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Death Toll Tops 30,000 in Mexican Drug War:  Jens Erik Gould Black of Bloomberg News reports the number of drug-related deaths in Mexico since current President Felipe Calderon took office four years ago has topped 30,000.  Calderon's strategy of increased military presence in the affected areas was praised by U.S. officials, but has caused infighting within the cartels.  One such feud in Ciudad Juarez alone resulted in 3,000 murders this year.

Pentobarbital Might Gain More Popularity:  Oklahoma's use of the drug pentobarbital during yesterday's execution could lead the way for other states in light of the nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental, some experts say.  Opponents of the death penalty have attacked use of the drug as inhumane, arguing it could leave an inmate paralyzed but still conscious during administration of the heart-stopping third drug.  But several expert - including a defense expert - testified at a federal court hearing in November that Oklahoma's planned dosage of the drug was enough to cause unconsciousness and even death within minutes.  Sean Murphy of the AP has this story

Cigarette Leads to Rape Suspect: 
A cigarette enabled police to link a California man to a Pittsburgh home invasion and rape, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  Authorities allege 29-year-old Akaninyene Efiong Akran broke into a 20-year-old woman's apartment in September, raped her, and threatened to kill her and her family.  While being questioned by police shortly after the crime, Akran asked for a cigarette.  Police grabbed his discarded cigarette butt and were able to match his DNA to a crime scene sample.

LAPD: Grim Sleeper Photo Release the Right Decision:  
The Los Angeles Times reports LAPD police are calling their decision to release photos found in the possession of the "Grim Sleeper" serial killer an "agonizing" decision, but the best one to determine the identity of the unknown women.  The photos, many of which were sexually explicit, were released in cropped form to protect the dignity of the women and their family members.

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