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Firefighters work as a house burns after a gas tanker truck exploded in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec early Tuesday.
Briefs

Tanker erupts in Mexico; 20 die

– A natural gas tanker truck lost control, hit a center divider and exploded on a highway lined by homes in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec early Tuesday, killing at least 20 people and injuring nearly three dozen, authorities said.

Officials at the Citizen Safety Department of Mexico State, which surrounds the capital, did not rule out the possibility the death toll could rise. Fifteen people remained hospitalized late Tuesday, seven of them in critical condition.

The department’s spokesman, Cesar Diaz, said emergency workers would continue searching through the night in the charred remains of vehicles and homes built near the highway on the northern edge of the metropolis.

Nation

Insanity plea sought in Colorado attack

The man accused in the deadly Colorado theater shootings wants to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, his lawyers said Tuesday, despite their fears that the plea could severely hamper his ability to mount a defense against the death penalty.

James Holmes is charged with more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder in the July 20 assault on a packed Aurora movie theater that killed 12 and injured 70. Prosecutors announced last month they would seek the death penalty.

Holmes was widely expected to plead insanity given the compelling evidence against him, but his attorneys put it off for weeks, saying state laws on the death penalty and insanity overlap in ways that violate his constitutional rights and his ability to mount an effective defense.

Sanford wins back old seat in Congress

Four years after scandal derailed his political career, ex-Republican Gov. Mark Sanford once again holds a South Carolina political office, winning back his old congressional seat Tuesday after a race in which he battled his past and an opponent who outdid him in fundraising.

Sanford’s resurrection was completed when he defeated Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert, in a district that hasn’t elected a Democratic congressman in more than three decades.

Delaware allows same-sex marriage

Delaware became the 11th state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage when Democratic Gov. Jack Markell signed a gay marriage bill into law just minutes after its passage by the state Senate on Tuesday.

“I do not intend to make any of you wait one moment longer,” a smiling Markell told about 200 jubilant supporters who erupted in cheers and applause following the 12-9 Senate vote barely half an hour earlier.

Delaware’s same-sex marriage bill was introduced in the Democratic-controlled legislature barely a year after the state began recognizing same-sex civil unions. The bill won passage two weeks ago in the state House on a 23-18 vote.

Woman passed over at CIA for spy post

One of the CIA’s highest-ranking women, who once ran a CIA prison in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded, has been bypassed for the agency’s top spy job.

The officer, who remains undercover, was a finalist for the job and would have become the first female chief of clandestine operations. As one of the last remaining senior CIA officers who held leadership roles in the agency’s interrogation and detention program, however, she was a politically risky pick.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, has criticized the interrogation program and personally urged CIA Director John Brennan not to promote the woman, according to a former senior intelligence briefed on the call.

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said the assertion that the officer was passed over because of her involvement in the interrogation program was “absolutely not true.”

World

Extremists slaughter dozens in Nigeria

Coordinated attacks by Islamic extremists armed with heavy machine guns killed at least 42 people in northeast Nigeria, authorities said Tuesday, the latest in a string of increasingly bloody attacks threatening peace in Africa’s most populous nation.

The attack struck multiple locations in the hard-hit town of Bama in Nigeria’s Borno state, where shootings and bombings have continued unstopped since an insurgency began there in 2010. Fighters raided a federal prison during their assault as well, freeing 105 inmates in another mass prison break to hit the country, officials said.

Pakistani politician injured in fall

One of Pakistan’s most prominent politicians, former cricket star Imran Khan, fell at a political rally Tuesday, leaving him with two hairline skull fractures and knocking him off the campaign trail ahead of Saturday’s general election.

The election will mark a historic transfer of power from one democratically elected government fulfilling its full term to another, something that has never happened in Pakistan’s coup-checkered history. But the vote has been marred by near-daily violence by militants targeting candidates and their election offices.

Three bombings in northwest Pakistan targeting individuals involved in the election killed 18 people Tuesday, police said, pushing the death toll from attacks on candidates and party workers to more than 100 since the beginning of April.

5 climbers die on Filipino volcano

One of the Philippines’ most active volcanoes rumbled to life Tuesday, spewing room-sized rocks toward nearly 30 surprised climbers, killing five and injuring others that had to be fetched with rescue helicopters and rope.

The climbers and their Filipino guides had spent the night camping in two groups before setting out at daybreak for the crater of Mayon volcano when the sudden explosion of rocks, ash and plumes of smokes jolted the picturesque mountain, guide Kenneth Jesalva told ABS-CBN TV network by cellphone.

He said rocks “as big as a living room” came raining down, killing and injuring members of his group, some of whom were in critical condition. Jesalva said he rushed back to the base camp at 3,000 feet to call for help. Among the dead were three Germans and their Filipino guide, Albay provincial Gov. Joey Salceda said.

Crop disease poses threat in Africa

Scientists say a disease destroying entire crops of cassava has spread out of East Africa into the heart of the continent, is attacking plants as far south as Angola and now threatens to move west into Nigeria, the world’s biggest producer of the potato-like root that helps feed 500 million Africans.

“The extremely devastating results are already dramatic today but could be catastrophic tomorrow” if nothing is done to halt the Cassava Brown Streak Disease, scientist Claude Fauquet, co-founder of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century, told The AP.

Africa, with a burgeoning population and debilitating food shortages, is losing 50 million tons a year of cassava to the disease, he said.

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