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Tsarnaev appears in court for 1st time since 2013

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev returned to court Thursday for the first time since he was arraigned in July 2013, and he received a shout of encouragement from the mother-in-law of a man who was shot and killed while being questioned by law enforcement after the bombings.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 December 2014

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James Holmes' parents plead against death penalty

DENVER (AP) — The parents of Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes are pleading for him to be spared the death penalty.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 December 2014

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Sheriff to cede immigration-enforcement foothold

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona sheriff known for crackdowns on people living in the country illegally is giving up his last major foothold in immigration enforcement efforts that won him popularity among voters but gradually were reined in by Washington and the courts.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 December 2014

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Dow industrials have their best day in three years

NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow Jones industrial average had its biggest surge in three years Thursday, its second straight triple-digit gain following the Federal Reserve's reassurance that it was in no hurry to raise interest rates.

Bullish earnings from technology giant Oracle also drove the rally, which has helped stocks erase an early-December slump. Industrial and health care stocks also logged big gains. Even the energy sector advanced, despite another drop in the price of oil.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday that she foresaw no rate hike in the first quarter of 2015. The comments eased concerns that policymakers would start raising interest rates at a time when growth outside the U.S. appears to be flagging. They also helped investors look past worries about the impact of a slumping oil price and turmoil in Russia, where the currency has slumped.

"What we're seeing is a move back to fundamentals," said Karyn Cavanaugh, a senior market strategist at Voya Investment Management. "Earnings continue to be good...the U.S. economy is continuing to do well."

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 48.34 points, or 2.4 percent, to 2,061.23. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 421.28 points, also 2.4 percent, to 17,778.15. The Nasdaq Composite gained 104.08 points, or 2.2 percent, to 4,748.40.

Oracle was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 index after it reported earnings late Wednesday that beat the expectations of Wall Street analysts. The company said its software and cloud revenue grew 5 percent. The stock rose $4.19, or 10.2 percent, to $45.35. The company's advance helped push up the tech sector 3 percent.

Investors are betting that as the economy improves and unemployment continues to fall, companies will start to invest in technology to boost productivity.

"Oracle has been out of favor for some time, and it's probably about time it gets back in favor," said Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer of First American Trust.

Stocks rose sharply Thursday even as oil resumed its slide.

The price of oil fell $2.36 to close at $54.11 a barrel, after rising as high as $58.71 in morning trading. Oil has plunged since June, when it peaked at $107 a barrel. Overproduction and weak demand are behind the fall in global oil prices. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil, fell $1.91 to close at $59.27 in London.

A rapid descent in oil prices was the catalyst for big losses on the stock market a week earlier. While falling oil prices are good for consumers, putting more money in their pockets by cutting gas prices, they are bad for energy companies. Oil has fallen almost 50 percent from a peak of $107 a barrel in June.

U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the benchmark 10-year government Treasury note climbed to 2.21 percent from 2.14 percent a day earlier.

In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.2274 from $1.2329 the previous day. The dollar edged higher against the Japanese yen, climbing to 118.91 yen from 118.83 yen.

Prices for precious and industrial metals were little changed. Gold edged up 30 cents to $1,194.80 an ounce, silver was essentially unchanged at $15.93 an ounce and copper fell two cents to $2.85 a pound.

In other futures trading on the NYMEX:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 3.9 cents to close at $1.527 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 7 cents to close at $1.939 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 6 cents to close at $3.642 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 December 2014

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Poll: Americans skeptical of commercial drones

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are skeptical that the benefits of the heralded drone revolution will outweigh the risks to privacy and safety, although a majority approve of using small, unmanned aircraft for dangerous jobs or in remote areas, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 December 2014

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AP IMPACT: Abused kids die as authorities fail to protect

BUTTE, Montana (AP) — At least 786 children died of abuse or neglect in the U.S. in a six-year span in plain view of child protection authorities — many of them beaten, starved or left alone to drown while agencies had good reason to know they were in danger, The Associated Press has found.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 December 2014

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US jobless aid applications decline to 289,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, a sign of solid job security and growing confidence among employers.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 December 2014

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Feds sue NYC over Rikers Island jail violence

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors sued New York City on Thursday to speed the pace of reforms at the Rikers Island jail complex and address what a Justice Department investigation found was a "deep-seated culture of violence" against young inmates.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 December 2014

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