By Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 6 million people have now signed up for private insurance plans under President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law known as Obamacare, reflecting a surge in enrollments days before the March 31 deadline, the White House said on Thursday. The milestone gives the White House some ammunition to counter Republican critics, who have described the program as an expensive flop in the build-up to midterm congressional campaigns in November, when Democratic control of the U.S. Senate is at stake. Only 10 days ago, the administration had pegged enrollment at more than 5 million people, and enlisted celebrities and top government officials to try to persuade more uninsured people, particularly the young and healthy, to sign up. The last-minute boost has exceeded the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's estimate that 6 million people would sign up in the program's first year, down from earlier expectations of 7 million enrollees because of problems with websites used for shopping for insurance.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration said Thursday it is placing a grassland grouse known as the lesser prairie chicken on a list of threatened species, a move that could affect oil and gas drilling, wind farms and other activities in five central and southwestern states.
BOSTON (AP) — One was a fitness enthusiast who helped the wounded after the Boston Marathon bombings and planned to run the race himself this year. The other was a father of three young children who had firefighting in his blood.
(Reuters) - Detroit dropped a key requirement in its latest version of an agreement on costly interest rate swaps with two investment banks, which was filed in court late Wednesday. Under the agreement, UBS AG and Merrill Lynch Capital Services, a unit of Bank of America Corp. would no longer have to support the financially hobbled city's plan to restructure its debts. Under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code, once a city wins agreement from a single class of creditors whose interests are impaired by bankruptcy it can then impose settlement terms on other classes of creditors. On Monday, Detroit will submit to the bankruptcy court an amended adjustment plan, along with a revised disclosure statement that responds to various "informal requests for the inclusion of additional information," the city said in a filing on Thursday.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Duke Energy shareholders called on the company's board on Thursday to launch an independent investigation into issues surrounding a massive coal ash spill that coated 70 miles of a North Carolina river in toxic sludge.
NEW YORK (AP) — The spotting of ocean debris by satellites during the search for the lost Malaysian airliner has drawn attention to those orbiting platforms. A primer on what's in orbit, with help from Nicholas Johnson, who retired Thursday as NASA's chief scientist for orbital debris:
CINCINNATI (AP) — A man who was freed from prison after spending 21 years on Ohio's death row because of a botched prosecution can't pursue his federal lawsuit against the county prosecutor's office, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana woman was sentenced Thursday to more than 30 years in prison for killing her husband of eight days by pushing him from a cliff in Glacier National Park after they argued over her regrets about the marriage.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric: Federal criminal charges likely in fatal California pipeline explosion.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sen. Barbara Boxer is calling on a Democratic California state senator to resign from office following his arrest on public corruption and firearms charges.
(Reuters) - A county official in Maryland opened an official meeting on Thursday with a prayer referencing Jesus Christ, according to a person who attended the meeting and local media, two days after a federal judge issued an injunction prohibiting such a prayer. Carroll County Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier began the group's budget meeting with a prayer she says was written by George Washington, the first U.S. president, that referred to Jesus Christ at least three times. The budget meeting came two days after a U.S. District Court judge in Maryland issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the county commissioners from using "the name of a specific deity associated with any specific faith or belief." The injunction was in response to a civil lawsuit filed last May on behalf of several Carroll County residents and the American Humanist Association, which claimed the practice violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which provides for a separation of church and state.
CINCINNATI (AP) — Less than two weeks after police say he and his girlfriend overdosed on heroin in a McDonald's play area near Cincinnati, a father was convicted Thursday of child endangering.
James Schlesinger, who served three U.S. presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, in the top posts at the Central Intelligence Agency, Pentagon and Energy Department in the 1970s, died on Thursday at age 85. A serious thinker on national security and an executive determined to get things done, Schlesinger headed the CIA and the Defense Department under Republicans at a time of major change and then, as its first chief, established the Energy Department from scratch under Democrat Jimmy Carter. As defense secretary under Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford from 1973 to 1975, Schlesinger led a buildup in defense to assure the U.S. military's Cold War balance with the Soviet Union and make it "increasingly competitive with potential adversaries." His bluntness, which some said bordered on arrogance, made him some enemies.
FORT STEWART, Ga. (AP) — Military judge sentences Ga. soldier to life without parole in 2011 slaying of pregnant wife.
BALTIMORE (AP) — A tiny Renoir painting has returned home to a gallery in the Baltimore Museum of Art nearly 63 years after it was stolen and then kept mysteriously hidden for decades until it resurfaced in 2012.
By Richard Valdmanis BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on Thursday declared a public health emergency over rising heroin and opioid addiction in the state, and announced measures to make overdose reversal medication more widely available. The move comes as states across America report sharp increases in heroin use, a trend the Obama administration this month called an "urgent public health crisis." "We have an epidemic of opiate abuse in Massachusetts, so we will treat it like the public health crisis it is," Patrick said in a statement. Patrick said his administration would permit first responders to carry and administer overdose reversal medication naloxone, also known as narcan, and will make the drug available in pharmacies for those "who fear a loved one might overdose." He said he would also temporarily prohibit hydrocodone-only formulation pain killers in the state, which he said pose "a significant risk to individuals already addicted to opiates and to the public at large." U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said this month that heroin overdoses had become "an urgent public health crisis," and reiterated the Obama administration's call for more law enforcement to train and equip personnel with naxolone.
DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) — In a story March 19 about mudslides in Washington state, The Associated Press reported erroneously the location of the mudslide. It was northeast of Seattle, not southeast.
A Los Angeles couple was sentenced to three years in jail in Qatar on Thursday for causing the death of their adopted African-born daughter, who was found to have died of starvation, in a case that has raised concern in Washington. Matthew and Grace Huang were arrested in January last year after their 8-year-old daughter, Gloria, died unexpectedly. "We have just been wrongfully convicted and we feel as if we are being kidnapped by the Qatar judicial system," Matthew Huang said. "This verdict is wrong and appears to be nothing more than an effort to save face." A website created to publicize the case ( http://freemattandgrace.com ) said Matthew, a Stanford-trained engineer, had moved to Qatar with his wife and their three young children in 2012 to help oversee a big infrastructure project related to the 2022 soccer World Cup.
An 18-year-old man has become the fourth person to die as a result of a motorist who plowed a car into crowds of people outside the popular South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, two weeks ago, police said on Thursday. DeAndre Tatum "passed away as a result of his injuries," Austin police said on their Twitter feed. Tatum, a Fort Worth, Texas, resident, had been in critical condition at an Austin hospital since the March 13 incident. Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, from Killeen, Texas, has been charged with capital murder for allegedly plowing his car into crowds of people over several hundred yards.
A White House-backed bill to renew expired jobless benefits for 2.2 million Americans cleared a Republican procedural hurdle on Thursday in the Democratic-led Senate. On a 65-34 vote, the bipartisan measure advanced toward anticipated Senate passage, yet it will likely die when it reaches the Republican-led House of Representatives. House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, has called the measure "unworkable," citing concerns by state administrators.