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Inmate convicted of killing three teenagers escapes from Ohio prison

A teenager convicted of killing three students in a 2012 shooting rampage at a Cleveland-area high school has escaped with another inmate from a prison in northwestern Ohio, prompting a manhunt for the pair, police said on Thursday. T.J. Lane, 19, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole last year for the attack at Chardon High School near Cleveland, escaped with fellow inmate Clifford Opperud from the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio, the local police department said in a Facebook message.

St. Louis grand jury weighs charges in Ferguson shooting

By Carey Gillam ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - The white officer who shot dead unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August, spurring a wave of violent protests, would be the first policeman charged for killing a suspect in St. Louis County in more than two decades. For weeks, protesters in the mostly black St. Louis suburb of Ferguson have piled pressure on authorities, demanding that the officer, Darren Wilson, be charged and Prosecutor Bob McCulloch be replaced with a special prosecutor. The prosecutor opted not to press charges and presented the case to the grand jury because of conflicting testimony from witnesses, his office said. If people don't feel like they get justice, it will be very hard to hold these folks back," said St. Louis Alderman Antonio French.

CIA: 20,000-31,500 Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria

Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria now have about 20,000 to 31,500 fighters on the ground, the Central Intelligence Agency said Thursday, much higher than a previous estimate of 10,000. "CIA assesses the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS) can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria, based on a new review of all-source intelligence reports from May to August," CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said in a statement.

Syria's Nusra Front releases 45 U.N. peacekeepers

Dozens of Fijian U.N. peacekeepers, released by al Qaeda-linked group Nusra Front in Syria, arrived in Israeli-held territory on the Golan Heights on Thursday, an Israeli military spokeswoman said. "We opened the border and they entered," the Israeli military spokeswoman said, without giving numbers. A Reuters witness said after the peacekeepers crossed over they were driven away in a convoy of U.N. minibuses. Some 45 Fijian soldiers were taken hostage two weeks ago when Islamist militant groups including Nusra attacked them in the volatile frontier area between Syria and Israel.

Police cite 120 under Baltimore's youth curfew law, mayor says

(Reuters) - Police enforcing Baltimore's tough youth curfew law gave out 120 citations in the measure's first month, the mayor said on Thursday, and officials were divided on its effectiveness. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who backed the law as a way to keep children safe, said in a statement that 23 offenders were taken to youth centers and 97 were escorted home by police. The data shows that "the expanded curfew and Youth Connections Centers can be an effective tool in connecting vulnerable youth and their families to much-needed resources,” Rawlings-Blake said. Councilman Carl Stokes said the number of citations was about what he expected because he did not think the curfew would be enforced.

N.J. ban on 'gay conversion therapy' upheld

By Jonathan Stempel NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld New Jersey's ban on counseling intended to change the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian children. Circuit Court of Appeals said the ban, which Republican Governor Chris Christie signed into law in August 2013, did not violate the free speech or religious rights of counselors offering "gay conversion therapy" to convert homosexual minors into heterosexuals. The panel also said the plaintiffs, who included licensed therapists and a Christian counseling group, lacked standing to pursue claims on behalf of their minor clients. Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith said the ban, the second in the country after California's, appropriately advanced New Jersey's legitimate interest in protecting people under the age of 18 from harmful or ineffective professional treatment.

Mississippi election winner to be chosen at random after tied race

The election for alderman of a southern Mississippi city ended in a tie, with the winner to be chosen at random, likely by a coin toss or drawing straws, the city's mayor said Thursday. The special election for one of five alderman seats in Poplarville, with a population of about 2,800, ended in a 177-177 tie after one voter who showed up on Tuesday without photo ID, which is required under state law, later produced identification, said Glenn Bolin, one of the candidates. Bolin and his opponent, Stephanie Bounds, a nurse, were not told which candidate the key voter supported, he said. "Now we've got to do what the law says as far as settling this." The tie-breaker, to be overseen by the local election commission, is set to take place Thursday evening, Poplarville Mayor Brad Necaise said.

Arabs back anti-IS move as Syria warns on 'attacks'

Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) - Arab nations rallied Thursday behind US President Barack Obama's call to expand operations against jihadists in Iraq and Syria, as Damascus warned it would consider any action on its territory as an attack.

Indicted S.C. House speaker suspends himself from office

South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell suspended himself from the state legislature on Thursday, a day after he was indicted on nine criminal charges related to misuse of campaign money and misconduct in office. Harrell, a Republican, said in a letter that he was taking the step proactively and, according to House rules, had asked the speaker pro tempore to take charge of the legislative body. ...

Dozens of children at N.J. day care accidentally drink bleach

Twenty-eight preschoolers and two adults mistakenly drank bleach at snack time at a New Jersey day care center on Thursday and were taken to a hospital after some complained their stomachs were burning. The children, aged 3 and 4, and adult staff members of the Growing Tree Learning Center in downtown Jersey City were transported in five ambulances to the Jersey City Medical Center after a late-morning call to 911, said Mark Rabson, a hospital spokesman. "There was a poisoning and many children were injured," he said, adding the children were walking on their own or were being carried out by their parents and "have smiles on their faces." Keith Kearney, executive director of United Cerebral Palsy of Hudson County, which runs the day care center that is open to all community members and serves 65 children from infants to age 4, said he had heard no reports of injuries and that the hospital visits were a precaution.

4th Sierra Leonean doctor infected with Ebola

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Another doctor from Sierra Leone who has tested positive for Ebola will be evacuated for medical treatment, an official said Thursday, making her the first citizen of a hard-hit country to be treated abroad.