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Nation roundup for April 11

Stabbing motive remains mystery

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The 16-year-old boy accused of stabbing 22 people at his high school was dazed “like a deer in the headlights” hours later and doesn’t fully grasp what he did, his attorney said Thursday as he sketched out the beginnings of a possible mental health defense.

Deepening the mystery of what set off the violence, attorney Patrick Thomassey said Alex Hribal had no history of mental illness or troublemaking, didn’t abuse drugs and was no outcast at school, where the lawyer described him as a B or B-plus student.

“In a case like this, it’s pretty obvious to me that there must be something inside this young man that nobody knew about,” Thomassey told The Associated Press.

The local prosecutor, meanwhile, said Hribal remained an enigma.

“We have very little information about him,” Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said, “except for the fact that he was a student, his age, and how he was as a student.”

Authorities seized the family’s computer as they searched for clues to Wednesday’s rampage at Franklin Regional High, about 15 miles from Pittsburgh. Authorities said Hribal armed himself with two kitchen knives and stabbed 21 students and a security guard before an assistant principal tackled him.

The slender, dark-haired boy who looks younger than his years was jailed without bail on four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. Authorities are prosecuting him as an adult, but Thomassey said he will try to have the case moved to juvenile court.

He said he plans to get his client examined by a psychiatrist before a preliminary hearing on April 30.

Colbert will take Letterman’s spot

NEW YORK (AP) — CBS moved swiftly Thursday to replace the retiring David Letterman with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, who will take over the “Late Show” next year and do battle with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel for late-night television supremacy.

Colbert, 49, has been hosting “The Colbert Report” at 11:30 p.m. ET since 2005, in character as a fictional conservative talk-show host. The character will retire with “The Colbert Report.”

“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” Colbert said. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”

Letterman, who turns 67 on Saturday, announced on his show last week that he would retire sometime in 2015, although he hasn’t set a date. CBS said Thursday that creative elements of Colbert’s new show, including where it will be based, will be announced later.

Mayors of New York and Los Angeles have already publicly urged the new “Late Show” host to choose their city. New York would appear to have the clear edge, since Colbert is already based in New York and CBS owns the Ed Sullivan Theater, where the “Late Show” has been taped since Letterman took over in 1993.

Budget deficit shrinks to $37B

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government’s budget deficit decreased to just $37 billion in March from $107 billion in the same month last year, the latest sign of improvement in the nation’s finances. The deficit was the lowest for the month of March in 14 years.

The deficit fell partly because revenue jumped 16 percent to $216 billion, the Treasury Department said in its monthly budget report Thursday. Individual income and Social Security tax receipts have increased as employers have steadily hired more workers in the past year.

Changes in the timing of about $40 billion in benefit payments and tax receipts were also a big reason for the smaller deficit. Most of that change involved benefit payments that were made in February this year but had occurred in March last year.

Excluding the impact of those timing shifts, the deficit would have been $77 billion last month. Spending still dipped 2 percent in March, even excluding the timing shift.

Defense spending fell 16 percent to $45 billion last month, and spending on unemployment benefits also fell.

Corporate profits have also perked up from last year, boosting corporate tax receipts 7 percent in March, to $36 billion.

The government’s 2014 budget year began Oct. 1 and is now half over. In the first six months of the budget year, the deficit was $413 billion, down from $600 billion in the first half of last year.

Tax receipts rose 10 percent in the October-March period, the Treasury Department says, while spending fell 4 percent.

President Barack Obama projected last month that the deficit for the full year will drop to $649 billion, down from $680 billion in the previous year.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is forecasting an even bigger improvement, projecting that this year’s deficit will decline to $514 billion and fall further to $478 billion next year.

That would be less than half the $1 trillion-plus deficits that existed for the first four years of Obama’s presidency. The deficit rose to a record level of $1.4 trillion in 2009.

But even so, the budget gap remains historically high. And the CBO sees the deficits starting to rise after next year, driven higher by greater spending on Social Security and Medicare as baby boomers retire.

The higher deficits have sparked budget wars between Democrats and Republicans in Washington for the past three years, causing two government shutdowns. But those fights may subside this year following an agreement reached last December on the broad outlines for spending for this year and next.


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