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Saturday, Oct 25th

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1 dead, 3 missing in blast, fire at Wash. refinery

An explosion and fire at an oil refinery shook homes and shot flames into the night sky early Friday, killing one person, leaving three workers missing and critically injuring four others.

The fire struck the Tesoro Corp. refinery in Anacortes, north of Seattle, at about 12:30 a.m., the company said in a statement. The blaze occurred at the naphtha unit while maintenance work was being performed and was extinguished in about 90 minutes, the company said.

There was one confirmed fatality, four employees were hospitalized and three employees were unaccounted for, the company said. Nearby residents, some five miles from the complex, called Washington TV stations after midnight with reports of an explosion, saying flames were being blown by high winds.

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U.S. Revamps Screening of Travelers

The Obama administration and foreign governments will roll out in the next few weeks a more intelligence-based system to try to stop potentially dangerous passengers from boarding U.S.-bound flights, a senior administration official said.

The new system is the product of a three-month review ordered by President Barack Obama after the attempted bombing of a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day. It will replace mandatory secondary screening for all passengers from 14 countries, including nations designated as state sponsors of terrorism and many Muslim-majority countries. That policy—widely criticized as too broad to be effective—was put in place shortly after the bombing attempt.

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Supreme Court: Bad advice on deportation can void guilty plea

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that defendants are entitled to know that the potential consequences of a guilty plea include deportation for noncitizens, a decision that could have broader significance for the more than 12.8 million legal immigrants who live in the U.S.

The case, Padilla v. Kentucky, focused on Jose Padilla, a Honduran-born immigrant who faces deportation after pleading guilty to felony marijuana trafficking. He isn't the U.S. citizen of the same name who was convicted in 2007 of conspiring to aid terrorists.

"It is our responsibility under the Constitution to ensure that no criminal defendant — whether a citizen or not — is left to the 'mercies of incompetent counsel,' " Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the majority opinion. "To satisfy this responsibility, we now hold that counsel must inform her client whether his plea carries a risk of deportation."

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Equally qualified women paid less than men, academic life sciences study finds

Women working in the life sciences at academic medical centers make less money than equally qualified men, according to a new survey published today that also finds that men and women take on different roles during their professional careers.

In 2008 Catherine DesRoches and colleagues from the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital mailed surveys to more than 3,000 life sciences faculty members at the top 50 universities receiving federal funding for research at their medical schools.

The more than 2,100 professors who responded reported how much research they had published and where; how many hours a week they worked in patient care, teaching, administration, or other professional activities such as editing journals; and how much money they made.

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Palin Left Alaska With Debts Equal to 70 Percent of Its GDP

Less than a year after then-Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) quit the government to pursue other projects, Alaska leads the way in its debt-to-GDP ratio when its unfunded pension obligations are taken into account, followed by Rhode Island, New Mexico, Ohio and Mississippi. And although Alaska’s ratio is far lower than Greece’s, it does give the state a debt-to-GDP ratio similar to that of Jordan and Palin’s favorite health care resource, Canada, and a higher ratio than Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, India, the Philippines or Uruguay.

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Feds thinking outside the box to plug intelligence gaps

Three recent events — the foiled Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner, the Dec. 30 assassination of seven CIA officers and contractors by a Jordanian double agent in Afghanistan and the difficulties that U.S. Marines in Marjah, Afghanistan, have encountered — all have something in common: inadequate intelligence.

To lower the odds of similar troubles in the future, the government has launched a swarm of spooky, out-of-the-box research projects known collectively as the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

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Defense says NY synagogue-bomb plot was feds' idea

Four men accused of trying to bomb synagogues and shoot down planes in New York last spring did little more than go along with a fake plot proposed, directed and funded by the federal government, defense lawyers claim in asking the court to dismiss the case.

A federal informant chose the targets, offered payment, provided maps and bought the only real weapon involved, a handgun, the attorneys said in a dismissal motion filed this week in federal court. They alleged the defendants were not inclined toward any crime until the informant began recruiting them.

"The government well knew that their case had been a government-inspired creation from day one and that the defendants had not been independently seeking weapons or targets," the motion said.
Federal court spokesman Herb Hadad said the government would file its response next month.

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