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   BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — Russia's President Vladimir Putin says that Syria's move to join an international convention banning chemical weapons has proven its good faith.

   Speaking at a summit of an international security grouping dominated by Russia and China, Putin said Friday the move showed that Syria has "serious intentions to embark on that path."

   Syria made a formal bid Thursday to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. The U.N. welcomed the move, but said that it could take 30 days for Syria to become a member.

   Russia proposed on Monday that Syria surrenders control over its chemical weapons to the international community for its eventual dismantling to avoid a U.S. military strike, and Damascus quickly jumped at the offer. Top U.S. and Russian diplomats are holding talks in Geneva to discuss the plan's specifics.

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   WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S Solicitor General Donald Verrilli says employer challenges to the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act will likely be decided in the Supreme Court term that begins next month.

   Dozens of employers have said that providing contraceptive coverage would violate their religious beliefs.

   In a panel discussion Thursday, Verrilli predicted that the case could hinge on the justices' interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He said the federal law declares that "government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion unless the government has a compelling interest, and the burden imposed is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest."

   Verilli says at issue is whether corporations have religious rights, whether the burden on them is substantial, whether government has a compelling interest in making contraceptives available, and whether the mandate is the least restrictive means of doing so.

   Lower courts have issued conflicting rulings, with some blocking enforcement of the mandate until the issues are decided.

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KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) - Twin water spouts put on a spectacular show over Lake Michigan, near the Wisconsin shore.

The water spouts were sighted a couple of miles off shore about 1:30 p.m. Thursday after a funnel cloud was sighted in the Wisconsin town of Kenosha.

Sgt. Bill Beth of the Kenosha County sheriff's office says the two water spouts merged into one large one, then split.

Beth says it was a "beautiful day" when the water spouts "just popped out of nowhere."

National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Townsend says water spouts generally occur between August and October.

Warning sirens were activated around 1:15 p.m. No damage or injuries were reported.

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