General demoted for lavish travel, spending

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demoted the former head of U.S. Africa Command who was accused of spending thousands of dollars on lavish travel and other unauthorized expenses. Panetta stripped Gen. William Ward of a star, which means that he will now retire as a three-star general despite arguments from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff against the demotion. Ward also has been ordered to repay the government $82,000. A spokesman for Ward said the general "has never been motivated by personal gain." Retiring as a three-star will cost Ward about $30,000 a year in retirement pay -- giving him close to $208,802.


Woman convicted of death in day care fire

A woman found guilty in the death of one of four children killed in a fire at her Houston day care while she left them to go shopping now faces the punishment phase of her trial. Jessica Tata, 24, could receive up to life in prison. She was at a nearby store when the blaze began. Authorities say the fire started when oil ignited in a pan atop a stove-top burner.


Police: Grandmother behind kids' deaths

Letters found after a Toledo murder-suicide that killed three children indicate it was orchestrated by their grandmother and uncle, who were found dead with the youngsters in the family garage amid a disagreement over who should care for them, police said. Firefighters used a sledgehammer to force open a barricaded door to the garage, where a truck was running with hoses leading from the exhaust into the car that contained the bodies, police said.


Bishop: We won't give in on birth control

A top Roman Catholic bishop said the church will never comply with the Obama administration mandate to provide birth-control coverage in health insurance. Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the bishops are open to talking with federal officials. But Dolan said bishops will continue to challenge the requirement in legislatures and in court. Houses of worship are exempt from the birth-control rule, but religiously affiliated hospitals and nonprofits aren't. Dolan spoke at a meeting in Baltimore of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Bartender wins in police beating case

Throughout the 2 1/2-week trial, Karolina Obrykca displayed the steely countenance of a woman who would stand up to a man about twice her size. But Tuesday evening, she couldn't contain a giddy smile after a federal jury awarded her $850,000 and found that a widespread code of silence had emboldened off-duty Chicago police Officer Anthony Abbate to beat her in a notorious attack captured on security cameras.


Police believe they've found stolen art

Police found four works of art believed stolen from the Pretoria Art Museum, tracking them down in a church cemetery in Port Elizabeth, about 650 miles from the scene of the theft. The paintings were stolen Sunday in a brazen robbery by three men posing as an art lecturer and his students. They held up a staff member and produced a list of works they wanted.


General Assembly condemns embargo

The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba for the 21st year in a row. The tally was 188-3, with Israel and Palau joining the United States. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called the U.S. policy "inhumane, failed and anachronistic." U.S. envoy Ronald Godard defended the embargo as a "one of the tools in our overall efforts to encourage respect for the human rights and basic freedoms to which the United Nations itself is committed." The embargo was first enacted in 1960 following Cuba's nationalization of properties belonging to U.S. citizens and corporations.