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  • Veteran jailed in Mexico freed
    A Mexican judge on Friday ordered the immediate release of a jailed U.S. Marine veteran who spent eight months behind bars for crossing the border with loaded guns. The judge called for retired Marine Sgt.
  • Phobias appear eerily divided by party ways
    Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to have a fear of clowns. They are also significantly more likely to fear bugs, snakes and other animals, as well as blood and needles.

House won’t fight violence measure

– House Republicans raised the white flag Thursday on extending domestic violence protections to gays, lesbians and transsexuals after months of resisting an expansion of the Violence Against Women Act.

GOP leaders, who had tried to limit the bill before November’s election, gave the go-ahead for the House to accept a more ambitious Senate version written mainly by Democrats.

The act is credited with helping reduce domestic violence incidents by two-thirds over the past two decades. The Senate bill would authorize about $659 million a year over five years to fund current programs that provide grants for transitional housing, legal assistance, law enforcement training and hotlines.


Suspect in Las Vegas street attack nabbed

A self-described pimp was arrested Thursday in Los Angeles, ending a manhunt that began after a vehicle-to-vehicle shooting and spectacular, fiery crash that killed three people on the Las Vegas Strip a week ago, police said.

Ammar Harris, 26, surrendered to a team of police and federal agents who found him inside a North Hollywood apartment after a woman answered the door, authorities said.

Parents get 15 years for confining son

A mother and stepfather who confined their teenage son to a bedroom for years with little food were each sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to cruelty to children and false imprisonment.

Under a deal with prosecutors, Paul and Sheila Comer each will also serve 15 years on probation and forfeit their assets to a trust for their children.

Their son, 18-year-old Mitch Comer, was found wandering a Los Angeles bus station last fall and told police he had suffered years of abuse.

Medicare funds poor nursing home care

Medicare paid billions in taxpayer dollars to nursing homes nationwide that were not meeting basic requirements to look after their residents, government investigators have found.

The report, released Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general, said Medicare paid about $5.1 billion for patients to stay in skilled nursing facilities that failed to meet federal quality of care rules in 2009, in some cases resulting in dangerous and neglectful conditions.

CEO implicated in 2010 mine disaster

Don Blankenship, the chief executive at the time of the 2010 West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 workers, was implicated by a former subordinate Thursday of ordering a widespread corporate practice of warning coal miners about surprise federal inspections.

The allegation by David Hughart, a former president of a Massey Energy subsidiary, came as he pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges and as investigators have signaled they are working their way up the ladder to what experts say would be a rare prosecution of a major corporate executive.

Livestrong lives on without Armstrong

Leaders of the cancer charity founded by Lance Armstrong struck a determined, sometimes defiant tone Thursday as they declared the organization will persevere in the wake of the cyclist’s admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

“Things happen that we cannot control – cancer has taught us that,” executive vice president Andy Miller said at The Livestrong Foundation’s annual meeting in Chicago. “What do we do? We adapt.”


Haitian court grills ex-dictator on rule

Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier appeared in a Haitian court for the first time Thursday after repeatedly shunning previous summonses, answering questions on whether he should be charged with human rights abuses during his brutal 1971-86 regime.

It was also the first time for the plaintiffs to see the former ruler known as “Baby Doc” answer direct questions about the widespread abuses associated with his rule. Duvalier had ignored three earlier summonses without consequences but showed up Thursday after a judge warned that he would be jailed if he shunned a fourth.

French troops won’t leave Mali until July

French troops will stay in the West African country of Mali at least until July, amid tougher-than-expected resistance from Islamic fighters, officials have told The Associated Press, despite earlier government promises to begin a pullout within weeks.

Any French pullout this month is likely to be small and symbolic, leaving behind a robust force to try to keep the peace in a poor and troubled country, the officials say.

Japan meltdown’s cancer fallout small

Two years after Japan’s nuclear plant disaster, an international team of experts said Thursday that residents of areas hit by the highest doses of radiation face an increased cancer risk so small it probably won’t be detectable.

In fact, experts calculated that increase at about 1 extra percentage point added to a Japanese infant’s lifetime cancer risk.