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NATION IN BRIEF: Rep: Jihad Jane terror suspect cooperated

Photo by Matt Rourke

Photo by Matt Rourke

PHILADELPHIA -- A woman accused of trolling the Internet as Jihad Jane and agreeing to marry a terrorist suspect and kill a Swedish artist targeted by radical Muslims cooperated with authorities, a congressman said.

Colleen LaRose pleaded not guilty Thursday to the four-count indictment at a brief arraignment in federal court in Philadelphia. The hearing marked her first public comments after six months of detention following her unannounced arrest in October. She wore a green prison jumpsuit and corn rows in her blond hair and smiled warmly at her public defenders when she entered the courtroom. The judge set a May 3 trial date on charges in the indictment, unsealed last week.

LaRose, 46, was accused of conspiring with fighters overseas and pledging to commit murder in the name of a Muslim holy war, or jihad. She was arrested Oct. 15 returning to Philadelphia from Europe.

Man admits scouting for Mumbai attack

CHICAGO -- A Chicago man admitted Thursday that he scouted out the Indian city of Mumbai for a 2008 terrorist attack that left 166 people dead and plotted an attack on a Danish newspaper over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

David Coleman Headley, a 49-year-old American citizen, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to all 12 counts he faced. Under a deal with prosecutors, Headley will not face execution if he continues to cooperate with their terrorism investigation. He could face up to life in prison and a $3 million fine when he's sentenced. A date has not been set.

Obama signs jobs legislation

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has said he wants to focus laser-like on the public's top concern: jobs. But the ongoing effort to remake the nation's health care system keeps getting in the way.

The White House held a ceremony Thursday in the sunny Rose Garden where Obama signed into law a $38 billion jobs bill containing a modest mix of tax breaks and spending designed to encourage the private sector to start hiring again.

Health care looms so large in the political calculus that Obama on Thursday postponed a long-planned trip to the Pacific so he could remain in Washington for the final health care votes.

Attempt stalls to ban smoking at Calif. state parks

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- An attempt by the California Legislature to impose what is believed to be the nation's most far-reaching smoking ban in state parks stalled Thursday over objections it would inappropriately punish smokers.

The bill in the 80-member Assembly fell five votes short of the simple majority needed to approve the ban, in part because several lawmakers who were expected to vote for it were absent.

The legislation would ban smoking at state beaches and all other state parks as a way to get unsightly cigarette butts off the beach, eliminate second-hand smoke and reduce the threat of wildfires. Under a legislative compromise, campsites and parking areas will be exempted from the ban.

Man convicted of murdering his landlord

BRENTWOOD, N.H. -- A jury has convicted a New Hampshire man of beating his landlord to death with a hammer to steal his new pickup truck, and rejected the defendant's claims he acted in self-defense when the landlord tried to rape him.

The jury Thursday found Paul McDonald guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 54-year-old Richard Wilcox.

McDonald was sentenced to an automatic life term in prison, as required under New Hampshire law for a first-degree murder conviction. He's been jailed without bail since his arrest in June 2008. Some of Wilcox's relatives applauded at sentencing.

Parents oppose school webcam spying lawsuit

PHILADELPHIA -- Some suburban Philadelphia parents are seeking to halt a potential class-action lawsuit accusing their school district of using cameras in school-issued laptops to spy on students at home.

Three sets of parents of students at Lower Merion and Harriton high schools filed documents in federal court Thursday asking for permission to intervene in the case.

The family of 15-year-old Harriton High School student Blake Robbins is seeking class-action status for a lawsuit accusing the Lower Merion School District of photographing him in his bedroom.