NRA begins its convention

HOUSTON - The National Rifle Association kicked off its convention Friday with a warning that members are engaged in a "culture war" that stretches beyond gun rights, further ramping up emotions surrounding the gun debate.

NRA first vice president James Porter, who will assume the organization's presidency Monday, issued a full-throated challenge to President Obama in the wake of a victory regarding gun control and called on members to dig in for a fight that will stretch into the 2014 elections.

More than 70,000 NRA members are expected to attend the three-day convention, whose theme is "Stand and Fight." Speakers Friday included Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.), and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. - AP

Feds order new border vigilance

WASHINGTON - The Homeland Security Department ordered border agents "effective immediately" to verify that every international student who arrives in the United States has a valid student visa, according to an internal memorandum obtained Friday by the Associated Press. The new procedure is the government's first security change directly related to the Boston bombings.

The order from a senior official at Customs and Border Protection, David J. Murphy, was circulated Thursday, one day after the administration acknowledged that Azamat Tazhayakov, a Kazakh accused of hiding evidence for bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was allowed back into the U.S. in January without a valid student visa. - AP

Arias case goes to the jury

PHOENIX - Jurors were given final instructions Friday in the trial of Jodi Arias, who is charged in the stabbing and shooting death of her onetime boyfriend.

They got the case after hearing closing arguments from both sides.

Defense lawyer Kirk Nurmi on Friday asked the jury to take an unbiased look at the case and his client - even if they don't like her - as the murder trial neared an end after four months of testimony. Arias smiled broadly when Nurmi told the jury, "It's not about whether or not you like Jodi Arias. Nine days out of 10, I don't like Jodi Arias. . . . But that doesn't matter."

Arias says she killed Travis Alexander in self-defense, but prosecutors described her as a manipulative liar who committed premeditated murder. - AP

Elsewhere:

A huge wildfire in Southern California burned through coastal wilderness to the beach on Friday then stormed back through canyons toward inland neighborhoods when winds reversed direction. The wind shift forced fire commanders to order a new evacuation of homes in a Thousand Oaks neighborhood along a two-mile stretch of road overlooking smoke-filled coastal canyons.