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   EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Illinois State Police say an East St. Louis man used a safety vest and hardhat bearing a construction firm's name in a ruse to steal galvanized steel posts from the state Transportation Department.
   Soloman Craighead is being held in the Madison County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bond on a felony theft charge.
   Authorities say the 61 year old Craighead took 400 posts between Jan. 4 and Sunday from a construction zone on Interstate 270 near Granite City.
   State Police Master Sgt. Mark Doiron says it is believed Craighead sold the posts, used to secure guard rails, to a scrapyard.
   Craighead was arrested Sunday as he and a woman was loading posts into a pickup truck. Police say the woman was released for lack of evidence to charge her with a crime.
 
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 03:26
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   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pressing for a final rush of health care enrollees, President Barack Obama said Tuesday that about 4 million people have signed up for health insurance through federal or state marketplaces set up under his health care law.
   But with a key deadline approaching fast, he urged some of his most steadfast backers to help sign up millions more by then.
   "We've only got a few weeks left. March 31st, that's the last call," Obama said, explaining that anyone not signed up by that date will have to wait until open enrollment begins anew in the fall. In the meantime, they risk being fined for not having coverage.
   The White House has set an unofficial goal of 7 million enrollees by the end of March.
   Nearly 3.3 million people, or less than half the total, had enrolled through the end of January.
   Enrollment was slowed at the start of the sign-up period last October by numerous glitches in the health care website the administration created to help people find coverage. Some states running their own websites encountered problems, too.
   Obama blamed the depressed enrollment on the bungled website and on an "implacable opposition" that he said has spent hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars to oppose the signature domestic policy accomplishment of his presidency.
   The president promised a "big push these last few weeks" to sign people up. Already, he and first lady Michelle Obama have talked up the health care law in interviews with radio and TV stations that reach largely black and Latino audiences. Vice President Joe Biden appeared Tuesday on "The View" to encourage its largely female viewership to help get people to buy coverage.
   "If they want health insurance now, they need to sign up now," Obama said.
   Besides the 4 million enrollees, Obama said millions more Americans were benefiting from the health care law's expansion of Medicaid as well as a provision that allows young people to stay on their parents' plans until they turned 26.
   Signing up enough people, particularly those who are young and healthy, is critical for the insurance pool at the heart of the law to function properly by keeping premiums low for everyone.
   Obama spoke to more than 300 activists at an Organizing for America summit at a Washington hotel. He later delivered a shortened version of his remarks to about 60 supporters at a by-invitation-only dinner in a nearby room.
   Organizing for Action is an advocacy group founded by former Obama campaign aides and supporters.
   Obama also sought his supporters' help to pressure Congress to raise the federal minimum wage for all workers. The president noted his recent action to raise the hourly minimum to $10.10 an hour for people working on federal contracts. But that will make a difference for just a few hundred thousand workers and not until the government awards new contracts or existing ones are renewed.
   Obama said a majority of Americans of all political persuasions support a higher minimum wage.
   "Let's get that minimum wage done and give America a raise," he said.
   Two hours before the president spoke, his former Republican presidential rival, Mitt Romney, was seen in the hotel lobby. A Romney adviser said the former Massachusetts governor was in Washington to deliver a speech and was staying at the hotel by coincidence.
 
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ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Charles Mann can now see a bright side to Georgia's rough start to the season.
 
"We knew we were a great team," he said. "People didn't believe that, but we believed in each other and in the system. We wanted to come out and play hard just to win this year."
 
Mann scored 19 points, Marcus Thornton added 15 and Georgia won its second straight game with a 71-56 victory over Missouri on Tuesday night.
 
The Bulldogs (16-11, 10-5 Southeastern Conference) have won six of seven to strengthen their hold on third place in the league.
 
Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson each finished with 17 points for Missouri (19-9, 7-8 SEC).
 
The Tigers, coming off Saturday's dispirited loss at Alabama, might have hurt their chance of making a sixth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.
 
"No, we're just trying to win," Brown said. "We're not trying to put extra pressure on ourselves. We've got to have faith in our team and each other."
 
Georgia, which went just 6-6 in nonconference play, began the SEC schedule by snapping Missouri's 26-game home winning streak on Jan. 8. Only No. 1 Florida and No. 17 Kentucky have performed better.
 
But Thornton said the Bulldogs aren't discussing their postseason prospects. They still have a lot of work to do to earn an NCAA bid.
 
Georgia closes the regular season with games at Arkansas, against Mississippi State and at LSU.
 
"We're not necessarily worried about that," Thornton said. "So focus on the next game and try to put ourselves in position to win."
 
Missouri dropped into a two-way tie for 10th place with Vanderbilt.
 
The Tigers' last lead came on Brown's layup midway through the first half. Missouri was outscored 16-6 over the final 9:12 before intermission.
 
Mann opened up the second half with a straightaway 3, and Juwan Parker's three-point play a couple of minutes later gave Georgia its first double-digit lead at 37-26.
 
Despite outrebounding the Bulldogs, Missouri struggled in nearly every other facet of the game, missing 15 of its first 16 attempts beyond the arc, getting outscored 38-18 in the paint and 11-2 on fast breaks.
 
"Shots weren't falling," Tigers coach Frank Haith said. "Georgia is a good defensive team, but I thought we had a lot of good looks."
 
Georgia's Kenny Gaines, coming off career-high 27 points at South Carolina, finished with 10 points.
 
The Tigers dropped to 2-6 in SEC road games. They finished 2-7 on the road in their first SEC season last year.
 
Missouri's defense has really struggled in the last two games. Georgia, which began the night with the SEC's worst field-goal shooting percentage in league games, shot 52.1 percent from the field.
 
The Tigers let Alabama shoot 54.7 percent last weekend — the Crimson Tide's highest percentage against a Division I team in five years.
 
Missouri's last three games are against Mississippi State and Texas A&M and at LSU. Haith isn't concerned about a lack of effort.
 
"I was happy with our guys," Haith said. "I thought they competed. Ryan Rosburg got 12 rebounds. We outrebounded them. I think we completed pretty hard tonight."
 
Georgia began the game averaging 28 free throws per game, but was 0 for 6 from the foul line in the first half. The Bulldogs missed the front end of three straight one-and-one chances before Nemanja Djurisic had two attempts hit hard off the rim.
 
Djurisic redeemed himself, though, by closing the first half with two 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater that made it 31-22.
 
"Yeah, I felt like we were right around there and then (Djurisic) hit those two 3s," Brown said. "That was kind of a momentum booster for them."
 
The Bulldogs finished the game 16 for 26 from the foul line.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 00:46
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   BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri inmate was executed early Wednesday for abducting, raping and killing a Kansas City teenager as she waited for her school bus in 1989, marking the state's fourth lethal injection in as many months.
   Michael Taylor, 47, was pronounced dead shortly after midnight. Federal courts and the governor had refused last-minute appeals from his attorneys, who argued that the execution drug purchased from a compounding pharmacy could have caused Taylor inhuman pain and suffering.
   Taylor offered no final statement. He mouthed silent words to his parents, two clergymen and two other relatives who witnessed his death. As the process began, he took two deep breaths before closing his eyes for the last time. There were no obvious signs of distress.
   His victim, 15-year-old Ann Harrison, was in her driveway — carrying her school books, flute and purse — when she was abducted by Taylor and Roderick Nunley. The men pulled her into their stolen car, took her to a home, then raped and fatally stabbed the girl as she pleaded for her life.
   Nunley also was sentenced to death and is awaiting execution.
   In their appeals, Taylor's attorneys questioned Missouri's use of an unnamed compounding pharmacy to provide the execution drug, pentobarbital. They also cited concerns about the state executing inmates before appeals were complete and argued that Taylor's original trial attorney was so overworked that she encouraged him to plead guilty.
   After using a three-drug execution method for years, Missouri switched late last year to pentobarbital. The same drug was used in three previous Missouri executions, and state officials said none of the inmates showed outward signs of distress.
   Still, attorneys for Taylor said using a drug from a compounding pharmacy, which unlike large pharmaceutical companies are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, runs the risk of causing pain and suffering during the execution process.
   The Oklahoma-based compounding pharmacy Apothecary Shoppe agreed last week that it wouldn't supply the pentobarbital for Taylor's execution, which left Missouri to find a new supplier. But Attorney General Chris Koster's office disclosed that a new provider had been found. Koster refused to name the pharmacy, citing the state's execution protocol that allows for the manufacturer to remain anonymous.
   Taylor's attorneys said use of the drug without naming the compounding pharmacy could cause the inmate pain and suffering because no one could check if the operation was legitimate and had not been accused of any violations.
   Pete Edlund doesn't want to hear it. The retired Kansas City police detective led the investigation into the teenager's death.
   "Cruel and unusual punishment would be if we killed them the same way they killed Annie Harrison," Edlund said. "Get a damn rope, string them up, put them in the gas chamber. Whatever it takes."
   Ann stepped out of her home the morning of March 22, 1989, to wait in her driveway for her school bus.
   Authorities said Nunley and Taylor, then in their early 20s, drove past in a car they had stolen after a night of binging on crack cocaine. One of the men jumped out of the car and grabbed Ann, forcing her into the vehicle. Both claimed the other did it.
   The men drove to the home of Nunley's mother. Ann was forced into the basement and raped — DNA testing linked Taylor to the crime. Afraid she would be able to identify them, the men used kitchen knives to stab the girl 10 times, including in her throat and torso, as she begged for her life.
   She offered money if they would let her live. She died about 30 minutes later, according to the medical examiner.
   The stolen car was then driven to a nearby neighborhood and abandoned, with Ann's body in the trunk. She was found the next day. But the crime went unsolved for about six months until a $10,000 reward led to a tip, and Taylor and Nunley were both arrested, Edlund said. Both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to death.
   The case left even veteran officers traumatized, Edlund said.
   "She just turned 15," the retired detective said. "It was a tragedy all the way around. This was an innocent child."
 
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 00:30
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