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Mississippi governor signs religious-freedom bill, prompting concerns on discrimination

MISSISSIPPI
Controversial bill on religion will be law

Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed a bill Thursday that supporters say will ensure the unfettered practice of religion without government interference but that opponents worry could lead to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The bill, called the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, will become law July 1.

An early version of the bill, considered weeks ago, was similar to one that Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed after business groups said it could hurt that state’s economy. Supporters say the final Mississippi bill bears little resemblance to the failed Arizona measure.

—Associated Press

FLORIDA
Arrests in tax scam using stolen identities

Twenty-five people accused of using thousands of stolen identities to claim $36 million in fraudulent tax refunds have been arrested in a South Florida sweep, federal authorities said Thursday.

Among those charged in 19 separate cases is a middle-school food service worker who stole the identities of at least 400 Miami-Dade County students, a mail carrier charged with taking tax documents out of mailboxes and a jail guard who stole the identities of inmates, according to Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. attorney in Miami.

— Associated Press

WASHINGTON
Mudslide toll at 30, with 13 still missing

The death toll in a March 22 mudslide that wiped out a rural Washington state community rose to 30 Thursday, the Snohomish County medical examiner’s office said.

At least 13 people remained listed as missing as of Wednesday evening, and no change in the list was reported Thursday morning. Of the 30 people confirmed dead, 27 have been positively identified. Among the newly identified were a 13-year-old boy and a 67-year-old woman.

— Reuters

Texas executes man after
Supreme Court rejects plea:
A serial killer was put to death Thursday in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his attorneys’ demand that the state release information about where it gets its lethal-injection drug. Tommy Lynn Sells, 49, was the first inmate to be injected with a dose of the newly replenished pentobarbital that Texas obtained to replace an expired supply of the powerful sedative.

Skydiver dies while trying to set record: An attempt to set a world skydiving record by having more than 220 people free-fall from an airplane in formation turned tragic in Arizona on Thursday when one of the jumpers died during the effort. Police in Eloy, Ariz., identified the victim as Diana Paris, 46, of Berlin.

— From news services

The Freddie Gray case

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Republicans debate tonight. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
He says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything in the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

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Where the race stands
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