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BRIEFS: NYC ups age to buy cigarettes

– Smokers under 21 will soon be barred from buying cigarettes in New York City.

The City Council voted Wednesday to raise the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes and electronic-vapor cigarettes from 18 to 21.

By passing the bill, New York became the most populous place in the U.S. to raise the tobacco-buying age that high. The city’s current age of 18 is a federal minimum. It’s standard in many places.

Some states and communities have raised the age to 19. At least two towns have agreed to raise it to 21.

Advocates say higher age limits help prevent young people from taking up a hazardous habit.

Rapist blows parole, arrested over calls

A fugitive paroled rapist in California is back in custody after authorities say he cut off his ankle monitor and made dozens of threatening and obscene phone calls to the family of his 80-year-old victim.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller says 58-year-old Dennis Michael McKenzie was arrested by a SWAT team at 4:30 p.m. in Palm Springs. She says a citizen recognized him from photos in the media and tipped off deputies.

McKenzie was living in a Long Beach halfway house when he disappeared and will be transported back to San Bernardino. He’s being held on a felony no-bail warrant.

Food allergy rules at schools to begin

The federal government is issuing its first guidelines to schools on how to protect children with food allergies.

The voluntary advice calls on schools to take such steps as restricting nuts, shellfish or other foods that can cause allergic reactions, and to make sure emergency allergy medicines like EpiPens are available.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the guidelines on its website Wednesday.

About 15 states – and many schools or school districts – already have policies of their own. But experts say many of their policies are probably not comprehensive.

A recent CDC survey estimated that about 1 in 20 U.S. children have food allergies.

Dust storm caused fatal Arizona pileup

A stream of thick, blowing dust crossing an Arizona highway led to a chain-reaction crash that killed three people in an area where gusting winds often stir up towering clouds of dirt that can reduce visibility to zero.

Twelve other people were injured Tuesday in the 19-vehicle pileup on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson.

Crews brought in portable lights as they worked past sunset Wednesday to pry apart the 10 commercial vehicles, seven passenger cars, one tanker and one recreational vehicle involved, Arizona Department of Public Safety officials said.

Iraq asks for aid in al-Qaida resurgence

Nearly two years after pushing out the U.S. military, Iraq is asking for more American weapons, training and manpower to help fight a bloody resurgence of al-Qaida that has unleashed a level of violence comparable to the darkest days of the nation’s civil war.

The request will be discussed during a White House meeting Friday between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Barack Obama in what Baghdad hopes will be a fresh start in a complicated relationship that has been marked by victories and frustrations for each side.

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