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Rebels blamed in Syria murders

SYRIA has blamed up to 800 rebel fighters for the massacre in central Syria last week that killed more than 100 people, nearly half of them children, in its most comprehensive explanation to date of the bloodshed.

Yesterday's narrative starkly contradicted accounts of witnesses who blamed "shabiha" or the shadowy gunmen who operate on behalf of President Bashar Assad's regime. The UN also said it had strong suspicions those pro-regime gunmen were responsible for much of the carnage today in a cluster of villages known as Houla.

New lethal injection drug

Kentucky officials will change how prisoners are executed, opening the door to using a single drug instead of the current three-drug method that has been challenged by inmates who call it cruel.

The new method could be in place by late summer, allowing Kentucky to begin executions later this year.

Kentucky last executed an inmate in 2008 and has executed three people since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976.

Priest accused in abuse probe

A Roman Catholic church official should have called police or quit his job if he was truly troubled by child sexual-abuse complaints.

Monsignor William Lynn was secretary for clergy in Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004, meeting with accusers, accused priests, parents and whistleblowing priests or nuns. Prosecutors argued that he helped cover up the growing scandal, while the defence insisted he did what he could, but took orders from his archbishop.

Cig firms fight crackdown

Philip Morris International Inc and British American Tobacco Plc (BAT) are leading cigarette makers seeking to derail Russian plans to crack down on smoking in the world's largest tobacco market after China.

The companies, along with Japan Tobacco Inc, are trying to convince the government to scale back a plan to restrict the sale, advertising and public use of cigarettes.

BAT is seeking a "mutually acceptable decision".