NYC mom of battered girl gets 40 years

NEW YORK - The mother of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison Wednesday for doing nothing as her battered and malnourished daughter lay dying.

Nixzaliz Santiago received more than a decade longer in prison than her husband, who was accused of delivering the fatal blow after the girl was caught stealing yogurt.

Rodriguez, who was Nixzmary's stepfather, is serving 29 years on a manslaughter conviction, while Santiago was convicted last month of manslaughter, assault and other charges that increased her prison time.

Conn. approves gay marriage

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Same-sex couples began marrying in Connecticut on Wednesday after a judge cleared the way, a partial rebound for gay-rights activists still enraged over the vote last week that cost them the right to wed in California.

Protests spread across the country over the loss in California, but in New Haven, bubbles and white balloons bounced in the chilly autumn air as well-wishers cheered the marriage of Peg Oliveira and Jennifer Vickery. They wed outside City Hall, next to a statue commemorating the Amistad slave ship's struggle for freedom, less than two hours after a judge made gay marriage a reality in Connecticut.

Student dies after shooting at Fla. high school

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A 15-year-old student died after a shooting at a Fort Lauderdale high school Wednesday, and police were questioning another student believed to be responsible.

Sophomore Amanda Collette was confirmed dead after being discovered on a hallway floor by a school resource officer at Dillard High School about 11 a.m. Another 15-year-old girl was being held and questioned by police in the death.

Police: Woman slain as she tried to leave KKK

NEW ORLEANS, La. - An Oklahoma woman who was lured over the Internet to take part in a Ku Klux Klan initiation was shot and killed after the ritual went awry, and the group tried to cover it up by dumping her body on a rural roadside and setting her belongings aflame, authorities said.

But the plan failed: By Tuesday, a local Klan leader sat in jail on a second-degree murder charge, and seven others were charged with trying to help conceal the crime.

Missing cat back at Calif. home after 13 years

SANTA ROSA, Calif. - A California couple recently had an unexpected reunion with an old housemate: their pet cat who went missing more than 13 years ago.

The cat, named George, was last seen by Melinda Merman and Frank Walburg in 1995. He recently resurfaced when the manager of a mobile home park trapped the sickly feline and gave him to an animal hospital.

Cheney to meet Biden at VP home

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are getting together today to discuss the upcoming handoff of the job as the nation's second-in-command.

Cheney spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said Cheney and his wife, Lynne, will host Biden and his wife, Jill, at their home. The Cheneys and the Bidens will have a private meeting and then tour the vice presidential residence at the Naval Observatory.

President-elect Obama had his historic meeting with President Bush on Monday.

3 LCD firms plead guilty to price fixing

WASHINGTON - Three Asian electronics firms have agreed to plead guilty and pay $585 million in fines for conspiring to drive up the prices of LCD screens used in computers, TVs, cell phones and other electronic devices.

In a plea deal filed Wednesday, LG Display Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp., and Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd. agreed to cooperate in an antitrust investigation headed by the U.S. Justice Department. The plea agreement was filed in federal court in San Francisco.

Stocks plunge for third straight day

NEW YORK - A disheartened Wall Street has suffered its third straight loss, as investors absorbed more dismal corporate reports and news that the government won't buy banks' soured mortgage assets after all.

The Dow Jones industrial fell about 410 points to the 8,283 level, and all the major indexes fell more than 4 percent.