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Woman arraigned in fatal day care fire

HOUSTON (AP) -- A woman who fled to Nigeria after a fire killed four children at her Texas home day care center pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and other charges Wednesday, two days after she was returned to the United States.

Jessica Tata's attorney entered the plea during an arraignment hearing in Houston. Tata, who didn't speak during the court appearance, is facing 14 charges related to the Feb. 24 blaze that also injured three children. Authorities believe she left all seven children alone while she went shopping.

The 22-year-old, who is being held without bond at a Houston jail, also faces injury to a child and child abandonment charges. The manslaughter and injury to a child charges each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Family members of at least two of the victims attended Wednesday's hearing, including relatives of 16-month-old Elias Castillo.


Mercury risk in fish discounted in study

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A new study has found that mercury from eating fish does not raise the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Past research on the topic has yielded contradictory results.

The latest government-funded work analyzed mercury levels in tens of thousands of toenail clippings. They're considered a good gauge of long-term mercury exposure.

The findings appear in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

Mercury is found in many types of fish, especially shark, swordfish and king mackerel, which tend to accumulate the toxic metal.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults eat fish at least twice a week. But pregnant women and young children should avoid fish with the highest mercury concentrations


Report cites failure of blowout preventer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The blowout preventer that should have stopped the BP oil spill cold failed because of faulty design and a bent piece of pipe, a testing firm hired by the government said Wednesday in a report that appears to shift some blame for the disaster away from the oil giant.

The report by the Norwegian firm Det Norske Veritas isn't the final word on the Deepwater Horizon disaster last April that killed 11 workers and led to more than 200 million gallons of oil spewing from a BP well beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

But it helps answer one of the lingering mysteries: why the blowout preventer that sat at the wellhead and was supposed to prevent a spill in case of an explosion didn't do its job.

The report cast blame on the blowout preventer's blind shear rams, which are supposed to pinch a well shut in an emergency by shearing through the well's drill pipe. In the BP crisis, the shear rams couldn't do their job because the drill pipe had buckled and become stuck, according to the DNV report. The blowout preventer was made by Cameron International and maintained by Transocean Ltd.

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