USA

Jobless claims by newly laid-off workers rose by a seasonally adjusted 11,000, to 321,000, for the work week ending March 31, the Commerce Department said Thursday. This was in line with expectations. Analysts believe the labor market is holding up fairly well given struggles faced by the housing and automotive industries.

The deaths of two US soldiers killed Feb. 2 in Ramadi, in Western Iraq, may have resulted from friendly fire, not enemy attack, as first reported, the Army said Wednesday. The announcement comes on the heels of a March 26 report that nine Army officers made critical errors in reporting the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan.

The parents of John Walker Lindh, the American who pleaded guilty to being a Taliban fighter in 2002, have renewed their efforts to have his 20-year prison sentence reduced, the Los Angeles Times said. Lindh's family and attorneys believe his sentence is too harsh compared with the nine-month sentence recently given Australian David Hicks, the first Guantánamo Bay detainee tried for US war crimes.

Automakers are making progress in building vehicles with better head and neck protection, important in rear-end collisions. But more than 60 percent of newer passenger vehicles still are rated as marginal or poor in this area, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said Thursday. Rear-end collisions account for about 2 million insurance claims a year.

Duke guard Lindsey Harding , the first player selected in the WNBA draft Wednesday, was traded from Phoenix to the Minnesota Lynx 15 minutes after her selection was announced. The draft, held the day after the NCAA championship game, helps set the stage for the league's 11th season, which begins May 19.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico, who is running for president, said the sole purpose of a four-day trip to North Korea, which begins Saturday, is to recover the remains of soldiers killed during the Korean War. More than 8,100 American soldiers who fought in the conflict are still reported as missing.

Florida officials voted Thursday to end the practice of stripping ex-criminal offenders of their civil rights, including the right to vote. The state is one of a just three that have maintained this policy.

The Transportation Department said Thursday that by model year 2012 all new vehicles will be required to have anti-rollover technology. Experts believe it could save as many as 9,600 lives annually.

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