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  • Phobias appear eerily divided by party ways
    Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to have a fear of clowns. They are also significantly more likely to fear bugs, snakes and other animals, as well as blood and needles.
  • West African president defies violent protesters
    Burkina Faso’s longtime leader refused to resign Thursday in the face of violent protests that posed the greatest threat to his nearly three-decade rule, saying instead he will lead a transitional government after parliament was dissolved.
  • Hunting for whale, votes in far northern Alaska
    Three children whiz by on a snowmobile as Gabe Tegoseak, crunching through icy streets in the town that’s as far north as you can go and still be in the United States, is hunting for votes.
Associated Press
Firefighter Philip Pinal searches for burning embers in a devastated home Friday in Carlsbad, Calif.

Wildfires yield arson charge

– A 57-year-old man was charged with arson Friday in one of at least 10 wildfires that erupted in Southern California this week, and investigators were working to determine whether other blazes in the unusually early and intense outbreak were ignited by something as ordinary as sparks from cars or more sinister.

Alberto Serrato pleaded not guilty to arson in connection with one of the smaller fires – a 105-acre fire in suburban Oceanside that started Wednesday and is fully contained. Tanya Sierra, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County district attorney’s office, said witnesses saw Serrato adding dead brush onto smoldering bushes, which flamed up.

The wildfires have raced through an estimated 20,000 acres about 30 miles north of San Diego, causing more than $20 million in damage. One burned body was found in an encampment of homeless people.


Body believed to be wife of beheaded Georgia man

Investigators found a body Friday that they believe to be that of a missing 87-year-old Georgia woman whose husband was discovered slain and decapitated in the couple’s home this month, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said.

A crime laboratory will definitively determine whether the remains are those of Shirley Dermond, and establish a cause of death in a case that has perplexed investigators.

Health officials urge use of HIV prevention pill

Healthy people at risk for HIV are advised to take daily pills that cut the odds of infection by more than 90 percent, U.S. health officials said in the first formal recommendation on using the drugs as a preventive.

For HIV, “there’s no vaccine and cure in the near horizon. Prevention is key,” said Jonathan Mermin, a director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pill approved for HIV prevention is Truvada, made by Gilead Sciences.

Gay marriage on hold in Arkansas over conflict

Arkansas’ whirlwind week of granting of marriage licenses to same-sex couples ended Friday when the state Supreme Court ordered a temporary stop.

More than 540 gay couples received marriage licenses during the last week after a Pulaski County circuit judge declared the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. But the justices put that decision on hold after they noted that a separate law that barred clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses remained on the books.


Bombs kill 10, injure 70 in Nairobi; US Embassy acts

Two bombs killed 10 people and wounded 70 others Friday, tossing bodies into the air at a market in Kenya’s capital, while hundreds of British tourists were evacuated from the coastal resort of Mombasa after warnings of an impending attack by Islamic extremists.

The U.S. ambassador has requested more security and is reducing the number of people stationed at the embassy in Nairobi amid an increase in threats.

Turkey mine collapse’s death toll of 298 near final

Government and company officials denied Friday that negligence caused Turkey’s worst mining disaster, as opposition lawmakers raised questions about oversight and a survivor said safety inspectors never visited the lower reaches of the mine.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said at least 298 people died Tuesday. Under a revised count, only two or three people are now unaccounted for, while 485 miners escaped or were rescued.

On Friday, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse rock-throwing protesters in Soma, where about 1,500 demonstrators urged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government to resign.

Colombia, longtime rebel group unite against drugs

Colombia’s government and main rebel group on Friday announced an agreement to jointly combat illicit drugs in the South American country, which was long the world’s leading cocaine producer.

Under the accord, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, agreed to divorce itself completely from the drug trade.

It was the latest agreement reached during months of talks in the Cuban capital. The FARC is the Western Hemisphere’s last remaining major leftist insurgency, having taken up arms a half century ago.