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Sex-ring operator pleads guilty

The operator of a high-priced escort service that counted a former New York governor among its clients pleaded guilty Thursday after a criminal probe put the company out of business and Eliot Spitzer out of office.

Mark Brener, 62, of Cliffside Park, N.J., became the third of four defendants to plead guilty in a case that crushed the image of a governor who gained power and prestige as a tough-talking prosecutor and champion of women’s rights.

Brener pleaded guilty to conspiracy as part of a plea deal that, according to his lawyer, doesn’t require him to cooperate. Brener agreed Thursday to serve up to nearly three years in prison.

Spitzer resigned March 12, leaving his reputation in tatters, after it was revealed he was “Client 9” in a court document that listed the exploits of customers of Brener’s Emperors Club VIP.


Video shows arsonist at mansion

Surveillance video shows someone igniting an object and throwing it onto the porch of the Texas governor’s mansion just before a fire that caused significant damage to the landmark building, investigators said Thursday.

State Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado said investigators were still reviewing the video, but that it did not show the arsonist leaving the mansion’s front yard. Maldonado said he did not know if other people were present.

Gov. Rick Perry, who was out of the country at the time of the Sunday morning fire, paid homage to his residence of eight years at the state Republican convention in Houston.

Federal, state and local officials have wrapped up the onsite part of the criminal investigation. With that concluded, structural engineers and preservation experts begin the long process of restoring the home.


Heat wave claims more than 30

Deaths blamed on the East Coast’s recent heat wave climbed past 30 Thursday with various coroner’s reports, and 15 of the deaths were in Philadelphia alone.

The Philadelphia medical examiner’s office said seven people found dead Wednesday died of heat-related causes. On Wednesday the office had reported eight other heat-related deaths in the four days of scorching temperatures.

Most of the victims in Philadelphia and elsewhere were elderly.

The region suffered through temperatures in the high 90s from Saturday through Tuesday.


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Supreme Court won’t hear North Carolina districting dispute

new  The Supreme Court is choosing not to take on a new case on partisan redistricting for now. Instead, the justices are sending a dispute over North Carolina’s heavily Republican congressional districting map back to a lower court for more work.