Rebecca Hersher | KERA News

Rebecca Hersher

Two Brazilian companies accused of a massive bribery scheme will pay more than $3.5 billion in fines to U.S. and Brazilian authorities.

In 2016, 30 people were sentenced to death in America, and 20 people were executed.

Those numbers are the lowest in decades, according to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center, which collects data on capital punishment in the United States, and advocates against the death penalty.

The 2016 numbers fit with a multi-decade trend. Death sentences and executions have been declining steadily since the mid-1990s.

New Orleans has agreed to pay $13.3 million to settle lawsuits over injuries and deaths at the hands of police in the weeks before and after Hurricane Katrina.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

German police said at least 12 people were killed and at least 48 people were injured after a truck barreled into a packed Christmas market in Berlin.

The truck was driven into the crowd on a sidewalk, bringing down Christmas lights and smashing stalls at the festive market near the Gedaechtniskirche, or Memorial Church, in western Berlin.

The black truck had Polish license plates. Dozens of ambulances and hundreds of rescue workers were on the scene, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reported.

A California judge has been cleared of misconduct after sentencing a Stanford University student to six months in jail for sexually assaulting a woman earlier this year.

"The California Commission on Judicial Performance ruled Monday that there was no evidence that Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky displayed bias in handing down a sentence decried as too lenient by critics across the country," The Associated Press reported.

Physicists at Harvard have built a radio receiver out of building blocks the size of two atoms. It is, almost certainly, the tiniest radio receiver in the world.

And since it's a radio, it can play whatever you want to send its way, including Christmas music, as this video by the Harvard team that designed it makes clear:

Updated at 9:35 p.m. ET

A French court found Christine Lagarde, the current head of the International Monetary Fund, guilty of negligence for improperly overseeing a 2008 case when she was France's finance minister. Later Monday, the IMF's executive board expressed its "full confidence" in Lagarde.

Residents of Corpus Christi, Texas, can use their tap water again, city officials announced on Sunday.

On Sunday, the city issued a statement saying:

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the City of Corpus Christi have concurred on the decision to lift the tap water restrictions citywide effective immediately.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a Public Health Emergency for the town of St. Joseph, after officials found water going to three buildings — one of them the town hall — was contaminated with lead or copper.

The governor said state testing showed elevated levels of lead at a private residence as well as the town hall building, on Thursday. The tests also showed "elevated levels of copper" at two private homes.

Pat McCrory, North Carolina's outgoing Republican governor, has signed a law stripping executive powers from his successor, Democrat Roy Cooper.

The law removes the State Board of Elections from the governor's control by reducing the number of members on the board from five — three of whom could be from the governor's party — to four members, evenly split between the parties.

California is the first state to adopt efficiency standards for computers and monitors, the state's energy commission announced this week.

The commission approved regulations that limit the amount of energy computers and small servers can use when they are idling, asleep or turned off. The regulations for monitors will also limit the amount of energy the apparatus uses when it is turned on.

A jury in Charleston, S.C., has found Dylann Roof guilty on all 33 counts of federal hate crimes he faced for murdering nine people and attempting to kill three others in the basement of a historically black church.

The Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature has introduced measures to limit the powers of the incoming Democratic governor.

Roy Cooper, the state's current attorney general, beat current Republican Gov. Pat McCrory by a slim margin in the November election. McCrory initially refused to concede until a vote recount proved he had lost by about 10,000 votes.

Six days of testimony from law enforcement officers, criminal investigators and people who witnessed the murder of nine people in a church basement last year in Charleston, S.C ended Wednesday.

Dylann Roof, 22, faces 33 federal hate crimes charges for allegedly opening fire during a bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015.

In the hours before it sank, crew members of the cargo ship El Faro struggled to find a safe course around an increasingly serious storm, according to a transcript from the ship's data recorder released Tuesday.

All 33 crew members died when the freighter sank near the Bahamas on Oct. 1, 2015, after sailing into the middle of Category 3 Hurricane Joaquin.

Former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock is pleading not guilty to 24 felony counts, including wire fraud, theft of government funds and making false statements.

Schock, 35, entered his not guilty plea at a pre-trial hearing on Monday. He was indicted by a grand jury in November after resigning from Congress in 2015 amidst an ethics investigation.

It has been 100 days since two baby pandas, known for three months as Cub A and Cub B, were born at Atlanta's zoo.

Today, they were officially named.

The U.S. Supreme Court says it will not consider a challenge to the terms of a concussion-related settlement between the National Football League and more than 20,000 retired players.

The deal settled a class-action filed by former players who accused the NFL of covering up what it knew about the link between playing professional football and the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

The head of the International Monetary Fund appeared in a Paris court Monday for the opening of her trial over alleged negligence during her time as France's finance minister nearly a decade ago.

Lagarde appeared before France's Court of Justice of the Republic for the first day of hearings, the BBC reported. The court handles cases related to alleged misconduct by government officials.

The man accused of murdering nine people in a church basement in Charleston, S.C., last year told investigators he is guilty, according to a confession video played in court on Friday.

The jury in the trial of Dylan Roof, 22, watched an excerpt of a nearly two-hour conversation between Roof and investigators from the FBI, recorded shortly after he was taken into custody.

Roof faces 33 federal hate crimes charges. The federal government is seeking the death penalty.

Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET on Dec. 12

An Alabama man convicted of murdering a convenience store clerk in 1994 was put to death by lethal injection on Thursday night, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay the execution and amid ongoing legal challenges to the state's lethal injection protocol.

Ronald Bert Smith Jr. had been on Alabama's death row since 1995, when he was convicted of murdering Casey Wilson, a convenience store clerk, during a robbery.

The U.S. surgeon general said Thursday that e-cigarette use poses a significant and avoidable health risk to young people.

"We already know that e-cigarettes have the potential to cause lasting harm to the health of young users," said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. "Most contain nicotine, a highly addictive drug that can damage normal development of the brain – a process that continues until about age 25."

Murthy's comments were part of a report released Thursday on rising e-cigarette use by people under 25.

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck about 100 miles off the Northern California coast on Thursday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the earthquake, originally reported to have a magnitude of 6.8, wasn't powerful enough to generate a destructive tsunami. No damage or injuries were reported.

Giraffes are dying at an alarming rate and could face extinction if the trend doesn't reverse, according to a new conservation report on animal populations worldwide.

The report was released by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which maintains the so-called Red List of species threatened with extinction.

The Weather Channel has a message for the website Breitbart:

"Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans"

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube say they are creating a database to keep track of terrorist recruitment videos and other terror-related images that have been removed from their services.

In a joint statement posted by Facebook on Monday, the company said:

Updated at 10:15 a.m. ET on Dec. 6

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota is asking people camping near the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline to go home.

"I'm asking them to go," Dave Archambault III told Reuters on Monday, saying that the Obama administration "did the right thing," and that he hoped to "educate the incoming administration" of President-elect Donald Trump.

"Nothing will happen this winter," he said.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

The judge in the murder trial of former North Charleston, S.C., police Officer Michael Slager declared a mistrial on Monday after the jury said it could not come to a unanimous decision.

"We as the jury regret to inform the court that, despite the best efforts of all members, we are unable to come to an unanimous decision in the case of the State vs. Michael Slager," a letter from the foreman of the jury read.

The man accused of killing nine people during a Bible study in Charleston, S.C., last year has rehired his defense attorneys to represent him in the first phase of his federal murder trial.

Dylann Roof, 22, faces 33 federal hate crimes charges for walking into the basement of a historically black church and sitting among worshipers before opening fire, according to prosecutors. The government is seeking the death penalty.

Each year, a glowing mass of clouds forms over the South Pole, high in the atmosphere, trapped between Earth and space.

From the ground they look wispy and shimmery, like a blue-white aurora borealis. From space, they look like an electric-blue gossamer haze.

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