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In brief: Obama visits Arkansas tornado victims

VILONIA, Ark. – President Barack Obama pledged Wednesday to residents of tornado-ravaged Arkansas communities that their government will stand with them until they finish rebuilding.

Obama said he wanted to visit this small city about a half-hour north of Little Rock to make sure those grieving the loss of loved ones, their homes and treasured possessions know that they will not be forgotten.

Storms tore across the state on April 27, killing 15 people.

Late last month, Obama visited a site in Oso, Washington, where more than 40 people were killed by a massive mudslide in March.

Bombing suspect fights death penalty

BOSTON – Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a judge on Wednesday to declare the federal death penalty unconstitutional, citing recent bungled executions in Ohio and Oklahoma and arguing there’s mounting evidence innocent people have been executed.

In a flurry of pretrial motions, Tsarnaev’s lawyers said that the U.S. Constitution’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment prohibits the application of the death penalty because it’s not authorized under state law in Massachusetts.

Tsarnaev, 20, has pleaded not guilty to several federal charges and awaits trial. Prosecutors allege he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, planted two pressure cooker bombs near the marathon’s finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a shootout with police several days after the bombing.

X-15 test pilot Dana dies at 83

LOS ANGELES – Famed research test pilot Bill Dana, who flew the X-15 rocket plane and other pioneering aircraft during the birth of the space age, has died.

Dana, 83, died Tuesday at an assisted living facility in suburban Phoenix.

Starting in the 1950s, Dana logged more than 8,000 hours in more than 60 types of aircraft, ranging from helicopters and sailplanes to the hypersonic X-15, which he flew to a maximum altitude of nearly 59 miles, reaching a top speed of 3,897 mph.

House holds ex-IRS chief in contempt

WASHINGTON – The House voted Wednesday to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for her refusal to testify about the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.

The move is the latest attempt by Republicans to focus attention on the controversy that erupted after it was revealed last May that a regional branch office of the IRS had been giving extra scrutiny to applications for tax-exempt status from groups identified with terms such as “tea party” or “patriot.”


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Officials: Weinstein to surrender in sexual misconduct probe

UPDATED: 5:25 p.m.

Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is expected to surrender to authorities Friday to face charges involving at least one of the women who have accused him of sexual assault, two law enforcement officials told the Associated Press.