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Bank of America sued over mortgage abuses

The states of Arizona and Nevada sued Bank of America Corp on Friday, accusing the largest U.S. bank of routinely misleading consumers about home loan modifications. The two lawsuits, filed by each state attorney general in Arizona and Nevada state courts, seek potentially massive fines against the bank and compensation for customers. Arizona accuses Bank of America of violating a 2009 consent judgment in which it committed to widespread home loan modifications. The bank failed to follow through, leaving borrowers in limbo, according to the suit. The bank is also accused of violating the state’s consumer fraud act. Arizona is
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Blackwater founder worms his way back into mercenary company

An investment group with ties to the founder of the company formerly known as Blackwater announced Friday that it has bought the security firm, which was heavily criticized for its contractors’ actions in Iraq. USTC Holdings said in a statement that the acquisition of the company now called Xe Services includes its training facility in North Carolina. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. But the statement said owner and founder Erik Prince will no longer have an equity stake and no longer be involved in Xe’s management or operations. The company will be managed by a board appointed by
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Post office gets ready for busiest day of the year

The post office is bracing for its busiest day of the year on Monday. The agency’s busiest day is traditionally the Monday before Christmas as people mail cards and packages they prepared over the weekend. Postal officials expect 800 million pieces of mail to be handled on Monday, 40 percent more than the average daily volume. “There’s still time to mail greeting cards and ship presents,” Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said in a statement. “If customers get their cards and packages to us by Tuesday, Dec. 21, we’ll get them delivered by Christmas.” Online: http://www.usps.com
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Investigators recover billions for Madoff victims

Many of Bernard Madoff’s victims who thought they lost everything could get at least half their money back after the widow of a Florida philanthropist agreed Friday to return a staggering $7.2 billion that her husband reaped from the giant Ponzi scheme. Federal prosecutors reached the settlement with the estate of Jeffry Picower, a businessman who drowned after suffering a heart attack in the swimming pool of his Palm Beach, Fla., mansion in October 2009. Picower was the single biggest beneficiary of Madoff’s fraud. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the forfeiture the largest in Justice Department history and a “game
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Searchers may have found Amelia Earhart’s bones

The three bone fragments turned up on a deserted South Pacific island that lay along the course Amelia Earhart was following when she vanished. Nearby were several tantalizing artifacts: some old makeup, some glass bottles and shells that had been cut open. Now scientists at the University of Oklahoma hope to extract DNA from the tiny bone chips in tests that could prove Earhart died as a castaway after failing in her 1937 quest to become the first woman to fly around the world. “There’s no guarantee,” said Ric Gillespie, director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, a
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The weather: Just a lot more bad news

Snow, sleet and freezing rain wreaked havoc across Mid-Atlantic and Southern states on Thursday, causing hundreds of accidents, four fatal. The nasty pre-winter mix also forced schools to start late, close early or cancel classes altogether. Three people died in separate weather-related crashes in North Carolina. In south-central Kentucky, state police said an 80-year-old man died when his sport-utility vehicle hit a patch of ice, ran off the road and overturned. Thousands of people in North Carolina and in Virginia lost power, and West Virginia’s acting governor was forced to cancel a Christmas party scheduled for Thursday night at the
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WikiLeaks founder shows no remorse while on bail

WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange has declared that he is the victim of a smear campaign after being freed on bail over rape allegations and sent to spend Christmas at an English country house. The 39-year-old Australian computer expert said that curbs on him, which he described as “hi-tech house arrest,” would not halt the release of official secrets. Assange walked free from a London court Thursday, freed on 200,000 pound ($312,500) bail after nine days in London’s largest jail. Sweden wants to extradite him for questioning over alleged sexual assaults on two WikiLeaks’ volunteers. “This has been a very successful
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New drug for executions expected to become norm

A sedative Oklahoma used to execute a death row inmate that is commonly used to euthanize animals could become more popular because of a nationwide shortage of a key ingredient in several states’ lethal injection formulas, death penalty experts say. John David Duty is believed to be the first person in the United States whose execution included the use of pentobarbital. The 58-year-old was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m. Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Oklahoma and several other states traditionally have used the barbiturate sodium thiopental to put an inmate to sleep, followed by two other drugs — pancuronium
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Famed director Blake Edwards dead

When Julie Andrews began writing her 2008 autobiography, “Home,” her husband Blake Edwards had just one piece of advice: “Characters make your story.” In an up-and-down career that spanned writing, directing and producing nearly 50 films, Edwards’ cultivated more than his share of indelible characters: Peter Sellers’ bumbling Inspector Clouseau of the “Pink Panther” movies, Dudley Moore’s equally clueless George Webber from “10,” Audrey Hepburn’s high fashion wild child Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” He knew laughter and sadness, making alcoholism seem hilarious in “10” and desperate in “Days of Wine and Roses.” But his strength was comedy, farce
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If you’re rich the IRS is coming to get you

The Internal Revenue Service is making it a bit riskier to cheat on your taxes. The tax agency increased the number of returns it audited by nearly 11 percent this year, statistics released Wednesday show. Wealthy taxpayers and big businesses were most likely to be targeted. The IRS also stepped up audits of charities and other tax-exempt organizations. In all, the IRS examined more than 1.58 million individual returns in the budget year that ended in September, up from 1.43 million the year before. “We saw individual audits increase, reaching the highest rate in the past decade,” said Steve Miller,
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