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NATION/WORLD Briefs: Cutting US aid draws Egypt’s ire

– Egypt on Thursday decried Washington’s decision to freeze a sizable chunk of its annual $1.5 billion aid to Egypt, saying the move was wrong and ill-timed.

In Egypt’s first public reaction, the Foreign Ministry said the American move raised questions about Washington’s commitment to supporting the Arab nation’s security goals at a time when it is facing terrorist challenges – a reference to a burgeoning insurgency by Islamic militants, some with al-Qaida links, in the strategic Sinai Peninsula as well as scattered attacks in other parts of the country.

Washington said aid would be restored if “credible progress” was made toward setting up an inclusive, democratically elected government.

In its statement, the Foreign Ministry said Cairo will independently set its domestic policies. It also said Egypt will work to secure its “vital needs” on national security – a thinly veiled threat that it would shop elsewhere for arms and military hardware.

Christie fighting gay marriage delay

A state judge refused Thursday to delay the start of same-sex marriage in New Jersey until a legal appeal can be settled. But the administration of Republican Gov. Chris Christie immediately sought and was granted a request to file an emergency challenge to the decision.

If the administration does not prevail, the state must grant marriage licenses for same-sex couples starting Oct. 21.

Christie, a possible candidate for president in 2016 who is now running for a second term as governor, has said gay marriage should be made legal in New Jersey only if voters agree at a referendum, though none is scheduled.

Large oil spill soaks North Dakota field

More than 20,000 barrels of crude oil have spewed out of a Tesoro Corp. oil pipeline in a wheat field in northwestern North Dakota, the state health department said Thursday.

State environmental geologist Kris Roberts said the 20,600-barrel spill, among the largest recorded in the state, was discovered Sept. 29 by a farmer harvesting wheat about nine miles north of Tioga.

The release of oil has been stopped, Roberts said. Spread out over 7.3 acres, or about the size of seven football fields, the spill has been contained. Tesoro said no water sources were contaminated, no wildlife was hurt and there weren’t any injuries.

Texas plant operator faces fines in blast

The Texas company that operated a fertilizer plant where a thunderous explosion in April killed 15 people is facing $118,300 in federal fines for two dozen serious safety violations, including a failure to have an emergency response plan, officials said Thursday.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which had not inspected the facility since 1982, said West Fertilizer Co. committed violations that included unsafe handling and storage of two fertilizers, anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical that investigators believe contributed to the massive blast that leveled swaths of the rural town of West, Texas, and registered as a small earthquake.

People not target of courthouse shooter

The ex-police officer who opened fire on a federal courthouse in Wheeling, W.Va., was a trained shooter who knew how to kill, yet federal officials said Thursday that he waved people away moments before he started spraying bullets into the glass facade and was later shot dead by law enforcement.

U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld said the building being the target, and other evidence he wouldn’t specify, indicates that 55-year-old Thomas Piccard “had an anti-government bias.” But he said, Piccard did not appear to target individuals in the federal building just a few blocks from the Wheeling Police Department where he once worked.

Mahlon Shields said the thin, sickly looking man who lived across the street had recently told several neighbors that he was dying of stomach cancer. “I believe it was suicide by cop,” Shields said.

Cherokee girl’s dad drops custody claim

The biological father of a Cherokee girl adopted by a South Carolina couple has dropped his custody claims and is working with the couple on ways to be involved in the 4-year-old’s life, a Cherokee Nation assistant attorney general said Thursday.

Dusten Brown and the Cherokee Nation said at a news conference that all proceedings regarding Veronica within the Oklahoma and Cherokee court systems had been dropped. In return, they asked that Matt and Melanie Capobianco of Charleston, S.C., drop a complaint against Brown of custodial interference.

“I love her too much to continue to have her in the spotlight. It is not fair for her to be in front of media at all times,” Brown said as he broke down in tears while reading a statement at his attorney’s office Thursday morning.

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