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Pentagon chief predicts ‘tangible gains’ in Iraq, Syria

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter predicted on Thursday that recent U.S.-led efforts to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State group would produce “tangible gains” in Iraq and Syria by March, even as coalition partners pledged to expand and deepen their military contributions.

Campaign signs get new life to help people with disabilities

The oversized Carly Fiorina campaign signs along New Hampshire’s Route 4 weren’t enough to keep the Republican presidential hopeful’s campaign alive past Tuesday’s primary, but they could end up helping people with disabilities live their lives more independently.

Insurer Centene ends search for missing hard drives

Medicaid coverage provider Centene has ended a search for six hard drives that contained the personal information of roughly 950,000 customers more than a month after the equipment turned up missing.

N. Korea orders military takeover of inter-Korean factories

North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul’s earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North’s recent rocket launch a “dangerous declaration of war.”

NATO orders warships into Aegean to help ease migrant crisis

In a dramatic response to Europe’s gravest refugee crisis since World War II, NATO ordered three warships to sail immediately Thursday to the Aegean Sea to help end the deadly smuggling of asylum-seekers across the waters from Turkey to Greece.

Obama: ‘strange things’ happen when voters are scared

President Barack Obama said Thursday that “strange things” can happen in politics when voters are scared, and the angst people are feeling across the country is finding voice in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Water stations along Mexico border vandalized, shot

A humanitarian group in southern Arizona says six of its eight water stations for migrants crossing the Sonoran Desert have been vandalized, including one that was shot at and had the carcass of a coyote next to it.

Slain Maryland deputies were fathers, veterans of the force

In an emotional address, the Harford County sheriff identified two deputies who were fatally shot in the line of duty, marking the first such tragedy in the small suburban county since 1899.

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Last occupiers of Oregon wildlife refuge surrender to FBI

Surrounded by FBI agents in armored vehicles, the last four occupiers of a national nature preserve surrendered Thursday, and a leader in their movement who organized a 2014 standoff with authorities was criminally charged in federal court.

Kansas high court invalidates school funding law

The Kansas Supreme Court threatened Thursday to shut down schools if lawmakers don’t revamp the way the state funds public schools by July, ruling a law enacted last year as a temporary fix underfunded poor school districts by at least $54 million.

US airstrikes target Islamic State in Afghanistan

The United States has expanded its fight against the Islamic State group in Afghanistan, launching 20 airstrikes in the eastern part of the country in the last three weeks, U.S. officials said Thursday.

Official unsure of where Iran’s enriched uranium is stored

A State Department official told lawmakers Thursday he was unsure of the precise location of tons of low-enriched uranium shipped out of Iran on a Russian vessel as part of the landmark nuclear agreement.

But is she honest? Caring? Clinton grapples with questions

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has spent months fighting the perception she has a shaky relationship with the truth and is disconnected from the problems facing Americans.

Congress gives final OK to banning local Internet taxes

Congress voted Thursday to permanently bar state and local governments from taxing access to the Internet, as lawmakers leapt at an election-year chance to demonstrate their opposition to imposing levies on online service.

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House report details EPA missteps in Colorado mine spill

A probe of a mine waste accident in Colorado that fouled rivers in three states with arsenic, lead and other toxic substances has found further evidence that government workers knew a spill from the gold mine was possible, according to documents released Thursday by a U.S. House committee.

Open-source textbooks gain in push for college affordability

The standard textbook for Fundamentals of General Chemistry I at the University of Connecticut has a list price of $303.

Manatees flock to 72-degree springs to escape cold

Like most sensible creatures, manatees — the sea cows that live in the waters around Florida — seek warmth when it’s cold.

Neanderthal DNA may influence modern depression risk

A new study says a person’s risk of becoming depressed or hooked on smoking may be influenced by DNA inherited from Neanderthals.

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Breakthrough: Scientists detect Einstein’s gravity ripples

In an announcement that electrified the world of physics, scientists said Thursday they have finally detected gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago.

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Pope on Ash Wednesday: charity's not to please ourselves

Pope Francis rubbed ashes on the bowed heads of prelates, nuns and ordinary Catholics Wednesday, and had them smudged on his own head, too, to usher in the Lenten season of prayer and sacrifice he said must be done out of authentic love, not to satisfy one's conscience.