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Pair denies starving four boys

A couple jailed on charges they starved their four adopted boys denied the accusations and said one of the boys had a habit of lying.

In statements relayed from jail by their minister, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson said the boys were well fed and taken care of. They attributed the boys' physical conditions to eating disorders or other ailments.

The four adopted boys were removed from the Jacksons' home on Oct. 10 after a neighbor spotted the eldest, 19-year-old Bruce, picking through trash cans. The teen was 4 feet tall and weighed 45 pounds.

Bruce told authorities he and his brothers were locked out of the kitchen and had eaten wallboard and other materials to ward off hunger. Raymond Jackson told the minister Bruce had a penchant for lying.

The couple's biological children came to their defense, saying their parents would never deliberately harm children. Renee Jackson, 29, told the New York Times her parents were "often stumped by the erratic behavior of some of their children" but never withheld food from them.

"We ate a lot, and everybody ate the same," she said.

The Jacksons' household included their four adult biological children, four adopted boys, two adopted girls and a foster girl they were trying to adopt.

Dean's Confederate flag comment sparks dustup

WASHINGTON _ A comment by Howard Dean about Confederate flags and pickup trucks has embroiled the leading Democrats in Iowa's presidential caucuses in a name-calling donnybrook.

"I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," the former Vermont governor was quoted as saying in Saturday's Des Moines Register. "We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats."

Dean said Saturday that he was intending to encourage the return of Southern voters who have abandoned the Democrats for decades but are disaffected with the Republicans.

Two Democrat rivals competing against Dean in Iowa's leadoff Jan. 19 caucuses saw the comment differently.

Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, who shares the lead in Iowa with Dean, accused Dean of making a blatant move to win the votes of people "who disagree with us on bedrock Democratic values like civil rights."

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts contended that Dean's "pandering" to the National Rifle Association gave him an inroad to "pander to lovers of the Confederate flag."

Neustadt, adviser to presidents, dies at 84

BOSTON _ Richard E. Neustadt, the presidential adviser, scholar and historian whose book Presidential Power and The Modern Presidents became a staple of courses in presidential leadership, has died, a spokesman for Harvard's Kennedy School of Government said. He was 84.

A former adviser to Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Neustadt also wrote many books on the U.S. presidency. Neustadt, one of the first professors at the Kennedy School, taught there for more than two decades before becoming a professor emeritus in 1989.

Also . . .

LAST OF ESCAPEES CAUGHT: The last of eight inmates who escaped from the Sullivan County Jail in Tennessee by crawling through an air duct to a roof and then tying their uniforms into a ladder was captured Saturday in a barn.