Nation & World Briefs 05-09-13 Arias trial now turns to whether she should live or die for killing lover

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PHOENIX -- The jury has rendered its verdict -- Jodi Arias is guilty of first-degree murder -- but the trial is far from finished.

The same jury now returns to the courtroom today to decide whether she deserves to die for killing her one-time boyfriend on June 4, 2008 at his suburban Phoenix home.

The sheer brutality of the attack and previous testimony from the Maricopa County Medical Examiner that Travis Alexander did not die a quick death will be at the heart of the prosecution's argument that Jodi should receive the ultimate punishment for her crime.

Alexander was stabbed and slashed nearly 30 times, shot in the forehead and had slit his throat from ear to ear, leaving the motivational speaker and businessman nearly decapitated. His decomposing body was found in his shower about five days later by friends.

Arias spoke out about the verdict minutes after her conviction Wednesday, telling a TV station that she would "prefer to die sooner than later."

Some cuts likely for food stamps: One of the few programs exempted from this year's automatic spending cuts, the government's food stamp program, which helps feed 1 in every 7 Americans, is likely to get trimmed. Unresolved is by how much. The Democratic chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee is only willing to take roughly one-half of 1 percent, or about $400 million annually, off the top. Her Republican counterpart in the House would give the program a makeover and cut it by five times that amount. The popular safety net program has more than doubled in size since 2008 and cost more than $78 billion last year. Dollars for the food stamp program will be included in House and Senate farm bills that both agriculture panels plan to consider next week.

Black voter turnout passes whites: New census data show that America's blacks voted in 2012 at higher rates than whites, in a historic first. Despite increasing population, the number of white voters declined for the first time since 1996. Blacks were the only race or ethnic group to show an increase in voter turnout, most notably in the Midwest and Southeastern U.S. The census analysis is viewed as the best source of government data on turnout by race and ethnicity. In all, about 66.2 percent of eligible black voters cast ballots in 2012, up from 64.7 percent in 2008. That compares with non-Hispanic white turnout of 64.1 percent, which fell from 66.1 percent. Latino turnout dipped slightly, from 49.9 percent in 2008 to 48 percent, while Asian-American turnout was basically unchanged at 47 percent.

Gets 137 years in prison: U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland in Detroit has sentenced Ali Darwich to 137 years in prison for leading an arson ring that prosecutors say led to the destruction of numerous homes and the theft of $5 million from insurance companies. The Justice Department said Cleland sentenced 31-year-old Darwich on Wednesday. The Beverly Hills man was convicted of 33 criminal counts at a trial in December. The government said the scheme by Darwich and eight co-defendants started in 2005. It said they'd buy insurance for various buildings and vehicles and then intentionally burn or damage them. The eight others have pleaded guilty.

First lady honors libraries, museums: Michelle Obama says the nation's libraries and museums are creating better, more informed citizens and doing it with fewer resources. The first lady commented Wednesday at the White House as she helped award public service medals to 10 institutions. The Columbus Museum of Art and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County were among the recipients of the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

Could have sentence reduced: Convicted ex-Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling's more than 24-year prison sentence for his role in the once mighty energy giant's collapse could be reduced by as many as 10 years if a federal judge approves an agreement reached Wednesday between prosecutors and defense attorneys. Under the agreement, which Justice Department officials say includes a previous court-ordered reduction of as much as nine years, Skilling's original sentence will be reduced to somewhere between 14 and 17.5 years. The agreement still has to be approved by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake, who is set to hold a June 21 hearing in Houston to make the final decision on the length of Skilling's sentence.

Factory collapse death toll at 912: The death toll from a garment factory building that collapsed outside the Bangladesh capital has climbed past 900, as recovery workers continue pulling bodies from the wreckage more than two weeks after the disaster. Officials say 912 bodies have been recovered from the rubble of the fallen eight-story building as of this morning. An army official says 100 badly decomposing bodies being kept at a makeshift morgue near the building site in a Dhaka suburb will be sent to hospitals for DNA testing. It is not clear what the final toll eventually will be from the disaster.

Another Bandladesh tragedy: A fire in an 11-story garment factory in Bangladesh killed eight people, including a ruling party politician and a top official in the country's powerful clothing manufacturers' trade group, as the death toll from the collapse of another garment factory building passed 900 today. The fire Wednesday night engulfed the lower floors of the Tung Hai Sweater Ltd. factory -- which had closed for the day -- said Mamun Mahmud, deputy director of the fire service. The blaze, fed by huge piles of acrylic products used to make sweaters, produced immense amounts of smoke, he said. The victims died of suffocation as they ran down the stairs, Mahmud said.

Carnival ship leaves Alabama port: The Carnival Triumph is headed back to sea three months after limping into port following an engine room fire. The cruise ship left the Alabama Cruise Terminal in Mobile under its own power Wednesday after extensive work to repair damage from the fire. Miami-based Carnival says Triumph is headed to Freeport, Bahamas, for more repairs and upgrades. It's supposed to return to service June 13 with a cruise from Galveston, Texas.

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