National Briefs: School lunch rules attacked

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WASHINGTON -- The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday passed an agriculture budget bill that included nearly $21 billion for child nutrition that would allow schools to opt out of White House nutritional guidelines passed in 2012.

The vote was 31-18.

The Obama administration, hoping to combat rising childhood obesity, announced new rules in 2012 that added more fruits and green vegetables to school breakfasts and lunches and reduced the amount of salt and fat that children consumed at schools.

About 32 million children participate in school meal programs each day.

NSA finds 1 Snowden email

WASHINGTON -- Edward Snowden says he repeatedly raised constitutional concerns about National Security Agency surveillance internally, but an NSA search turned up a single email in which Mr. Snowden gently asks for "clarification" on a technical legal question about training materials, agency officials said Thursday.

Mr. Snowden, a former NSA systems administrator whose leaks have exposed some of the agency's most sensitive spying operations, called himself a patriot in an interview this week with NBC News' Brian Williams. He said he felt he had no choice but to expose what he considered illegal NSA surveillance by leaking secret details to journalists.

Harvard-assault protest

BOSTON -- Dozens of Harvard University seniors marked their graduation caps with red tape in support of victims of sexual assault and to protest the school's response to campus attacks.

Students put a stripe of crimson tape on the edge of their mortarboards at the school's 363rd commencement Thursday in Cambridge, Mass.

AWOL jail guard

NEW YORK -- A jail guard who investigators say left her post without permission Feb. 15 as an inmate lay dying in his 101-degree cell had been disciplined four years earlier for a similar infraction, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Carol Lackner was accused in 2010 of leaving her post and leaving Rikers Island entirely without permission while working in a women's section of the jail, according to the documents, obtained through a public records request. That administrative charge was settled, her attorney says, when Ms. Lackner agreed to give up five vacation days.

Faster extinction rate

WASHINGTON -- Species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, and the world is on the brink of a sixth great extinction, a new study says.

The study looks at past and present rates of extinction and finds a lower rate in the past than scientists had thought. Species are now disappearing from Earth about 10 times faster than biologists had believed, said the study's lead author, biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University.

Killer's parents speak out

LOS ANGELES -- The parents of Isla Vista killer Elliott Rodger say it has been "hell on earth" knowing that their son caused the tragedy that took the lives of six University of California Santa Barbara students last week and that they remain heartbroken.

"We are crying out in pain for the victims and their families. It breaks our hearts on a level that we didn't think was possible," Peter and Chin Rodger said in a statement disseminated Thursday by family friend Simon Astaire.

-- Compiled from news services

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