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April 16, 2014

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AP Top News at 8:25 p.m. EST

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 | 5:26 p.m.

Arizona governor vetoes religious freedom bill

PHOENIX (AP) — Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday vetoed a Republican bill that set off a national debate over gay rights, religion and discrimination and subjected Arizona to blistering criticism from major corporations and political leaders from both parties. Loud cheers erupted outside the Capitol building immediately after Brewer made her announcement.

Russia war games over Ukraine prompt US warning

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia ordered 150,000 troops to test their combat readiness Wednesday in a show of force that prompted a blunt warning from the United States that any military intervention in Ukraine would be a "grave mistake." Vladimir Putin's announcement of huge new war games came as Ukraine's protest leaders named a millionaire former banker to head a new government after the pro-Russian president went into hiding.

US general: Grim Afghan future if no security pact

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) — Depicting a grim future for Afghanistan without U.S. help, the top U.S. military officer said Wednesday that Afghanistan's refusal to sign a security agreement with the United States may make the fight more difficult this year, embolden the enemy and prompt some Afghan security forces to cooperate with the Taliban to "hedge their bets." Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spent the day with his commanders and troops in Afghanistan working to manage the after-effects of President Barack Obama's order Tuesday to begin actively planning for a total withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of the year. In back-to-back meetings, he urged them to focus on the considerable military work they have to do and not worry about next year.

GOP tax plan lowers rates, repeals popular breaks

WASHINGTON (AP) — A sweeping House Republican plan to overhaul the nation's tax laws would wipe out a slew of popular tax breaks to help pay for lower overall tax rates, a politically risky move in an election year that drew quick opposition Wednesday. The plan would repeal deductions for state and local taxes, medical expenses and moving expenses. Tax credits for child care, adoption services and energy-efficient upgrades to homes would be gone.

Texas gay marriage ban latest to be struck down

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge declared a same-sex marriage ban in deeply conservative Texas unconstitutional on Wednesday, but will allow the nation's second-most populous state to enforce the law pending an appeal that will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a longstanding law. His ruling is the latest in a tangled web of lawsuits across the country expected to end up in the Supreme Court next year.

Trump: Christie will move past scandals

SOMERSET, N.J. (AP) — Real estate developer Donald Trump says he expects New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to make it through the scandals that are plaguing his administration. Trump told the Somerset County Republican Organization: "He's doing fine and it's going to be fine." Trump received the group's "Republican of the Year" award Wednesday night.

Kentucky snake handler death doesn't shake belief

Three days after pastor Jamie Coots died from a rattlesnake bite at church, mourners leaving the funeral went to the church to handle snakes. Coots, who appeared on the National Geographic Channel's "Snake Salvation," pastored the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church founded by his grandfather in Middlesboro, Ky. The third-generation snake handler was bitten during a service on Feb. 15 and died later at his home after refusing medical help. Now his adult son, Cody Coots, is taking over the family church where snakes are frequently part of services.

California town shaken as police officers arrested

KING CITY, Calif. (AP) — A California farming town was grappling Wednesday with a profound violation of trust after learning the acting police chief and a handful of officers were charged with selling or giving away the impounded cars of poor Hispanic residents and other crimes. The misgivings had been building for some time. Investigators heard people — many unable to speak English — complain that police were taking their cars and money, and there was nothing they could do about it.

Huge study links older dads with kids' psych woes

CHICAGO (AP) — Older fathers may face higher risks than previously thought for having children with psychiatric problems, including bipolar disorder, autism and attention deficits, according to the largest study to examine the potential links. American and Swedish researchers examined data on more than 2.6 million Swedes born from 1973-2001. Men who fathered kids after age 24 faced increasing odds for having children with psychiatric problems or academic difficulties, with the greatest risks seen at age 45 and older.

NASA announces 'mother lode' of new planets: 715

WASHINGTON (AP) — Our galaxy is looking far more crowded and hospitable. NASA on Wednesday confirmed a bonanza of 715 newly discovered planets outside our solar system. Scientists using the planet-hunting Kepler telescope pushed the number of planets discovered in the galaxy to about 1,700. Twenty years ago, astronomers had not found any planets circling stars other than the ones revolving around our sun.