Jury begins deliberating in Jodi Arias murder trial

Jurors began deliberations in Jodi Arias’ murder trial on Friday after four months of testimony and closing arguments from both sides that presented far different scenarios of the killing and motivation, leaving the panel to come to grips with the dearth of evidence and Arias’ ever-changing version of events. The panel deliberated for just about an hour Friday before concluding for the day. Deliberations resume Monday. Closing arguments wrapped up with Arias’ lawyer imploring jurors to take an impartial view of his client, even if they don’t like her, and prosecutors describing the defendant as a manipulative liar who meticulously planned the attack and is still lying. “It’s not about whether or not you like Jodi Arias. Continue Reading

Jurors get case in Jodi Arias murder trial

Jury deliberations have begun in the trial of Jodi Arias, who is charged in the stabbing and shooting death of her one-time boyfriend in Arizona. Jurors got the case Friday after hearing closing arguments from both sides. Arias is accused of premeditated, first-degree murder in the June 2008 killing of Travis Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home. Arias initially denied involvement, then blamed the attack on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense. Continue Reading

Student Visa Check Latest Post-Bombing Move

WASHINGTON (AP) — Customs officials are being ordered “effective immediately” to verify that every foreign student arriving in the U.S. has a valid student visa.  

It’s the first security change by the U.S. government directly related to the Boston bombings. According to an internal memorandum obtained by The Associated Press, the Homeland Security Department says every international student holding a non-immigrant student visa must have their status verified before being allowed into the U.S. The order came one day after the Obama administration acknowledged that a student from Kazakhstan accused of hiding evidence for one of the Boston bombing suspects was allowed to return to the U.S. in January without a valid student visa. Azamat Tazhayakov’s terminated visa status was in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, called SEVIS. Continue Reading

Shortfall in Pre-Existing Condition Fund Worrisome

WASHINGTON (AP) — State officials say thousands of people with medical problems are in danger of losing coverage as the Obama administration winds down one of the earliest programs in the federal health care overhaul.  

At risk is the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, a transition program that has turned into a lifeline for the so-called “uninsurables” — people with serious medical conditions who can’t get coverage elsewhere. The health care law capped spending on the program, and now money is running out. In a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, state officials said they were “blindsided” and “disappointed” by a federal proposal they say would shift the risk for cost overruns to states in the waning days of the program. There was no immediate response from HHS. Continue Reading

Country Singers Publicly Back Same-Sex Marriage Bill

CHICAGO (AP) — Four country music stars are announcing their support for legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois.  

“Big” Kenny Alphin of the musical duo Big & Rich, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Emmy Lou Harris and Rodney Crowell signed an open letter released Thursday. They say “gay or straight, when two people are lucky enough to find each other and want to commit their lives to one another, it is nothing less than a blessing to us all.” The letter comes as a bill to allow gay marriage is pending in the Illinois House. The Senate approved the measure in February, and Gov. Pat Quinn supports it. Continue Reading

Birth Certificate Must Contain Both Spouses’ Names: Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court says the state health department must list the names of both spouses in a same-sex relationship on a child’s birth certificate.  

The court ruled Friday that the department must include the name of the non-birthing spouse in a lesbian marriage as a legal parent to any child born during the union. Justices say that a state law that allowed only the “name of the husband” to appear on the birth certificate violates the equal protection clause in the Iowa Constitution. The ruling is a victory for Heather and Melissa Gartner of Des Moines, who sued after the department listed only Heather as a parent of their daughter in 2009. The couple married after the Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2009. Continue Reading

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More Rain = Higher Rivers, More Flooding

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Another round of heavy rain is saturating the Midwest, creating new flood concerns.  

Rain — and even rare May snow in some places — pelted the Heartland Thursday and into Friday, and precipitation is expected to continue through the weekend. National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs says the St. Louis area will likely get 3-4 1/2 inches of rain through Sunday. Continue Reading

US factory orders down 4 percent in March

Orders to U.S. factories fell in March by the largest amount in seven months but a key category that signals business investment plans managed a small increase. The Commerce Department says factory orders dropped 4 percent following 1.9 percent rise in February, reflecting a big plunge in the volatile category of commercial aircraft. Orders in a category considered a proxy for business investment plans rose 0.9 percent, a modest gain but an improvement from a preliminary report last week that had shown a decline. Weaker economies overseas and the impact of across-the-board government spending cuts have made businesses more cautious, dampening demand for manufactured goods. But even with the March decline, total orders stood at $467.3 billion, 43 percent above the recession low hit in March 2009. Continue Reading

New York man charged with starting fire that killed dad, 3 kids

Authorities have charged an upstate New York man with starting the house fire that killed a father and three of his young children and left a fourth child in critical condition. Schenectady police Lt. Mark McCracken said Friday 27-year-old Robert Butler of Saratoga Springs was arraigned in Schenectady City Court on a first-degree arson charge and was jailed without bail. McCracken said Butler was known to the family. He’s charged with setting fire to the Schenectady residence early Thursday morning. The family lived in the second-floor apartment. Continue Reading