USA

Federal health officials have banned ephedra, a popular herbal weight-loss treatment and athletic-performance enhancer. The move follows years of debate and marks the first time the Food and Drug Administration has ordered a dietary supplement off the market due to potential health risks. The supplement, which manufacturers assert is safe, has been linked to the death earlier this year of Steve Bechler, a pitcher with the Major League Baltimore Orioles.

Philippine authorities are set to deport two American brothers arrested for allegedly meeting charity groups suspected of ties to Al Qaeda. One of the men, Michael Stubbs (above, l., alongside brother James), worked as a heating and air conditioning technician at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory - a major nuclear weapons lab in San Francisco - for nearly a decade ending in 2000. Officials say the FBI is looking into whether Stubbs had access to sensitive information. The brothers deny any wrongdoing.

Hundreds of Californians are rushing to file lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church before a year-end deadline to register old abuse claims. Attorneys handling the cases predict as many as 750 people will sue statewide and that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest, will pay a sum that could surpass the record-breaking $85 million accord that the Archdiocese of Boston reached with past victims of clergy abuse. The flood of litigation is the result of a state law that lifted for a year the statute of limitations on molestation suits.

Pennsylvania declared Pittsburgh "financially distressed" Monday, opening the way for an outside overseer to draw up a recovery plan for the city. Pittsburgh's mayor requested the designation to help stave off bankruptcy and empower the city to impose a long-deferred tax on suburbanites who work downtown. The city is projecting a $42 million deficit next year; it has laid off hundreds of employees in recent months.

Relatives and friends were mourning seven young teens killed in a police chase Sunday along US Highway 21 near Troutman, N.C. The allegedly stolen vehicle hit an embankment and landed in a creek. The Highway Patrol says none of the victims had licenses or wore seat belts.

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