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Associated Press
A Timbuktu, Mali, library where ancient Islamic manuscripts, seen in a 2004 photo, were displayed was set on fire in recent days by extremists.

2003 LA arsonist gets death penalty for fire

– An arsonist was given the death penalty Monday for killing five men who died of heart attacks during a wildfire nearly a decade ago that ripped through the hills east of Los Angeles.

Rickie Lee Fowler, 31, was convicted in August of five counts of first-degree murder and two counts of arson. A jury later recommended the death sentence.

Prosecutors said Fowler lit the fire in October 2003 out of rage after he was thrown out of a house where his family was staying.


University admits it inflated SAT scores

Enrollment officials at Bucknell University, a selective liberal arts school in central Pennsylvania, inflated students’ average SAT scores over the past several years, the school’s president said.

Mean SAT results for incoming freshmen were overstated an average of 16 points between 2006 and 2012, according to President John Bravman. The school also underreported its average ACT score by one point in the same period, Bravman noted.

Bravman, who took office in 2010, said the actions “violated the trust” of the university community and attributed the false figures to officials who no longer work there.

Approval of raises after bailout bashed

A government report Monday criticized the U.S. Treasury Department for approving “excessive” salaries and raises at firms that received taxpayer-funded bailouts during the financial crisis.

The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said Treasury approved all 18 requests it received last year to raise pay for executives at American International Group Inc., General Motors Corp. and Ally Financial Inc., bypassing rules under the 2008 bailout that limited pay and required that raises be linked to performance.

Patricia Geoghegan, the official who approved the raises, disputed the findings, saying Treasury must strike a balance between limiting compensation and approving pay packages consistent with executives in similar jobs.

Oil contained after river barge spill

Experts say the stretch of Mississippi River where vessel traffic was halted after a barge hit a railroad bridge Sunday is one of the most dangerous along the 2,500-mile-long river.

Late Monday, cleanup crews were skimming oily water near Vicksburg, a day after a barge struck a bridge, rupturing a compartment holding 80,000 gallons of oil. Authorities said the oil was being contained and there was no evidence of it washing ashore downriver.

Newbery, Caldecott awards announced

Katherine Applegate’s “The One and Only Ivan” won the John Newbery Medal for the outstanding book of 2012, while Jon Klassen’s “This Is Not My Hat” received the Randolph Caldecott Medal for outstanding illustration, the American Library Association announced Monday.

The Newbery and Caldecott awards are the top honors for children’s literature.


Troops in Timbuktu find history torched

Backed by French helicopters and paratroopers, Malian soldiers entered the fabled city of Timbuktu on Monday after al-Qaida-linked militants who ruled the outpost by fear for nearly 10 months fled into the desert, setting fire to a library that held thousands of manuscripts dating to the Middle Ages.

Timbuktu, a city of mud-walled buildings and 50,000 people, was for centuries a seat of Islamic learning and a major trading center. It has been home to some 20,000 irreplaceable manuscripts, some dating to the 12th century. It was not immediately known how many were destroyed in the blaze that was set in recent days in an act of vengeance by the Islamists before they withdrew.

Myanmar receives foreign debt boost

The World Bank announced a long-awaited deal to allow Myanmar to clear part of its huge decades-old foreign debt, opening the door for new much-needed lending to jumpstart its lagging economy.

The bank’s Washington headquarters said in a statement Sunday that the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the country’s overseas development bank, will provide a bridge loan to Myanmar to cover outstanding debt to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which totals about $900 million.

Myanmar stopped payments on its old loans about 1987, making it ineligible for new development lending.

Deal lets Mugabe try to keep power

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe will be allowed to try and extend his 33-year rule for another decade, according to a new constitution agreed on by his party and its main opponents to pave the way for elections.

While the constitution limits the holder of the office of president to two five-year terms, it is not retroactive, according to a copy of the document provided by an official who helped negotiate it.

The position of prime minister, currently held by Mugabe’s political opponent Morgan Tsvangirai, will be abolished. Mugabe and Tsvangirai have ruled Zimbabwe in a coalition government since 2009.