AP News in Brief at 8:58 p.m. EST

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

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House votes to extend Treasury’s borrowing authority as Republicans drop push for concessions

WASHINGTON (AP) - Unwilling to spook the markets and divided among themselves, House Republicans backed away from a battle over the government’s debt limit Tuesday and permitted President Barack Obama’s Democratic allies to drive quick passage of a measure extending Treasury’s borrowing authority without any concessions from the White House.

The 221-201 vote came hours after Speaker John Boehner announced that his fractured party would relent.

Just 28 Republicans voted for the measure, including Boehner and his top lieutenants. But 193 Democrats more than compensated for the low support among Republicans.

Senate Democrats hoped to vote on the legislation as early as Wednesday and send it to Obama for his signature.

The move was denounced by many conservative groups but came after most Republicans in the House made clear they had no taste for another high-stakes fight with Obama over the nation’s debt ceiling, which must be raised so the government can borrow money to pay all of its bills.

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Air Force’s push to fix what ails the nuclear missile force features ideas tried 5 years ago

WASHINGTON (AP) - Five years ago the Air Force considered a series of proposals to boost morale and fix performance and security lapses in its nuclear missile corps, according to internal emails and documents obtained by The Associated Press. But many fell short or died on the vine, and now, with the force again in crisis, it’s retracing those earlier steps.

The new effort is more far-reaching, on a tighter timetable and backed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. So it appears to hold more promise for an Air Force under scrutiny after a variety of embarrassing setbacks and missteps raised questions about whether some of the world’s most fearsome weapons are being properly managed.

The earlier approach, shown in internal Air Force documents and emails from 2008-09, included some of the ideas being floated again today by a new set of Air Force leaders, including bonus pay and other incentives to make more attractive the work of the men and women who operate, maintain and secure an Air Force fleet of 450 Minuteman 3 nuclear-tipped missiles. Then, as now, the Air Force also looked for ways to eliminate the most damaging “disincentives” - parts of the job that can make missile duty onerous.

“Keep the faith,” one commander wrote to his ICBM troops in an email in early 2009.

Faith, however, seemed to falter.

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Attorney general urges states to restore voting rights to former prison inmates

WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Eric Holder called on a group of states Tuesday to restore voting rights to ex-felons, part of a push to fix what he sees as flaws in the criminal justice system that have a disparate impact on racial minorities.

“It is time to fundamentally rethink laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision,” Holder said, targeting 11 states that he said continue to restrict voting rights for former inmates, even after they’ve finished their prison terms.

“Across this country today, an estimated 5.8 million Americans - 5.8 million of our fellow citizens - are prohibited from voting because of current or previous felony convictions,” Holder told a symposium on criminal justice at Georgetown University.

Now into his fifth year as attorney general and hinting that this year might be his last, Holder survived political controversies that, early on, placed him on the defensive. Now, he is doubling down on the kinds of issues that have long held his interest during a career in law enforcement - prison overcrowding, overly harsh mandatory drug sentences and school disciplinary policies that he says push kids into street crime.

Congress used to be the place that highlighted Holder’s problems, including a plan to try terrorists in New York City and the failed Justice Department investigation of gun smuggling in Arizona that ended in the death of a border patrol agent.

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Belgium set to extend right-to-die law to children, arousing intense opposition from some

BRUSSELS (AP) - Belgium, one of the very few countries where euthanasia is legal, is expected to take the unprecedented step this week of abolishing age restrictions on who can ask to be put to death - extending the right to children for the first time.

The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes - including a list of pediatricians - and everyday people who have staged noisy street protests, fearing that vulnerable children will be talked into making a final, irreversible choice.

Backers like Dr. Gerland van Berlaer, a prominent Brussels pediatrician, believe it is the merciful thing to do. The law will be specific enough that it will only apply to the handful of teenage boys and girls who are in advanced stages of cancer or other terminal illnesses and suffering unbearable pain, he said.

Under current law, they must let nature take its course or wait until they turn 18 and can ask to be euthanized.

“We are talking about children that are really at the end of their life. It’s not that they have months or years to go. Their life will end anyway,” said Van Berlaer, chief of clinic in the pediatric critical care unit of University Hospital Brussels. “The question they ask us is: ‘Don’t make me go in a terrible, horrifying way, let me go now while I am still a human being and while I still have my dignity.’”

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Defense ministry: Algerian military plane crash kills 77 people but 1 soldier survives

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) - An Algerian military transport plane slammed into a mountain Tuesday in the country’s rugged eastern region, killing 77 people and leaving just one survivor, the defense ministry said.

Air traffic controllers lost radio and radar contact with the U.S.-built C-130 Hercules turboprop just before noon and dispatched helicopters to try to find it. The plane was discovered in pieces on Mount Fortas near the town of Ain Kercha, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Constantine, the main city in eastern Algeria.

The plane was heading to Constantine from the southern Saharan city of Tamanrasset, which has a massive military presence due to its proximity to the country’s unstable southern borders. It was at least 24 years old, according to sales information supplied by its maker, Lockheed Martin Corp.

The plane carried 74 passengers and four crew members, the military said in its statement, blaming poor weather for the crash.

Earlier in the day, Algerian government officials and Algerian state media had reported that the plane had 99 passengers, making for a much higher death toll.

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Curls and dimples: Shirley Temple, child star who made ‘em smile during Depression, dies at 85

Any kid who ever tap-danced at a talent show or put on a curly wig and auditioned for “Annie” can only dream of being as beloved - or as important - as Shirley Temple.

Temple, who died Monday night at 85, sang, danced, sobbed and grinned her way into the hearts of downcast Depression-era moviegoers and remains the ultimate child star decades later. Other pre-teens, from Macaulay Culkin to Miley Cyrus, have been as famous in their time. But none of them helped shape their time the way she did.

Dimpled, precocious and oh-so-adorable, she was America’s top box office draw during Hollywood’s golden age, and her image was free of the scandals that have plagued Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan and so many other child stars - parental feuds, drugs, alcohol.

Temple remains such a symbol of innocence that kids still know the drink named for her: a sweet, nonalcoholic cocktail of ginger ale and grenadine, topped with a maraschino cherry.

Her hit movies - which included “Bright Eyes” (1934), “Curly Top” (1935), “Dimples” (1936), “Poor Little Rich Girl” (1936) and “Heidi” (1937) - featured sentimental themes and musical subplots, with stories of resilience and optimism that a struggling American public found appealing. She kept children singing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” for generations.

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First lady Michelle Obama chooses Carolina Herrera gown for state dinner

Michelle Obama chose Carolina Herrera to design the blue and black gown she wore to the state dinner honoring French President Francois Hollande.

The first lady appeared Tuesday at the White House in the full-skirted dress as she and President Barack Obama greeted Hollande. The White House confirmed it was a Herrera gown and the Venezuelan-American designer soon afterward put out a news release saying she made the dress at her New York atelier.

The gown featured a black hand-sewn and beaded embroidery applique top that came to Obama’s elbows. She wore it over a blue corset and long liberty blue skirt and train that billowed behind her as she walked. The dress had a wide black velvet belt detail.

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Prosecutor says slaying of girl, 15, prompted by 2 teens trying to sell their souls to devil

HOUSTON (AP) - Two teenage boys were hoping to make a deal with the devil when they sexually assaulted and killed a 15-year-old suburban Houston girl in a satanic ritual, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Seventeen-year-old Jose E. Reyes and a 16-year-old boy are accused of disfiguring the girl’s body, including carving an upside down crucifix on her stomach.

Reyes and the 16-year-old boy, whose name is not being released because he is a juvenile, each face a capital murder charge for the death of Corriann Cervantes.

Authorities say that after the boys lured Cervantes to a vacant apartment in southeast Houston on Feb. 5, they hit her with an ashtray, a toilet tank lid and a window blind rod, strangled her and also stabbed her in the face with a screwdriver.

“What happened in that vacant apartment was sadistic. What will eventually happen in the … courtroom will be justice,” Harris County prosecutor John Jordan told reporters Tuesday.

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Veteran NBC newsman Tom Brokaw diagnosed with cancer; doctors optimistic about treatment

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Veteran TV newsman Tom Brokaw has been diagnosed with cancer, NBC News said Tuesday.

The Mayo Clinic discovered last summer that Brokaw has multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting blood cells in the bone marrow, NBC News said. His doctors are optimistic about his treatment and encouraged by his progress since the August diagnosis, the network division said.

In a statement released by NBC, Brokaw said he remains, in his words, “the luckiest guy I know.”

“With the exceptional support of my family, medical team and friends, I am very optimistic about the future and look forward to continuing my life, my work and adventures still to come,” he said.

The former national anchor, now an NBC News special correspondent, has continued to work on projects during his treatment and is contributing to NBC Sports coverage of the Winter Olympics, NBC said.

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White finishes fourth and a man named I-Pod shuffles order on the halfpipe

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - Maybe it was all too much. Or maybe just one of those bad nights. That debate will last a long time.

Shaun White stood at the top of the Olympic halfpipe Tuesday night, hunched over, hands resting above his knees. He high-fived his coach, clapped his hands, then jumped in for a ride that would decide if all the calculated choices he had made over a winter full of injuries, distractions and angst would pay off.

One jump, 15 feet above the pipe, was perfect. The second one looked good, too.

Then, the trick they call the “Yolo” - the one a rival invented but White had turned into his own.

His snowboard skittered across the halfpipe on the landing. White finished the run with a flourish and raised his index finger, trying to woo the judges who know, as well as anyone, what he’s done for his sport.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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