MISSING WOMEN FOUND
UPDATE: Cleveland captor to be sentenced
CLEVELAND (AP) —Three months after three women in Cleveland broke free from their captor, the man who held them in his home for around a decade faces sentencing today.
Ariel Castro could get life in prison plus 1,000 years after pleading guilty to numerous charges as part of a deal that took the death penalty off the table.
Prosecutors say Castro "admits his disgusting and inhuman conduct" but "remains remorseless for his actions."
STOMACH BUG OUTBREAK
Origin of salad-linked outbreak remains a mystery
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Federal health officials say it's too early to tell if the outbreak of an intestinal illness caused by a rare parasite is over.
Nearly 400 people across the country have been sickened by cyclospora.
Health officials in Nebraska and Iowa say they've traced their cases to prepackaged salad.
But officials haven't told consumers what brands to stay away from.
UPDATE: House approves lower rates on student loans
WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill to cut the interest rates of new student loans goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
On Wednesday, the House approved the bipartisan measure that calls for reducing the rates of Stafford subsidized and unsubsidized loans that had doubled July 1.
Interest rates would be tied to stock market performance.
Obama invites lawmakers to discuss NSA concerns
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is inviting a bipartisan group of lawmakers to the White House today to discuss their concerns about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.
A White House official says the top Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate intelligence panels will attend. So will Democrats Mark Udall of Colorado and Ron Wyden of Oregon, two senators raising the alarm about the NSA's sweeping domestic programs. Two others calling for more NSA oversight, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, will also attend.
A Senate official says the White House initiated the meeting.
The officials demanded anonymity because the meeting hasn't been publicly announced.
The meeting comes as lawmakers concerned about privacy are pushing to rein in the NSA's authority. Obama's national security team is arguing to keep its surveillance powers intact while acknowledging some limitations appear inevitable.
Kerry hoping to improve US-Pakistan relations
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping to improve U.S. relations with Pakistan.
He's meeting today in Islamabad with newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (nah-WAHZ' shah-REEF') and Pakistan's powerful army chief.
Topics such as Islamic extremism, the war in neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistani opposition to U.S. drone strikes are expected to dominate the discussion.
NEW: Pentagon: We're not crying wolf over budget cuts
WASHINGTON (AP) — Pentagon officials insist they are not crying wolf when they say proposed budget cuts could severely harm the military.
In a detailed and stark warning, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said about $500 billion in automatic budget cuts slated to take effect over the next decade could leave the nation with an ill-prepared, underequipped military doomed to face more technologically advanced enemies.
He said that if Congress doesn't act to avoid the cuts, the Pentagon may be forced to mothball up to three Navy aircraft carriers and order additional sharp reductions in the size of the Army and Marine Corps — shortfalls the military hasn't seen since World War II.
Gay marriage now legal in MN, RI and DC
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Marriage ceremonies started at midnight for gay couples in Minnesota, where same-sex marriage is now legal.
Minnesota officials estimate that about 5,000 gay couples will marry in the first year of the new law.
Laws legalizing same-sex marriage also took effect today in Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.
AP POLL-RACIAL GAP-OPTIMISM
NEW: Optimism of whites in US lags blacks by big margin
WASHINGTON (AP) — A new poll suggests that Americans' attitudes about their economic future are sharply divided by race.
Just 46 percent of whites who answered the survey by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research say their families have a good chance of improving their living standard.
By contrast, 71 percent of blacks and 73 percent of Hispanics say they're optimistic about a better life.
AUSTRALIA-NURSING HOME MURDERS
UPDATE: Australian gets life term for nursing home fires
SYDNEY (AP) — A nurse in Australia has been given life in prison for setting fires that killed 11 residents at a nursing home.
Roger Dean set two fires after learning that he was under investigation for stealing prescription pills from the home.
Police say the 2011 fire was apparently an attempt to destroy evidence.
HUDSON RIVER BOAT ACCIDENT
NEW: Funeral for bride-to-be killed in NY boat accident
PEARL RIVER, N.Y. (AP) — A funeral will be held today for a woman who died in a boating accident on New York's Hudson River some two weeks before her wedding.
The service for Lindsey Stewart will be held at the church where she would have been married on Aug. 10.
Stewart died Friday night when the powerboat she was in crashed into a barge. Her fiance was injured and his best man also was killed.
Hurricane Gil strengthens out in Pacific
MIAMI (AP) — Forecasters say Hurricane Gil is strengthening in the Pacific, far off the southern tip of California.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says maximum sustained winds late Wednesday are 80 mph (129 kph). The center is about 985 miles (1585 kilometers) southwest of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, south of California.
There are no coastal warnings or watches.
It's moving at 12 mph (19 kph) and is expected to strengthen today as it begins to head farther out to sea.
Created: Thu, 01 Aug 2013 04:14:52 EST
Updated: Thu, 01 Aug 2013 04:14:52 EST