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Couple face new charges of alleged imprisonment
Written by JACQUES BILLEAUD, Associated Press   
Friday, 31 January 2014 15:28

FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) — A couple accused of imprisoning the wife's daughters in a Tucson home now face new charges in a second Arizona county where they lived previously.

Fernando and Sophia Richter pleaded not guilty Friday in Pinal County Superior Court to child abuse and kidnapping charges. Fernando Richter also pleaded not guilty to charges of child abuse, aggravated assault, sexual abuse and child molestation.

The Richters were arrested Nov. 26 in Tucson and later indicted in Pima County on kidnapping and child abuse charges. The couple moved to Tucson last year from the Pinal County community of Catalina, about 20 miles north of Tucson.

Authorities had discovered that the girls — ages 12, 13 and 17 — were being held captive when the two younger girls escaped in late November through their bedroom window and alerted a neighbor.

Police later discovered the 17-year-old was being held separately from her sisters in another room. The three girls were malnourished and dirty and told officers they hadn't taken a bath in up to six months.

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Cruise line cites fog, not illness, for return
Written by RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI, Associated Press   
Friday, 31 January 2014 14:18

HOUSTON (AP) — A cruise ship carrying more than 160 passengers and crew sick with an apparent stomach virus returned to a Houston-area port early due to a dense fog advisory and not because people were vomiting and had diarrhea, a Princess Cruises spokeswoman said Friday.

But passengers who disembarked after their planned seven-day vacation was cut short, missing their last stop in Belize, questioned that version of events. They said the crew announced on the second day of the cruise that people were sick, apparently with highly contagious norovirus, and that extra precautions were being taken to ensure it didn't spread.

"I was worried I might come down with the illness, but as days went by I didn't, so I felt more comfortable," said Doris Hajewski, 66, of Waukesha, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee.

"Really, if you didn't get sick, you didn't notice much, just the extra hand sanitizers and the extra precautions at the buffet," she added, explaining that after the outbreak was announced, crew served at the buffet instead of passengers being allowed to handle the food themselves.

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Senate passes bill to delay flood insurance hikes
Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 31 January 2014 07:19

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of homeowners in coastal and flood-prone areas would win protection from sharply higher federal flood insurance premiums under legislation muscled through the Senate on Thursday after angry constituents inundated Capitol Hill with complaints.

The 67-32 vote reflects widespread alarm about changes enacted two years ago to shore up the program's finances. In many cases the changes produced unexpected, sky-high insurance rates that are unaffordable for many homeowners in flood-prone areas whose insurance has historically been subsidized by the government and other policyholders.

"Something is just terribly wrong when homeowners are more worried about raging flood premiums than they are about raging floods," said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

The bill would delay for up to four years huge premium increases that are supposed to phase in next year and beyond under new and updated government flood maps. It also would allow homeowners to pass below-cost policies on to people who buy their homes. People who have recently bought homes and face sharp, immediate jumps in their premiums would see those increases rolled back.

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Vodka to blame for high death risk in Russian men
Written by MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer   
Friday, 31 January 2014 07:26

LONDON (AP) — Russian men who down large amounts of vodka — and too many do — have an "extraordinarily" high risk of an early death, a new study says.

Researchers tracked about 151,000 adult men in the Russian cities of Barnaul, Byisk and Tomsk from 1999 to 2010. They interviewed them about their drinking habits and, when about 8,000 later died, followed up to monitor their causes of death.

The risk of dying before age 55 for those who said they drank three or more half-liter bottles of vodka a week was a shocking 35 percent.

Overall, a quarter of Russian men die before reaching 55, compared with 7 percent of men in the United Kingdom and less than 1 percent in the United States. The life expectancy for men in Russia is 64 years — placing it among the lowest 50 countries in the world in that category.

It's not clear how many Russian men drink three bottles or more a week. Lead researcher Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University said the average Russian adult drinks 20 liters of vodka per year while the average Briton drinks about three liters of spirits.

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Family fight: GOP debates next move on immigration
Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 31 January 2014 07:05

CAMBRIDGE, Md. (AP) — House Republicans wrestled inconclusively with the outlines of immigration legislation Thursday night, sharply divided over the contentious issue itself and the political wisdom of acting on it in an election year.

At a three-day retreat on the frozen banks of the Choptank River on Maryland's Eastern Shore, GOP leaders circulated an outline that would guide the drafting of any House Republican legislation on the subject — a document that Speaker John Boehner told the rank and file was as far as the party was willing to go.

It includes a proposed pathway to legal status for millions of adults who live in the U.S. unlawfully — after they pay back taxes and fines — but not the special route to citizenship that President Barack Obama and many Democrats favor.

Many younger Americans brought to the country illegally by their parents would be eligible for citizenship.

"For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degrees, we will do just that," the statement said.

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