New Orleans air putrid but not overly polluted

NEW ORLEANS - The putrid air rising from New Orleans' slowly receding floodwaters was found Wednesday not to be overly polluted, encouraging news for a mayor weighing the reopening of the French Quarter and other dry parts of the city.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin had said a clean bill of health for the air would allow the tourist-friendly French Quarter and central business district to open as early as Monday. And while the Environmental Protection Agency still found the floodwaters contained dangerous levels of sewage-related bacteria, the air pollutants were found to be at acceptable levels.

About 40 to 50 percent of the city was still flooded, down from 80 percent after Katrina hit, as 53 permanent and temporary pumps worked to siphon off 8 billion gallons a day.

Florida couple pleads no contest to child abuse

INVERNESS, Fla. - A couple accused of starving and torturing five of their seven adopted children, including yanking out toenails with pliers, pleaded no contest to aggravated child abuse Wednesday.

John and Linda Dollar were sentenced to 15 years each in prison. While the plea is not an admission of guilt, it means the Dollars chose not to contest the charges and would accept the court's punishment.

Mass. rejects proposed ban of gay marriage

BOSTON - The Massachusetts Legislature on Wednesday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that sought to ban gay marriage but legalize civil unions, a year after the state performed the nation's first government-sanctioned same-sex weddings.

It was the second time the Legislature had confronted the measure, which was intended to be put before voters on a statewide ballot in 2006. Under state law, lawmakers were required to approve it in two consecutive sessions before it could move forward.

Roberts says he won't decide on personal views

WASHINGTON - Supreme Court nominee John Roberts on Wednesday assured senators he would be guided by the law, not personal beliefs, on right-to-die cases. He also told the lawmakers that Congress can counter the court's decisions.

At the same time, Roberts stopped short of providing his specific views on issues - as he has steadfastly done throughout three days of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That chafed Democrats, who see his approval this month as almost a certainty.

- From wire reports