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Ex-California city leader gets 12 years in prison for fraud
Written by JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 13:47

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former city manager of Bell was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in prison and ordered to make restitution of $8.8 million in a corruption scheme that nearly bankrupted the small, blue-collar city.

Robert Rizzo apologized during sentencing in Los Angeles County Superior Court, telling the judge he breached the public's confidence.

Rizzo previously pleaded no contest to 69 counts including conspiracy, misappropriation of public funds and falsification of public records.

It was revealed in 2010 that Rizzo was giving himself an annual salary and benefits package of $1.5 million in the city where a quarter of the population lives below the federal poverty line. His $800,000 in wages alone was double that of the president of the United States.

On Monday, Rizzo was sentenced separately to 33 months in federal prison for income tax evasion after he acknowledged reporting more than $700,000 in phony deductions to reduce tax liability on money authorities say he stole from Bell.

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Judge stays most of Ohio gay marriage ruling
Written by AMANDA LEE MYERS, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 12:58

CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio officials must immediately recognize the same-sex marriages of four couples who sued over the state's gay marriage ban, a federal judge said Wednesday, while staying the broader effects of his ruling to avoid "premature celebration and confusion" in case it's overturned on appeal.

Judge Timothy Black stayed his ruling ordering Ohio to recognize the marriages of gay couples who wed in other states pending appeal in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The appeals process likely will take months.

Had Black not issued the stay, all married gay couples living in Ohio would have been able to immediately begin obtaining the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights and the right to make some medical decisions for each other.

Black said the stay does not apply to the four couples who filed the February lawsuit that led to the court case and ordered Ohio to immediately list both spouses in each relationship as parents on their children's birth certificates.

In explaining the stay, Black said that although he doesn't think the state's appeal will succeed, there is still a chance the 6th Circuit could overturn his decision.

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End of NYPD Muslim surveillance program applauded
Written by JAKE PEARSON, Associated Press TOM HAYS, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 06:06

NEW YORK (AP) — Muslim groups and civil liberties advocates applauded the decision by New York Police Department officials to disband a controversial unit that tracked the daily lives of Muslims as part of efforts to detect terror threats, but said there were concerns about whether other problematic practices remained in place.

The Demographics Unit, conceived with the help of a CIA agent working with the NYPD, assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Plainclothes officers infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued Muslims in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames. NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis confirmed Tuesday that detectives assigned to the unit had been transferred to other duties within the department's Intelligence Division.

Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said she was among a group of advocates at a private meeting last week with police at which the department's new intelligence chief, John Miller, first indicated the unit — renamed the Zone Assessment Unit — wasn't viable. She applauded the decision but said there's still concern about the police use of informants to infiltrate mosques without specific evidence of crime.

"This was definitely a part of the big puzzle that we're trying to get dismantled," Sarsour said. But, she added, "This doesn't necessarily prove to us yet that these very problematic practices are going to end."

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College Board provides a glimpse of new SAT
Written by KIMBERLY HEFLING, AP Education Writer   
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 10:24

WASHINGTON (AP) — Anxious students — not to mention their parents — can get a heads-up for how the redesigned SAT might look in two years.

Sample questions for the new version of the college-entrance test were released on Wednesday by the College Board, which announced last month that the new test will include real-world applications and require more analysis. Students will also be asked to cite evidence to show their understanding of texts.

A reading passage provided as an example was adapted from a speech delivered in 1974 by Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-Texas, during the impeachment hearings of President Richard Nixon. Test takers must answer questions that best describe Jordan's stance and the main rhetorical effect of a part of the passage.

Another sample question asks test takers to calculate what it would cost an American traveling in India to convert dollars to rupees. Another question requires students to use the findings of a political survey to answer questions.

The College Board said all the information about the redesigned test, which is due out in 2016, is in draft form and subject to change.

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Man charged with hoax near Boston marathon finish line
Written by PHILIP MARCELO, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 05:56

BOSTON (AP) — A man taken into custody near the Boston Marathon finish line late Tuesday, the anniversary of the deadly pressure cooker bombings, had a rice cooker in his backpack and was being charged with possession of a hoax device, police said.

The man was stopped by an officer who saw him acting suspiciously, including walking down the middle of a street barefoot in pouring rain, Police Superintendent Randall Halstead said. The man dropped the backpack and told the officer it contained a rice cooker, he said.

The incident took place hours after ceremonies to mark last year's Boston Marathon bombings, in which two pressure cooker bombs hidden in backpacks exploded, killing three people near the finish line and injuring more than 260 others.

The backpack Tuesday night was blown up by the bomb squad as a precaution as was a second unattended backpack found nearby. Halstead didn't release the identity of the man in custody and wouldn't say what was in the second backpack or who owned it. He said police were investigating.

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