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National news briefs

Toyota trying to bolster confidence

LAKEWOOD, N.J. (AP) — Toyota has launched a media campaign to bolster its reputation for quality as nervous customers confront dealers across the country about faulty gas pedal systems.

Crisis-management experts said Sunday that the recall of millions of cars and trucks isn't the Japanese auto maker's only problem: its message to Toyota owners — delivered in full-page ads Sunday in 20 major newspapers — isn't as clear and reassuring as it needs to be.

Today, the head of Toyota's North American sales division, Jim Lentz, is scheduled to appear on NBC's "The Today Show" to detail the company's plans for a fix. Federal regulators have approved Toyota's plan to start sending parts to dealers in the coming days.

Man gets 8 years for beating N.J. rabbi

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) — A man who savagely beat a New Jersey rabbi with a baseball bat during an unprovoked attack has been sentenced to eight years in state prison.

Lee Tucker must serve 85 percent of the term imposed Friday before becoming eligible for parole. He also must pay $9,500 in restitution to the rabbi, who has suffered seizures since the October 2007 attack in Lakewood.

Tucker, who has a history of mental illness, pleaded guilty in December to aggravated assault.

Severe cold cancels Polar Bear Plunge

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — It was too cold even for some polar bears on Saturday.

The second of two scheduled dips in the water at the 14th annual Polar Bear Plunge in Annapolis, Md. was canceled on doctors' orders.

The air temperature was 23 degrees and the Chesapeake Bay was 36 degrees when crowds took a dip in the water around 1 p.m. Among the participants was Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. He says the frigid water "took my breath away."

Organizers estimated that as many as 15,000 people got in the water in the event, which raises money for the Maryland Special Olympics.

Several people had to be treated for hypothermia after the first plunge and doctors monitoring the event advised organizers to cancel the second plunge.

Murder suspect faces a medical crisis

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut official said a man charged with killing a mother and her daughters during a 2007 home invasion is facing a medical crisis.

Chief state's attorney Kevin Kane said Steven Hayes had "undergone some kind of apparent medical emergency."

A New Haven Register report citing unidentified sources said prison guards found Hayes unconscious in his cell Sunday morning and he was hospitalized in a medically induced coma.

Neither public defender Thomas J. Ullmann nor a University of Connecticut Hospital nursing supervisor would confirm those details.

Ullmann says jury selection scheduled for Monday has been halted.

Hayes and another man have pleaded not guilty in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley.

Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, was beaten at the Cheshire home but survived.

Car crash leads to marijuana discovery

TUCUMCARI, N.M. (AP) — Tracks in the snow leading from a crashed car to the nearby bridge overpass on New Mexico's I-40 just didn't look right to officers.

State police say that officers patrolling the stretch near Tucumcari Saturday found that 40-year-old Henry Alan Lowe of El Paso, Texas, had lost control of his sedan and crashed into a snow pile.

Then they noticed tracks leading back and forth from the trunk to the bridge.

They allege that partially hidden under the overpass were large plastic wrapped bundles and inside was about 238 pounds of raw marijuana with an estimated street value of more than $642,000.

Police say Lowe was arrested after treated for a gash to his head.

No trial location yet for 9/11 suspects

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top presidential adviser says the Obama administration hasn't decided where it will try professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others suspected terrorists.

The administration said late last year that Mohammed and other conspirators would go on trial in a federal civilian court in New York City. But that plan has run into resistance now from city officials over costs and security measures.

White House aide David Axelrod says the administration must take into consideration such local opposition. He says no decision has been made about where a trial will take place.

Axelrod appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Tickets go on sale for 2 major lotteries

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Dozens of states have begun selling Powerball and Mega Millions tickets in what could be a step toward an eventual national lottery.

Margaret DeFrancisco, co-chairwoman of a committee for both lotteries and president and CEO of the Georgia Lottery Corp., says tickets for both games began selling on Sunday.

Twenty-three of the 33 jurisdictions where Powerball has been played are now selling tickets for the Mega Millions drawing on Feb. 2.