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National and world news in brief

Indian casinos see revenue increase

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Indian casinos brushed off weak consumer spending in a sluggish U.S. economic recovery to post a modest increase in revenue in 2011, an industry study reported Wednesday.

Not only did revenue rise 3 percent, to $27.4 billion, but Indian casinos are holding on to their share of total casino gambling revenue, competing closely with commercial casinos, according to the report, “Casino City’s Indian Gaming Industry Report.”

The revenue increase is the second in as many years following a first-ever drop in Indian casino revenue in 2009 as the worst recession in decades took its toll on consumer spending. The back-to-back increases in revenue are encouraging, the report said.

Union kingpin in prison in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) — One of Mexico’s biggest political kingfish sits in a women’s prison in the capital, accused of embezzling millions in funds from her teachers’ union to pay for property, private planes, plastic surgery and her Neiman Marcus bill.

Elba Esther Gordillo, 68, leader of the 1.5 million-member National Union of Education Workers, was arrested late Tuesday afternoon as she landed at the Toluca airport near Mexico City on a private flight from San Diego. Assistant Attorney General Alfredo Castillo told the Televisa network that she was taken off the plane and flown by authorities to Mexico City.

In a press conference minutes after her detention, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said Gordillo is accused of embezzling 2 billion pesos (about $160 million) from union funds. Prosecutors said they had detected nearly $3 million in purchases at Neiman Marcus using union funds, as well as $17,000 in U.S. plastic surgery bills and the purchase of a million-dollar home in San Diego.

Court examines joking judge case

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) —

In a decidedly humorless proceeding Tuesday, New Jersey’s Supreme Court heard arguments over whether a municipal judge can keep his other paying gig as an actor and stand-up comic.

Vince A. Sicari’s attorneys argued that the longtime comedian, who performs under the name Vince August, has always kept his identity as a South Hackensack municipal court judge separate, and “there is never mention in either profession of the other.”

The 43-year-old Sicari is appealing a 2008 state ethics committee ruling that said he can’t continue working as a paid entertainer while working part-time as a judge.

Kim D. Ringler of the state attorney general’s office argued in favor of the ban, saying that some of the characters Sicari has depicted — specifically racist and homophobic characters on the ABC hidden camera show “What Would You Do?” — could confuse the public and reflect badly on the judiciary.

Pope gives final public appearance

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI basked in an emotional send-off Wednesday from an estimated 150,000 people at his final general audience in St. Peter’s Square, recalling moments of “joy and light” during his papacy and also times of difficulty when “it seemed like the Lord was sleeping.”

The crowd, many toting banners saying “Grazie!” (“Thank you!”), jammed the piazza to bid Benedict farewell and hear his final speech as pontiff. In this appointment, which he has kept each week for eight years, Benedict thanked his flock for respecting his retirement, which takes effect Thursday. Benedict clearly enjoyed the occasion, taking a long victory lap around the square in an open-sided car and stopping to kiss and bless half a dozen children handed to him by his secretary.

Seventy cardinals, some tearful, sat in solemn attendance — then gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

Benedict made a quick exit, foregoing the typical meet-and-greet session that follows the audience as if to not prolong the goodbye.

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