Great Smoky sites closed over bears
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Officials at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have closed two camping areas because of bear activity.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that officials at the nation's most-visited national park also posted bear warnings in several other areas.
No injuries have occurred, but officials say it's important for people to be careful with food and garbage. The park's bear population is estimated at 1,500 and growing. - AP
Jail despite Texas' self-defense law
HOUSTON - A Texas man who argued that the state's version of a stand-your-ground law allowed him to fatally shoot a neighbor after an argument about a noisy party has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder.
A Houston jury sentenced Raul Rodriguez on Wednesday in the killing of Kelly Danaher, 36. Rodriguez is heard in a video of the incident saying he feared for his life and was standing his ground. His attorneys argued the retired firefighter acted in self-defense. But prosecutors say Rodriguez, 46, was the aggressor, noting he took a gun when he went to complain about the party.
A Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, in February is relying on a stand-your-ground law for his defense. - AP
Chicago eases its marijuana laws
CHICAGO - The Chicago City Council overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to decriminalize marijuana possession, joining a wave of states and big cities that have opted for fines instead of arrests for small amounts of the drug.
Aldermen voted 43-3 in favor of the ordinance, under which anyone in possession of 15 grams of marijuana - roughly the equivalent of 15 marijuana cigarettes - faces a fine between $250 and $500.
Both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy support the ordinance. Several aldermen said the new law would allow police to spend more time on street patrols and less on processing people for the minor offenses. - AP
A rare atlas stolen a decade ago from the Royal Library of Sweden by one of its chief librarians was recovered in New York and returned to its rightful owner. The 415-year-old Wytfliet Atlas, created by Cornelius van Wytfliet with the earliest maps of the Americas, had been in the Royal Library collection for more than 300 years. - AP