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US: Arkansas Town Invests in Children to Save Itself

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© AP Photo/Danny Johnston
Sparkman High School seniors Sarah Donahue, left, and Leslie Easley, both 18, work in a science class in Sparkman, Ark. In an effort to save their dying town and school, residents in Sparkman are banding together to send their high school graduates to college.
The signs of decline are everywhere in this tiny timber town. Most of the gas stations are abandoned metal skeletons left to rust under the Arkansas sun. Empty storefronts and vacant lots mark the graves of other long-gone businesses.

Sparkman has been dying for decades, losing more than half of its population since 1950. It has virtually no jobs. And its lone school is on the brink of closing. Now the community is trying to save itself by tapping into the economic-development potential of its most precious resource: its children.

Parents and teachers have launched a scholarship program that goes beyond offering money for college. It also aims to draw new families to town to keep the school system alive - and with it the once-thriving village 90 miles southwest of Little Rock.

"We know there's not much here to bring people into our town," said fourth-grade teacher Stephanie Harmon. "We just want to keep our school so that our town can stay."

Arrow Up

US: Jobless Claims Rise Above Expectations

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© Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
Student Brian Goode looks at pictures of green jobs on a wall at the Youth Opportunity (YO!) Academy and the Westside Youth Opportunity Community Center in Baltimore March 9, 2011.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, pointing to a labor market that is struggling to regain momentum.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 418,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 410,000 from a previously reported 405,000.

"We're just stuck in this trend between 410,000 and 430,000. Generally we're just really not seeing any improvement but also not much worsening," said Jeffrey Greenberg, an economist with Nomura Securities in New York.

Stock index futures held earlier gains after the data, while the dollar extended losses against the euro.

The claims data covered the survey period for the closely watched nonfarm payrolls count for July, which will be released on August 5.

Attention

Australia Asylum: Christmas Island Unrest Continues

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© Reuters
Asylum seekers have held roof-top protests in Sydney and on Christmas Island
Australian police have clashed with asylum seekers at the Christmas Island detention centre for a second night, firing tear gas and "bean-bag bullets".

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said up to 40 detainees had "engaged in vandalism and violence" at the centre.

Refugee rights groups said about 10 asylum seekers had held a roof-top protest, setting fire to sheets.

The UN has criticized Australia for holding all asylum seekers while their applications are assessed.

The migrants are held for months at the Christmas Island center, about 1,500 miles (2,400km) from the Australian mainland, and other facilities.

Many have expressed frustration at long delays and overcrowding.

Bad Guys

Serbia Arrests Its Last Fugitive Accused of War Crimes

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© Politika Newspaper, via European Pressphoto Agency
Goran Hadzic was arrested in Fruska Gora national park, close to the village of Krusedol, Serbia, on Wednesday.
The last Serbian fugitive wanted by a United Nations war crimes tribunal was arrested in a Serbian forest early Wednesday, a quiet event that appeared to remove the final major obstacle blocking the nation's access to Western money and European Union membership.

The suspect, Goran Hadzic, 52, is a former Serbian rebel leader who is accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was arrested near the village of Krusedol in northern Serbia as he was about to meet "with a helper, who was supposedly bringing him some money," said Vladimir Vukcevic, the war crimes prosecutor in Belgrade, Serbia's capital.

Mr. Vukcevic said investigators had caught up with Mr. Hadzic recently because he had apparently run out of money after seven years on the run and was trying to sell a painting by Modigliani. "He was penniless," Mr. Vukcevic said.

Investigators in Belgrade said the painting was believed to be "Portrait of a Man," one of several Modigliani works listed as stolen. But it was not clear if the painting was authentic or a fake.

Arrow Down

UK: 34,000 Police Jobs to be Axed

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© Press Association
More than 34,000 police staff will lose their jobs by 2015
More than 34,000 police staff will lose their jobs by 2015 as part of Government cuts.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said that about 16,200 police officers will be axed by 2015 amid fears crime could go up by 3 per cent.

Up to 1,800 community support officers and 16,100 police staff will also go as part of an overall reduction of 14 per cent, the study of 43 forces across England and Wales said.

Protecting frontline policing will be "very challenging" over the next 18 months, inspectors found.

"Forces will have to transform their efficiency if they are to protect frontline services," the report added.

Roger Baker, of HMIC, said it "went without saying" that forces were facing their biggest financial challenge in a generation.

Arrow Down

US: Texas Executes 9/11 "Revenge" Killer

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© Ho/AFP/Getty Images
Mark Stroman died by lethal injection despite last-minute representations by his lawyer at the US supreme court.
Mark Stroman shot dead two convenience store workers he believed to be Arab in Dallas shooting spree in 2001

A man who embarked on a shooting spree in what he claimed was retaliation for 9/11 has been executed at a prison in Texas.

The lone survivor of Mark Stroman's attack on convenience store workers in late 2001, Rais Bhuiyan, originally from Bangladesh, unsuccessfully sued to stop the execution, saying his religious beliefs as a Muslim required him to forgive the man. The courts denied his request.

Stroman, 41, had said hate in the world needed to end and asked for God's grace shortly before the fatal drugs began flowing into his arms. He was pronounced dead less than an hour after his final court appeal was rejected.

Stroman claimed the shooting spree that killed two men and injured a third targeted people from the Middle East, though all three victims were from south Asia. It was the death of 49-year-old Vasudev Patel, from India, that put Stroman on death row. He was also charged but not tried in the shooting death of Waqar Hasan, 46, a Pakistani immigrant who moved to Dallas in 2001 to open a convenience store.

Handcuffs

US: Con artist sentenced to 5 to 10 years for earthquake-relief scam

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© DNAinfo.com
Marcus Payen arrives for arraignment in July.
A career con artist will do hard time for passing himself off as a United Nations rep to run a Haitian earthquake-relief scam, a judge ruled today.

Marc Payen, 29, was sentenced to serve five to 10 years in prison by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Thomas Farber, who also ordered him to pay $17,179.05 in restitution.

Payen had been previously busted for claiming to be an immigration lawyer. In this latest scam, Payen used bogus UN stationery to raise funds for medical and humanitarian efforts in Haiti.

He was convicted of two counts of grand larceny, forgery and criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Heart - Black

US: Ex-Cop Who Called 911 About Girlfriend's Shooting Now Charged with Her Murder


A 911 call reporting the drive-by shooting of a Chicago woman was made by her ex-cop boyfriend who is now being charged with her murder.

Devin Bickham Sr., 39, his son, Devin Bickham Jr., 20, and a third man, Cardell Taylor, 35, have all been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly orchestrating and committing the murder of Chervon Alexander, Bickham Sr.'s girlfriend.

Bickham Sr. was a former North Chicago police officer, according to local reports. Last Monday, he pulled into a River Forest parking lot that authorities say was darkened after an electrical outage. The State Attorney's office said that he and Alexander were in a romantic relationship. According to local police Bickham was married.

"Bickham Sr. thought that the victim was interfering with his life and wanted her out of the way, allegedly," said Chief Deputy Craig Rutz from the River Forest police department. "[Alexander] had told others that she was going to be getting married in August."

Pistol

Pennsylvania, US: Church Bingo Game Robbed In Braddock Hills


A masked man with a gun barged into bingo at Sacred Heart Church in the Good Shepherd Parish in Braddock Hills Tuesday night.

The robber demanded money and wound up grabbing about $300 out of a cash drawer before taking off.

People waiting to play bingo down the hall heard a commotion, but never actually saw the robber.

As soon as Rev. Thomas Burke discovered what had happened, he ran outside and asked a parishioner to drive down the hill to follow the robber.

Attention

US: No Felony Charges For Longmont Woman In TSA Groping Case


No felony charges will be filed against the Colorado woman who allegedly sexually assaulted a Transportation Security Administration agent in Phoenix.

On Tuesday the Maricopa County district attorney decided to turn the case of Yukari Miyamae, 61, of Longmont over to city prosecutors. She could still be charged with a misdemeanor.

Police say Miyamae grabbed the female agent's left breast, squeezed and twisted it with both hands on July 14 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Miyamae was getting ready to board a flight from Phoenix to Denver.

Miyamae's attorney Judd Golden says his client was violated, endangered and threatened by the actions of TSA agents. She denies doing anything wrong.