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AROUND THE NATION

D.C.-area Metro riders subject to screenings

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- The Washington area's Metro transit system is randomly checking passenger bags for explosives and other dangers for the first time, following similar efforts in New York and Boston.

Screeners swabbed some riders' bags and inspected them in at least two Metro train stations early Tuesday in Maryland and Virginia suburbs of the nation's capital. The checks took less than one minute each.

Metro Transit Police Department Chief Michael Taborn said the idea has been in the works for years and is not a response to any particular threat.

Two men have been arrested this year in separate cases of alleged bomb plots against Metro. Two rights groups have an online petition against Metro's program. The ACLU lost a 2005 challenge against New York's searches.

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Hospital's tie to church severed over surgery

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix stripped a major hospital of its affiliation with the church Tuesday because of a surgery that ended a woman's pregnancy to save her life.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted called the 2009 procedure an abortion and said St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center violated ethical and religious directives of the national Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"In the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld," Olmsted said. "The mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph's medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed."

Linda Hunt, president of St. Joseph's, said doctors performed a necessary procedure on a patient who was in imminent danger of death.

St. Joseph's doesn't receive direct funding from the church, but in addition to losing its Catholic endorsement, the 697-bed hospital will no longer be able to celebrate Mass.

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Specter laments demise of centrism

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Departing Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter on Tuesday said conservative Republicans who backed tea party challengers against establishment candidates in the recent elections engaged in political cannibalism.

In his final floor speech, Specter complained there's scant room for centrists like himself in a polarized Senate where civility is in short supply.

"In some quarters, compromise has become a dirty word," said Pennsylvania's longest-serving senator, who lost his re-election bid after three decades in the Senate.

Specter lost the Democratic primary last May to Rep. Joe Sestak after taking the risky step of switching from the GOP in his bid for a sixth term. Republican Pat Toomey, beat Sestak in the Nov. 2 race.

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Officials offer reward in serial strangler case

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Authorities offered a $30,000 reward Tuesday for information on a serial strangler suspected in three deaths and several other attacks.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter joined police brass at a news conference in the city's Kensington section, steps from where the killer's second victim was found, and asked for residents' help. "We strongly believe that someone -- possibly in the neighborhood -- someone, somewhere in the city of Philadelphia knows who this person is, or knows about them," Nutter said. "We are serious about getting this psycho off the streets."

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