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Autism estimate grows to 1 in 68

– The government’s estimate of autism has moved up again to 1 in 68 U.S. children, a 30 percent increase in two years.

But health officials say the new number may not mean autism is more common. Much of the increase is believed to be from a cultural and medical shift, with doctors diagnosing autism more frequently, especially in children with milder problems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the calculation means autism affects roughly 1.2 million Americans under 21. Two years ago, the CDC put the estimate at 1 in 88 children, or about 1 million.

The cause of autism is not known, but a small study published Thursday found abnormal patterns of cell growth in autistic children’s brains, bolstering evidence that something before birth might cause it, at least in some cases.

6 million sign up under health law

President Barack Obama’s heath care overhaul reached a milestone Thursday, with more than 6 million Americans signed up for coverage through new insurance markets.

The announcement – four days before open enrollment season ends Monday – fulfills a revised goal set by the Congressional Budget Office and embraced by the White House. But the administration has yet to announce how many consumers actually closed the deal by paying their first month’s premium. Some independent estimates are that 10 percent to 20 percent have not paid.

Texas must reveal lethal-drug supplier

A judge ordered Texas prison officials Thursday to disclose the supplier of a new batch of lethal injection drugs to attorneys for two inmates set to be executed next month, but she stopped short of revealing the identity of the manufacturer to the public.

The ruling came after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice argued that threats against execution suppliers are escalating.

Abortion provider law upheld in Texas

A federal appeals court Thursday upheld Texas’ tough abortion restrictions that have forced the closure of about 20 clinics, saying the new rules don’t jeopardize women’s health.

The new law requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and places strict limits on doctors prescribing abortion-inducing pills. A panel of judges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a lower court judge who said the rules violate the U.S. Constitution and serve no medical purpose.

Astronauts finally arrive at station

Arriving fashionably late, a Russian spacecraft carrying three astronauts docked with the International Space Station Thursday evening 250 miles over Brazil.

The three blasted off from Kazakhstan on Wednesday for what was supposed to be a six-hour trip to the space station. But an engine burn designed to fine-tune the craft’s path did not occur as planned, delaying the docking.

Arrests made in LAX baggage theft probe

A $15,000 camera, Gucci bags, name-brand clothing, electronics and jewelry are among the thousands of dollars in valuables stolen by baggage handlers at Los Angeles International Airport, police said Thursday.

Police served more than two dozen search warrants and made six arrests Wednesday night after a months long investigation in the largest baggage-theft operation in the airport’s history, Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Raymond Maltez said.

Top security adviser Schlesinger dies

James R. Schlesinger, who held a long string of Cabinet and other high-level posts through three administrations, has died at age 85, according to a Washington think tank where he a trustee.

Schlesinger built a national-security résumé under Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and served as the nation’s first energy secretary under Democratic President Jimmy Carter during the energy crisis of the late-1970s.

Both Carter and Ford sent the scrappy, Harvard-educated Schlesinger packing after a few years. But he kept bouncing back. In later years, he served on a succession of defense and nuclear-energy-related government advisory boards and panels.

Evacuations follow turmoil in Myanmar

Buddhist-led mobs tore through streets hurling stones at the offices and residences of international aid workers in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state Thursday, prompting the evacuation of most nonessential staff, residents and officials said.

There were no indications that anyone was hurt in the violence, which started in the state capital, Sittwe, late Wednesday and picked up again early Thursday, with angry crowds swelling to more than 1,000.