Texas won't take federal stimulus education grants

HOUSTON — Texas won't compete for up to $700 million in federal stimulus money for education because the program "smacks of a federal takeover of our public schools," Republican Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday.

The funding is from the U.S. Department of Education's "Race to the Top" program, a $5 billion competitive fund that will award grants to states to improve education quality and results. The program, created in the economic stimulus law, is part of President Obama's efforts to overhaul the nation's schools.

Perry has been critical of the federal stimulus program and the federal bailout of the nation's financial institutions. He previously turned down $555 million in federal stimulus money for the state's unemployment fund because it would have required Texas to expand its unemployment benefits.

Feds forgo a fifth trial for John 'Junior' Gotti

NEW YORK — The federal government decided Wednesday not to seek a fifth racketeering trial against John "Junior" Gotti, son of the notorious Gambino family crime boss who also was noted — for a time — for avoiding conviction.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a one-paragraph statement saying prosecutors had decided not to seek another trial "in light of the circumstances." Judge Kevin Castel signed an order approving the request to drop the case.

Gotti, 45, who insists he left organized crime a decade ago, has been free on $2 million bail since a jury deadlocked on Dec. 1 after deliberating for 11 days, forcing a mistrial. He spent the holidays at home on Long Island with his family.