National briefs: Deal gives pre-K $300M in NYC

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ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders announced Saturday an agreement on a state budget that would provide $300 million for prekindergarten in New York City but that would also seem to undercut many other educational policies of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has championed prekindergarten while trying to slow the spread of charter schools.

At the same time, lawmakers rejected many of the governor's proposals to strengthen New York's campaign fundraising laws and ethics rules, but surprisingly, Mr. Cuomo said that if concessions he had received passed with the budget, he would disband a commission he had assembled to investigate corruption in New York's scandal-plagued government.

The agreement also includes several tax changes, including a new property tax rebate for homeowners across the state and a higher threshold for when estate taxes are owed. Lawmakers also moved to reduce the burden on students from tests aligned with the more rigorous set of curricular standards known as the Common Core.

Christie aide slams report

NEWARK, N.J. -- Bridget Anne Kelly, a former aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, assailed a report commissioned by him about the George Washington Bridge scandal as a "venomous" and "sexist" attack on her credibility.

Ms. Kelly, Mr. Christie's former deputy chief of staff, and David Wildstein, another ex-ally of the Republican, were blamed in the report for creating four days of traffic jams near the bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. The report prepared by Gibson Dunn & Crutcher depicted Ms. Kelly as a liar who cried, "seemed emotional" in a key meeting with Mr. Christie, and may have had her state of mind affected by a broken romance.

"The report's venomous, gratuitous, and inappropriate sexist remarks concerning Ms. Kelly have no place in what is alleged to be a professional and independent report," Michael Critchley, an attorney for Ms. Kelly, said Friday in an emailed statement.

Toyota recalls 119,000 sedans

TORRANCE, Calif. -- Toyota is recalling 119,000 Avalon sedans from the 2003 and 2004 model years because their air bags could deploy inadvertently.

The company says circuits within the air bag control module can be damaged if they're exposed to interference from other electrical components in the car.

The defect can also cause the seat belt pretensioners to tighten without warning.

Toyota says it knows of one minor injury related to the defect, but no accidents.

The company is notifying owners of the recall.

Dealers will add an electrical noise filter to the air bag control module for free.

New option for cholesterol

WASHINGTON -- A new class of experimental medicines can dramatically lower cholesterol, raising hopes of a fresh option for people who can't tolerate or don't get enough help from Lipitor and other statin drugs that have been used for this for decades.

The first large studies of these drugs were presented Saturday at an American College of Cardiology conference in Washington, and more will follow today.

Several companies are developing these drugs, which are aimed at 70 million Americans and millions more worldwide who have high LDL or "bad" cholesterol, a major risk for heart disease.

Three studies of Amgen Inc.'s version of these drugs, called evolocumab, found it lowered LDL or "bad" cholesterol by 55 to 66 percent from baseline levels compared to others who took a fake drug, and by nearly that much when compared to Merck's Zetia, another cholesterol medication.

But doctors want evidence that the way these drugs lower cholesterol also will lead to fewer heart attacks and deaths, because that proof already exists for statins.

Also in the nation ...

The grand totals for this year's Ivy League admissions are in. Of 253,472 applications for the Class of 2018, the eight private, prestigious and pricey schools known for a climbing vine gave a green light to 22,624. The admission rate is 8.925641 percent, rounding to the nearest millionth of a percentage point. ... The United Auto Workers membership rose 2.3 percent in 2013 to 391,415, the fourth consecutive gain, as U.S. automakers added employees amid rising sales.

-- Compiled from news services

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