Spending bill passes in House, 221-202

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are muscling through a deficit-swelling spending bill, giving domestic programs their third major boost this year and awarding lawmakers with more than 5,000 home-state projects.

The House voted 221-202 Thursday to pass the 1,088-page, $1.1 trillion measure — combining $447 billion in operating budgets with about $650 billion in payments for federal benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The Senate immediately voted to begin debate, with a final vote likely this weekend.

No House Republicans voted for the bill.

Police shoot man in N.Y.'s Times Square

NEW YORK (AP) — A plainclothes cop chased a scam artist through sidewalks crowded with holiday shoppers and tourists Thursday in the heart of Times Square, killing the suspect near a landmark Broadway hotel after a gunfight that shattered box office and gift shop windows, police said.

No one else was injured.

The 25-year-old suspect, Raymond Martinez of the Bronx, and his brother were trying to dupe tourists into buying CDs along Broadway and 46th Street just before noon when he was recognized by a sergeant who runs a task force that monitors aggressive panhandling.

The officer, Sgt. Christopher Newsom, asked them for their tax identification, which allows peddlers to sell on the streets.

But Martinez took off running and went through to the Marriott Marquis hotel's passenger drop-off area.

Newsom pursued, and Martinez turned and fired with a Mac-10 9mm machine pistol that held 30 rounds; he got off two shots before it jammed, police said. The officer fired four times, striking the suspect in the chest and arms and killing him.

Artist's son accused of stealing his work

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man used a backhoe to break into a museum owned by his father — the pioneering fantasy artist Frank Frazetta — in an attempt to steal 90 paintings valued at $20 million, police said Thursday.

State police charged Alfonso Frank Frazetta, 52, of Marshalls Creek, with theft, burglary and trespass after they say he was caught loading the artwork into his trailer and sport utility vehicle.

The elder Frazetta, 81, is renowned for his work on characters including Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan and Vampirella. He was in Florida at the time of the theft.

1 dead, 12 injured in Chicago blaze

CHICAGO (AP) — Hundreds of Chicago firefighters worked to put out a high-rise fire that left one person dead and 12 people injured.

The fire broke out shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday, shooting flames out of the condo building. More than 200 residents ran out into the bitter cold.

Authorities say the fire started on the 36th floor in the unit of the woman who died. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Yale lab technician reported missing

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A lab technician is missing from Yale University, where a graduate student was found slain about three months ago.

University spokesman Tom Conroy says 47-year-old John DiNello hasn't shown up for work in four days and hasn't been seen at his West Haven home in nearly three days.

West Haven police Sgt. Martin Garcia says the case is being treated as a missing person, not a criminal investigation. He says DiNello takes daily medication and doesn't have it with him.

The Yale Daily News reports DiNello works at the building where another lab technician is alleged to have strangled 24-year-old grad student Annie Le and stuffed her body behind a wall. Conroy couldn't confirm that Thursday.

Rare conifer stolen from arboretum

SEATTLE (AP) — Whoever cut down a 7-foot conifer in the Seattle Arboretum got a lot more than a typical Christmas tree.

It was a rare, imperiled species from China that may be impossible to replace.

University of Washington Botanical Gardens manager Randall Hitchin told The Seattle Times that he nurtured the tree, a Keteleeria evelyniana, since it arrived as a seedling in 1998 from Yunnan province.

The university manages the 230-acre arboretum as a collection of 20,000 trees, shrubs and plants used in classes and educational programs.

Officials have considered fencing or dousing at-risk trees with paint or foul-smelling animal urine in an attempt to prevent them from being sawed off for Christmas.

Party-crasher's watch deemed fake

WASHINGTON (AP) — A couple that crashed a White House party turned over a watch to pay a landscaping debt, but a jeweler said it's a fake luxury timepiece.

Tareq Salahi last week gave up his Patek Phillipe watch and his lawyer said it would be worth more than enough to pay a $2,000 debt to a landscaper.

But Ray Cosey, owner of R E Jewelers Watch & Clock, examined the watch and said it might be worth $100.

An attorney for the landscaper says a check was delivered Monday for $2,063.55 and will cover the bill.