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Associated Press
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attend memorial service for the victims of Saturday's shootings, at McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz.  Second from left is Daniel Hernandez, a University of Arizona political science student who helped Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when she was shot and a right is Mark Kelly, husband of Giffords. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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For four years, Jared Loughner was an unremarkable college student, commuting to classes near his home where he studied yoga and algebra, business management and poetry. But last year, his classroom conduct began to change. In February, Loughner stunned a teacher by talking about blowing up babies, a bizarre outburst that marked the start of a rapid unraveling for the 22-year old, who is accused of slaying six people and wounding 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — President Obama exhorted Americans to refrain from partisan bickering and urged the country embrace the idealistic vision of democracy held by 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, the youngest Arizona shooting victim and an aspiring politician who is set to be buried Thursday in the first of half-a-dozen funerals. Speaking to an arena audience of about 14,000 and even more in a nearby football stadium and at homes across the country, Obama drew on themes of unity, patriotism and heroism as he tried to help the nation make sense of a tragedy that unfolded as citizens were exercising their most basic of rights, meeting with their congresswoman.

WASHINGTON (AP) — With her video defending herself against critics — in which she accused them of "blood libel" — Sarah Palin again showed she is weighing a presidential bid in unprecedented and even daring ways. The former Alaska governor commands nationwide attention with her selective use of Facebook and Twitter, choosing provocative words when others testing the presidential waters prefer a lighter touch.

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Driving rains sent tons of rusty red earth sliding into Brazilian mountain towns, killing at least 257 people and leaving dozens more missing — lives rescuers hope to save when they resume searches Thursday. In the hardest-hit town of Teresopolis, where the local civil defense agency said at least 130 people died, hundreds of family members crowded around the town's morgue Wednesday night waiting to identify bodies.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — While many states consider boosting their economies with tax cuts, Illinois officials are betting on the opposite tactic: dramatically raising taxes to resolve a budget crisis that threatened to cripple state government. Neighboring states gleefully plotted Wednesday to take advantage of what they consider a major economic blunder and lure business away from Illinois.

BAGHDAD (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden was in Iraq early Thursday for talks about the future of American troops in the country as they prepare to leave at year's end, but three explosions in the capital killing two people demonstrated the lingering security challenges facing the country. Biden's unannounced trip marks the first visit by a top U.S. official since Iraq approved a new Cabinet last month, breaking a political deadlock and jump-starting its stalled government after March's inconclusive elections.

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon's president has accepted the resignation of Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Cabinet following the resignation of Hezbollah ministers and their allies, which forced the government to collapse. President Michel Suleiman's office said in a statement Thursday that the president asked Hariri to continue managing the country's day-to-day affairs in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet is formed.

BOSTON (AP) — Much of New England continued to dig out from under more than 2 feet of snow and children in hundreds of communities enjoyed a second day off from school Thursday as power companies worked to restore energy to homes and businesses darkened by the region's third snowstorm in three weeks. The winter storm that crippled the South earlier this week tread more lightly as it moved Northeast, before joining forces Wednesday with a system from the Midwest. The storms announced their arrival in New England with claps of thunder and record amounts of snowfall in some cities.

NEW YORK (AP) — The bleakest year in foreclosure crisis has only just begun. Lenders are poised to take back more homes this year than any other since the U.S. housing meltdown began in 2006. About 5 million borrowers are at least two months behind on their mortgages and more will miss payments as they struggle with job losses and loans worth more than their home's value, industry analysts forecast.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Energized by the prospect of taking on the Big Three, the Los Angeles Clippers came out attacking and never let up. Blake Griffin had 24 points and 14 rebounds for his 30th double-double, and the Clippers surprised Miami 111-105 Wednesday night, ending the Heat's 13-game road winning streak.

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