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Defense Secretary in Iraq ... Cruz, Rubio spar at debate ... Amnesty reports mistreatment of refugees in Turkey

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BAGHDAD (AP) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter is in Iraq on an unannounced visit with directions from President Barack Obama to find new ways to hasten the destruction of the Islamic State group. Carter is planning to meet with his commanders and with Iraqi leaders, and will likely discuss America's willingness to send attack helicopters and more troops to the fight.

LAS VEGAS — Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have been sparring from afar for weeks, and they brought that sparring to the GOP debate last night in Las Vegas. Rubio accused Cruz of weakening the government's ability to track terrorists because he voted in favor of legislation to eliminate the National Security Agency's bulk phone-records collection program and replace it with more restrictive rules. Cruz says his vote helped "reform how we target bad guys" by allowing the government to search more phone numbers.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Amnesty International says Turkey has rounded up scores of refugees and asylum-seekers since September and has taken them to detention centers where some were mistreated or forcibly returned to Syria and Iraq. Amnesty says in a report that the mistreatment happened "in parallel" with Turkish-EU migration talks and the group warns that the EU risks being "complicit in serious human rights violations."

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people executed in the United States this year has dropped to the lowest level since 1991. Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that opposes capital punishment, says 28 inmates were executed as of Dec. 15, down from 35 last year. Executive director Robert Dunham says, "What we're seeing is the cumulative effect of falling public support for the death penalty."

BALTIMORE (AP) — After announcing a deadlock nine hours into deliberations, a Baltimore jury will get back to work today in the trial of William Porter, one of six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray in April. After the jury told the judge Tuesday afternoon that it couldn't reach an agreement, the judge said keep working. Freddie Gray died in police custody after sustaining a severe spine injury in the back of a police van. He wasn't seatbelted.

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