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NATIONAL BRIEFS


NEW JERSEY: Plea in slaying of 5 teens

A man pleaded guilty Tuesday to murdering five teenagers in 1978 in what was one of the state's longest-running cold cases. Philander Hampton of Jersey City told police three years ago that he and a cousin, Lee Evans of nearby Irvington, lured the teens to an abandoned house in Newark with the promise of odd jobs, locked them inside and set the house on fire. The attack allegedly was prompted by stolen drugs. Melvin Pittman, Ernest Taylor, Alvin Turner, Randy Johnson and Michael McDowell were last seen Aug. 20, 1978, near a park where they had played basketball. Evans goes to trial this fall. Family members had long suspected Evans, a handyman who frequently hired youths, but the case had stumped investigators for years.


WASHINGTON" Calif. utility faulted in blast

A federal safety panel blamed a series of missteps by one of the nation's largest gas companies for the biggest pipeline accident in a decade, a suburban San Francisco explosion that killed eight people and incinerated a neighborhood. The panel warned there was no certainty that the problems that led to last year's accident don't exist elsewhere. The National Transportation Safety Board wrapped up its yearlong investigation of the Sept. 9, 2010, accident in San Bruno, Calif., voting 5-0 that actions by Pacific Gas & Electric were the probable causes of the explosion. Lax regulations at the state and federal level also contributed to the accident.


TEXAS: Abortion law parts blocked

A federal judge blocked key provisions of Texas' law requiring a doctor to perform a sonogram before an abortion, ruling Tuesday that it violates the free speech rights of both doctors and patients. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks upheld the requirement that sonograms be performed, but struck down provisions requiring doctors to describe the images to their patients and requiring women to hear the descriptions. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights had sued to block the law, which takes effect Thursday.

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