National Briefs: Insurers: 4 in 5 pay premiums

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WASHINGTON -- Top health insurance companies told members of Congress on Wednesday that more than 80 percent of people who've signed up under the president's new health care law have gone on to pay their premiums -- a necessary step for the enrollment figures touted by the Obama administration to hold up.

The figures were in line with what individual insurers have said on earnings calls with analysts and elsewhere in recent weeks.

DEA targets synthetic drugs

WASHINGTON -- The Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to stay one step ahead of synthetic drug makers, wholesalers and retailers as it broadens its crackdown on the growing black market product.

DEA agents fanned out across the country Wednesday and made more than 150 arrests and served about 200 warrants, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said. The largest single operation was a statewide effort in Alabama, though agents also were active in 28 other states. Authorities also seized more than $20 million in cash and assets, the DEA said.

Texas defends executions

HOUSTON -- Texas attorneys argued the state's record shows that it can execute Death Row inmates without causing them needless suffering as they moved Wednesday to oppose a delay in the next scheduled execution.

In papers filed in federal court for Houston, Texas officials opposed any stay of execution for convicted murderer Robert James Campbell, scheduled to be executed next Tuesday. Lawyers for Campbell argued the recent botched execution of an inmate in Oklahoma shows inmates should be given information on the supplier and quality of the drugs used in executions to prevent suffering that would violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Texas authorities reported they intend to use a single lethal injection of a 5-gram dose of pentobarbital, a barbiturate, and argued the state is not required to reveal the source or supplier of the drug. States, in general, have argued that it is permissible to keep execution details secret to prevent suppliers from facing political pressure.

In defending its plan, Texas notes pentobarbital-- unlike the drug, midazolam, used in Oklahoma -- has been used effectively across the U.S. and in 33 executions in Texas.

Wis. investigation stopped

MILWAUKEE -- A federal judge in Wisconsin has halted an investigation by state prosecutors of possible illegal coordination by conservative groups during the 2012 attempt to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, ruling that the investigation infringed on the free-speech rights of the activists involved.

The Wisconsin Club for Growth and Eric O'Keefe, a director with the group, had sued state prosecutors, arguing federal intervention was needed to stop an inquiry they said was violating their First Amendment rights.

Also in the nation ...

Authorities have arrested a suspect in the home invasion robbery of country singer Scotty McCreery and his friends. ... United Technologies Corp.'s Sikorsky Aircraft unit received a $1.24 billion Pentagon contract for helicopters to ferry the president and executive branch officials. ... Two FBI agents who shot and killed James DiMaggio, the man accused of kidnapping San Diego County teenager Hannah Anderson after killing her mother and younger brother, used reasonable force in the 40-year-old's death and will not face criminal charges, prosecutors said Wednesday.

-- Compiled from news services



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