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Obama to reduce FHA mortgage premium rate

WASHINGTON - First-time homebuyers who obtain government-backed loans would benefit from an Obama administration move to lower mortgage insurance premiums.

Under the plan, the Federal Housing Administration will reduce its annual mortgage insurance premiums by 0.5 percentage points, to 0.85 percent. The White House said Wednesday the reduction means new home buyers would pay $900 less a year than they would without the change.

The rate drop announcement will be a centerpiece of President Barack Obama's trip to Phoenix today.

Homeowners who refinance into an FHA mortgage would also benefit from the change. -AP

FBI says shooter at Texas VA clinic was ex-employee

EL PASO, Texas — An Army veteran who fatally shot a psychologist at a West Texas veterans' hospital before killing himself was a former clerk at the clinic and had threatened the doctor in 2013, the FBI said Wednesday.

The FBI identified the gunman in Tuesday's shooting as Jerry Serrato, a 48-year-old who was medically discharged from the Army in 2009 after serving in Iraq two years earlier. Douglas Lindquist, who heads the FBI's El Paso office, said Serrato used a .380-caliber handgun to shoot Dr. Timothy Fjordbak, 63, and himself at the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System at Fort Bliss.

Officials did not provide a motive for the shooting. However, Fjordbak had reported that Serrato made an unspecified verbal threat against him at an El Paso supermarket in 2013. — AP

9 measles cases linked to Disney theme parks

SANTA ANA, Calif.-Seven Califomians and two people in Utah have confirmed cases of measles most likely contracted on trips last month to Disney theme parks in California, state officials said Wednesday.

Three more California residents are suspected of having measles in cases still under investigation. All patients with confirmed or suspected cases of the illness visited Disneyland or Disney California Adventure between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

They probably got it at one of the parks then, officials said. -AP

NYC to lift ban on student cellphones in schools

NEW YORK-Mayor Bill de Blasio will lift a longtime ban on cellphones in New York City public schools, ending a widely unpopular practice.

De Blasio, who announced the policy change Wednesday, said the new plan will go into effect March 2.

"It's time to take a common-sense action that will give parents a better peace of mind," said the mayor. "We need to hear from our kids and this guarantees we can."

The rule requiring cellphones and electronic devices like iPads to be left at home was put in place by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to address concerns about cheating, theft and the risk of students using their phones to summon a crowd for a fight. But the ban has never been enforced consistently.

De Blasio promised to overturn the ban during his 2013 mayoral campaign. — AP

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