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In brief: Police leave protesters’ barricades intact

From Wire Reports

HONG KONG – Police briefly scuffled with protesters camped out in Hong Kong’s streets early today, but held back from dismantling barricades erected by the activists pushing for greater democracy in the Chinese territory.

Public anger simmered over video showing police kicking a handcuffed protester on Wednesday night, an incident that happened when police charged the mostly student demonstrators occupying a highway underpass, using pepper spray and dragging dozens away.

Police used pepper spray again early this morning to push back crowds trying to occupy a road outside the government’s headquarters. Police said two protesters were arrested, one for kicking a bottle at a private car and one for assaulting police, and three officers were injured.

Egyptian warplanes hit Libya militias

BENGHAZI, Libya – Egypt deepened its involvement in the fight against Islamist militias who have taken over key parts of Libya on Wednesday, with officials saying Egyptian warplanes have bombed their positions in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The two officials, who have firsthand knowledge of the operation, said the use of the aircraft was part of an Egyptian-led campaign against the militiamen that will eventually involve Libyan ground troops recently trained by Egyptian forces.

The operation, they said, was requested by the internationally recognized Libyan administration based in the eastern city of Tobruk. That elected administration was thrown out of the capital, Tripoli, by rival militias allied with Islamic political factions.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the operation would last three to six months and involve the use of an Egyptian navy vessel as a command center off the Mediterranean coast near Tobruk.

Voter ID law tossed by Arkansas court

Arkansas’ voter identification law crumbled Wednesday when the state’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision to strike down the law.

Voter qualifications “set forth in our state’s constitution simply do not include any proof-of-identity requirement,” the Supreme Court said in its decision.

The Arkansas Legislature passed the law, which required voters to show photo ID at polling places, in 2013.

Although a state judge struck down the law in May 2014, the state Supreme Court stayed that decision as it pondered whether to hear the case, so the law was in effect during a primary election that month.

The high court’s decision Wednesday means voters in the upcoming November election will not have to show identification.

Man dies of injuries from pit bulls’ attack

MODESTO, Calif. – A central California man died after he and his 77-year-old mother were mauled by a pack of pit bulls owned by his neighbors, sheriff’s officials said Wednesday.

Juan Fernandez, 59, died of multiple traumatic injuries suffered in Tuesday’s attack at his home in Modesto, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said. His mother, Maria, remained hospitalized in critical condition.

Investigators determined that the dogs were owned by the victims’ neighbors and got into the victims’ yard through a common fence, Christianson said. They have not been arrested, though Christianson said the investigation into the attack was continuing.

$483 billion deficit is lowest since 2008

WASHINGTON – The deficit for the just-completed 2014 budget year was $483 billion, the lowest of President Barack Obama’s six years in office, the government reported Wednesday.

It’s the lowest since 2008 and, when measured against the size of the economy, is below the average deficits of the past 40 years. The deficit equaled 2.8 percent of gross domestic product, which is the economy’s total output of goods and services.

By comparison, the deficit for 2013 was $680 billion, or 4.1 percent of GDP.

Here’s an easier way to understand why the new numbers are good news: The government borrows 14 cents for every dollar it spends; six years ago, it was 40 cents.

“This is a return to fiscal normalcy,” White House budget director Shaun Donovan said.

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