The lawyer for disgraced financier Bernard Madoff asked an appeals court in New York Thursday to release his client from prison until sentencing in June for pleading guilty to massive fraud. A day earlier, David Friehling , Madoff's longtime accountant and son-in-law, was arrested for his alleged role in the Ponzi scheme.

Jurors who found auto mechanic Raymond Lee Oyler guilty of setting several wildfires in southern California in 2006 that killed five federal firefighters recommended Wednesday he be given the death penalty. Sentencing is set for April 3.

Migration to the Sun Belt has slowed down since 2007 amid economic struggles, with many people electing to stay in place, often in traditional major cities, according to new Census data. Las Vegas, which had been one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, had its smallest population gain in nearly 20 years. Meanwhile, the slow, steady recovery of New Orleans' population continued, rising above 300,000 for first time since hurricane Katrina in 2005. Before the storm, 455,000 lived there.

New Mexico eliminated the death penalty Wednesday, joining 14 other states without capital punishment. Gov. Bill Richardson (D), who has favored capital punishment in the past, said he lacked confidence in the criminal justice system to be the final arbiter in life-and-death decisions.

Hawaiian leaders, past and present, commemorated the 50th anniversary Wednesday of the congressional bill, signed by President Eisenhower, that led to statehood. Ninety-three percent of Hawaii's residents subsequently approved joining the US and its acceptance as the 50th state became official on Aug. 21, 1959.

In his first major address since replacing ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Gov. Pat Quinn called Wednesday for raising the state's income tax to 4.5 percent from 3 percent, where it's been for 20 years. Quinn said a number of revenue-generating measures are needed to address the state's "greatest crisis of modern times," an $11.5 billion budget gap.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. awarded hourly employees approximately $2 billion through financial incentives Thursday, including nearly $1 billion in bonuses, the world's largest retailer said in announcing market gains during the recession.

Lance Mackey, the son of a past Iditarod sled-dog race champion, became only the third person to win three consecutive times when he crossed the finish line first in Nome, Alaska, in the 1,100-mile race.

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