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Tracks left by the Curiosity rover are visible in this image captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and provided by NASA.
Briefs

Airplane bomb scare turns out ‘nasty trick’

– A man flying home to Texas to celebrate his 29th birthday with family and friends Thursday instead spent the day at the center of a midair explosives scare that forced the plane’s return to Philadelphia and led law enforcement officers to escort him away at gunpoint.

The scare turned out to be a hoax, authorities said after searching the Dallas-bound US Airways jet and questioning the passenger. The man did nothing wrong and was the victim of “a pretty nasty trick,” Philadelphia police Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said.

Police at Philadelphia International Airport received a call around 7:30 a.m. that named a passenger who was on his way to Texas and said he was carrying a dangerous substance, Sullivan said.

The name matched that of a passenger, prompting officials to turn the aircraft around a third of the way across Pennsylvania. Passengers said they were told the plane was having electrical problems.

FBI special agent Richard Quinn said it was too early to speculate about what sort of charges could be filed against the caller but they could be severe.

Nation

Robbers strap fake bomb on manager

Authorities investigating a bizarre bank heist Thursday searched the home of a bank manager told to strap what she believed was a bomb to her midsection and was forced to order employees to “take out all the money” from her branch.

Two masked gunmen got away with an undisclosed amount of cash from a Bank of America in Los Angeles when it opened Wednesday morning, but no one was injured in the robbery.

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s bomb squad disabled the device, but investigators said it wasn’t an explosive.

Restaurant group underpays: Suit

Darden Restaurants Inc. violated federal labor laws by underpaying thousands of servers across the country at Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Red Lobster and other eateries, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the workers.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Miami federal court, seeks to collectively represent current and past employees who worked for Darden from August 2009 to the present. It seeks potentially tens of millions of dollars in back pay and other compensation, plus interest and attorney fees, lead lawyer David Lichter said.

Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers said the allegations “fly in the face of our values and how we operate our business.”

Curiosity’s tracks visible from space

NASA’s robotic rover Curiosity is making its mark on Mars, in a way so big that it can be seen from space.

In just one month, it’s driven 368 feet on the red planet, slightly more than the length of a football field. Curiosity’s slightly zig-zaggy tire tracks were photographed by a NASA satellite circling Mars and also from the rover’s rear-facing cameras.

When the images from the Martian satellite showed the rover tracks, “there was much high-fiving,” mission manager Michael Watkins said Thursday.

The spacecraft landed Aug. 5 on a mission to look for ingredients in Martian soil and rocks that could support life.

Texas speed limit going to 85 mph

Texas will soon open a stretch of highway with the highest speed limit in the country, giving eager drivers a chance to rip through a trip between two of the state’s largest metropolitan areas.

The Texas Transportation Commission has approved a speed limit of 85 mph for a 41-mile toll road several miles east of the increasingly crowded Interstate 35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio.

World

Syrian troops shell, retake border town

After hours of heavy shelling, Syrian troops recaptured a border town Thursday in what activists said was a government attempt to stem the flood of people fleeing their country’s civil war.

In the latest clashes, hundreds of Syrian soldiers backed by 20 tanks assaulted Tel Chehab on the Jordanian border, according to Abu Houran and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The activists did not have casualty figures.

Abu Houran said at least 2,000 refugees were waiting in the town for the chance to cross the border.

Grenade accident kills 25 in Turkey

An explosion and blaze triggered by an accidentally dropped hand grenade killed 25 soldiers during a stock check at a Turkish ammunition depot, the government said Thursday.

Four other soldiers were injured in the blast, which lit up the night sky late Wednesday with flames, and shattered windows in homes in the nearby town of Afyonkarahisar in western Turkey, terrifying residents.

No cease-fire for Colombian talks

President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday night rejected a proposal by Colombia’s main leftist rebel movement to observe a cease-fire during peace talks that are to begin next month in Norway.

Leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said hours earlier during a news conference in Cuba that their first item on the negotiations’ agenda would be to propose a truce in the half-century of fighting that has killed tens of thousands.

“We will not give anything until we get the final agreement, and I want to make that very clear,” the president told reporters at a military base in central Colombia.

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