if ticket sales continue to exceed expectations. Officials reassess the estimate daily.
 
The odds of matching all six numbers to win the jackpot are one in 292.2 million. 
 
The $1.5 billion prize would be paid in annual payments over 29 years. Or the winner could opt for a lump-sum payment of $930 million.
 

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Ohio House Explosion With 3 Dead, 1 Missing

AP - Three people are dead and a child remains unaccounted for after a house explosion shook a northeast Ohio neighborhood, fire officials said.
 
(Photo: WKYC-TV)
(Photo: WKYC-TV)
 
The blast and subsequent fire happened Monday night in Northfield Center Township in Summit County.
 
Firefighters arrived on the scene and saw flames shooting from the house.
 
Fire Chief Frank Risko said the bodies of a man, a woman and a young girl were found on the first floor of the home. The family's other daughter remained missing early Tuesday. Authorities did not immediately identify the victims.
 
Neighbors reported hearing the blast around 8:30 p.m.
 
Randy Nickschinski lives two doors down. He told Cleveland.com that he and his son, Nate, rushed to the house and kicked in the front door. The family's dog quickly escaped. Then he, his son and another neighbor went inside and yelled for the family, but no one answered.
 
"There was a lot of fire, a lot of debris," Nickschinski said. "We were yelling and nothing. We were just looking everywhere."
 
Nickschinski's daughter, Danielle, told the website that she had done babysitting for the family's two young girls.
 
"They were very outgoing and nice," she said. "They always wanted to play."
 
The cause of the explosion remained under investigation.

 

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Feds Charge 2nd Suspect in String of Jewelry Store Robberies

ATLANTA (AP) -- The FBI zeroed in on a woman suspected in jewelry store robberies across the South after analyzing records from cellphone towers near the robberies, then checking social media and hearing from suspicious friends, newly filed court records reveal.

 

Robbery

 

Abigail Lee Kemp, 24, wept softly as she was led from a federal courtroom in Atlanta after her first appearance before a judge Monday afternoon. Kemp, wearing a casual sweatshirt and pants and ankle restraints, said little during the hearing. U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Walker set another hearing for Thursday to decide the conditions of Kemp's detention and appointed federal public defender Rebecca Shepard to represent her. Shepard declined to comment after the hearing.

 

Kemp was arrested Friday in an apartment in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna, the FBI said. Kemp told agents a man who was with her at the time of her arrest, 35-year-old Lewis Jones III, also was involved in the robberies, according to a sworn statement from an FBI agent filed in federal court Monday.

 

Two separate criminal complaints filed in the northern district of Florida charge Kemp and Jones with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats or violence. They are accused of conspiring to rob six jewelry stores in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

 

An FBI statement says Jones is in custody in greater Atlanta's DeKalb County on charges related to an August 2014 bank robbery there. The FBI says Jones is also a suspect in a September 2014 bank robbery in Smyrna. Federal court records do not indicate whether Jones has a lawyer.

 

Kemp told agents that in the beginning she would go into a jewelry store with an open cellphone line so Jones, whom she called "Lou," could hear her interaction with store employees, the FBI agent's statement says. Jones then came into the store, tied employees up and removed merchandise from the store's case, Kemp told agents.

 

In later robberies, Kemp told agents Jones would remain outside the stores as a lookout while she went inside and the two would communicate by cellphone, the agent's statement says.

 

Kemp told agents Jones was on the phone with her during all the robberies in which she went inside alone.

A key break in the case came from one phone number with a north Georgia area code, court records show. An analysis of cell tower data found that the number showed up at or near jewelry stories in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina while the businesses were being robbed, authorities said.

 

Court records detail how authorities then used the phone number to identify Kemp as a suspect, and found a photo of a maroon Honda Civic on her social media accounts that matched the description of one seen in surveillance video.

 

The FBI also released images from surveillance video from the robberies, which led Kemp's friends to contact authorities, court records show. The images showed a female dressed in a jogging suit in one robbery and wearing a black cowboy hat in another.

 

"Within hours of issuing a press release this week requesting assistance in identifying the suspects, the FBI Jacksonville Division began to receive numerous credible leads from the public," the FBI said in a news release.

 

"Some citizens further advised that during recent contacts with Kemp, she was wearing expensive jewelry that some of the callers believe she cannot afford," an agent's sworn statement says. "Some citizens also advised that Kemp possesses a black handgun and recently had her car painted black."

 

Her arrest comes amid an investigation of jewelry store robberies last year in Sevierville, Tennessee; Bluffton, South Carolina; Panama City Beach, Florida; and Dawsonville and Woodstock in Georgia, FBI spokeswoman Amanda Warford Videll confirmed to The Associated Press via email.

 

The latest robbery occurred recently in Mebane, North Carolina, Videll said.

 

The jewelry store holdups in Tennessee and North Carolina each netted more than $900,000, and a total of at least $2.2 million was taken in the string of crimes, court records show.

 

The female suspect seen in surveillance video from several of the robberies was armed with a handgun, ordered store employees into a back room, made them lie face-down and zip-tied their hands, court records state.

 

In at least one of the robberies, in Panama City Beach, a male accomplice is seen on video removing the front door stop and letting the front door close while he remained outside of the store. The female suspect then removed about $400,000 in jewelry from the display cases, the sworn statement says.

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Trial of Freddie Gray Van Driver Delayed by Appeals Court

BALTIMORE (AP) -- A Maryland appeals court postponed the trial of a police van driver charged with second-degree murder in the death of Freddie Gray, saying it needs to address whether another Baltimore officer should be compelled to testify against Caesar Goodson.

 

Jury selection for Goodson's trial was supposed to start Monday. Prosecutors have indicated that testimony from Officer William Porter, whose trial ended in a hung jury last month, is crucial to their case against Goodson.

 

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams, who is overseeing the trial, ruled last week that Porter must testify against Goodson despite Porter's assertion that he has a right not to incriminate himself.

 

Porter's trial is postponed indefinitely, pending further proceedings, including more written filings from both sides, followed by oral arguments before the Court of Special Appeals, Maryland courts spokeswoman Terri Charles said.

 

Gray died in April, a week after his neck was broken during a van ride. Goodson was with Gray for every second of his 45-minute trip from the site of his arrest to the Western District police station, where Gray arrived critically injured and unresponsive.

 

The trial could provide the public with its first chance to hear Goodson's side of the story. He has not spoken with investigators or made any public comments.

He faces the most serious charge of the six officers charged - second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. To be convicted, prosecutors must prove Goodson was so callous in his disregard for Gray's life that he deliberately allowed him to die.

 

Since Porter's case ended in a mistrial, the stakes for Goodson's trial have grown in a city still on edge from the rioting and unrest in April.

 

Porter's lawyers say he risks going to jail for contempt if he refuses an order to testify, but if he does testify, he could be charged with perjury if he makes any statements that differ from what he said or will say in his own defense.

 

Prosecutors say Porter has immunity at Goodson's trial and they can't use his statements against him later. But defense attorney Gary Proctor wrote in court documents: "The bell cannot be unrung."

 

The judge himself acknowledged that he was entering "uncharted territory" before issuing his ruling last week.

 

His order is unprecedented in Maryland and could have tremendous implications for future cases with multiple defendants.

 

Criminal defense attorney Clarke Ahlers, a former Maryland police officer who is not involved in the Gray case, said if the appellate courts decide Porter doesn't have to testify, prosecutors could try to gain Porter's cooperation by offering him complete immunity. Or they could ask to re-try Porter first, or proceed without Porter's testimony.

 

"I think there is some chance that the state may have to choose between prosecuting Porter and prosecuting Goodson," he said.

 

Ahlers said the Court of Special Appeals could rule within 10 days, but either side could seek an opinion from the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, further delaying Goodson's trial.

 

Gray's death exposed the deep divide between the public and the police in Baltimore, and became a national symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Prosecutors say the officers should be held accountable for Gray's fatal injuries because they left him handcuffed and shackled at the legs but unbuckled by a seatbelt, making him vulnerable to injury inside the metal compartment. Neither did they call an ambulance when he indicated he needed medical attention. Goodson, they say, bears the most responsibility because he drove the van, so Gray was technically in his custody.

 

Prosecutors have revealed little about their case against Goodson, but their witness list includes a former police officer who can describe "retaliatory prisoner transport practices," suggesting they intend to raise the possibility that Gray was given a "rough ride" in the van.

 

Defense attorneys and prosecutors can't comment because they are under a gag order.

Some experts say the case is particularly complicated given the murky circumstances of Gray's death: nobody knows exactly how or when the man's neck was broken. And the state could face an uphill battle without Porter's testimony.

 

"There are just huge hurdles to being able to prove this case," said David Jaros, an associate professor at University of Baltimore School of Law. "They need Porter's testimony to prosecute Goodson, and it wouldn't surprise me if early on in the process they offer Porter a deal to testify."

 

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For Some Theater Shooting Jurors, Trial Began After Verdict

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) -- For nearly 14 weeks, they sat in a suburban Denver jury box, listening for hours as witnesses described the searing pain of gunshot wounds and the terror they felt as they fled the movie theater, the gunman still firing at them.

 

They sat feet from a poster-sized photo of a 6-year-old girl's bullet-ravaged body. They held the murder weapons. And when the jurors announced they couldn't agree James Holmes should die for his crimes, they heard the cries of his anguished victims.

 

Four months later, they are still haunted - their struggles showing how the scars of a mass shooting can stretch from the victims, to the first responders and even to the jurors who must decide what to do with the perpetrator.

 

One juror cut her hair, fearing she'd be recognized by a victim she saw at a grocery store. Another can no longer hunt with her husband, worried the sound of a gunshot will trigger her post-traumatic stress disorder. Another can't sleep without nightmares.

 

Some started seeing therapists as they work through the shame they feel for the flashbacks and anxiety they suffer despite never having set foot inside the theater in July 2012, when 12 were killed and scores of others injured.

 

"I wasn't actually in that theater, but I listened to and felt the experiences of everyone who was, from every angle," said a 36-year-old marketer who is still so worried she wanted only to be known by her juror number: 1009. "I felt their sorrow and their sadness.

"And when I left the courtroom," she said, "I took it all with me."

 

The names of all the jurors - the 12 who deliberated and 12 alternates - were sealed throughout the trial and remain confidential by court order. Three of them spoke to the Associated Press about their post-trial struggles on condition that only their first names be used, citing concerns for their safety and privacy. The fourth, the marketer, asked to not be identified by name.

 

To cope, the four send each other uplifting text messages, gather for dinners at quiet restaurants and connect during phone calls that sometimes end in sobs. They're also raising money to help pay for a victims' memorial. They briefly dared the spotlight to promote their charitable work.

 

It's unclear how the other jurors are faring. Several reached by AP in the weeks after the verdict wouldn't comment about their experiences, but prosecutors have indicated some of them are still suffering.

 

Studies show that, especially in death penalty trials and those with multiple killings, jurors can experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, anxiety and insomnia, sometimes for months after they leave the courtroom.

 

"It's the horrific amount of violence that was done and loss of life that's very distressing to see up close, which you have to do to evaluate a case like this," said Valerie Hans, a Cornell Law School professor who has studied juries.

 

Hans applauded the jurors for forming a support group, saying they are the only ones who can fully understand the experience.

 

Prosecutors invited all the jurors to come talk to them after the trial, but just a few did.

 

"They were visibly shaken from what they had learned," prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire said. "Some of them told us they were nervous to talk to us, others thought it was so relieving to be able to talk to people whom they sat so close to in the courtroom."

 

Prosecutors angling for the death penalty relied heavily on victims' vivid and graphic recollections of the carnage Holmes inflicted inside the darkened theater and its continued impact on their lives.

 

Defense attorneys were more clinical and less emotional as they tried to convince jurors Holmes was insane.

 

In the end, prosecutors and jurors said, a single juror blocked Holmes' execution, believing his mental illness meant he should get the mercy of a life sentence. Since the jury was unable to unanimously agree on a death sentence, a judge sentenced Holmes to life in prison without parole.

 

That led to jurors becoming targets of vitriol on talk radio, social media and from frustrated victims, at least one of whom suggested there was a plant among them to ensure Holmes survived.

 

"There's a lot of people who blame us, and that's just a really hard burden to bear," said Mona, who favored execution.

 

Mona deliberated, the other three were alternates. Like the 12 main jurors, those three were forced to digest thousands of crime scene photos, coroners' reports and 911 calls. But they didn't get the chance to vote on Holmes' fate.

 

"We're not victims, but the impact on us has been tremendous. We're looking for a little bit of peace, too," said Jessica, a 30-year-old high school teacher who, like the others, began seeing a therapist after the trial.

 

A recent lockdown drill at school made her unusually nervous about whether she would be able to protect her students if a real gunman roamed the halls. "And movie theaters?" she said. "That's out of the question."

When she went to see a movie during the trial, she just stared at the floor and cried.

 

One of Mona's most tormenting flashbacks is that of the face of Ashley Moser when the verdict was read. Moser, a 28-year-old mother who was paralyzed, suffered a miscarriage and whose 6-year-old daughter Veronica was killed in the attack, shook her head and then slowly leaned it against the wheelchair of another paralyzed victim.

 

Mona can't shake that image, especially when her new sleeping pills don't work. She worries that jurors let the victims down by blocking death for the man who caused such profound and lingering harm and wonders if they should have deliberated longer.

Her temper is shorter and she is more anxious now. She is so fearful of large crowds that she missed her 16-year-old son's playoff football game.

 

The theater attack has been eclipsed already by so many other acts of mass violence. Even if it feels like the rest of the world has moved on since Holmes' August sentencing, the jurors want people to remember what happened.

 

They are raising money to add artwork to a memorial outside Aurora's city hall. In doing that, they've connected with others tied to the attack - a handful of the victims they had only known from the day-to-day sight of their solemn faces in the courtroom gallery.

At one joint interview with a local radio station about the memorial, Jessica broke down crying. She was embraced by Megan Sullivan, whose 27-year-old brother, Alex, was killed in the attack.

 

Those connections have been a relief for the jurors: "Just to know that they don't hate us," Mona said.

Heather Dearman, Moser's cousin, briefly met the jurors through fundraising and expects to keep in touch with them for years.

 

"For them, it's a fresh wound," Dearman said. "I can see that they are in their grief process, at a different place than I am. I just wanted to put my arms around them and hug them and tell them that everything is going to be OK."

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Some Key Numbers About the Giant Powerball Drawing

AP - Enthusiastic ticket-buyers pushed the record Powerball jackpot to $949.8 million for Saturday night's drawing, but no ticket matched all six numbers, boosting the expected payout for Wednesday's drawing to a whopping $1.3 billion.

 

Here's a rundown of some key figures - though not the winning numbers - connected to the drawing:

 

JACKPOT

Wednesday's drawing will be worth $1.3 billion, the largest in the world, said Texas Lottery official Kelly Cripe.

 

ODDS OF WINNING

To put it gently, not good. The odds of any Powerball jackpot are one in 292.2 million. A ray of hope: Scott A. Norris, an assistant professor of mathematics at Southern Methodist University, says your tiny odds improve a bit if you let the computer pick your numbers rather than choosing yourself.

 

POSSIBLE NUMBER COMBINATIONS

There are 292.2 million possible combinations of the five white balls and red Powerball. That's where the odds come from, and they stay the same regardless of how big the jackpot grows or how many people buy tickets.

 

LUMP SUM VS. LIFETIME PAYOUT

Once you beat the astronomical odds and win, you'll get to choose between being paid $1.3 billion through annual payments over 29 years or one $806 million cash payment. Those figures are before federal and state taxes, which will eat up roughly half of the cash-option prize. Your best bet? Take the annuity to avoid the risk of overspending or an investment mishap, according to Olivia S. Mitchell, a professor of insurance and risk management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

 

STATES WHERE THE GAME IS PLAYED

Powerball is played in 44 states as well as the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

 

BUYING TICKETS

A regular ticket costs $2 - about the same as a gallon of gas.

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No POWERBALL Winner, So Jackpot May Grow to $1.3 Billion

No ticket matched all six Powerball numbers following the drawing for a record jackpot of nearly $950 million, lottery officials said early Sunday, boosting the expected payout for the next drawing to a whopping $1.3 billion.

 

PowerBall

 

The winning numbers - disclosed live on television and online Saturday night - were 16-19-32-34-57 and the Powerball number 13. All six numbers must be correct to win, although the first five can be in any order. The odds to win the largest lottery prize in U.S. history were one in 292.2 million.

 

Officials with the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the Powerball game, said they expected about 75 percent of the possible number combinations would have been bought for Saturday night's drawing.

 

Since Nov. 4, the Powerball jackpot has grown from its $40 million starting point as no one has won the jackpot. Such a huge jackpot was just what officials with the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the Powerball game, hoped for last fall when they changed the odds of matching all the Powerball numbers, from about one in 175 million to one in 292.2 million. By making it harder to win a jackpot, the tougher odds made the ever-larger prizes inevitable.

 

The U.S. saw sales of $277 million on Friday alone and more than $400 million were expected Saturday, according to Gary Grief, the executive director of the Texas Lottery.

 

The record jackpot lured an unprecedented frenzy of purchases. Anndrea Smith, 30, said Saturday that she already had spent more than she usually does on Powerball tickets.

 

"I bought four yesterday, and I usually never buy any," said Smith, manager of Bucky's gas station and convenience store in Omaha, Nebraska. She's not alone, saying the store sold "about $5,000 worth of tickets yesterday. Usually on a Friday, we might sell $1,200 worth."

 

Powerball is played in 44 states as well as the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The next Powerball drawing is Wednesday.

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Sales Grow as Powerball Jackpot Soars to $900 Million

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Lottery fans, take heart. Officials say the odds are growing that someone will win the $900 million Powerball jackpot, which grew by $100 million just hours before Saturday night's drawing.

 

If no one matches all the numbers, the next drawing is expected to soar to $1.3 billion, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the Powerball game.

 

The U.S. saw sales of $277 million on Friday alone and more than $400 million are expected Saturday, according to Gary Grief, the executive director of the Texas Lottery.

 

But for all the excitement, Grief urged those hoping to hit it big not to spend more than they can afford on the $2 tickets.

 

"We're very concerned about people playing responsibly and not overspending," he said. "It only takes one ticket to win."

 

Since Nov. 4, the Powerball jackpot has grown from its $40 million starting point as no one has won the jackpot. This kind of huge jackpot was just what lottery officials hoped for last fall when they changed the odds of matching all the Powerball numbers, from about one in 175 million to one in 292.2 million. By making it harder to win a jackpot, the tougher odds made the ever-larger prizes inevitable.

 

The bigger prizes draw more players, who in turn make the jackpots even bigger.

 

Anndrea Smith, 30, of Omaha, Nebraska, has already spent more than she usually does on Powerball tickets.

"I bought four yesterday, and I usually never buy any," said Smith, manager of Bucky's gas station and convenience store in northwest Omaha.

 

She's not alone, saying the store sold "about $5,000 worth of tickets yesterday. Usually on a Friday, we might sell $1,200 worth."

 

If she wins, her first purchase will be "a warm vacation," she said, as the temperature outside the store hovered in the single digits. "I'd share with family, too."

 

The chance of no one hitting all five initial numbers and the Powerball number is growing slimmer, Grief acknowledged.

 

"We anticipate that by the time sales close tonight, around 75 percent of all the combinations will be wagered on," he said.

 

The odds are a matter of statistics and probability, but they're facts that most players may not completely understand, said Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the Alexandria, Virginia-based American Statistical Association.

 

"Once you get numbers that size, it's hard for people to wrap their minds around them," Wasserstein said.

 

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Associated Press writers Scott McFetridge in Des Moines and Margery A. Beck in Omaha, Nebraska, contributed to this report.

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'AFFLUENZA' Teen's Mom Took $30,000 Before Flight

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Law enforcement officials say the mother of a fugitive teen who invoked "affluenza" as a defense in a 2013 fatal drunken-driving accident took $30,000 from a bank account and cut ties with the boy's father before fleeing to Mexico.

 

Tonya Couch and her son Ethan Couch were arrested in Mexico last month after he missed a meeting with his probation officer.

 

The bank withdrawal, and Dec. 3 phone call telling Ethan Couch's father he'd never see them again, were documented in Tonya Couch's arrest warrant released Friday.

 

She is being held in Tarrant County on $1 million bond on a charge of hindering apprehension of a felon.

Ethan Couch remains in custody in Mexico after winning a delay on his deportation back to Texas, where he could face jail time.

 

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Gunman Said He Shot Philadelphia Cop in Islam's Name

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A man using a gun stolen from police said he was acting in the name of Islam when he ambushed an officer sitting in his marked cruiser at an intersection, firing more than a dozen shots at point-blank range, authorities said Friday. The officer and the man were wounded during the barrage of gunfire, they said.

 

The man, 30-year-old Edward Archer, also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group when he was questioned after his arrest in the shooting late Thursday, police said. Archer's mother, Valerie Holliday, told The Philadelphia Inquirer he had been hearing voices recently and had felt targeted by police and the family asked him to get help.

 

Police Commissioner Richard Ross described the attack on Officer Jesse Hartnett, captured on a police surveillance camera, as an attempted assassination.

"He just came out of nowhere and started firing on him," Ross said. "He just started firing with one aim and one aim only, to kill him."

 

Investigators believe Archer traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2011 and to Egypt in 2012, FBI special agent Eric Ruona said, and the purpose of that travel was being investigated by the FBI. But police said there was no indication anyone else was involved in the officer's ambush.

 

Ross said Archer told police he believed the police department defends laws that are contrary to Islam. Though Archer "clearly gave us a motive," Ross said, it's up to police to see what the evidence shows.

 

"It wasn't like laying it out completely, chapter and verse for us," he said. "We're left to say, 'OK, he's leaving a trail for us. Where's it going to lead us, if anywhere?'"

 

Federal agents joined local police in searching two Philadelphia area properties associated with Archer, including the home where his mother lives in suburban Yeadon, authorities said.

 

Capt. James Clark said Archer told investigators: "I follow Allah. I pledge my allegiance to the Islamic State, and that's why I did what I did."

 

Archer's mother described him as a devout Muslim. Jacob Bender, the executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, said he contacted about five inner-city mosques and found no one who knew of Archer. He said the motive for the ambush still appears to be conjecture.

 

"I think the important point is not to lay the blame for this on the entire Islamic community," he said.

The gunman fired at least 13 shots toward Hartnett, getting up next to the car and reaching through the driver's-side window, investigators said.

 

Despite being seriously wounded, Hartnett got out of his car, chased the shooter and returned fire, wounding his attacker in the buttocks, police said. Other officers chased Archer and apprehended him.

 

Hartnett, 33, was shot three times in an arm and will require multiple surgeries; he was listed in stable condition. Archer was treated and released into police custody.

 

Ross called it "absolutely amazing" that Harnett survived.

 

"It's nothing short of miraculous, and we're thankful for that," he said.

 

Last March, Archer pleaded guilty to firearms and assault charges stemming from a 2012 case but was immediately released and placed on probation, court records show. Records also show he was scheduled to be sentenced Monday in suburban Philadelphia in a traffic and forgery case.

 

The attorney who represented him in the firearms case was unavailable to comment Friday because he was in court, his office said. A message for his lawyer in the forgery case was not immediately returned.

 

Surveillance footage of the attack showed the gunman dressed in a white, long-sleeved tunic. When asked if the robe was considered Muslim garb, Ross said he didn't know and didn't think it mattered.

 

The 9mm pistol used by Archer was recovered at the scene of the shooting, police said. It had been stolen from an officer's home in October 2013, investigators said. Officials said they were trying to figure out how Archer got the weapon and whether it passed through other people's hands after the theft.

 

Hartnett was in good spirits, said his father, Robert Hartnett.

 

"He's a tough guy," he said.

 

Hartnett served in the Coast Guard and has been on the Philadelphia force for four years. He always wanted to be a police officer, his father said.

 

When Hartnett called in to report shots fired, he shouted, "I'm bleeding heavily!" into his police radio.

Jim Kenney, in his first week as mayor of the nation's fifth-largest city, called Archer's actions "abhorrent" and "terrible" and said they have nothing to do with the teachings of Islam.

 

"This is a criminal with a stolen gun who tried to kill one of our officers," he said. "It has nothing to do with being a Muslim or following the Islamic faith."

 

In December 2014, a gunman announced online he was planning to shoot two "pigs" in retaliation for the chokehold death of Eric Garner and ambushed two New York police officers in a patrol car, fatally shooting them before running to a subway station and killing himself. Investigators said he had no connection to terrorism.

 

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This story has been corrected to show the officer's first name is spelled Jesse, not Jessie.

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Powerball Soars to $800 Million as States See Strong Sales

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- With Powerball sales breaking previous records, the odds are growing that someone will win Saturday night's $800 million jackpot - but if no one matches all the numbers, the next drawing is expected to soar past $1 billion.

 

CURRENT LOTTERY NUMBERS POSTED HERE

 

For this weekend's record drawing, about 65 percent of the possible number combinations will have been bought, officials with the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the Powerball game, said Friday. That percentage could rise if the jackpot estimate is increased - but even lottery officials say they don't know what to expect.

 

"You can throw out the logic. You can throw out the statistics," said Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas Lottery. "We've never seen jackpots like this. It's a new experience for all of us."

 

Since Nov. 4, the Powerball jackpot has grown from its $40 million starting point as no one has won the jackpot. Grief is more certain what will happen if no one matches the numbers on five white balls and the one red Powerball this time.

 

"It will definitely go past $1 billion if we roll past this Saturday," he said.

 

This kind of huge jackpot was just what lottery officials hoped for last fall when they changed the odds of matching all the Powerball numbers, from about one in 175 million to one in 292.2 million. By making it harder to win a jackpot, the tougher odds made the ever-larger prizes inevitable.

 

The bigger prizes draw more players, who in turn make the jackpots even bigger.

 

So many people were buying Powerball tickets in Iowa that lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer said some stores were running out of paper for tickets, leaving lottery workers scrambling to resupply the outlets.

The odds are a matter of statistics and probability, but they're facts that most players may not completely understand, said Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the Alexandria, Virginia-based American Statistical Association.

 

"Once you get numbers that size, it's hard for people to wrap their minds around them," Wasserstein said.

It's not like players ever had a great shot at winning a jackpot, but by lengthening the odds, he said, "you take odds that were really, really small before, and now they're nearly twice as small as they were before."

 

Players in Lincoln, Nebraska, said they don't expect to win, but most noted that eventually, someone will take home all that money.

 

Gary Diaz of Lincoln said he's bought one or two Powerball tickets every week since a group of his co-workers won a lottery jackpot in 2004.

 

"Ever since then, I go, hell, if it happened once, it's gotta happen again," Diaz said. "It's all by chance."

Bashir Rahman, a chef from Moscow, Idaho, who was traveling through Nebraska, said he decided to buy a couple tickets at a Casey's gas station in Lincoln, but he realizes it's a long, long shot.

 

"You buy more than two, you're just stupid," he said.

Wasserstein said he understands why so many people buy Powerball tickets, calling it a small price for a chance to dream of immense riches. But Wasserstein said he and his colleagues know too well the nearly impossible odds to plunk down even $2 for a ticket.

 

"I can assure you," he said, "there is no office pool for the lottery at the American Statistical Association."

 

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Associated Press writer Anna Gronewold in Lincoln, Nebraska, contributed to this report.

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THE LATEST IN PHILDELPHIA: Suspect's Mother Says He's Been Hearing Voices

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The latest on a Philadelphia police officer shot while sitting in a police cruiser (all times local):

 

1:40 p.m.

Police say the 30-year-old suspect in the shooting of a Philadelphia police officer told investigators that he opened fire in the name of Islam.

 

Police Commissioner Richard Ross says Edward Archer pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. Ross says Archer also told investigators that he believed police defend laws that are contrary to Islam.

 

Archer's mother, Valerie Holliday, told The Philadelphia Inquirer he has been hearing voices recently and that family asked him to get help. She also described him as devout Muslim.

 

The wounded officer has been identified as Officer Jesse Hartnett. He was shot three times in the arm. Hartnett fired back and wounded the suspect.

 

Archer has addresses in Philadelphia and the suburb of Yeadon.

 

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1:15 p.m.

Police say the suspect in the shooting of a Philadelphia police officer told investigators that he shot the officer in the name of Islam and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

 

They also say the man, who has addresses in Philadelphia and the suburb of Yeadon, used a stolen police gun in the crime.

 

Police officials say the gun was reported stolen from an officer's home in October 2013 but they don't know how many hands it passed through before being used in the Thursday night shooting.

 

The wounded officer has been identified as Officer Jesse Hartnett. He was shot three times in the arm. Hartnett fired back and wounded the suspect.

 

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This story has been corrected to show the officer's first name is Jesse, not Jessie, and to show the shooting was Thursday night, not Friday morning.

 

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7:15 a.m.

Philadelphia police have identified the officer who they say was ambushed while sitting in his marked cruiser as Officer Jesse Hartnett.

 

Officer Christine O'Brien of the Philadelphia police says Friday that Hartnett is in stable condition at a hospital, hours after being shot three times in the left arm.

 

Police Commissioner Richard Ross says the officer returned fire late Thursday night and hit the suspect at least three times. O'Brien says the suspect, whose name has not been released, was struck in the buttock.

 

Police say the suspect fired a total of 13 shots that hit the officer and his cruiser.

 

Ross says the shooting was unprovoked. He calls it one of the scariest things he's ever seen.

 

There's no word on the suspect's condition.

A motive for the shooting remains unclear.

 

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This story has been corrected to show the officer's first name is Jesse, not Jessie.

 

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2:15 a.m.

Philadelphia police say an officer is undergoing surgery after he was shot three times in the arm by a man who ambushed him as he sat in his marked police cruiser.

 

Police Commissioner Richard Ross says the officer returned fire late Thursday night, hitting the suspect at least three times.

 

Police say the suspect fired a total of 13 shots that hit the officer and his car.

 

Ross says the shooting was unprovoked. He calls it one of the scariest things he's ever seen.

 

Both were taken to area hospitals. There's no word on the suspect's condition. The officer is expected to survive.

 

A motive for the shooting remains unclear.

 

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'AFFLUENZA' Teen's Mom Complains About Jail Conditions

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- A "woman with means" who was arrested at a Mexican beach resort city with her fugitive teenage son who invoked "affluenza" as a defense after killing four people in a drunken-driving wreck has complained about the conditions of her Texas jail cell, a sheriff said Friday.

 

"She expressed a slight displeasure about her accommodations, and I told her this was a jail and not a resort," Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said at a news conference.

 

Tonya Couch, 48, and her 18-year-old son Ethan Couch, have been the objects of derision since Ethan was sentenced to probation, rather than jail time, for the 2013 wreck. The case drew renewed attention when the mother and son fled to Mexico after a video surfaced that appeared to show Ethan Couch, fresh from a rehabilitation center, at a party where people were drinking. If Couch drank alcohol, he violated the terms of his probation.

 

Tonya Couch made an initial appearance in a Texas courtroom Friday on a charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon. She did not enter a plea because her attorney was not present for the arraignment.

 

Tarrant County Judge Wayne Salvant advised Couch of the charge against her and asked if she understood. The mother, wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit, said she did.

 

Salvant set bond at $1 million and Couch's attorney, Stephanie Patten, filed a motion asking for the bond to be reduced. "We think anything $25,000 or under would be fair," Patten told reporters.

 

Anderson said he opposed a bond reduction because Couch is "a woman with means who can get out of the country with the right connections."

 

Couch told the judge that she surrendered a temporary passport in Los Angeles, where she was deported from Mexico last week.

 

Authorities believe the mother and son fled Texas together in November as prosecutors investigated whether the teenager had violated probation. They were arrested at an apartment complex in Puerto Vallarta late last month.

 

Ethan Couch was driving drunk and speeding near Fort Worth in June 2013 when he crashed into a disabled SUV, killing four people and injuring several others, including passengers in his pickup truck. He pleaded guilty in juvenile court to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury and was sentenced to 10 years' probation.

 

Couch is being held at an immigration detention center in Mexico City after winning a delay in deportation, a ruling that could lead to a drawn-out court process if a Mexican judge decides Couch has grounds to challenge his deportation based on arguments that kicking him out of Mexico would violate his rights.

 

Such cases can take anywhere from two weeks to several months, depending on the priorities of the local courts and the actions of defense attorneys, according to Richard Hunter, chief deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service in South Texas.

 

 

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Obama Vetoes Bill to Repeal Signature Health Care Law

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Protecting his signature domestic achievement, President Barack Obama on Friday vetoed Republican-inspired legislation to repeal his health care law, saying to do so "would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America."

 

Republican lawmakers have pushed many repeal measures since 2010, when Obama signed the health care program into law. This bill was the first one to make it through Congress and reach his desk.

Republicans have argued that the law is costly and doesn't work.

 

In his veto message to Congress, Obama disagreed. Obama said the Affordable Care Act includes fairer rules and stronger consumer protections "that have made health care coverage more affordable, more attainable and more patient-centered. And it is working."

 

The veto was expected. But Republicans claimed victory nonetheless, arguing that they met two goals by finally passing a repeal bill: keeping a promise to voters in an election year, and showing that they are capable of repealing the law if a Republican wins November's presidential election. All the GOP presidential candidates support repealing the law widely referred to as "Obamacare."

 

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., predicted it will be "a matter of time" before the law is finally overturned.

 

"We have now shown that there is a clear path to repealing Obamacare without 60 votes in the Senate," Ryan said. "So, next year, if we're sending this bill to a Republican president, it will get signed into law. Obamacare will be gone. ... It's just a matter of time."

The bill would also cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

 

The Senate passed the measure last year under special rules that protected it from a Democratic filibuster, which can be cut off with at least 60 votes. The House passed it this week.

 

For maximum visibility, Republican leaders made the legislation their first major vote of 2016. Although they don't have the votes to actually override Obama's veto, they hope to schedule an override vote to coincide with the Jan. 22 March for Life in Washington, an annual commemoration of the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

 

"We will hold a vote to override this veto, taking this process all the way to the end under the Constitution," Ryan said.

 

The bill would dismantle the health law's key pillars, including requirements that most people obtain coverage and that larger employers offer it to workers.

It would eliminate the expansion of Medicaid to cover more lower-income people and the government's subsidies for many who buy policies on newly created insurance marketplaces. It would also end taxes the law imposed to cover its costs.

 

More than 16 million people have gained health coverage since the law was enacted, according to government figures. They could risk losing it under the GOP approach. Republicans argue the health law has driven up costs and hurt consumers, and they promise "patient-centered" solutions in its place.

 

Obama said reliable health care coverage would no longer be a right for everyone under the bill, but would become "a privilege for a few." He admonished lawmakers for wasting time "refighting old political battles" and said they should instead be working on policies to grow the economy, help middle-class families and create jobs.

 

Ryan hedged earlier this week when asked if the House would ever vote on a GOP replacement for the health care law. Republicans have long promised a substitute, but have never produced one. Ryan has pledged that the House will come up with its own plan this year, but he said it hadn't been determined whether it would ever reach the floor for a vote.

 

"Nothing's been decided yet," Ryan said. "Just wait."

The bill Obama vetoed also sought to end the roughly $450 million in yearly federal funding for Planned Parenthood, about a third of its budget. A perennial target of conservatives, the group came under intense GOP pressure last year over providing fetal tissue for research.

 

Planned Parenthood officials and Democratic lawmakers accused Republicans during the legislative debate of attacking women's health. Republicans, in turn, took to the floor to critique Planned Parenthood in graphic terms, accusing the group of killing babies.

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US Added Strong 292K Jobs Last Month; Jobless Rate at 5 Pct.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- American employers added a robust 292,000 jobs in December, suggesting that the U.S. economy is so far defying global weakness and growing solidly.

 

The strong figures underscore the resilience of the United States at a time of financial turmoil stemming from China's slowing economy and plummeting stock market. Most economists expect U.S. consumer spending to continue to offset overseas weakness, though many foresee only modest U.S. growth.

 

In its monthly jobs report Friday, the Labor Department said the unemployment rate remained 5 percent in December for a third straight month. More Americans started looking for jobs and succeeded in finding them.

 

The government also said employers added a combined 50,000 more jobs in October and November than it had previously estimated. For the July-September quarter, hiring averaged 284,000 a month - the best three-month pace in a year.

 

U.S. stock futures, which had been up sharply before the jobs report was released, rose further afterward.

"The economy is reflected most strongly in the jobs numbers - and it's doing OK, maybe better than OK," said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Insurance.

 

For all of 2015, employers added 2.65 million jobs, a monthly average of 221,000. That made 2015 the second-best year for hiring since 1999, after 2014's gain of 3.2 million jobs.

 

"2015 went out with a megabang," says Patrick O'Keefe, director of economic research at the accounting and consulting firm CohnReznick. "It speaks to the underlying strength of the domestic economy. The United State is intertwined with the international economy but to a far lesser degree than many other countries."

 

O'Keefe noted that global trade accounts for only about 30 percent of U.S. economic activity, one of the lowest such percentages in the world.

 

Even as demand for workers grew, average hourly pay slipped a penny in December to $25.24 an hour. Still, average pay has risen 2.5 percent in the past year, only the second time since the Great Recession ended in mid-2009 that it has reached that level. At the same time, pay growth remains below the roughly 3.5 percent pace typical of a healthy economy.

 

Last month, the percentage of adults with jobs rose for a second straight month, though it remains below pre-recession levels. And many of the new jobs were in higher-paying industries: Construction added 45,000, health care nearly 53,000. Professional and business services, which includes accountants, engineers, and architects as well as lower-paid temporary workers, added 73,000 positions.

 

For months, U.S. employers have hired steadily even as global growth has flagged and financial markets have sunk. Stronger customer demand has given most businesses confidence to hire even though some sectors - notably manufacturing and oil and gas drilling - are struggling.

 

Still, stumbling growth in countries like China, the world's second-largest economy, and financial market turmoil might pose long-term challenges for the U.S. economy. A strong dollar and faltering global growth have already cut into exports of factory goods.

 

The dollar has climbed about 10 percent in value in the past year compared with overseas currencies. That has made U.S. goods more expensive globally while lowering the price of imported products.

 

In November, exports fell to their lowest level in nearly four years and shaved about 0.6 percentage point from the economy's growth in 2015, according to Goldman Sachs. Most analysts estimate that the economy expanded at a modest pace 2.5 percent last year.

 

Another blow to manufacturing has been oil prices, which fell to their lowest level in 12 years Thursday. Oil and gas drillers have responded by slashing payrolls and sharply cutting spending on steel pipes and other drilling equipment.

 

Manufacturing added 30,000 jobs last year, a marked decline from 2014. Yet it makes up just 10 percent of the U.S. economy and oil and gas drilling even less.

For now, Americans are confident enough to buy more homes. Sales of newly built homes jumped nearly 15 percent in 2015 and helped spur building and construction hiring: Construction companies added 215,000 jobs last year, a 3.4 percent gain.

 

In another sign of consumer health, auto sales rose to a record high last year as cheap gas and low interest rates led to booming sales of SUVs and pickup trucks.

Lower gas prices may have hurt the oil patch, but they should benefit consumers by cutting their gas bills.

Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS, a forecasting firm, estimates that American households saved, on average, $722 last year from cheaper gas. He expects them to save an additional $217 in 2016 given the continuing drop in oil prices.

 

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AP Economics Writers Josh Boak and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report.

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Sheriffs Meet with Leaders of Oregon Refuge Occupation

BURNS, Ore. (AP) -- Three Oregon sheriffs met with leaders of an armed group to try to persuade them to end their occupation of a federal wildlife refuge after many local residents made it plain that's what they want.

 

But it was unclear whether the meeting Thursday at a snowy intersection in southeastern Oregon would lead to an end of the occupation by Ammon Bundy's group any time soon.

 

"There are some positives that could come out of this," Harney County Sheriff David Ward, accompanied by colleagues from two other counties, told Bundy and his group.

 

"Before this thing turns into something negative, which would ruin all of that, I think we need to find a peaceful resolution to help you guys get out of here," Ward said.

 

Bundy said his group poses a threat to no one. He also said his demands that federal land in Harney County be turned over to local residents to manage are being ignored.

 

"I didn't come to argue," Ward said. Bundy said neither had he.

 

Ward offered to escort Bundy and his followers out of the refuge, which Bundy scoffed at.

 

"I'm not afraid to go out of the state," Bundy told reporters after the meeting. "I don't need an escort."

Ward said he plans to talk with Bundy again on Friday.

 

The encounter came as pressure mounts on Bundy to end the occupation of headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, south of Burns.

 

Bundy's demands are a continuation of long-running arguments that federal policies for management of public lands in the West are harming ranchers and other locals. Bundy is the son of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who in 2014 was at the center of a tense standoff with federal officials over grazing rights.

 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday called the occupation of the wildlife refuge "unlawful" and said it had to end.

 

"It was instigated by outsiders whose tactics we Oregonians don't agree with. Those individuals illegally occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge need to decamp immediately and be held accountable," she said.

 

Bundy's group - calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom - comes from as far away as Arizona and Michigan.

 

Sheriff Ward has repeatedly said the occupation has to end and violence be avoided. He got a lot of support during a packed community meeting Wednesday night.

 

At that meeting, local residents said they sympathized with the armed group's complaints about federal land management but disagreed with their tactics and called on Ammon Bundy and his followers to leave.

 

Bundy came to Burns to rally support for two local ranchers who were sentenced to prison on arson charges. The ranchers - Dwight Hammond and his son Steven Hammond - distanced themselves from Bundy's group and reported to prison Monday.

 

The Hammonds were convicted of arson three years ago and served no more than a year. A judge later ruled that the terms fell short of minmum sentences requiring them to serve about four more years.

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Feds Say Terrorism-Related Arrests Made in 2 States

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Authorities said Thursday that two people with ties to the Islamic State have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in California and Texas, including a refugee from Syria who is charged with lying to federal investigators about his travels to the civil war in that country.

 

The arrests feed a national debate over whether the United States is doing enough to screen refugees from Syria for terrorists from that nation.

 

Court documents say the men wanted to aid terrorist organizations affiliated with the Islamic State group. However, one man is accused of assisting a group that allied with the Islamic State organization only after he had returned to the United States. He earlier said he wouldn't join Islamic State group himself because it was killing fellow Muslims.

 

A criminal complaint unsealed Thursday accuses that man, Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, of Sacramento, of traveling to Syria to fight and lying to investigators about it. U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said in a statement that while Al-Jayab was potentially dangerous, there is no indication that he planned any attacks in the United States.

 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney's Office based in Houston, Texas, said late Thursday that Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, of Houston, was indicted Wednesday on three charges that he tried to provide material support to the extremists.

 

There is no indication from prosecutors that Al Hardan was a threat in the United States, but his arrest sparked immediate criticism of the Obama administration's refugee policies from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

 

"This is precisely why I called for a halt to refugees entering the U.S. from countries substantially controlled by terrorists," Abbott said in a statement. "I once again urge the President to halt the resettlement of these refugees in the United States until there is an effective vetting process that will ensure refugees do not compromise the safety of Americans and Texans."

 

Both men are Palestinians born in Iraq, authorities said.

The complaint in federal court in Sacramento said Al-Jayab came to the United States from Syria as a refugee in October 2012. While living in Arizona and Wisconsin, he communicated on social media about his intent to return to Syria to fight for terrorist organizations and discussed his previous experience fighting against the regime in Syria, starting shortly after he turned 16. When he was interviewed by citizenship officials, he lied about his travels and ties, the complaint alleges.

 

He left the United States in November 2013, but he came to Sacramento in January 2014, the FBI said in a 20-page affidavit.

 

Social media and other accounts say that as soon as he arrived in the United States, he began saying he wanted to return to Syria to "work," which the FBI says is believed to be a reference "to assisting in and supporting violent jihad." Authorities said he eventually fought with various terrorist organizations, including Ansar al-Islam, which in 2014 merged with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant after Al-Jayab had returned to the United States.

 

He criticized Islamic State group in several messages for killing Muslims.

 

"If it weren't for the State's bloodletting, I would have been the first one to join it," he said, according to the FBI, although he later described fighting alongside the group.

 

The documents did not indicate how the two men are connected.

 

However, the affidavit says Al-Jayab communicated with an unnamed individual living in Texas in April 2013 to see if he could receive training in various weapons.

 

A few days later, he described, during earlier fighting, emptying seven ammunition magazines from his assault rifle during a battle and executing three Syrian government soldiers.

 

Ben Galloway of the federal defender's office is Al-Jayab's attorney. He did not return telephone and emailed messages Thursday.

 

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento said Al-Jayab was arrested Thursday morning in Sacramento.

Federal officials say three separate arrests in Milwaukee on Thursday grew out of the Sacramento investigation but are not related to national security.

The suspects in Wisconsin are relatives of the man arrested in Sacramento, said Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento.

 

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Associated Press writers Amy Forliti in Minneapolis and Terry Wallace in Dallas contributed to this story.

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Seeking Support for Gun Actions, Obama Tears Into the NRA

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) -- President Barack Obama tore into the National Rifle Association on Thursday as he sought support for his actions on gun control, accusing the powerful lobby group of peddling an "imaginary fiction" that he said has distorted the national debate about gun violence.

 

In a prime-time, televised town hall meeting, Obama defended his support for the constitutional right to gun ownership while arguing it was consistent with his efforts to curb violence and mass shootings. He said the NRA was refusing to acknowledge the government's responsibility to make legal products safer, citing seatbelts and child-proof medicine bottles as examples.

"The NRA has convinced many of its members that somebody's going to come grab your guns," Obama said, describing it as a ploy to drive up sales of guns. "If you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over the top, and so overheated."

 

Obama said he's always been willing to meet with the NRA to discuss gun policies - if they're willing to address the facts truthfully. He said the NRA was invited to the town hall but declined to participate. Several NRA members were in the audience for the town hall, which was organized and hosted by CNN.

 

"There's a reason why the NRA's not here. They're just down the street," Obama said, referring to the group's nearby headquarters in suburban Virginia. "Since this is a main reason they exist, you'd think that they'd be prepared to have a debate with the president."

 

The White House has sought to portray the NRA, the nation's largest gun group, as possessing a disproportionate influence over lawmakers that has prevented new gun laws despite polls that show broad U.S. support for measures like universal background checks. Last year, following a series of mass shootings, Obama pledged to "politicize" the issue in an attempt to level the playing field for gun control supporters.

 

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said ahead of the event that the group saw "no reason to participate in a public relations spectacle orchestrated by the White House." Still, the group pushed back on Obama in real time with a stream of posts on Twitter.

 

"It's true: None of the president's orders would have stopped any of the recent mass shootings," the group wrote, appending the hashtag #GunsInAmerica.

 

Obama's broadside against the NRA came two days after unveiling a package of executive actions aimed at keeping guns from people who shouldn't have them. The centerpiece is new federal guidance that seeks to clarify who is "in the business" of selling firearms, triggering a requirement to get a license and conduct background checks on all prospective buyers.

 

The plan has drawn intense criticism from gun rights groups that have accused the president of trampling on the Second Amendment and railroading Congress by taking action on his own without new laws. Just after his 2012 re-election, Obama pushed hard for a bipartisan gun control bill that collapsed in the Senate, ending any realistic prospects for a legislative solution in the near term.

 

Ahead of the town hall, Obama put political candidates on notice that he would refuse to support or campaign for anyone who "does not support common-sense gun reform" - including Democrats.

 

All the candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination support stricter gun laws, so Obama's declaration in a New York Times op-ed isn't likely to have an impact on the race to replace him. Instead, it appeared aimed at Democratic congressional candidates from competitive districts who might want Obama's support on the campaign trail this year.

 

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Lederman reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this report.

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Colleges Tell Students to Leave Their Hoverboards at Home

BOSTON (AP) -- One of the holiday's hottest presents is now considered contraband at many U.S. colleges.

 

More than 30 universities have banned or restricted hoverboards on their campuses in recent weeks, saying the two-wheeled, motorized scooters are unsafe. Beyond the risk of falls and collisions, colleges are citing warnings from federal authorities that some of the self-balancing gadgets have caught on fire.

 

Hoverboard

 

"It's clear that these things are potentially dangerous," said Len Dolan, managing director of fire safety at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. The public school of 14,000 students issued a campus-wide ban effective on Monday, telling students in an email that any hoverboards found on campus would be confiscated.

 

"These things are just catching fire without warning, and we don't want that in any of our dorms," Dolan said.

 

Outright bans also have been issued at schools such as American University and George Washington University, both in Washington, D.C. Other schools said they will forbid the scooters in dorm rooms or campus buildings, a policy adopted at colleges including Louisiana State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Arkansas.

 

After banning hoverboards from dorms in December, officials at the University of Hartford in Connecticut are now considering a full ban because of concerns over how to store them safely, said David Isgu, a school spokesman. Some of the reported fires have occurred while the boards were being charged, authorities say.

 

At Ohio State University and at Xavier University in Cincinnati, students were told they can bring a hoverboard only if it came with a seal showing that the board meets certain safety standards.

 

Schools have issued bans as recently as Thursday, when the University of Connecticut announced that the devices aren't welcome on campus. The University of Alabama and the University of Kentucky declared bans on Wednesday as students prepare to return from break.

 

"We are not willing to risk your safety and our community's safety," University of Kentucky Fire Marshal Greg Williamson told students in a statement.

Bryce Colegrove, a sophomore at Shawnee State University in Ohio, got an email from his school on Tuesday telling students to leave their hoverboards at home after the holidays. It was bad timing for Colegrove, who had just received one as a gift from his girlfriend and had even plotted his new routes to class.

 

"Honestly I was really disappointed," said Colegrove, 20. "I don't think it's right to ban them. I mean, it's a college campus; it's not a high school."

 

Others took to social media to voice their frustration, with some saying they planned to bring their scooters to school anyway.

 

Hoverboards, which are made by several brands, already have been banned by the three largest U.S. airlines, citing potential fire danger from the lithium-ion batteries that power them.

 

The devices also are prohibited on New York City streets, and a new law in California requires riders to be at least 16 and wear a helmet in public.

 

On Monday, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that it's now investigating 28 fires in 19 states tied to the motorized scooters. Fire officials from New Jersey to California have blamed the boards for fires that damaged homes. The federal commission also said there have been serious injuries caused by falls.

 

Colleges reported that even though the gadget has been gaining popularity, it's still relatively rare on campuses.

 

Dolan, of Kean University, said he saw about six students riding the scooters last fall. News of swift sales over the holidays, plus the reports of fires, led him to propose the ban.

 

"If that may inconvenience a couple dozen students, then that's what it's going to have to be," he said.

Fire officials in several states have issued their own warnings about the devices, including in New Jersey, were authorities recommended that all public colleges ban them.

 

Still, several colleges have suggested that they may allow hoverboards in the future. American University said its ban is temporary, but will last "until further notice." At Wellesley College near Boston, a policy bans the motorized scooters "until safety standards can be developed and implemented by the manufacturers."

 

 

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Cheers for Sheriff Who Tells Armed Group to 'Go Home'

BURNS, Ore. (AP) -- Cheers erupted at a packed community meeting in rural Oregon when a sheriff said it was time for a small, armed group occupying a national wildlife refuge to "pick up and go home"

 

The group objecting to federal land policy seized buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday. Authorities have not yet moved to remove the group of roughly two dozen people, some from as far away as Arizona and Michigan. The group also objects to a lengthy prison sentence for two local ranchers convicted of arson.

 

"I'm here today to ask those folks to go home and let us get back to our lives," Harney County Sheriff David Ward said Wednesday evening.

 

Schools were closed following the seizure of the refuge because of safety concerns in this small town in eastern Oregon's high desert country and tensions have risen. Ward told the hundreds gathered at the meeting he hoped the community would put up a "united front" to peacefully resolve the conflict.

 

Group leader Ammon Bundy has told reporters they will leave when there's a plan in place to turn over federal lands to locals.

 

Several people spoke in support of Bundy and his followers at Wednesday's meeting.

 

"They are waking people up," said 80-year-old Merlin Rupp, a long-time local resident. "They are just making a statement for us, to wake us up."

 

Earlier Wednesday the leader of an American Indian tribe that regards the preserve as sacred issued a rebuke to Ammon's group, saying they are not welcome at the snowy bird sanctuary and must leave.

"The protesters have no right to this land. It belongs to the native people who live here," Burns Paiute Tribal leader Charlotte Rodrique said.

 

Bundy is demanding that the refuge be handed over to locals.

 

Rodrique said she "had to laugh" at the demand, because she knew Bundy was not talking about giving the land to the tribe.

 

The standoff in rural Oregon is a continuation of a long-running dispute over federal policies covering the use of public lands, including grazing. The federal government controls about half of all land in the West. For example, it owns 53 percent of Oregon, 85 percent of Nevada and 66 percent of Utah, according to the Congressional Research Service.

 

The Bundy family is among many people in the West who contend local officials could do a better job of managing public lands than the federal government.

The argument is rejected by those who say the U.S. government is better equipped to manage public lands for all those who want to make use of them.

 

Among those groups are Native Americans.

 

The Burns Paiute tribe has guaranteed access to the refuge for activities that are important to their culture, including gathering a plant used for making traditional baskets and seeds that are used for making bread. The tribe also hunts and fishes there.

 

Rodrique said the armed occupiers are "desecrating one of our sacred sites" with their presence at refuge.

Bundy's group, calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, says it wants an inquiry into whether the government is forcing ranchers off their land after Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, reported back to prison Monday.

 

The Hammonds are long-time local residents who have distanced themselves from the group Bundy's group. They were convicted of arson three years ago and served no more than a year. A judge later ruled that the terms fell short of minimum sentences requiring them to serve about four more years.

 

At the emotional community meeting Ward, the county sheriff, said he understood the problems some had with the ranchers' court case. However he said people needed to express but their anger peacefully and lawfully.

 

"I've got my own frustrations, we've got visitors in town that have their frustrations, but there's appropriate ways to work out our differences," he said.

 

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Petty reported from Portland, Oregon.

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All 17 Miners Trapped in New York Salt Mine are Rescued

LANSING, N.Y. (AP) -- Seventeen miners trapped in one of the world's deepest salt mines were rescued Thursday morning, ending a 10-hour ordeal that began when their elevator broke down 900 feet underground.

 

The workers were descending to the floor of the 2,300-foot-deep Cayuga Salt Mine - nearly deep enough to fit two Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other - to start their shift when the elevator malfunctioned at around 10 p.m. Wednesday, said Mark Klein, a spokesman for mine owner Cargill Inc.

 

With temperatures in the elevator shaft in the teens - the same as the surface - the miners were cold but otherwise unharmed, said Shawn Wilczynski, the mine manager.

 

"Their spirits are tremendous. I'm inspired by them, to be quite honest with you," Wilczynski said. "The first four that came out of the mine waited until the last two came out."

 

Emergency workers communicated via radio with the miners, who had blankets, heat packs and other supplies lowered to them.

 

The rescued workers ranged in age from 20 to 60, and their mining experience ranged from a few months to four decades, Wilczynski said.

 

A crane hoisted the first four to the surface in a basket around 7 a.m. at the mine in Lansing, about 40 miles outside Syracuse. Another four were rescued about 30 minutes later, and seven more were brought to the surface by 8:30 a.m., Klein said. The last two were rescued a few minutes afterward.

 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the emergency personnel who carried out the rescue, adding that a team of investigators from several state offices will be looking into what caused the miners to become stranded.

The mine, which Klein said is the deepest salt mine in the Western Hemisphere, produces road salt that is shipped throughout the Northeastern United States. The mine is located on the shore of Cayuga Lake and extends beneath its waters.

 

Minneapolis-based Cargill bought the mine in 1970 and employs 200 workers there, Klein said. The mine processes about 2 million tons of road salt annually, making it one of the biggest producers in the U.S., Cargill said.

 

Mining operations will be shut down for the rest of the week as company officials and federal mine safety inspectors investigate the malfunctioning, Klein said.

"We want to take a step back, check things out," he said.

 

The crane used to rescue the workers had to be brought in by a rigging company in Auburn, 30 miles away.

According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, a wide swath of upstate New York stretching from the Syracuse area to the western Finger Lakes region is underlain by what's known as the Salina formation, which contains about 3.9 trillion metric tons of rock salt ranging in depth from 500 feet to 4,000 feet. The Cargill mine is the larger of two salt mines operating in the region. The other is American Rock Salt's mine, located 35 miles south of Rochester.

 

New York is the nation's third-largest producer of rock salt after Louisiana and Texas.

 

The last serious accident at the mine occurred on the surface in March 2010, when a 150-ton salt bin collapsed, killing a contract truck driver and injuring another man, Klein said. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration later determined a piece of the bin corroded and caused it to give way.

 

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Associated Press writer Chris Carola in Albany, New York, contributed to this story.

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NYC Settles Lawsuits Over Muslom Survwillance by Police

NEW YORK (AP) -- Two high-profile lawsuits accusing the New York Police Department of discriminating against Muslims with illegal surveillance have been settled.

 

The settlement was announced Thursday by civil rights lawyers and attorneys for the city.

 

The civil rights lawyers said the deal requires the NYPD to modify guidelines to prohibit investigations based on race, religion or ethnicity. It also installs an independent civilian representative on a special committee that reviews terrorism and other confidential investigations.

 

Police officials say the settlement formalizes safeguards that were already in place. They say the department wasn't forced to admit it did anything wrong.

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Obama Measures Wouldn't Have Kept Guns From Mass Shooters

AP - The gun control measures a tearful President Barack Obama announced Tuesday would not have prevented the slaughters of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, or 14 county workers at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.

 

Obama's executive action expands mandatory background checks to gun shows, flea markets and online sales, adds more than 230 examiners and staff to help process them and calls on states to submit accurate and updated criminal history data.

 

Those measures are seen as crucial to stemming gun suicides - the cause of two-thirds of gun deaths - by blocking immediate access to weapons. But, an Associated Press review shows, they would have had no impact in keeping weapons from the hands of suspects in several of the deadliest recent mass shootings that have spurred calls for tighter gun control.

 

The shooters at Sandy Hook and San Bernardino used weapons bought by others, shielding them from background checks. In other cases, the shooters legally bought guns.

 

In Aurora, Colorado, and at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., men undergoing mental health treatment were cleared to buy weapons because federal background checks looked to criminal histories and court-ordered commitments for signs of mental illness. The Obama administration is making changes in that realm by seeking to plug certain Social Security Administration data into the background check system and by helping states report more information about people barred from gun possession for mental health reasons.

 

The suspect in a shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, should have been flagged at the time, but errors and delays cleared the way for his purchase.

Though the moves probably wouldn't have prevented recent mass shootings, Obama rejected the idea that undermines the changes.

 

"We maybe can't save everybody, but we could save some," Obama said.

 

A look at how some recent mass shooting suspects got their weapons:

 

Dec. 2, 2015, San Bernardino, California, 14 killed

Syed Farook and his wife used weapons that the FBI says his neighbor, Enrique Marquez, purchased legally from a federally licensed dealer in 2011 and 2012. Marquez, now facing conspiracy and other charges, told investigators that Farook asked him to purchase the weapons because he would draw less attention. At the time, the FBI says, the men were plotting to shoot up a community college and a highway.

 

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Oct. 1, 2015, Roseburg, Oregon, 10 killed

Christopher Harper-Mercer and his family members legally purchased the handguns and rifle he used in the Umpqua Community College shooting from a federally licensed gun dealer, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

 

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July 16, 2015, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 5 killed

The FBI says some of the weapons Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez used in his attack on a pair of military facilities were purchased legally and some were not. It is unclear when the purchases were made and whether he was subject to a background check. Relatives say Abdulazeez had a history of mental illness, made a series of overseas trips and was arrested in April on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. In May 2013, he failed a background check for an engineering job at a nuclear power plant in Ohio.

 

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June 17, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina, 9 killed

A February drug arrest should have prevented Dylann Roof from purchasing the pistol authorities say he used at Emanuel AME Church, but a record-keeping error and background check delay allowed the transaction to go through. The FBI says a background check examiner never saw the arrest report because the wrong arresting agency was listed in state criminal history records. After three days passed, the gun dealer was legally permitted to complete the transaction.

 

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Sept. 16, 2013, Washington, D.C., 12 killed

Aaron Alexis, a former reservist turned civilian contractor, passed state and federal background checks and legally purchased the pump-action shotgun used in the Washington Navy Yard shooting despite a history of violent outbursts and recent mental health treatment. Alexis was accused of firing a gun in anger in Texas in 2004 and Seattle in 2010, but was not prosecuted in either case. In 2011, he received an honorable discharge despite bouts of insubordination, disorderly conduct and unauthorized absences. None of that would have disqualified him from purchasing a weapon.

 

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Dec. 14, 2012, Newtown, Connecticut, 26 killed

Adam Lanza used his mother's weapons, including a .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle, in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Investigators say Lanza's mother, whom he fatally shot before going to the school, also purchased the ammunition.

 

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July 20, 2012, Aurora, Colorado, 12 killed

James Holmes was receiving psychiatric treatment when he passed required federal background checks and legally purchased the weapons he used in the movie theater assault. As in the Navy Yard case, Holmes' treatment alone would not have disqualified his purchases. They would have been blocked if had he been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution.

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'IT GETS ME MAD' - Obama Acts Alone on Gun Control

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Tears streaking his cheeks, President Barack Obama launched a final-year push Tuesday to tighten sales of firearms in the U.S., using his presidential powers in the absence of tougher gun restrictions that Congress has refused to pass.

 

The president struck a combative tone as he came out with plans for expanded background checks and other modest measures that have drawn consternation from gun rights groups, which Obama accused of making Congress their hostage. Palpable, too, was Obama's extreme frustration at having made such little progress on gun control since the slaughter of 20 first-graders in Connecticut confronted the nation more than three years ago.

 

"First-graders," Obama said woefully, resting his chin on his hand and wiping away tears as he recalled the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. "Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad."

 

Obama's 10-point plan to keep guns from those who shouldn't have them marked a concession by the president: He'll leave office without securing the new gun control laws he's repeatedly and desperately implored Congress to pass.

 

Although Obama, acting alone, can take action around the margins, only Congress can enact more sweeping changes that gun control advocates say are the only way to truly stem a scourge of mass shootings.

 

"It won't happen overnight," Obama said. "It won't happen during this Congress. It won't happen during my presidency." But, he added optimistically, "a lot of things don't happen overnight."

 

The centerpiece of Obama's plan is an attempt to narrow the loophole that exempts gun sales from background checks if the seller isn't a federal registered dealer. With new federal "guidance," the administration is clarifying that even those who sell just a few weapons at gun shows, flea markets or online can be deemed dealers and required to conduct checks on prospective buyers.

 

Whether that step can make a significant dent in unregulated gun sales is an open question, and one not easily answered.

 

Millions of guns are sold annually in informal settings outside of gun shops, including many through private sales arranged online. But the Obama administration acknowledged it couldn't quantify how many gun sales would be newly subjected to background checks, nor how many currently unregistered gun sellers would have to obtain a license.

 

Easily reversible by a future president, the government's guidance to gun sellers lacks the legal oomph of a new law, such as the one Obama and likeminded lawmakers tried but failed to pass in 2013. The Justice Department said online the guidance "has no regulatory effect and is not intended to create or confer any rights, privileges, or benefits in any matter, case, or proceeding."

 

What's more, none of the steps would have probably prevented any of the recent mass shootings that Obama invoked in the East Room: Aurora, Oak Creek, Charleston, Newtown, to name some. But Obama defiantly rejected that critique, dismissing it as the tired trope of gun lobbyists who question "why bother trying?"

 

"I reject that thinking," Obama said. "We maybe can't save everybody, but we could save some."

 

Hoping to give the issue a human face, the White House assembled a cross-section of Americans affected by searing recent gun tragedies, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Mark Barden, whose son was shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School, introduced the president with a declaration that "we are better than this."

 

Obama readily conceded the executive steps will be challenged in court, a prediction quickly echoed by Republicans.

 

Chuck James, a former federal prosecutor who practices firearms law at the firm Williams Mullen, said opponents are likely to challenge Obama's authority to define what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling guns beyond what's laid out in the law. The White House asserted confidence Obama was acting legally, and said Justice Department and White House lawyers had worked diligently to ensure the steps were watertight.

 

Other new steps include 230 new examiners the FBI will hire to process background checks, aiming to prevent delays that enabled the accused gunman in Charleston, South Carolina, to get a gun when the government took too long.

 

Obama is also asking the government to research smart gun technology to reduce accidental shootings and asking Congress for $500 million to improve mental health care. Other provisions aim to better track lost or stolen guns and prevent trusts or corporations from buying dangerous weapons without background checks.

 

Obama's announcement carved a predictably partisan fault line through the presidential campaign.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both competing for the nomination from Obama's party, pledged to build on his actions if elected. The Republican field formed a chorus of voices vowing to annul the whole package, with Marco Rubio claiming "Obama is obsessed with undermining the Second Amendment."

 

"Rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican. "His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty."

 

The National Rifle Association, the largest gun group, panned Obama's plan and said it was "ripe for abuse," although the group didn't specify what steps, if any, it will take to oppose or try to block it.

 

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Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Nancy Benac contributed to this report.

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Chicago Lawyer Resigns After Judge Rules He Hid Evidence

CHICAGO (AP) -- A top city of Chicago lawyer stepped down after a federal judge accused him of hiding evidence in a fatal police shooting, the latest allegation of wrongdoing amid ongoing scrutiny of how the city deals with such cases.

 

Separately, the city agency that investigates police shootings vowed greater transparency, saying Monday that it would start divulging some details of active cases as it tries to bolster public confidence in the process.

 

Since November, Chicago has been dealing with fallout from the release of a video showing a white officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald. The video prompted protests and led to a wide-ranging civil rights investigation of the entire police department by the U.S. Department of Justice.

 

Monday's 72-page opinion from U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang was part of a civil lawsuit brought by relatives of Darius Pinex, a black man, who was shot and killed by police during a 2011 traffic stop in Chicago.

 

The officers, Raoul Mosqueda and Gildardo Sierra, said they opened fire as Pinex refused orders and put his car in reverse. The officers had said they stopped Pinex because his car matched a description they heard on their police radio of a car suspected of involvement in an earlier shooting. But records emerged after the trial began that officers weren't listening to the channel broadcasting the radio traffic about the suspect's car. The judge said a city lawyer "intentionally concealed" that evidence.

 

The judge on Monday tossed a jury's finding in April that the police shooting was justified, ordered a new trial and instructed the city to pay attorney's fees to the plaintiffs.

 

"Attorneys who might be tempted to bury late-surfacing information need to know that, if discovered, any verdict they win will be forfeit and their clients will pay the price," the judge wrote. He said Jordan Marsh, a senior corporation counsel, also later lied about when he was aware of the evidence.

 

The judge also accused the law department, which defends city employees accused of wrongdoing, of shoddy record-keeping, saying it contributed to the problem in the Pinex case.

 

The city law department announced Marsh's resignation later Monday, saying it "does not tolerate any action that would call into question the integrity of the lawyers who serve" Chicago. It also said it was reviewing its training and evidence-gathering procedures.

 

But a lawyer for the Pinex family, Steve Greenberg, said Marsh's actions reflect on the city law department as a whole. He accused the department of not acting quickly enough when it realized its attorney wasn't forthcoming about critical evidence.

 

"It shows the city hasn't just fought to protect officers, it also fights tooth and nail to protect its lawyers," he said. "I don't think they cared that (Pinex) got killed, they didn't care what the truth was and they didn't care they cheated (with the evidence)."

 

A city law department spokesman said he did not have a way to leave a message for Marsh seeking comment. And there was no public telephone listing for a Jordan Marsh in Chicago.

 

Also Monday, the head of the Independent Police Review Authority - which is responsible for investigating complaints of excessive force by officers - told reporters that greater openness about ongoing investigations would be a point of emphasis as she tries to win the lost confidence of Chicagoans, many of which believe the agency has operated for years to bury police wrongdoing.

 

Sharon Fairley said IPRA still won't be able to divulge all the details about investigations while they are underway. But she added: "The difference is we are no longer going to be standing by a hard-and-fast rule that we will never discuss the details of an investigation until it's complete. I think that position is now untenable."

 

In McDonald's case, IPRA and city officials cited the ongoing investigation in not making the video public for more than a year. It was released Nov. 24 following a state court order. It showed Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times as he walked away from police carrying a folded 3-inch knife.

 

Protests sparked by the video included some directed at IPRA, which was created in 2007, ostensibly with the independence it needed to hold officers accountable. But in practice, it rarely ruled against officers.

 

Fairley also announced several other reforms, including the hiring of a new chief of staff, a new chief investigator and the creation of a new community outreach position.

 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Fairley, a former federal prosecutor, to head IPRA last month after her predecessor resigned amid the growing protests.

 

Fairley also announced Monday that she was not aware of any video of another recent disputed police shooting.

 

On Dec. 27, police fatally shot 55-year-old Bettie Jones, who authorities said was killed accidentally, and 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, who police said was being "combative." Both were black.

 

Attorneys for Jones' family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city Monday. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed last week by the father of LeGrier.

 

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Police Surround Hotel Where Man, Children are Inside

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) -- Police say they've surrounded a hotel near Atlanta as a man inside is refusing to leave, prompting concerns about the safety of several children inside the building.

 

DeKalb County Police Major Tonya Dedrick tells CBS46 that up to 11 children and two adults were inside the room when the situation began around 2 a.m. Tuesday.

 

DeKalb County interim Police Chief James Conroy tells WSB-TV the man was armed with a knife and refusing to let the other people leave the room.

 

Dedrick tells WXIA-TV officers were negotiating with the man, "trying to hopefully resolve this with a peaceful end to it."

 

A SWAT team has been called to the rite4us Inn & Suites hotel near in the Decatur area, about 10 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.

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Feds Monitor Armed Group in Oregon, But Keep Their Distance

BURNS, Ore. (AP) -- An armed anti-government group took over a remote national wildlife refuge in Oregon as part of a decades-long fight over public lands in the West, while federal authorities are keeping watch but keeping their distance.

 

The group came to the frozen high desert of eastern Oregon to contest the prison sentences of two ranchers who set fire to federal land, but their ultimate goal is to turn over the property to local authorities so people can use it free of U.S. oversight.

 

People across the globe have marveled that federal authorities didn't move to take back the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Residents say they have not seen a large presence of officers, and the government's tactic generally is to monitor protesters from afar but leave them be as long as they don't show signs of violence.

 

That's how federal officials defused a high-profile 2014 standoff with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy over grazing rights. Now, Bundy's two sons are leading the push in Oregon.

 

Ryan Bundy told The Associated Press on Sunday that he hopes the takeover will prompt others to take action across the country to seize control of federally managed land.

 

"The end goal here is that we are here to restore the rights to the people here so that they can use the land and resources. All of them," Bundy said.

 

That means ranchers can graze their cattle, miners can use their mineral rights, loggers can cut trees, and hunters and fishers can shoot and cast, he said.

 

The latest dispute traces its roots to the 1970s and the "Sagebrush Rebellion," a move by Western states like Nevada to increase local control over federal land.

 

While ranchers and others complain of onerous federal rules, critics of the push for more local control have said the federal government should administer the public lands for the widest possible uses, including environmental and recreation.

 

Residents of the tiny town of Burns, 30 miles south of the wildlife refuge, are concerned about the potential for violence.

 

Keith Landon, a longtime resident and employee at the Reid Country Store, said he knows local law enforcement officials who fear their kids will be targeted by the group.

 

"I'm hoping most of it's just muscle, trying to push," he said. "But it's a scary thing."

 

If the situation turns violent, Bundy contends that it will be because of the federal government's actions.

"I mean, we're here to restore order, we're here to restore rights, and that can go peacefully and easily," he said.

 

The ranchers whose cause has been the rallying cry also reject the group's support. Dwight and son Steven Hammond were convicted of arson three years ago for fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006. They served their original sentences - Dwight, three months and Steven, one year - but a judge ruled that the terms were too short under federal minimum sentencing laws.

 

Both men were ordered back to prison for four years each. They have said they plan to turn themselves in Monday.

The Bundy brothers say the group plans to stay at the refuge as long as it takes. They declined to say how many people were at the property where several pickup trucks blocked the entrance and armed men wore camouflage and winter gear.

 

"We're planning on staying here for years, absolutely," Ammon Bundy told reporters over the weekend. "This is not a decision we've made at the last minute."

 

The FBI is working with local and state authorities to "bring a peaceful resolution to the situation," the bureau said in a statement late Sunday. It said it is the agency in charge and would not release details about the law enforcement response to ensure the safety of officers and those at the refuge.

 

Some are criticizing the lack of action, saying it is because those occupying the property are white.

Landon, the longtime Burns resident, said he sympathizes with the Bundys' frustrations. Landon was a logger until the federal government declared the spotted owl a protected species in the 1980s, damaging the local logging industry.

 

"It's hard to discredit what they're trying to do out there. But I don't want anybody hurt," he said.

Landon said that on the surface, it doesn't look like much has changed in Burns, a high desert town of about 2,700 people.

 

"It's weird - I woke up this morning expecting the town to be crawling with this and that agency. But you don't see any of it. They're keeping a low presence," Landon said Sunday.

 

However, most of the hotels in the area are booked, and he's noticed that officers are doing their patrols in pairs instead of alone. The biggest difference since the takeover is the undercurrent of worry, he said.

 

"I'm glad they took the refuge because it's 30 miles away," Landon said. "I mean, they could have took the courthouse here in town."

 

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Hundreds of Military Kids Sexually Abused Annually

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Cpl. Aaron C. Masa became fast friends with a fellow Marine during field training in North Carolina. But behind his buddy's back, Masa was sexually abusing his friend's 3-year-old stepdaughter. He also took sexually explicit photos of the girl and the Marine's infant daughter.

 

A military judge convicted Masa last year of sexual abuse of a child and production of child pornography, according to court records and other documents detailing the case. Under the terms of a pretrial agreement, he pleaded guilty and received 30 years in prison.

 

In total, incidents involving sexual assault in which the children of service members are victims occur hundreds of times each year, data the Defense Department provided exclusively to The Associated Press show. The abuse is committed most often by male enlisted troops, according to the data, followed by family members.

 

The figures offer greater insight into the sexual abuse of children committed by service members, a problem of uncertain scale due to a lack of transparency into the military's legal proceedings. With more than 1 million military dependents, the number of cases appears statistically small. But for a profession that prides itself on honor and discipline, any episodes of abuse cast a pall.

 

Those numbers fall well-short of offering a full picture.

 

The ages of the offenders and victims, the locations of the incidents and the branch of service that received the report of sexual abuse were omitted. The Defense Department said in a statement that "information that could unintentionally uniquely identify victims was withheld from release to eliminate possible 're-victimization' of the innocent."

 

It's also unclear how many of the incidents resulted in legal action. The cases represent substantiated occurrences of child sexual abuse reported to the Defense Department's Family Advocacy Program, which does not track judicial proceedings, the department said.

 

An AP investigation published in November found more inmates are in military prisons for child sex crimes than for any other offense. But the military's opaque justice system keeps the public from knowing the full extent of their crimes or how much time they spend behind bars.

 

Responding to AP's findings, three Democratic senators have urged Defense Secretary Ash Carter to lift what they called the military justice system's "cloak of secrecy" and make records from sex-crimes trials readily accessible.

 

The senators also raised another concern. Child sex-assault cases are not included in the Defense Department's annual report to Congress on sexual assaults, which focuses primarily on adult-on-adult incidents, they said. The senators - Barbara Boxer of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii - told Carter in a Dec. 8 letter they are concerned the department may be underestimating how many sexual assaults are occurring in the military.

 

There were at least 1,584 substantiated cases of military dependents being sexually abused between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, according to the data. Enlisted service members sexually abused children in 840 cases. Family members of the victims accounted for the second largest category with 332 cases.

 

Most of the enlisted offenders were males whose ranks ranged between E-4 and E-6. In the Marine Corps and Army, for example, those troops are corporals, sergeants and staff sergeants. Officers were involved in 49 of the cases. The victims were overwhelmingly female.

 

Kathy Robertson, manager of the Family Advocacy Program, said in an emailed response to questions that the incident rates reflect the U.S. military's demographics. Most of the cases involve the E-4 and E-6 ranks because they are the largest number of active-duty personnel and the largest number of parents in the military, she said.

 

Duplications in the data indicate that as many as 160 additional cases of sexual abuse could have occurred during the 2010 to 2014 period, involving a child who was victimized multiple times or a repeat abuser. The figures also account only for cases involving military dependents, which are the only child victims the department tracks.

 

In Masa's case, military authorities first became aware of the alleged abuse in June 2014 after the 3-year-old told a neighbor that she did not like Masa because he touched her in certain places and "made it hurt," according to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service's investigation obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

 

NCIS blacked out all the names in the report, including Masa's. The AP identified him by the dates and events in the document that matched records from Masa's court-martial.

 

Masa, 24, admitted during questioning to at least five instances of sexually assaulting her, the NCIS report said. Investigators found nude photos of both girls on his cellphone and later discovered a pair of girl's underwear during a search of his mother's home in Ohio.

 

The report depicted Masa as a loner with a troubled past. People interviewed by the Navy investigators described him as "oddball" who was picked on in high school in Marietta, Ohio. He graduated near the bottom of his class with a cumulative 1.782 GPA, according to his official transcript.

 

Masa watched a lot of sexually explicit Japanese animation known as hentai, the NCIS report said, and he had an intense interest in "furry porn," a genre of pornography in which animal characters with human arms and legs engage in sex.

 

In 2008, Masa was arrested after threatening to bring a gun to school and shoot three other students, according to the NCIS report, which included details of the incident. Police didn't find a gun on him, but he had a knife. He pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge.

 

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in June 2010, a month after graduating from high school. The arrest wasn't serious enough to bar Masa from enlisting. A Marine Corps spokesman said he was found qualified after a thorough screening process that involved physical, mental and moral evaluations.

 

Stationed at Camp Lejeune, a sprawling installation on the North Carolina coast, Masa started a friendship with the Marine sergeant and his family in 2013, according to the 286-page NCIS report. They fished together and chopped wood for the sergeant's fire pit. Masa loaned the sergeant money to help the family through a financially difficult period and spent more and more time at their home, the report said. He babysat the girls and volunteered to give the older daughter a bath, the documents said.

 

Amid the good will, suspicions surfaced. The girls' mother suspected as early as March 2014 that the 3-year-old daughter was being molested because she complained of pain "down there," according to portions of medical records from a hospital near Camp Lejeune that are included in the NCIS report. The girl was sleeping by the door and having nightmares, the mother said.

 

Yet at the hospital, the girl was in high spirits, smiling, laughing and jumping on the bed, according to the report. She was diagnosed as having a urinary tract infection and antibiotics were prescribed. "Mom advised to follow up with law enforcement if she has concern about possible molestation," the report said, quoting the medical records.

 

But an investigation wouldn't be launched until a few months later, after the girl talked to the neighbor.

 

While being questioned by investigators, Masa drew a diagram of the floor plan of the sergeant's home, using X's and O's to show where the abuse occurred.

Masa is serving his sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

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Oregon Standoff Latetst in Dispute Over Western Lands

BURNS, Ore. (AP) -- The remote high desert of eastern Oregon became the latest flashpoint for anti-government sentiment as armed protesters occupied a national wildlife refuge to object to a prison sentence for local ranchers for burning federal land.

 

Ammon Bundy - the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights - is among the people at the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. It was unclear exactly how many people were taking part in the protests.

 

Ammon Bundy posted a video on his Facebook page asking for militia members to come help him. He said "this is not a time to stand down. It's a time to stand up and come to Harney County," where Burns is located.

 

Bundy and other militia members came to Burns last month, a small town about 280 miles southeast of Portland, Oregon. They were upset over the looming prison sentences for local ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond. They went to the wildlife refuge Saturday evening following a peaceful rally in Burns to support the ranchers.

 

On Sunday, militia members decked out in camouflage and warm winter gear and holding guns and walkie talkies guarded the entrance. They allowed some news reporters through for interviews with members of the Bundy family. Pickup trucks blocked the entrance and were pulled out of the way to let select cars through.

 

Dwight Hammond, 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, said they lit the fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires.

 

The two were convicted of the arsons three years ago and served time - the father three months, the son one year. But a federal judge ruled in October that their terms were too short under U.S. minimum sentencing law and ordered them back to prison for about four years each.

 

The decision generated controversy and is part of a decades-long dispute between some Westerners and the federal government over the use of public lands. The issue traces back to the 1970s and the "Sagebrush Rebellion," a move by Western states like Nevada to increase local control over federal land. Critics of the push for more local control have said the federal government should administer the public lands for the widest possible uses, including environmental and recreation.

 

In an interview with The Associated Press at the wildlife refuge Sunday, Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy's brother, said the protesters' ultimate goal is to turn the land over to local authorities so people can use it free of federal oversight.

 

They want to "restore the rights to people so they can use the land and resources" for ranching, logging, mining and recreation.

 

Ryan Bundy says the federal government has been "tromping on people's rights and privileges and properties and livelihoods."

 

"I understand the land needs to be used wisely, but that's what we as stewards need to do. A rancher is going to take care of his own ranch," Ryan Bundy said.

 

Supplies were seen Sunday being delivered to the refuge area, which is remote even by rural Oregon standards. The wildlife refuge sits in a wide snow-covered valley rimmed by distant mountains. A high lookout tower sits over the refuge headquarters buildings, which has several stone buildings and garages.

 

Dwight Hammond has said he and his son plan to peacefully report to prison Monday as ordered by the judge.

 

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said the group of armed protesters came to town under false pretenses.

"These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to over throw the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States," Ward said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.

The sheriff says he is working with local and federal authorities to keep the citizens in his county safe and to resolve the situation as quickly and peacefully as possible.

 

He is asking people to stay away from the wildlife refuge for their own safety. He said he does not think any other parts of the county are in immediate danger.

Beth Anne Steele, an FBI spokeswoman in Portland, said Saturday that the agency was aware of the situation at the national wildlife refuge. She made no further comment.

 

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who had been briefed by the FBI agent in charge in Portland, Oregon, said most local residents do not support the protesters.

 

"The overwhelming majority of people there very much want to get on with their lives without this disruption and are not in sympathy with a bunch of outsiders," Wyden told AP.

 

Local residents have expressed fear of potential of violence. A peaceful rally Saturday in support of the Hammonds featured speeches, flags and marching.

As marchers reached the courthouse, they tossed hundreds of pennies at the locked door. Their message: Civilians were buying back their government. After the march passed, two girls swooped in to scavenge the pennies.

 

A few blocks away, Hammond and his wife, Susan, greeted marchers, who planted flower bouquets in the snow.

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Tamir Rice Protesters Want Cleveland Prosecutor to Step Down

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Protesters upset by a decision not to indict two white police officers in the shooting death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who had a pellet gun, marched to the home of the prosecutor Friday and repeated calls for him to resign.

 

More than 100 people stood outside the home of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty during the peaceful protest, which also included demands for a federal investigation into the shooting.

 

A march leader told protesters not to vandalize McGinty's home, which is in a neighborhood on the west side of Cleveland. Police officers accompanied the marchers and stood in McGinty's driveway but did not intervene.

 

The protesters chanted, "New year, no more!" and "McGinty has got to go!"

 

Through a spokesman, McGinty declined to comment.

 

Protesters have called for McGinty's resignation since he announced Monday that the officers would not face criminal charges in Tamir's death. But criticism of him dates back months as frustration grew over the length of time it took to reach a decision concerning the November 2014 shooting.

 

Joseph Frolik, director of communications and public policy at the prosecutor's office, called Tamir's death "clearly a monumental tragedy caused by a series of mistakes by the Cleveland Police Department."

 

"But we would hope that people will also respect the decision made (by) another group of citizens - the members of the grand jury," Frolik said in a statement. "They personally see, hear and question witnesses, and they reach a decision based on their oath. If you don't trust the grand jury, you don't trust your neighbors."

 

Dozens of marchers lay down on the sidewalk running past McGinty's house for four minutes, the time they say it took medical responders to reach Tamir after he was shot outside a recreation center.

 

In announcing that charges would not be brought, McGinty said it was "indisputable" that Tamir was drawing the pistol from his waistband when he was gunned down.

 

The prosecutor said Tamir was trying to either hand the pellet gun over to police or show them it was not real, but the officer who shot him, Timothy Loehmann, and his partner, Frank Garmback, had no way of knowing that.

 

Tamir was shot by Loehmann within two seconds of the officers' police cruiser skidding to a stop near the boy.

 

McGinty said police radio personnel contributed to the tragedy by failing to pass along the "all-important fact" that a 911 caller said the gunman was probably a juvenile and the gun probably was not real.

 

On Thursday, Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams said that as protests continue, they plan to balance public safety with protesters' First Amendment rights.

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New Laws in 2016 Show States Are Diverging on Guns, Voting

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Laws taking effect at the start of the new year show states diverging on some hot-button issues.

 

Restrictions on carrying guns eased in Texas, for example, but got tighter in California. It is easier to register to vote in Oregon, but there is another step to take at the polls in North Carolina.

 

The opposing directions in the states reflect a nation with increasingly polarized politics.

 

In the debate over gun control, both sides say their arguments are strengthened by a string of mass shootings this year. That includes the December attack at a county health department gathering in San Bernardino, California, when a couple who investigators say pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group killed 14 people.

 

Everytown for Gun Safety, a group backed by billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is seeking to be a counterweight to the National Rifle Association's lobbying of state lawmakers. Both groups are expected to be active in legislatures in the coming year.

 

Whether to raise the minimum wage has become another hot topic in states and cities, with the issue getting no traction in the Republican-led Congress.

New voting laws, meanwhile, could help shape the outcomes in state and federal elections in the coming year. Democrats and others who want to boost voter participation have been pushing to expand access to the polls, while conservatives have pushed for measures aimed at preventing election fraud. Each side says the other is using legislation to help their favored party in elections.

 

A look at some of the more notable laws taking effect in January:

 

GUNS

Texas, the second-most populous state, joins 44 other states in allowing at least some firearm owners to carry handguns openly in public places. Under the Texas law, guns can be carried by those with licenses and only in holsters.

 

Meanwhile, California, the most populous state, has multiple new laws on gun control. One tightens a ban on firearms in and around schools. Under the new law, the prohibition applies even to most people who are allowed to carry concealed weapons generally. Another allows people to request that a judge order weapons be taken away from relatives who are believed to pose a threat.

 

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VOTING

California and Oregon become the first states that automatically register eligible voters when they obtain or renew their driver's licenses. Critics of the measures - mostly Republicans - say that could lead to voter fraud and is part of a plan to register more voters who are likely to be Democrats. They say voters should register voluntarily. In both states, people are able to opt out of being registered.

 

Similar measures have been proposed in other states but never adopted. This year, Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the concept in New Jersey.

In North Carolina, a voter identification law passed in 2013 that requires people to show a photo ID takes effect.

 

An amendment adopted this year allows voters who have trouble obtaining the required ID to vote anyway. That provision keeps North Carolina from joining eight states in which a photo ID is strictly required. There are still legal challenges over the law, and opponents want a judge to delay implementation.

 

In most states, voters are asked to show some kind of identification.

 

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PUBLIC HEALTH

Hawaii becomes the first state to raise its minimum age, from 18 to 21, to buy or use cigarettes or e-cigarettes. It's a move some local governments have made before, but never a state.

 

California joins West Virginia and Mississippi as the only states without a personal-belief exemption for parents who do not want to vaccinate their children. Children whose parents refuse to have them immunized against several diseases are not allowed to enroll in public or private school and instead have to be homeschooled. There is an exemption for children with serious health problems.

 

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EMPLOYMENT ISSUES

In California, a new law lets female employees allege pay discrimination based on the wages a company pays other employees who do substantially similar work. Under the law, it is up to employers to prove a man's higher pay is based on factors other than gender.

Oregon becomes the fifth state with a paid sick leave mandate for many employers.

 

Some cities in traffic-congested urban areas are trying to ease the burdens of commuting. Employers with at least 20 workers in Washington, D.C., and New York City are required to offer commuter benefits such as tax-free mass transit subsidies to their workers. San Francisco already has a similar ordinance.

 

In Missouri, a new law links the duration of jobless benefits to the state's unemployment rate. When fewer people are out of work, those claiming the benefits will be cut off sooner. The maximum length of the benefits will be reduced from the current 20 weeks - already among the shorter periods in the nation - to 13. Only North Carolina, which has a similar sliding scale, has a shorter period: 12 weeks.

 

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MINIMUM WAGE

The minimum wage rises in many cities and states with the new year. Some of the wage increases are coming under laws passed years ago that phased in the increases over a period of years. Some are automatic increases tied to the cost of living.

 

Fast-food workers in New York state receive their first pay bump under a new law that eventually will push their minimum wage to $15. The full amount will kick in at the end of 2018 in New York City and 2021 in the rest of the state.

 

The federal government has not touched the minimum wage since it was increased to $7.25 effective in 2009. Labor groups and workers keep pushing for higher raises while many business groups say raises could come at the expense of jobs. But with the federal rate unchanging, more state and local governments - particularly in the West and Northeast - are taking action.

 

The wages rise in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia on Friday. States with automatic annual increases effective Jan. 1 are Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota.

 

Some cities, including New Orleans, also have new rates starting Jan. 1. Minimum-wage fast-food workers in Seattle get a bump as part of that city's phased-in increase to $15 an hour.

 

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TAXES

Taxes have gone up in some places and dropping in others.

 

Income tax rates dropped slightly in Oklahoma, where state revenues have fallen sharply, and Massachusetts.

In North Carolina, the tax on gasoline dropped by a penny a gallon to 35 cents. The sales tax on boats will drop in New Jersey as of Feb. 1.

 

Taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products rose in Minnesota, as will hotel taxes in Hawaii.

 

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ABORTION

Physicians in North Carolina are required to provide the state with ultrasound images of fetuses and other data related to abortions performed after the 16th week of pregnancy.

 

For pregnancies terminated after the 20th week, doctors must explain to the state Department of Health and Human Services how continuing the pregnancy would have threatened the life and health of the mother. Some lawmakers who favor abortion rights say the state should not have this medical data.

 

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IMMIGRANT DRIVER'S LICENSES

Two more states allow people who are in the United States illegally to be licensed to drive. Delaware's law took effect Sunday and Hawaii's is in effect in the new year.

 

Ten states and the District of Columbia already have similar provisions.

 

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PETS

Illinois made it a misdemeanor to leave pets outside during extreme weather. Missouri, in a crackdown on the state's commercial "puppy mills," required dog breeders to provide more space for their animals and barred them from using wire-strand flooring in dog kennels.

 

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Associated Press writers Cathy Bussewitz in Honolulu; Randall Chase in Dover, Delaware; David A. Lieb in Jefferson City, Missouri; Jonathan Mattise in Charleston, West Virginia; Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City; Gary Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina; Will Weissert in Austin, Texas; and Juliet Williams in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.

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