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  • Lotteries
  • Few employers drop benefits, surveys say
    WASHINGTON – The Affordable Care Act so far has not prompted the nation’s employers to drop health benefits for some or all of their workers as critics of the law had predicted, according to two major surveys released
  • Taliban assault in Kabul fails
    Four Taliban militants who attacked a compound housing foreign workers in the Afghan capital were killed Wednesday night in a failed assault there, police said, the latest violence targeting foreigners in the country.
Associated Press
A robotic submarine, pictured Monday before its hunt for the missing Malaysian Airlines jet, was unable to handle the depth of the search area.

Sub can’t handle deep search

– The search area for the missing Malaysian jet has proved too deep for a robotic submarine that was hauled back to the surface of the Indian Ocean less than halfway through its first seabed hunt for wreckage and the all-important black boxes, authorities said early today.

Search crews sent the Bluefin 21 deep into the Indian Ocean on Monday to begin scouring the seabed for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 after failing for six days to detect any signals believed to be from its black boxes.

Search authorities knew any wreckage was likely at the limit of the Bluefin’s capabilities, which is 15,000 feet. Deeper diving submersibles have been evaluated, but none is yet available in the search area.


Tax refund seizure for old debts halts

The Social Security Administration is suspending a program in which thousands of people were having their tax refunds seized to recoup overpayments that happened more than a decade ago.

Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin said Monday she has directed an immediate halt to the program while the agency does a review.

Social Security recipients and members of Congress complained that people were being forced to repay overpayments that were sometimes paid to their parents or guardians when they were children.

Health laws cost estimate drops

The Affordable Care Act’s health insurance subsidies will cost a little less than previously thought, according to a new report released Monday.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that health insurance subsidies under the so-called Obamacare plan will total a little more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, instead of almost $1.2 trillion initially estimated.

CBO said the drop results largely from tighter cost controls by insurance companies offering plans on health care exchanges. Generally speaking, such plans pay health care providers less and have tighter management of patients’ treatment options, and that means lower premiums and taxpayer subsidies.

Alleged stabber phoned threats

Detectives believe a boy charged with stabbing 21 other students and a security guard at his Pittsburgh-area high school threatened two students by phone before the attack, according to a search warrant. Neither was one of the victims.

The warrant, obtained for the home of Alex Hribal hours after last Wednesday’s rampage, said two students received “threatening phone messages and completed calls” from someone believed to be Hribal. It said the threat of violence contained an expletive.

Woman charged in Clinton shoe throw

Federal authorities have lodged two criminal charges against a Phoenix woman accused of throwing a shoe at Hillary Rodham Clinton while she gave a convention speech in Las Vegas.

If convicted, Alison Michelle Ernst, 36, could face up to a year in federal prison on each charge – trespassing and violence against a person in a restricted building.

More claim to be data theft victims

According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, 18 percent of American adults with Internet access have reported that valuable personal information – Social Security and credit card numbers, and banking information – was stolen in a data breach. That’s up from 11 percent who reported the same in July.

The survey of 1,002 adults was conducted in January – before the public knew about the Heartbleed bug but after the disclosure of major breaches at retailers, including Target and Neiman Marcus.

Rocket glitch stalls space station visit

A space station cargo ship will remain earthbound for a while longer because of a rocket leak.

With just over an hour remaining, the SpaceX company called off Monday’s planned launch. Officials said they believe the problem can be fixed by Friday, the next opportunity for flying and the last chance before astronauts do urgent spacewalking repairs.

Mumps outbreak sickens 200 in Ohio

A mumps outbreak in central Ohio has grown to more than 200 confirmed cases, public health officials said Monday.

A total of 212 cases, with 132 of those linked to Ohio State University, have been reported. Those infected range in age from 9 months to 70 years old, local health agencies said. The cases span from early January to late last week.


Syria drives rebel forces from capital

Syrian troops triumphantly swept through some of the last remaining opposition strongholds north of Damascus, including a much coveted ancient Christian hamlet, sending rebel fighters fleeing to nearby hills.

The near total collapse of rebels along a key supply route that has long funneled weapons to opposition-held districts around Damascus helps strengthen President Bashar Assad’s hand in and around the capital ahead of presidential elections, during which he intends to run for a third term.

Nicaraguans live in fear after quakes

Thousands of Nicaraguans woke up in the streets Monday after a sleepless night rocked by two strong earthquakes, part of a string of tremors that have kept the Central American country on edge since late last week.

A magnitude-6.1 quake Thursday evening has been followed by hundreds of small aftershocks and at least seven quakes powerful enough to send people running from homes and businesses, including a magnitude-6.6 tremor Friday.

Pistorius accused of faking emotion

Oscar Pistorius came under intense pressure Monday at his murder trial from the chief prosecutor, who dismissed his account of how he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and accused the Olympian of staging emotional outbursts to mask difficulty in answering probing questions.

His voice quavering at times, Pistorius struggled to explain alleged inconsistencies in his testimony and broke down sobbing on two occasions, forcing Judge Thokozile Masipa to temporarily halt proceedings.

“You’re getting frustrated because your version is improbable,” Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said. “You’re not using your emotional state as an escape, are you?”