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The U.S. Supreme Court appeared divided on ideological lines on Wednesday as it heard a second major challenge to President Barack Obama's healthcare law targeting tax subsidies intended to help people afford insurance, with Justice Anthony Kennedy appearing to be the possible swing vote in a decision. Kennedy, a conservative on the nine-member court who often casts the deciding vote in close cases, raised concerns to lawyers on both sides about the possible negative impact on states if the government loses the case, suggesting he could back the Obama administration. Chief Justice John Roberts, who supplied the key vote in a 5-4 ruling in 2012 upholding the law in the previous challenge, said little during the argument to signal how he might vote. If the court rules against the Obama administration, up to 7.5 million people in at least 34 states would lose the tax subsidies that help low- and moderate-income people buy private health insurance, according to the consulting firm Avalere Health.
By Scott Malone and Elizabeth Barber BOSTON (Reuters) - A lawyer for the accused Boston Marathon bomber said at the start of his trial that their client bore responsibility for the attacks that killed three people and injured 264 with a blunt admission: "It was him." But Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a secondary player in the April 15, 2013 bombings at the famous race and the fatal shooting days later of a police officer, defense attorney Judith Clarke said in her opening argument in U.S. District Court in Boston. She indicated that the 21-year-old's older brother, Tamerlan, was the prime mover. A prosecutor, William Weinreb, told jurors how Tsarnaev and his brother, both ethnic Chechens, carefully selected the places where they left the bombs in an effort to punish the United States for military actions in Muslim-dominated countries.
Sweeping reforms are needed in Ferguson, Missouri, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday after a federal investigation found broad racial bias in the city's police force and municipal court system but cleared a white officer in the killing of an unarmed black teenager last August. The Justice Department said after a months-long investigation it had determined the fatal Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson "lacks prosecutive merit." But the department said it found "a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct within the Ferguson Police Department" that is driven in part by racial bias, but also by the city?s focus on raising revenue through tickets and court fees rather than on public safety. "This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson?s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing," the Justice Department said.
By David Beasley ATLANTA (Reuters) - Heroin overdose deaths in the United States nearly tripled from 2010 to 2013, according to a federal study released on Wednesday. Although the study, conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not look at the reason for the sharp increase, earlier work hinted at a link to prescription painkillers: in a study released last fall, the CDC found that 75 percent of people who started using heroin after 2000 said they first abused prescription opioids. Although twice as many people died that year from overdosing on prescription opioids, the death rate from overdoses of Oxycontin, Percocet, and other opioid pain relievers has leveled off, CDC reported, while that from heroin is rising. As recently as 2010, middle-aged blacks had the highest rates of heroin deaths.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) ? More mutilated animals have been found in California's capital city, the fourth discovery in less than a week.
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) ? The owner of a small airplane that crashed early Wednesday into a botanical garden in Virginia, killing three people, says the flight originated in Key West, Florida.
NEW YORK (AP) ? Health officials say people should eat less sugar. But that's easier said than done.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) ? A college student arrested as he photographed a Philadelphia police encounter with a homeless woman said Wednesday he tried to be "a fly on the wall" until he was put in handcuffs.