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State news briefs
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 MAN CUTS OFF HIS HAND WITH KITCHEN KNIFE: ADELANTO  (AP) — Investigators say a Southern California man deliberately cut off his hand with a kitchen knife, but it's not clear why.

A San Bernardino County sheriff's sergeant says deputies found the victim after responding to a 911 call from the man's Mojave Desert home on Wednesday afternoon. The man didn't place the call.

It’s not clear why the man cut off his hand. It's not known if drugs were involved.

The man, whose name is being withheld, was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center. There are no details about his condition or whether surgeons attempted to reattach the severed hand.

HOUSTON DIED FROM DROWNING, CORONER SAYS: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Whitney Houston was a chronic cocaine user who had the drug in her system when she drowned in a hotel bathtub, coroner's officials said Thursday after releasing autopsy findings that also noted heart disease contributed to her death.

The disclosure ended weeks of speculation about what killed the Grammy-winning singer on Feb. 11 on the eve of the Grammy Awards.

Houston was found submerged in the bathtub of her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and her death was ruled accidental. Several bottles of prescription medications were found in her hotel room, but coroner's officials said there weren't excessive quantities.

RIVERBANK COUNCILMAN PLEADS NOT GUILTY IN DUI CRASH : RIVERBANK  (AP) — A Northern California city councilman accused of causing a drunken driving crash that injured his 4-year-old son has pleaded not guilty.

Riverbank Councilman Jesse White entered his plea Wednesday to felony charges including driving under the influence, hit-and-run and causing an injury.

Police say the 23-year-old crashed his Corvette into a parked car on Feb. 20, then try to run from the scene leaving his son with a bloody nose. They say his blood-alcohol level was 0.24 percent, three times the legal limit for driving.

White told city officials that he planned to enter a substance abuse treatment center, and hasn't attended a council meeting since the crash. But officials later learned he has not yet entered rehab.

MAN ARRESTED FOR TAKING BATHROOM CELLPHONE VIDEO: CYPRESS  (AP) — Police say a Southern California man has been arrested for using his cellphone to take video of another man in a college bathroom stall.

Cypress police Sgt. Robert Cote says the victim in the neighboring stall detained 19-year-old Johnny Nguyen in the Cypress College bathroom until officers arrived Tuesday afternoon.

Nguyen was arrested and booked for investigation of misdemeanor peeping. He was released with a citation.

City News Service says Nguyen told investigators he took bathroom video of two other men on Tuesday and 15 other times on campus in recent months.

NASA RELEASES NEW MOON PICS REQUESTED BY STUDENTS: PASADENA  (AP) — A NASA spacecraft in orbit around the moon has sent back five dozen new images of the lunar surface including a view of the far side with Earth in the distance.

Don't thank scientists for it. Fourth-graders from Emily Dickinson Elementary School in Bozeman, Mont., directed the spacecraft to snap pictures as part of a project headed by Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.

The images were returned earlier this week.

Twin NASA probes entered lunar orbit over the New Year's weekend on a mission to study the gravity field. During non-critical parts of the mission, select students get to choose camera targets.

ANOTHER 'IDOL' FINALIST TRIMMED FROM THE CONTEST: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Erika Van Pelt didn't cut it on "American Idol."

The 26-year-old disc jockey from South Kingstown, R.I., who dramatically chopped off her hair before Wednesday's evening of Billy Joel tunes was eliminated from the Fox singing contest.

Van Pelt didn't persuade the show's judges to save her from dismissal Thursday with a last-chance rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Believe In You and Me."

LA COUNCILMAN'S PLAN COULD BLOCK NEW WALMART: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles city councilman wants to block efforts by chain stores such as Walmart to open in Chinatown, arguing that they threaten small businesses and the area's character.

Councilman Ed Reyes wants a moratorium on building permits for businesses with standardized designs, uniforms and merchandise. He plans to ask the City Council on Friday to order the drafting of a temporary ordinance.

The measure could hamper Wal-Mart's announced plan to open a 33,000-square-foot grocery and pharmacy in Chinatown.

OC FAIR BANS ELEPHANT RIDES AFTER 25 YEARS: SANTA ANA  (AP) — The Orange County Fair Board has banned elephant rides at the annual Orange County Fair, ending a quarter-century summertime tradition.

The board voted Thursday not to renew their contract with Have Trunk Will Travel Inc. after a hearing that attracted more than 100 people.

Animals rights activists and some veterinary specialists had asked that the rides be stopped.

MARINE STILL OUTSPOKEN DESPITE FACING DISMISSAL: SAN DIEGO (AP) — A Marine facing dismissal from the Marine Corps for running a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party and criticizing the Obama administration is still speaking out.

But he has been getting little support from leading military law experts and free speech advocates who say he may have crossed the line.

Sgt. Gary Stein plans to speak at a tea party meeting in San Diego County on Thursday, a day after the Marine Corps notified him that he is being accused of violating the Pentagon's policy barring troops from engaging in political activities.


The 24-year-old actress announced the birth of her son on her website and Twitter feed Thursday.

Duff writes that she and husband Mike Comrie welcomed son Luca Cruz Comrie on Tuesday night. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces and is the first child for the couple, who married in 2010.

Duff gained fame as the star of Disney's "Lizzie McGuire" and more recently had a recurring role on "Gossip Girl."

Comrie retired as a professional hockey player earlier this year. The 31-year-old most recently played with the Pittsburgh Penguins.