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'Wizard of Oz' Munchkin Ruth Robinson Duccini dies
Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 17 January 2014 07:01

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Ruth Robinson Duccini, the last of the original female Munchkins from the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz," has died. She was 95.

With her death, only one actor who played one of the original 124 Munchkins in the movie remains alive.

Duccini died of natural causes in Solari Hospice Care Center in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Her death was confirmed by Stephen Cox, author of "The Munchkins of Oz." He says he learned of it from Duccini's son.

Duccini, born in Rush City, Minn., traveled to California with a troupe little people, and was cast in the MGM fantasy movie starring Judy Garland. Duccini was 4 feet tall.

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Obama to back modest gov't surveillance reforms
Written by JULIE PACE, Associated Press KIMBERLY DOZIER, Associated Press   
Friday, 17 January 2014 06:57

WASHINGTON (AP) — Capping a monthslong review, President Barack Obama is expected to back modest changes to the government's surveillance network at home and abroad while largely leaving the framework of the controversial programs in place, including the bulk collection of phone records from millions of Americans.

 

The approach reflects a president seeking the middle ground in the resurgent debate over Americans' privacy and the security measures needed to keep the country safe.

Obama was to detail his decisions in a much-anticipated speech Friday morning at the Justice Department. The speech follows an internal review spurred by disclosures about the government's sweeping surveillance programs by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden.

But the president's address may leave many questions about reforms to the surveillance programs unanswered. He was expected to recommend further study on several of the 46 recommendations he received from a presidential review group, including a proposal to strip the NSA of its ability to hold Americans' phone records and ideas for expanding privacy protections to foreigners.

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Three held for starting Southern California wildfire
Written by RAQUEL MARIA DILLON, Associated Press   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 15:35

GLENDORA, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say up to 2,000 people have been evacuated due to a wildfire that burned two homes and threatened neighborhoods in dangerously dry foothills of Southern California's San Gabriel Mountains wildfire.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby says one resident suffered minor burn injuries in the fire being fanned by gusty Santa Ana winds that spit embers into the city below.

At least 2 ½ square miles of dry brush were charred in the wilderness area about 25 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

Police say the fire was started by three people throwing paper in a campfire. They were booked on charges of recklessly starting a fire.

The area, which has been historically dry, has been buffeted by the winds which have raised temperatures into the 80s.


Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 
Budget-deal vote brings rare truce in fiscal wars
Written by TOM RAUM, Associated Press   
Friday, 17 January 2014 06:56

WASHINGTON (AP) — After last fall's tumultuous, bitterly partisan debt ceiling and government shutdown battles, a sense of fiscal fatigue seems to be setting in among many Washington policymakers as President Barack Obama prepares for his fifth State of the Union address later this month.

A declining U.S. budget deficit, still-accommodative Federal Reserve and a small-bore budget deal negotiated last month — given final approval Thursday in Congress — are helping to temper partisan rhetoric in the short term as attention in Washington shifts to the approaching midterm elections.

The recovery from the deep recession of 2007-2009 has been one of the slowest in history and still has a ways to go, especially in terms of regaining lost jobs. That was driven home by a Labor Department report last Friday that U.S. employers added just 74,000 jobs last month, far fewer than had been forecast and the smallest monthly gain in three years.

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Buildings vulnerable 20 years after L.A. earthquake
Written by ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 15:29

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The earth lurched without warning before dawn, jolting Los Angeles from its sleep. In a flash, freeway overpasses collapsed. Buildings were leveled or ruined. Fires spread.

Two decades after a magnitude-6.7 earthquake shattered Los Angeles and surrounding communities, buildings around the region remain vulnerable. While there has been progress to rebuild and shore up freeways and hospitals, there has been less attention paid to concrete buildings and housing with ground-floor parking.

"That remains a significant problem. We really have not come very far," said Jonathan Stewart, an earthquake engineer at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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