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By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. job growth accelerated sharply in February despite the icy weather that gripped much of the nation, easing fears of an abrupt economic slowdown and keeping the Federal Reserve on track to continue reducing its monetary stimulus. Employers added 175,000 jobs to their payrolls last month after creating 129,000 new positions in January, the Labor Department said on Friday. The unemployment rate, however, rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low of 6.6 percent as Americans flooded into the labor market to search for work. "It reinforces the case for the economy being stronger than it's looked for the last couple of months," said Bill Cheney, chief economist at John Hancock Financial Services in Boston.
By Colleen Jenkins FORT BRAGG, North Carolina (Reuters) - Opening statements in the military trial of a U.S. Army general accused of twice forcibly sodomizing a female captain during their illicit sexual relationship provided sharply conflicting accounts on Friday of what drove the adulterous affair. Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair stands accused of forcing the junior officer under his command to perform oral sex, of grabbing her genitalia against her will and of having intercourse with her in public places. The 51-year-old general, who is married, denies sexually assaulting the captain and says the relationship was consensual, although inappropriate by military standards. The rare court-martial of a high-ranking U.S. military official is unfolding in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, amid a growing debate among U.S. lawmakers over how best to curb sexual assault in the military.
By Eric Beech WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has thrown out a fine by the Federal Aviation Administration against the operator of a small commercial drone, a decision that could open up the nation's skies to more unmanned-aircraft flights. The case involved a $10,000 fine levied by the FAA against Raphael Pirker for operating a drone while filming a commercial in 2011 for the University of Virginia, a violation of the agency's ban on the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Administrative law judge Patrick Geraghty dismissed the fine on Thursday and ruled that the agency's prohibition was not enforceable because it was based on a policy statement outside of the formal rule-making process. "Policy statements are not binding on the general public," Geraghty, a judge with the National Transportation Safety Board, wrote in his decision.
CHICAGO (AP) ? A reputed lieutenant of recently captured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman abruptly reversed his plans to plead guilty Friday to federal trafficking charges, a move made out of fear for the lives of his wife and children in Mexico, according to his attorney.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) ? Ukraine may appeal to the U.N. General Assembly if the divided Security Council doesn't act on Russia's seizure of Crimea, the Ukrainian ambassador said Friday.
SEATTLE (AP) ? A gay vice principal who was forced out of his job at Eastside Catholic School filed a discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit against the school and church on Friday. Lawyers for the church and school planned to respond immediately with a motion arguing King County Superior Court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case without violating the First Amendment.
CHICAGO (AP) ? A woman working at a Chicago thrift store was killed when a gun that was in dropped-off clothing accidentally discharged, hitting her in the chest.
By Elizabeth Daley PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A Pittsburgh lawyer's online ad showing smiling robbers, drug dealers and prostitutes flashing thumbs up and thanking him for getting them off the hook has garnered tens of thousands of views and drawn fire from a local bar association. One fictional criminal pauses while climbing out a window, carrying a laptop to say "Thanks Dan," to the camera, while a pair of men carrying handguns offer a similar message before pulling ski masks over their faces in the three-minute, 27-second ad posted on YouTube by criminal defense attorney Daniel Muessig. Muessig, a 2012 University of Pittsburgh Law School graduate, then makes his own pitch: "Trust me, I may have a law degree, but I think like a criminal." The spot has been viewed more than 80,000 times since Muessig posted it on Thursday, and the 32-year-old attorney said he believed the tongue-in-cheek approach would appeal to possible clients. "I wanted to give people something that would be memorable and entertaining." Tom Loftus, spokesman for the Allegheny County Bar Association, said he found the ad "insulting to Pittsburgh lawyers and lawyers across the country, who take great pride in their profession." He said he worried that the video could be misinterpreted: "There could be kids watching it, or people who don't even understand what tongue-in-cheek means, and what they'll see is: if you commit a crime this attorney will get you off without any explanation." Muessig defended the spot but said he would take it down if law enforcement or a legal professional organization asked him to.
The U.S. Border Patrol told its agents on Friday that when they confront suspected illegal immigrants crossing the frontier who throw rocks at them, they should try to take cover or move away rather than immediately open fire. Michael J. Fischer, head of the Border Patrol, said in a conference call with reporters that immigrant smugglers were increasingly using rock-throwing as a way to drive away patrols. Since 2010, agency personnel have opened fire 43 times, killing 10 people, in response to 1,713 rock-throwing attacks against them, Fischer said in the preface to a directive he issued to agents. In the directive, Fischer told agents not to open fire "unless the agent has a reasonable belief, based on the totality of the circumstances, to include the size and nature of the projectiles, that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious injury." Instead of firing at rock-throwers, the directive said, "agents should obtain a tactical advantage in these situations, such as seeking cover or distancing themselves from the immediate area of danger." Border patrols have been criticized in recent years over concerns that agents may have sometimes been too quick to open fire.