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Footnote to murder plot: $50,000 car repair bill
Written by Footnote to murder plot: $50,000 car repair bill   
Friday, 17 January 2014 14:20

NEW YORK (AP) — A dispute over a bill for vintage car repairs has become a bizarre footnote to a New York City murder-for-hire case.

A Long Island mechanic has testified that the defendant, Joseph Romano, owed him $50,000 when Romano went to jail in 2010 for defrauding investors. To try to cover the bill, the mechanic placed a lien on Romano's 1968 Camaro.

Federal prosecutors in New York City say Romano schemed behind bars to have the mechanic assaulted as payback. The mechanic testified this week that the FBI staged a photo to look like he'd been beaten outside his shop.

After Romano was shown the photo, prosecutors say he hired the supposed hit man to try to kill the prosecutor and judge in his fraud case.

Romano's trial resumes Tuesday.


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Obama proposes new limits on NSA phone collections
Written by JULIE PACE, AP White House Correspondent   
Friday, 17 January 2014 14:18

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to calm a furor over U.S. surveillance, President Barack Obama on Friday called for ending the government's control of phone data from hundreds of millions of Americans and immediately ordered intelligence agencies to get a secretive court's permission before accessing such records. Still, he defended the nation's spying apparatus as a whole, saying the intelligence community was not "cavalier about the civil liberties of our fellow citizens."

The president also directed America's intelligence agencies to stop spying on friendly international leaders and called for extending some privacy protections to foreign citizens whose communications are scooped up by the U.S.

Obama said the U.S. had a "special obligation" to re-examine its intelligence capabilities because of the potential for trampling on civil liberties.

"The reforms I'm proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe," Obama said in his highly anticipated speech at the Justice Department.

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Player in New Jersey bridge scandal will talk for immunity
Written by ANGELA DELLI SANTI, Associated Press DAVID PORTER, Associated Press   
Friday, 17 January 2014 07:46

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The former appointee of Gov. Chris Christie who directed lane closures that backed up traffic for hours in one New Jersey town is reiterating that he is ready to share more information if he can be granted immunity from prosecution.

Meanwhile, 17 other people and three organizations are being issued subpoenas as lawmakers try to learn exactly how the September lane closures on an approach to the George Washington Bridge from the community of Fort Lee happened and why.

David Wildstein, whom Christie appointed to a position in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has already supplied a legislative committee with the most damning documents in the case so far, including an email from a Christie aide saying it was "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," a sign that the lane-closing plot was hatched by Christie's aides as a political vendetta.

Wildstein's lawyer Alan Zegas told The Associated Press on Friday that there has not been any offer of immunity from the U.S. Attorney's Office, which is reviewing the matter. "If he has immunity from the relevant entities, he'll talk," Zegas said.

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U.S. employers advertise most jobs since March 2008
Written by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer   
Friday, 17 January 2014 12:06

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers advertised more jobs in November and more Americans quit, positive signs for millions who are unemployed and looking for work.

The Labor Department said Friday that job openings rose 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted 4 million, the most in 5 ½ years. And the number of people quitting increased 1.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted 2.4 million, a five-year high.

Job openings haven't topped 4 million since March 2008, just a few months after the Great Recession began. Openings at that level are generally consistent with a healthy job market.

And more workers quitting can also be a positive signal, because people usually quit when they either have a new job — typically for more pay — or are confident they can find one.

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Surgeon general urges new resolve to end smoking
Written by LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer   
Friday, 17 January 2014 07:18

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's no secret that smoking causes lung cancer. But what about diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction? Fifty years into the war on smoking, scientists still are adding diseases to the long list of cigarettes' harms — even as the government struggles to get more people to kick the habit.

A new report from the U.S. Surgeon General's office says the nation is at a crossroads, celebrating decades of progress against the chief preventable killer but not yet poised to finish the job.

"The real emphasis needs to be put on the fact that we still have a major and tragic catastrophe going on," said acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak.

The report is being released Friday at a ceremony at the White House, after a week of headlines marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1964 surgeon general's report that launched the anti-smoking movement. Far fewer Americans smoke today — about 18 percent of adults, down from more than 42 percent in 1964.

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