National briefs: General's plea in sex case

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RALEIGH, N.C. -- A U.S. Army general accused of sexually assaulting a junior officer will admit guilt on three lesser charges but will fight the more serious charges stemming from her claim that he forced her to perform oral sex, his lawyer said Wednesday night.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair is set to enter the plea this morning at his court martial at Fort Bragg. The primary accuser in the case is a female captain who claims Gen. Sinclair twice forced her to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her family if she told anyone about their three-year affair.

His lawyer, Richard Scheff, said the general will plead guilty to having improper relationships with two other female Army officers and to committing adultery with his mistress, which is a crime in the military. He will also admit violating orders by possessing pornography in Afghanistan and to conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman.

Pedestrians' death trend

WASHINGTON -- Pedestrian fatalities on U.S. roadways declined by 8.7 percent during the first half of last year, reversing four years of increases, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Pennsylvania saw one of the biggest drops in pedestrian deaths, nearly 36 percent, compared with the same six-month period of 2012. There were 52 pedestrians killed on state roads from January to June 2013, the association reported.

Clinton blasts Putin again

LOS ANGELES -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is a tough but thin-skinned leader who is squandering his country's potential, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday, a day after she likened his actions on the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine to those of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

Ms. Clinton warned during her latest speech at the University of California, Los Angeles that "all parties should avoid steps that could be misinterpreted or lead to miscalculation at this delicate time."

Housing-site explosion

EWING, N.J. -- The contractor working for New Jersey's largest utility at the site of a town house explosion that killed one resident Tuesday recently had been fined more than $100,000 by safety regulators for problems at two other sites, but the utility said Wednesday it never had any problems with the construction firm.

Blue Bell, Pa.-based Henkels & McCoy was cited last year by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for violations involving signaling, warning signs and protection of workers during excavations.

Obama, minimum wage

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. -- President Barack Obama brought his campaign for a higher federal minimum wage to this rough-hewed city Wednesday, declaring that "nobody who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty."

Speaking to 3,000 students at Central Connecticut State University, Mr. Obama said raising the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 would lift millions out of poverty and stimulate the broader economy.

Economic espionage

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two men were convicted Wednesday of stealing an American company's secret recipe for making a chemical used to whiten products from cars to the middle of Oreo cookies and selling it to a competitor controlled by the Chinese government.

The four-man, eight-woman federal jury found Robert Maegerle, 78, and Walter Liew, 56, guilty of economic espionage.

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