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Lodi Academy students embark on Southern California History Tour

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NATION

Obama: Sony Pictures ‘made a mistake’ in canceling ‘The Interview’

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Friday that Sony Pictures “made a mistake” in canceling the release of the satirical film “The Interview” in response to threats from hackers the U.S. believes are backed by the North Korean government.

The decision to pull the film amounted to allowing North Korea’s regime to censor media in the U.S., Obama told reporters at a White House news conference.

The hackers caused tens of millions of dollars in damage last month to Sony computers, destroyed valuable files, leaked five films, four of them unreleased, and exposed private employment information.

— Tribune Washington Bureau

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Caramel apples linked to listeria outbreak and five deaths

Packaged caramel apples have been linked to five deaths and 26 illnesses in multiple states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Friday.

The caramel apples are believed to be linked to an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that causes listeriosis. The infection can cause fever and muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms and in serious cases, death. It is treated with antibiotics.

In addition to California, illnesses were reported in Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. The CDC is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate the outbreak, and has found that listeriosis contributed to at least four of the five deaths.

— Los Angeles Times

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James Holmes’ parents: ‘He is not a monster,’ gripped by mental illness

The parents of shooting suspect James Holmes on Friday pleaded that their son be spared the death penalty in a deadly rampage in a suburban Denver movie theater that shocked the nation two years ago.

In a letter to the Denver Post and emailed to journalists around the country, Robert and Arlene Holmes said: “We wish the tragic events of July 20, 2012 never happened.

“He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,” they wrote in their first comments except for a brief statement immediately after the attack in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that was presenting a midnight showing of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”

— Los Angeles Times

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Some witnesses told obvious lies to Michael Brown grand jury, prosecutor says

ST. LOUIS — Certain witnesses who spoke before the grand jury investigating the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown told obvious lies under oath, St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said.

“Clearly some were not telling the truth,” he said Friday morning during an interview on KTRS-AM.

In his first extensive interview since the grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, McCulloch said he had no regrets about letting grand jury members hear from non-credible witnesses.

“Early on I decided that anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything would be presented to the grand jury,” McCulloch said before adding that he would’ve been criticized no matter his decision.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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Olympic great Michael Phelps gets no jail time after entering guilty plea in DUI case

BALTIMORE — Michael Phelps will avoid jail time on drunken driving charges after the Olympic great entered a guilty plea in Baltimore District Court on Friday morning and received a suspended one-year sentence.

Though Phelps, 29, faces 18 months of supervised probation, he can now turn his attention fully to swimming, with plans to compete sometime after a six-month suspension from USA Swimming ends in early April.

Phelps is prohibited from drinking alcohol during his 18-month probation, but he will be able to train and travel during that period. He will continue alcohol counseling sessions for at least six months.

He spoke briefly at his trial Friday, apologizing and saying he is committed to his rehabilitation.

— Baltimore Sun

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WORLD

European leaders warn against too much economic pain on Russia

The European Union’s unanimous resolve to punish Russia for its aggression in Ukraine appeared to be cracking as French, German, Austrian and Italian leaders voiced concern at an alliance summit of inflicting too much pain on Moscow as its economy tumbles.

French President Francois Hollande was the first to step out of the 28-nation bloc’s collective drive for further sanctions on Russia when they were discussed at a summit in Brussels on Thursday night.

“There were no new sanctions (adopted), because there should not be,” Hollande told reporters after the session. He said the leaders had agreed to maintain the status quo in hopes of seeing the Kremlin follow through on recent hints that it is pressing pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to honor a shaky cease-fire.

France is one of the countries whose own economies have been hit by the sanctions against Russia.

— Los Angeles Times

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Kurdish fighters in Iraq make headway in battle against Islamic State

BAGHDAD — Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes gained ground against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq on Thursday, potentially clearing an escape route for persecuted minorities remaining on and near Mount Sinjar.

The offensive, begun this week, paired the aerial assault with local boots on the ground — thousands of Kurdish peshmerga fighters — in what Kurdish officials called the largest attack so far in the fight against the militants, also known by the initials ISIS.

— Los Angeles Times

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Pakistan executes two terrorists, presses military offensive

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistan executed two convicted terrorists on Friday, and the army said it killed 67 militants in an expanding offensive following the massacre of children at an army-run school.

The executions were the first carried out against civilians in Pakistan since 2008 and came after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a moratorium on the death penalty to assuage public calls for swift justice against militants following the attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 132 children and 16 staff members.

— Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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