National news briefs: 4/19/14

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MIT honors slain officer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Like many other youngsters, Sean Collier wanted to be a police officer. Unlike most, he brought that dream to life -- and then died doing it, becoming a central character in the gripping hunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

The three people killed by the twin explosions, have gotten the lion's share of the attention in the year since the bombings. The loved ones of Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer who investigators say was shot by the bombing suspects, are this week remembering a brother and doting uncle.

Team Collier Strong, a group of 25 friends and family members, will run the marathon Monday to raise money for a scholarship fund named for him. And MIT held a remembrance ceremony Friday, exactly a year after his death, and unveiled plans for a permanent memorial.

Man charged in shootings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A 27-year-old Kansas City area man has been charged in the recent series of highway shootings, Jackson County prosecutors said Friday.

Mohammed Whitaker, of Grandview, Mo., was charged with 18 felony counts related to 9 incidents. A series of at least 12 shootings started in early March. Three victims were wounded in the spree.

Immigrant asylum seekers

WASHINGTON -- Federal officials have quietly introduced new guidelines that make it tougher for asylum seekers to get their cases heard before judges.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent a memorandum to asylum office directors and deputy directors on Feb. 28 describing "major changes" in the standards for asylum seekers who make "credible fear of persecution" claims.

In the memo, John Lafferty, the chief of the asylum division, highlighted concerns that previous standards had been wrongly interpreted to require only a "minimal" or "mere possibility" of success in court.

Credible-fear referrals rose by more than 250 percent from fiscal year 2012 to 2013, he wrote.

The revised guidelines seek to clarify that the standards require the applicant to "demonstrate a substantial and realistic possibility of succeeding," Mr. Lafferty wrote.

Credit/debit cards hacked

NEW YORK -- Michaels Stores Inc. said Thursday that about 2.6 million cards, or about 7 percent of all debit and credit cards used at its namesake stores, may have been affected in a security breach.

The nation's largest arts and crafts chain said its subsidiary Aaron Brothers was also attacked, with about 400,000 cards potentially affected.

Irving, Texas-based Michaels said that the compromised data includes customer information such as payment card numbers and expiration dates. But there's no evidence that other personal information such as names, addresses or PIN numbers were at risk, Michaels said.

Romney on political stage

After retreating from public view following his crushing loss to President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, Mitt Romney has returned to the political stage, emerging as one of the Republican Party's most coveted stars, especially on the fundraising circuit, in the run-up to November's midterm elections.

Mr. Romney, 67, has begun to embrace the role of party elder, believing he can shape the national debate and help guide his fractured party to a governing majority.

Mr. Romney has signed his name to sharply partisan email appeals and headlined recent fundraisers.


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