Navy ships will accompany U.S. ships in Strait of Hormuz

WASHINGTON — Navy ships will begin accompanying U.S. commercial ships during their transit through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to ensure they encounter no interference from Iran, U.S. defense officials said Thursday.

The new policy, which has not yet officially been announced, was adopted in response to what Washington views as provocative Iranian behavior. Earlier this week, Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps naval vessels reportedly fired warning shots near a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship and have detained it and its crew.

Iranian naval patrol boats also surrounded a U.S. cargo vessel in the strait last Friday. —AP

NASA's Messenger leaves its mark on Mercury

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The only spacecraft ever to orbit Mercury ended its four-year tour with a crash landing Thursday.

NASA's Messenger plunged from orbit as planned and slammed into the sun's closest planet at about 8,750 mph, creating a crater an estimated 52 feet across.

Messenger circled the solar system's innermost planet 4,105 times and collected more than 277,000 images.

Thursday's crash occurred on the side of Mercury facing away from Earth and telescopes. Several minutes passed before NASA received confirmation.— AP

Teens to face trial as adults in rock-throwing case

LEWISBURG, Pa. — A judge ruled Thursday that three teenagers will be tried as adults in a rock-throwing incident last summer that severely injured an Ohio schoolteacher, who attended the hearing wearing a plastic helmet to protect her still-healing head.

Mental health professionals testified in support of the defense that the cases should be moved to juvenile court. Though 18 now, the defendants were 17 last July when a rock was dropped from an Interstate 80 overpass and crushed the head of Sharon Budd of Uniontown, Ohio.

Judge Michael Sholley rejected the defense arguments. If not for modern medicine, he said, the three would probably have been facing some sort of homicide charges instead of aggravated assault.— AP

FDA wants more data on sanitary hand cleaners

WASHINGTON — Federal health officials say more information is needed to establish the safety and effectiveness of common hand cleaners used in hospitals, doctors offices and nursing homes to kill germs and prevent infections.

The Food and Drug Administration is asking manufacturers to submit additional data about medical hand washes and sanitizers, including the long-term effects of their daily use on the skin.

Under a proposed rule published Thursday, companies must submit new studies looking at key safety issues, including possible hormonal effects and contributions to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

For now, the FDA stressed that health care workers should continue using hand washes, sanitizers and surgical scrubs.— AP

Marine faces court-martial over hazing charges

NORFOLK, Va. — A decorated Marine accused of humiliating and intentionally physically abusing those under his command — ordering one to punch another hard enough to make him urinate blood — is facing a court-martial in Virginia.

Staff Sgt. Dustin Barker of Scott, Kentucky, is accused of hazing Marines at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2013, the year he joined the Norfolk-based Marine Corps Security Forces Regiment, an antiterrorism and security force that deploys to trouble spots around the world. He also faces charges over alleged incidents in Virginia.

Barker's general court-martial is scheduled to start Monday.

The Marines have been striving for years to stamp out hazing in their ranks, and the issue has drawn increased scrutiny from Congress.— AP

Sentences cut for three in school cheating scandal

ATLANTA — A judge sharply reduced the sentences Thursday for three former Atlanta public school educators who received the harshest prison terms in the city's standardized test cheating trial.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter reduced the sentences for Tamara Cotman, Sharon Davis-Williams and Michael Pitts. Each was given three years in prison and seven on probation. They were also fined and sentenced to community service.

Previously, each was sentenced to seven years in prison and 13 on probation.

"I want to modify the sentence so I can live with it," Baxter said.

The three former district regional directors were the highest-ranking of the 11 former educators convicted of racketeering. Their original sentences were more than double what prosecutors had recommended.— AP

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