Specter switches to Democrat

WASHINGTON - Veteran Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania abruptly switched parties Tuesday, a move intended to boost his re-election chances that also pushed Democrats within one seat of a 60-vote filibuster-resistant majority.

'I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans,' Specter said in a statement posted on a Web site devoted to Pennsylvania politics and confirmed by his office. Several Senate officials said a formal announcement was expected at mid-afternoon.

But even before the event took place, Specter attended a Senate subcommittee hearing on the swine flu outbreak and took a seat on the Democratic side of the dais.

He made no overt mention of his decision, but said, 'Sorry I can't stay longer, but this is a complicated day for me.'

President Barack Obama called Specter almost immediately after he was informed of the switch to say the Democratic Party was 'thrilled to have you,' according to a White House official.

Hiker lost for 3 nights found safe

PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. - A 17-year-old Eagle Scout planning an ambitious day hike and then lost for three nights around the highest mountain in the Northeast was found Tuesday and reunited with his family.

Scott Mason was spotted Tuesday morning on a ridge northwest of Mount Washington, Fish and Game Dept. Major Tim Acerno said. He was reunited with his family at a command center about two hours later, hugging them and slapping his father on the back.

A short time later, Mason was taken by ambulance to a hospital to have pain in one of his legs checked out, Acerno said.

Drug baron gets 30 years in prison

MIAMI - A Colombian who was one of the top financial managers and supervised money-laundering for a cocaine cartel accused of smuggling $10 billion in drugs into the U.S. was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in federal prison.

Eugenio Montoya Sanchez, 39, pleaded guilty in January to drug trafficking and obstruction of justice charges, the latter involving his role in setting up the torture, killing and dismemberment of a cartel associate suspected of cooperating with authorities. In a brief statement, Montoya expressed remorse.

Montoya is the brother of the purported mastermind of Colombia's North Valley cartel. Diego Montoya Sanchez is also in U.S. custody in Miami and has pleaded not guilty to a 12-count federal indictment charging cocaine trafficking, money laundering, witness retaliation and obstruction of justice.

Brothers get life in Fort Dix plot

CAMDEN, N.J. - Three brothers convicted of plotting to kill military personnel at Fort Dix in New Jersey will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

A federal judge in Camden has sentenced 30-year-old Dritan Duka and 28-year-old Shain Duka to life in prison plus 30 years. Their 25-year-old brother, Eljvir, has been sentenced to life in prison.

Two other men convicted in the plot are to be sentenced Wednesday.

The five were convicted of conspiring to kill military personnel in a plot that authorities portrayed as one of the most frightening homegrown terrorism plans ever in the United States.

Minerals blamed in horses' deaths

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Florida officials say a mineral overdose is the probable cause of death for 21 polo horses that fell ill as they prepared for a championship match earlier this month.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said Tuesday the animals likely overdosed on selenium, a common mineral that can be toxic in high doses.

The horses from the Venezuelan-owned Lechuza Caracas team began collapsing as they were unloaded from trailers at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington. Some died at the scene, others hours later. All 21 horses were dead by the next day.

Over 1,000 GM dealers to close

DETROIT - General Motors Corp. says it will force 1,000 to 1,200 underperforming dealerships to close their doors as the automaker tries to thin dealer ranks to make the remaining outlets stronger.

Dealers were told of the move in a video conference Tuesday.

In addition, the company expects to lose 500 Hummer and Saturn dealers when the brands close or are sold, and it expects 400 dealers to close voluntarily. Another 500 would be consolidated into other dealers.