WASHINGTON

Senate Republicans block student loan refinancing bill

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation aimed at letting people refinance their student loans at lower rates, a pre-ordained outcome that gave Democrats a fresh election-year talking point against the GOP.

The 56-38 vote fell short of the 60 that would have been needed to advance to debate on the measure by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Her bill would have let millions of borrowers, some with years-old debt and interest rates topping 7 percent, refinance at today’s lower rates.

The bill would have been paid for with the so-called Buffett Rule, which sets minimum tax rates for people making more than $1 million.

WASHINGTON

Four ex-Blackwater guards on trial in killings of 14 Iraqis

Four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards went on trial Wednesday in the killings of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of at least 18 others.

Over the next few days, a jury of 12 residents from the District of Columbia will be chosen from a pool of 111 people to decide the guards’ fate.

PHILADELPHIA

First-grader carries heroin to school; 2 adults charged

Authorities say a man and a woman are facing charges after a first-grader took 11 packets of heroin to a Philadelphia school.

School officials say 20 students at Barry Elementary School in the city’s Cobbs Creek section were taken to a hospital after a teacher saw a 6-year-old girl playing with one of the packets.

No injuries were reported, although police say one of the packets appeared to have been bitten and a girl was complaining of stomach pains.

Police and prosecutors said Wednesday that Christopher Troy-Jenkins White, 28, and Marie Hunter, 32, are charged with endangerment and narcotics possession.

SALT LAKE CITY

Two Mormon leaders facing excommunication hearings

Two months after Mormon Kate Kelly led hundreds in a demonstration to shed light on gender inequality in the religion – defying church orders to stay off Temple Square – the founder of a prominent Mormon women’s group is facing excommunication.

Kelly said she was devastated to receive a letter Sunday from the bishop of her congregation in Virginia informing her that a disciplinary hearing had been set for June 22 to discuss the possibility of her ouster. The leader of Ordain Women is accused of apostasy, defined as repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.

John P. Dehlin, the creator of a website that provides a forum for church members questioning their faith, is facing the same fate. He received his letter from a local church leader in Logan, Utah, on Monday, giving him until June 18 to resign from the faith or face an excommunication hearing.

— From news service reports