National briefs: Layoffs averted at U.S. prisons

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WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Eric Holder said he has averted daily furloughs of 3,570 federal prison staffers around the country, moving $150 million from other Justice Department accounts to stave off a serious threat to the lives and safety of correctional staff, inmates and the public.

Some 38,000 employees at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons supervise 176,000 inmates at 119 institutions, ensuring security and providing prisoners with needed programs.

In a memo Friday, Mr. Holder said congressional passage of a spending bill keeping the government open through the end of September provides no relief from $1.6 billion in Justice Department budget reductions that already took effect.

Right-to-die case ended

MINNEAPOLIS -- A judge Friday dismissed charges against the former head of a national right-to-die group accused in the death of an Apple Valley woman, saying Minnesota's law against advising suicide is unconstitutionally overbroad.

Dakota County Judge Karen Asphaug dismissed charges against Thomas Goodwin, former president of Final Exit Network. Mr. Goodwin was charged with aiding and abetting assistance of a suicide, and aiding and abetting in the interference with a death scene.

Mr. Goodwin and three others were charged last year in the 2007 death of Doreen Dunn, who killed herself in her home.

Does suspect have alibi?

BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- The mother of a 13-month-old shot dead in his stroller took one look at a suspect's mugshot Saturday and said he was definitely the killer. Yet an aunt of the teen said he was eating breakfast with her when the slaying took place.

Despite the conflicting stories, police have charged De'Marquise Elkins, 17, with murder, along with a 14-year-old whose name has been withheld because he's a juvenile. Police said even though the aunt provided an alibi, authorities have good reason to bring the charges.

Anne Frank's saplings

INDIANAPOLIS -- Saplings from the chestnut tree that stood as a symbol of hope for Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis for two years in Amsterdam are being distributed to 11 locations in the U.S. as part of a project that aims to preserve her legacy and promote tolerance.

The tree, one of the Jewish teenager's only connections to nature while she hid with her family, was diseased and rotted through the trunk when wind and heavy rain toppled it in August 2010.

But saplings grown from its seeds will be planted starting in April, when the Children's Museum of Indianapolis will put the first one in the ground.

Letter from DNA finder

NEW YORK -- Sixty years ago scientist Francis Crick wrote a letter to his 12-year-old son saying he and a colleague had discovered something "very beautiful" -- the structure of DNA.

Now, the note and its hand-drawn diagrams are being auctioned off in New York. Christie's estimates the letter could fetch $1 million or more at the April 10 sale.

The letter dated March 19, 1953, was written about a month before Watson and Crick's research was published in the journal Nature.

Also in the nation ...

Six employees of a Kansas City restaurant destroyed Feb. 19 in a natural gas explosion filed a lawsuit Friday over the blast that killed a server, alleging that gas company employees said it was safe to remain in the area. ... An early spring snowstorm forced the cancellation of more than 100 flights at Denver International Airport and closed interstates Saturday as it moved eastward, dumping more than a foot of snow in some places.



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