Franken wins rulings in Minn.

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Democrat Al Franken won a pair of victories yesterday before the state board overseeing the Minnesota Senate recount, including a decision that 1,500 incorrectly rejected absentee ballots should be included.

The board also opted to recommend use of election-night results in a Franken-leaning Minneapolis precinct where 133 ballots went missing, a decision that could have cost him 46 votes if it had gone the other way.

Republican Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign lawyers said they would go to court over the absentee-ballot ruling. With all precincts recounted, Coleman has a 192-vote edge over Franken, down slightly from his 215-vote lead entering the recount.

That margin does not include the absentees or any of the 6,655 ballot challenges the two campaigns filed during the recount.

- AP

Ice storm whacks Northeast U.S.

CONCORD, N.H. - An ice storm made a mess of the Northeast yesterday, leaving 1.25 million homes and businesses in half a dozen states without power as it toppled ice-laden trees and power lines onto slippery roads.

Most of the outages were in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and New York, and officials expected it would take several days to fully restore electricity. The storm wreaked havoc also in Vermont and in the Poconos in Pennsylvania.

"The big worry is really about seniors when temperatures drop in a few hours," New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said in the afternoon.

The storm was blamed for at least one death. New Hampshire officials said a 49-year-old man who lived in a camper died of carbon monoxide poisoning after turning on his generator when his power went out Thursday night.

- AP

Life sentence for courthouse killer

ATLANTA - The courthouse gunman who killed a judge and three other people avoided a death sentence yesterday when jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on his sentence.

Superior Court Judge James Bodiford is required by state law to sentence Brian Nichols to life and will decide in a hearing set for this morning whether that will include the possibility of parole.

Nichols, 37, was convicted last month of murder and dozens of other crimes in the 2005 killings. He was on trial for rape when he grabbed a guard's gun and fatally shot the judge, a court reporter, and a sheriff's deputy. He fled and later killed a federal agent in an Atlanta neighborhood.

- AP

Elsewhere:

A judge in Santa Monica, Calif.,

has ordered a former friend of O.J. Simpson's to turn over the ex-NFL star's Pro Football Hall of Fame ring to help satisfy a $33.5 million civil court judgment in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Fred Goldman, whose son, Ron, was stabbed to death along with Simpson's former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.