National Briefs: 3 held in killings of homeless

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Three teenagers are suspected in as many as 50 attacks on homeless people, including beating two men to death over the weekend in what experts say is a growing type of assault against an especially vulnerable group.

Alex Rios, 18, and two boys, ages 16 and 15, were being held in Bernalillo County detention facilities Monday following the killing of two sleeping men in an open field in an attack so violent that it left the victims unrecognizable, police spokesman Simon Drobik told the Los Angeles Times.

A third man, who helped identify the trio, said he was able to escape.

Job protection for gays

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday ordered employment protection for gay and transgender employees who work for the federal government or for companies holding federal contracts, telling advocates he embraced the “irrefutable rightness of your cause.”

Mr. Obama said it was unacceptable that being gay is still a firing offense in many places in the United States, and he called on Congress to extend the ban to all employers.

But legislation that would extend the ban has become embroiled in a dispute over whether religious groups should get exemptions.

Execution legal battle

PHOENIX — A federal appeals court on Monday rejected a bid by Arizona to remove a block that stops the state executing a double murderer until he is provided with more information about the drugs to be used to put him to death.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state's request for the full court to review the case of Joseph Wood, who had been slated to be executed on Wednesday for killing his ex-girlfriend and her father in 1989 at an automotive body shop in Tucson.

Firefighting improves

SPOKANE, Wash. — Calmer winds and cooler temperatures were allowing firefighters to go on the offensive Monday against a destructive wildfire that has charred hundreds of square miles of terrain in Washington state.

The Carlton Complex of fires in north-central Washington had burned about 379 square miles, fire spokesman Andrew Sanbri said.

The fire is being blamed for one death.

Neil Armstrong honored

CAPE CANVERAL, Fla. — NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming the historic Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It now bears the name of the late Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon when the Apollo 11 mission landed there 45 years ago.

Warmest winter, spring

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California had its warmest winter and spring on record this year, leading to stresses on water resources and agriculture, as well as increased risk of wildfire in the most populous U.S. state, the National Weather Service said Monday.

Meteorologists said temperatures in California were about 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal during the first six months of 2014, and just over 1 degree hotter than the previous record.

Shark-sightings boom

CHATHAM, Mass. — Great white sharks are having an unusual effect on Cape Cod this summer, and many a merchant is going to need a bigger wallet.

The sharks being spotted in growing numbers are stirring curiosity and a buying frenzy for shark-related merchandise.

— Compiled from news services



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