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Nation in brief: Obama signs law restoring benefits

President Barack Obama signs emergency unemployment benefits legislation Thursday.  (Associated Press)
President Barack Obama signs emergency unemployment benefits legislation Thursday. (Associated Press)

Washington – Federal checks could begin flowing again as early as next week to millions of jobless people who lost up to seven weeks of unemployment benefits in a congressional standoff.

President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law a restoration of benefits for people who have been out of work for six months or more. Congress gave final approval to the measure earlier in the day.

The move ended an interruption that cut off payments averaging about $300 a week to 2  1/2 million people who have been unable to find work in the aftermath of the nation’s long and deep recession.

Fresno, Calif. – Authorities were investigating the cause of a deadly crash Thursday in California’s Central Valley that killed six people and seriously injured nine others when a Greyhound bus slammed into an overturned SUV.

The bus, carrying 31 passengers on a route from Los Angeles to Sacramento, struck the SUV in front of it, skidded into a concrete center divider and clipped another vehicle shortly after 2 a.m. a few miles from downtown Fresno, California Highway Patrol chief Jim Abrames said.

The bus went off the right shoulder of the highway and down a 15-foot embankment before plowing into a eucalyptus tree and coming to rest on a freeway off-ramp with its front end smashed and tree branches jutting into the vehicle.

New York – The lone person criminally charged in a construction crane collapse that killed seven people was acquitted Thursday after challenging the conclusion prosecutors, federal regulators and city officials had all reached about what caused the accident.

Crane rigger William Rapetti’s acquittal shifts the debate over responsibility for the March 2008 collapse into civil court, where some of the roster of lawsuits against Rapetti and others are due to start going to trial next month. His criminal trial – which offered competing accounts of bad crane parts and poor judgment – is likely to help shape the civil cases, attorneys say.