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  • Lost in Syria’s dust: IS’ Sunni massacre
    The cost of turning against the Islamic State was made brutally apparent in the streets of a dusty backwater town in eastern Syria in early August.
  • Lotteries
  • Correction
    Because of a reporting error, a story on Page 1C Sunday about apple cider demand had incorrect information.
Associated Press
Postal workers chant Thursday outside a Staples store in Los Angeles in a protest over the retailer’s collaboration with the U.S. Postal Service.

Pope’s call signals no policy shift

– What Pope Francis may tell Catholics in private telephone conversations doesn’t reflect church policy, the Vatican’s spokesman said Thursday.

An unusual statement from the Rev. Federico Lombardi came after days of speculation that the pope wants to change Roman Catholic Church rules barring Holy Communion for faithful people who remarry after getting divorced.

The question arose after Francis reportedly called an Argentine woman who had written to him for guidance, saying her parish priest had denied her access to the sacraments because her spouse’s previous marriage had not been annulled.

The woman’s husband, Julio Sabetta, told a radio station he took the call Monday and Francis told his wife she was free of sin and should take communion anyway.

“The man asked for my wife. I said, ‘Who’s calling?’ And he said, ‘Father Bergoglio,’ … just like he’s another member of the family,” Sabetta said.

Lie-test confessions shelved; feds ripped

The inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community said Tuesday some admissions of crimes by spy agency workers during lie detector tests were not disclosed to law enforcement agencies because of breakdowns in government reporting procedures and poor advice from agency lawyers.

Inspector General Charles McCullough III said that in several cases, officials and lawyers for the National Reconnaissance Office failed to notify federal, state or local law enforcement officials after polygraphs of employees disclosed potential crimes, from child molestation and computer viewing of child pornography to narcotics possession and use.

McCullough’s office took up the review after a referral by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and a series of critical reports by McClatchy Newspapers in late 2012.

12 hurt, 3 critically, in Calif. bus crash

Eleven middle school students and their driver were injured when a school bus jumped a curb Thursday and rammed into trees in Southern California, authorities said.

Three of the injured – the driver and two of the children – were taken to hospitals in critical condition after the 3:30 p.m. crash, Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn said. The other nine students had minor injuries, and most of them were released to their parents.

Former Homeland watchdog on leave

The secretary of the Homeland Security Department put the agency’s former internal watchdog on administrative leave Thursday after the release of a Senate report that concluded he was too cozy with senior agency officials and improperly rewrote, delayed or classified some critical reports to benefit President Barack Obama’s political appointees.

Secretary Jeh Johnson said Charles K. Edwards resigned and took another job within the department in December.

Nuclear dump crisis blamed on neglect

A radiation release from the federal government’s underground nuclear waste dump in southeast New Mexico was the result of a slow erosion of the safety culture at the 15-year-old site, which was evident in the bungled response to the emergency, federal investigators said in a report released Thursday.

The report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Accident Investigation Board cited poor management, ineffective maintenance and a lack of proper training and oversight at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

Private-sector plan irks postal workers

Postal workers in cities big and small protested in front of Staples stores Thursday, objecting to the U.S. Postal Service’s pilot program to open counters in stores, staffed with retail employees. Rallies were planned at 50 locations in 27 states.

The American Postal Workers Union says well-paid union workers have been replaced by low-wage nonunion workers. The union also worries the program will lead to post office closures.

US measles cases highest since 1996

Health officials say measles is up – again – in the United States. The nation has seen more cases of the highly contagious disease so far this year than at the same point of any year since 1996.

The 129 cases were reported as of mid-April. Most were in California and New York City. Most were triggered by travelers who caught the virus abroad and spread it in the United States among unvaccinated people.

New Jersey fires force evacuations

High wind and dry conditions Thursday provided fuel for several New Jersey forest fires, including one that forced the evacuation of more than 600 homes and the early closure of a school. Authorities had reported no injuries by early evening.

Some structures had minor damage from one fire that broke out in a central coastal area about 45 miles south of New York City.

Felon’s sperm swap remains a mystery

The results of an investigation released Thursday concluded that it may never be known how a convicted felon replaced a patient’s sperm with his own two decades ago and fathered a child, or whether he did the same type of switch with other families.

The University of Utah said there was no evidence to suggest the late Thomas Lippert fathered any other children. However, it also noted that hundreds of families who used the fertility clinic where he worked have not been contacted – and will not be, on the recommendation of doctors and medical ethicists who did the investigation.