Ex-nurse pleads guilty in 13 patient deaths
SOMERVILLE, N.J. -- A former nurse pleaded guilty Thursday to murdering 13 patients and attempting to kill two others, under an agreement with prosecutors that spares him from the death penalty. Charles Cullen also agreed to plead guilty to a murder in Pennsylvania. The New Jersey pleas were the first from Cullen, who said last December that he had killed 30 to 40 patients during the 16 years he worked as a nurse at 10 hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
N. Korean nuclear talks to convene May 12
SEOUL, South Korea -- The six nations negotiating the North Korean nuclear standoff will hold low-level meetings on May 12 in Beijing to lay the groundwork for the next round of talks, South Korea and China said Thursday. The apparent breakthrough comes as the United States reportedly prepares to upgrade its estimate of North Korea's nuclear arsenal to at least eight atomic weapons, from its long-standing estimate of "possibly two."
Soyuz returns to Earth from space station
KOSTANAI, Kazakhstan -- A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying a U.S.-Russian-Dutch crew returned to Earth today from the international space station, landing on target in the steppes of Kazakhstan. The snug Soyuz TMA-3 capsule carried American astronaut Michael Foale and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri, who spent some six months on the ISS, and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands, who was returning after a nine-day mission on the station.
Wildfire threat grows in California forest
LAKE ARROWHEAD, Calif. -- Five suspected arson fires this week rekindled fears among residents and forest officials already working feverishly to avoid a repeat of last fall's deadly wildfires near this mountain resort. They have good reason to worry: The risk is even greater this year. Bark beetles preying on drought-weakened pine trees have devastated hundreds of thousands of trees in the sprawling San Bernardino National Forest, killing nearly half the trees in some areas.
Israeli polls forecast defeat for Gaza withdrawal
JERUSALEM -- With polls forecasting defeat, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Thursday portrayed this weekend's Likud Party referendum on his proposed withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a vote of confidence in him. Sharon stopped short of saying he will resign if he loses, but he warned that rejecting a plan supported by a vast majority of Israelis might eventually force Likud out of power. He portrayed his opponents in Likud as extremists who he said use "lies, obscene language and deceitful propaganda" in their campaign.
Officials investigate mall terror threat in L.A.
LOS ANGELES -- A terrorism task force was investigating an "uncorroborated" threat to a Los Angeles-area shopping mall, and federal officials say an attack may have been planned for Thursday. No specific shopping mall was named, but an anonymous telephone call to federal officials several days ago indicated a mall near the Federal Building in West Los Angeles, police chief William Bratton said. The caller provided no further details about a possible attack.
-- From wire reports