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A&E reverses decision on 'Duck Dynasty' patriarch
Written by LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer   
Saturday, 28 December 2013 06:35

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A&E landed in the middle of America's culture wars when "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson sounded off on gays and the Bible. The channel quickly found there was no safe ground.

It was pilloried for allowing a man who equated gays with hell-bound sinners like adulterers to have a national TV stage. Then it was excoriated for giving him the hook.

With A&E's decision Friday to bring Robertson back to its most-watched show, it remains to be seen if it can mend fences with both sides — or at least with those viewers who hold opposing views.

The channel's interest is in ratings and revenue, not refereeing social discord.

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Family finds facility to take 'brain-dead' girl
Written by Associated Press   
Saturday, 28 December 2013 06:33

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — An attorney says a nursing home has agreed to provide long-term care for a 13-year-old girl, who has been declared brain dead but whose family maintains is still alive.

A southern California facility agreed after another nursing home backed out, the family's lawyer, Christopher Dolan, said Friday.

He wouldn't provide its name, saying "we're afraid they'll be inundated with press" and decide to back out as well.

Time is short for the family, as Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo on Tuesday ruled that the Children's Hospital Oakland may remove Jahi McMath from life support at 5 p.m. Monday unless an appeal is filed.

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Unreturned library books can mean jail time
Written by WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press   
Friday, 27 December 2013 15:50

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Call it throwing the book at the bookworms.

A Texas man who was arrested for failing to return an overdue library book ignited an online flurry of snarky comments and headlines about the Lone Star State extending its tough-on-crime bravado to books. But such cases aren't unheard of, and many communities faced with shrinking budgets and rising costs have ordinances calling for fines or even arrest warrants when library property isn't returned.

In Texas alone, the issue has cost libraries an estimated $18 million.

Jory Enck learned that the hard way. He was arrested for not returning a GED study guide that he checked out three years ago in the Central Texas community of Copperas Cove. Enck declined comment to The Associated Press, but he told the Killeen Daily Herald that he wouldn't set foot in a library again: "I think I will probably just purchase a book from Amazon."

A Texas state law took effect in September that defines the failure to return library books as theft. The law, which doesn't trump stricter community ordinances, mandates up to a $100 fine per offense.

Other states also call for fines or even arrest warrants in such cases, including Iowa — where an overdue-book offender was jailed for a week — Vermont and Maine.

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Federal judge rules NSA phone surveillance legal
Written by LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press   
Friday, 27 December 2013 16:00
NEW YORK (AP) — Citing the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal judge ruled Friday that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of millions of Americans' telephone records is legal, a valuable tool in the nation's arsenal to fight terrorism that "only works because it collects everything."

U.S. District Judge William Pauley said in a written opinion that the program lets the government connect fragmented and fleeting communications and "represents the government's counter-punch" to the al-Qaida's terror network's use of technology to operate decentralized and plot international terrorist attacks remotely.

"This blunt tool only works because it collects everything," Pauley said. "The collection is broad, but the scope of counterterrorism investigations is unprecedented."

Pauley's decision contrasts with a ruling earlier this month by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, who granted a preliminary injunction against the collecting of phone records of two men who had challenged the program. The Washington, D.C. jurist said the program likely violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on unreasonable search. The judge has since stayed the effect of his ruling, pending a government appeal.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 December 2013 16:12
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Military sex assault reports jump by 50 percent
Written by LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press   
Friday, 27 December 2013 15:44

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of reported sexual assaults across the military shot up by more than 50 percent this year, an increase that defense officials say may suggest that victims are becoming more willing to come forward after a tumultuous year of scandals that shined a spotlight on the crimes and put pressure on the military to take aggressive action.

A string of high-profile assaults and arrests triggered outrage in Congress and set off months of debate over how to change the military justice system, while military leaders launched a series of new programs intended to beef up accountability and encourage victims to come forward.

According to early data obtained by The Associated Press, there were more than 5,000 reports of sexual assault filed during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, compared to the 3,374 in 2012. Of those 2013 reports, about 10 percent involved incidents that occurred before the victim got into the military, up from just 4 percent only a year ago. That increase, officials said, suggests that confidence in the system is growing and that victims are more willing to come forward.

Asked about the preliminary data, defense officials were cautious in their conclusions. But they said surveys, focus groups and repeated meetings with service members throughout the year suggest that the number of actual incidents — from unwanted sexual contact and harassment to violent assaults — has remained largely steady.

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