Spellers from Texas, N.Y. state battle to tie in U.S. Spelling Bee

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News: Scripps National Spelling BeeBy Ian Simpson NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (Reuters) – Nihar Janga, a fifth-grader from Austin, Texas, and Jairam Hathwar, a seventh-grader from Painted Post, New York, were named co-champions of the U.S. Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday after battling 25 rounds head to head. The late-night duel twice saw Nihar, 11, fail to capitalize on mistakes by Jairam, 13, and claim the title outright. "I'm just speechless," Jairam told reporters after the contest that was televised on cable network ESPN and repeatedly saw the audience in a hotel ballroom burst into cheers.


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States ratchet up transgender battle with lawsuit against U.S.

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A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access in Durham, North CarolinaOfficials from 11 U.S. states sued the Obama administration on Wednesday to overturn a directive telling schools to let transgender students use bathrooms matching their gender identity, decrying the policy as "a massive social experiment." Ramping up the simmering battles over contentious cultural issues in America, the states, led by Texas and most with Republican governors, accused the federal government of rewriting laws by "administrative fiat." "We are willing to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to," Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told reporters in Austin. Amid a national debate on transgender rights, President Barack Obama's administration on May 13 told U.S. public schools that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice, upsetting Republicans and paving the way for fights over federal funding and legal authority.


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U.S. to seek death penalty against accused South Carolina church shooter

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Dylann Roof attends a hearing at the Judicial Center in CharlestonFederal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a white man accused of killing nine black parishioners in a racially motivated attack at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, last June, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday. "The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. Dylann Roof, 22, is accused of opening fire on June 17, 2015, during Bible study at Charleston's historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in a massacre that shook the country and intensified debate over U.S. race relations.


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Baltimore police officer acquitted in Freddie Gray death

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Baltimore police officer Edward Nero arrives for his trial in connection with the death of Freddie Gray at a courthouse in BaltimoreBaltimore police officer Edward Nero was acquitted on Monday of all charges in the 2015 death of black detainee Freddie Gray, the second setback for prosecutors in a case that triggered rioting and fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams, who heard the case in a bench trial, told a packed courtroom that Nero, 30, had acted as any officer would have during Gray's arrest in April 2015. "Based on the evidence presented, this court finds that the state has not met its burden to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, all required elements of the crimes charged," Williams said.


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Maryland judge to render verdict in Freddie Gray death trial

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Officer Edward M. Nero is pictured in this undated booking photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department(Reuters) – A Maryland judge on Monday will hand down his verdict on a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of black detainee Freddie Gray, an incident that triggered protests and rioting in the majority-black city and stoked the Black Lives Matter movement. Officer Edward Nero, 30, is charged with arresting Gray without justification in April 2015 and then failing to secure him in a transport van where he suffered a broken neck. Nero is the second Baltimore officer to be tried in Baltimore City Circuit Court for Gray's death.


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U.S. agency probes blimp emergency landing in Philadelphia neighborhood

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A deflated blimp is seen after an emergency landing at a construction site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania(Reuters) – The emergency landing of a blimp near a highway in a Philadelphia neighborhood is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, an agency official said on Saturday. The blimp lost power before the emergency landing on Friday, FAA spokesman Rick Breitenfeldt said in an email. Lt. David Bonk, a Philadelphia police officer in a helicopter tactical unit, posted a Twitter message with an aerial photo of the blimp lying mostly deflated in what appeared to be a construction zone.


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Secret Service shoots gun-wielding man near White House

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Police secure a location after a shooting near the White House in Washington DCA U.S. Secret Service agent shot a man who brandished a gun near the White House on Friday while President Barack Obama was out golfing, and the man was taken to a hospital in critical condition, officials said. The Secret Service, which protects the president and his family, briefly locked down the White House as a precaution, and Vice President Joe Biden was secured within the White House complex during the lockdown, a White House spokeswoman said. A man carrying a gun approached a checkpoint shortly after 3 p.m. (1900 GMT) when uniformed Secret Service officers ordered him to stop and drop the weapon, the Secret Service said in a statement.


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