PYONGYANG, North Korea

- North Korea said early today that it executed Kim Jong Un's uncle as a traitor for trying to seize supreme power, a stunning end for the leader's former mentor, long considered the country's No. 2 official.

In a sharp reversal of the long-held popular image of Jang Song Thaek as a kindly uncle guiding Kim Jong Un as he consolidated power, the North's official Korean Central News Agency indicated that Jang instead saw the death of Kim Jong Il in December 2011 as an opportunity to challenge his nephew and win power.

Jang had been tried and executed, North Korea said, for "attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state." It called him a "traitor to the nation for all ages" and "worse than a dog."

The unusually detailed announcement came only days after North Korea said it had "eliminated" Jang from all his posts.

Saw angels, signer at Mandela event says

JOHANNESBURG

- The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial said he suffers from schizophrenia and hallucinated and saw angels while gesturing incoherently just 3 feet away from President Obama and other world leaders, outraging deaf people worldwide who said his signs amounted to gibberish.

South African officials scrambled yesterday to explain how they came to hire the man and said they were investigating what vetting process, if any, he underwent for his security clearance.

"In the process, and in the speed of the event, a mistake happened," deputy Cabinet minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said. She apologized to deaf people around the world who were offended.

Debate on plane phone calls moves on

WASHINGTON

- Just because it's safe to use cellphones on a plane, it doesn't mean that passengers should call just to say hello.

That argument played out across Washington yesterday as one government agency moved a step closer to removing its prohibition of in-flight calls while another considered a new ban of its own. The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to start a monthslong public comment process to remove its restriction.

Calls during flights have been prohibited for 22 years over fears that they would interfere with cellular networks on the ground. Technological advances have resolved those concerns, which is one reason Wheeler wants to repeal the rule. He also wants the airlines, not the government, to have final say on in-flight calling.

Mega Millions hits $400M jackpot

DES MOINES, Iowa

- Outshined by Powerball's massive jackpots since Powerball doubled the cost of a ticket last year, Mega Millions enacted its own, very different, changes in October aimed at inflating its jackpots and luring those who only play when the pots get really big.

Those changes may already be working, as the Mega Millions jackpot for tonight's drawing stood at an estimated $400 million last night. It is the second-largest Mega Millions jackpot ever, trailing only a $656 million jackpot won in March 2012, and the fifth largest lottery jackpot of any kind in U.S. history.

While Mega Millions remains $1 a ticket, five of the six numbers needed for a jackpot win now range from 1 to 75, instead of the previous 1 to 56. The sixth number, which is the gold Mega Millions ball, is now from 1 to 15 in the revamp, instead of 1 to 46. The changes decreased the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot from about 1 in 176 million, which is nearly the odds of winning Powerball's jackpot, to roughly 1 in 259 million.

Suit: Deputy made man kneel on hot asphalt

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.

- An Albuquerque man suffered severe burns to his knees and buttocks after a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy forced him to kneel and sit on hot asphalt for nearly half an hour, according to a federal civil-rights lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque alleges Deputy Chris Starr made Jonathan Griego, 23, kneel on the scorching asphalt during a June traffic stop on a day when temperatures reached 96 degrees in the city.

Starr demanded that Griego kneel and sit on the asphalt, where he was forced to "literally cook" after a needle was found in his pocket, court papers said.

221 believed sickened by synthetic marijuana

DENVER

- Synthetic marijuana is believed to have sickened 221 people in Colorado during a monthlong outbreak this year, according to a federal report released yesterday.

The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is based on a joint investigation with state health officials launched after Colorado hospitals started seeing an increase in emergency room visits by people who had used synthetic pot in late August.

Investigators found two new variants of synthetic marijuana in Colorado, ADBICA and ADB-PINACA, the latter of which was linked to a similar outbreak in Georgia in August. State health officials and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation are trying to determine whether the strains contributed to the illnesses.

- Daily News wire services