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Spelling Bee declares co-champs for second straight year

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WASHINGTON -- Students from every state, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories and eight foreign nations arrived in the capital this week; young, talented and driven, each one intent on out-spelling the other.

And then there were just two.

And that's how it ended Thursday night at the 88th Scripps National Spelling Bee, for the ...Read more

Latest man cleared of murder in Illinois county walks free from prison

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CHICAGO -- A man convicted of murder in Lake County walked free from prison Thursday after the case against him collapsed, once again illustrating the depth of the problems that have plagued the Illinois county's justice system.

The evidence against Jason Strong eroded steadily during the 15 years he spent behind bars until little remained to ...Read more

More flooding could hit beleaguered Texas communities this weekend

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Even as Central Texas waterways recede from their Memorial Day weekend flooding and insurers began processing claims, emergency officials and meteorologists warned that the area could see more flooding this weekend.

Texans downstream of flooded areas should be careful because swollen rivers are rolling their way, the chief of ...Read more

Nurse saves truck driver from fiery South Carolina crash

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COLUMBIA, S.C. -- For Kelly Winters, a normal morning means waking up at just before 5 a.m. at his Chapin home to get ready for his commute to Providence Hospital here, where he works as a senior charge nurse in the cardiac intensive care unit.

Winters said normally by the time he gets up, the coffee machine is already brewing a fresh pot ...Read more

If NSA surveillance program ends, phone record trove will endure

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WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency will mothball its mammoth archive of Americans' telephone records, isolating the computer servers where they are stored and blocking investigators' access, but will not destroy the database if its legal authority to collect the material expires on schedule this Sunday, officials said Thursday.

The NSA'...Read more

Senators call Santa Barbara oil spill response 'insufficient'

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LOS ANGELES -- Three U.S. senators are raising concerns about a Texas-based company's "insufficient" response to a pipeline failure last week that released thousands of gallons of crude into the ocean and fouled the Santa Barbara County coastline.

In a letter Thursday to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Sens. Barbara ...Read more

No jail time for ex-state Sen. Ford of South Carolina

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COLUMBIA, S.C -- Former state Sen. Robert Ford of South Carolina was given a suspended, seven-year prison sentence Thursday for using thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for personal expenses.

Judge Robert Hood also sentenced Ford, 66, to five years of probation and 350 hours of community service for using his office for personal ...Read more

Obama visits Miami shrine to Cuban saint

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MIAMI -- President Barack Obama extended a symbolic olive branch Thursday to Miami's Cuban Americans by paying his respects to the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Coconut Grove.

Earlier in the day, Obama visited the National Hurricane Center and met privately with the Pinecrest family of Steven Sotloff, the journalist slain last ...Read more

Stage set for Cuba's removal from US terrorism list

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For 33 years, Cuba has occupied a spot on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism -- a place reserved for nations that repeatedly provide support for international acts of premeditated, politically motivated violence against non-combatants.

It was placed on the list during the Cold War, an era when there was still a Soviet Union and Cuba ...Read more

Death toll from flooding in Texas and Oklahoma reaches 22

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HOUSTON -- With more storms forecast in Texas, where record-breaking rainfall has led to deadly and widespread flooding, officials were overseeing evacuations Thursday as residents packed up and moved away from swollen lakes and rivers to higher ground.

The death toll from the severe weather and flooding that began last weekend in Texas and ...Read more

Sleep: Caretaker of memories, repairer of prejudice

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Learning new stuff takes sleep. Robbed of the restorative balm of slumber, research demonstrates that the human brain will quickly lose its ability to make and hold on to new memories, and learning takes a dive.

A new study, however, finds that sleep is also crucial to unlearning stuff that we may have committed to memory without a proper ...Read more

Defense Department anthrax error triggers anger in Congress

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WASHINGTON -- Military officials said Thursday that the Pentagon was in close contact with officials at research labs in California, Texas and seven other states that received potentially live anthrax spores, but they refused to identify the labs or to disclose how many people were being treated with antibiotics to stave off the disease.

A ...Read more

Plan to preserve fragile sagebrush land focuses on saving greater sage grouse

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The federal government unveiled its latest plan to preserve fragile sagebrush land in 10 states, a contentious issue that has led to years of fighting over environmental and development issues that mark land use in the West.

The plan was announced Thursday in Cheyenne, Wyo., by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. It focuses on steps to save the ...Read more

Volunteers raise flood victims' spirits with fresh laundry

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WIMBERLEY, Texas -- Trash bags of filthy fabrics sit along the wall of Wash Day Laundry, muddy liquid oozing from the black plastic onto the light, speckled tiles.

Inside are remnants plucked from saturated houses: muck-soaked clothes, bedding, tablecloths and other items flood victims hope can be saved. They've already lost so much, they say. ...Read more

Son of 'Barney' creator faces 15 years in prison for shooting neighbor

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LOS ANGELES--The son of the creator of "Barney & Friends" pleaded no contest Thursday to shooting his neighbor in the chest after accusing him of trespassing.

Patrick Kearns Leach is charged with one count each of assault with a firearm and shooting from a vehicle in connection with a 2013 assault, according to the Los Angeles County district ...Read more

Nation and world news briefs

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LOS ANGELES -- Actress Lindsay Lohan completed more than 100 hours of community service and is off probation in connection with a reckless driving conviction two years ago.

Just weeks ago the judge said Lohan had fulfilled only nine hours stemming from a 2012 car wreck. She took to social media Wednesday to celebrate the completion of her ...Read more

Hillary Clinton campaign outlines plans for fundraising and first big speech

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WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton's campaign aides knocked down speculation that they're aiming to raise $2 billion for the primary and general elections, saying the total they expect to need to win the White House is closer to the $1 billion that President Barack Obama needed to win re-election in 2012.

The $2 billion number has cropped up in ...Read more

Quick start to HIV drug treatment can cut risk of illness, death in half

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An international clinical trial involving nearly 5,000 people with HIV confirms that treatment with antiretroviral drugs should begin sooner rather than later, the National Institutes of Health announced this week. In fact, the benefits of early therapy were so clear that the study was stopped early so that everyone in the trial could receive ...Read more

Ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert indicted

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CHICAGO -- Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been indicted on federal charges alleging he structured the withdrawal of $952,000 in cash in order to evade reporting requirements and lied to the FBI about his withdrawals.

Hastert, 73, of Plano, Ill., was charged with one count each of structuring currency transactions to evade Currency...Read more

Officers in Freddie Gray case file for change of venue

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BALTIMORE -- Defense attorneys for six police officers facing criminal charges in the Freddie Gray case are seeking to have the case tried elsewhere in Maryland, saying their clients can't get a "fair and impartial trial" in Baltimore.

In an 85-page document filed Wednesday with the court seeking a change of venue, the lawyers argued that a "...Read more