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Washington's Top News - Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday - 7/17/2014, 3:45am  ET

Here's a look at some of the day's top stories from WTOP:

3 dead after California bank robbery, gunbattle

Two robbers and a hostage are dead following a bank robbery in Stockton, California. Police say three men robbed a Bank of the West branch Wednesday afternoon, taking off with three women hostages.

During a 45-minute chase, two of the hostages -- bank employees with gunshot wounds -- were tossed out of the vehicle. When the SUV broke down, a gunfight ensued. Dead are the third hostage, who was a bank customer, and two of the robbers.

D.C. pot decriminalization goes into effect

At least for the time being, it's no longer a criminal offense to carry a joint in your pocket in most of the nation's capital. Read about what the new law allows - and doesn't allow - and why the change might be short-lived.

Putin: US sanctions hurt bilateral ties, US firms

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday lamented the latest round of U.S. sanctions against Russia, saying they will stalemate bilateral relations and hurt not only Russian but also American businesses.

Israel says it foiled attack by Gaza infiltrators

The Israeli military says it's thwarted an attack by 13 Gaza militants who sneaked into Israel through a tunnel. A military spokesman says the militants were identified some 820 feet inside Israel and were struck by Israeli aircraft.

The military believes at least one militant was killed in Thursday's strike, and the remaining fighters appear to have returned to Gaza through the tunnel. Israel says it's still going ahead with a five-hour humanitarian cease-fire.

The first stage of selling your home

If you're selling a house or condo, lots of factors can make a huge difference in getting and keeping a potential buyer's attention -- everything from wall color to furniture to blankets. It's called "staging," and on our Living page, a professional stager explains her techniques -- and offers tips on ways you can spruce your home up for selling.

What happens to your online accounts when you die?

You've probably decided who gets the house or that family heirloom up in the attic when you die. But what about your email account and all those photos stored online? There's no easy answer, but a new proposal would create a uniform standard. Find out the details on our Tech page.

These masks don't hide faces; they reveal them

Before the advent of photography, the way to capture the likeness of a prominent person was to mold a mask of their faces -- both during their lives and shortly after their deaths. The practice started in ancient Greece and continued through the American Confederacy.

On our Entertainment page, Alicia Lozano talks with a historian and a curator at the National Portrait Gallery, where an exhibit brings the faces of the two main rivals of the Civil War side by side.

She makes the game into an event

In today's sports world, games become full-on interactive experiences, and many teams create that atmosphere with a sort of master of ceremonies - an in-game host. Two of D.C.'s teams -- the Capitals of the NHL and the Kastles of World Team Tennis -- employ the same woman to keep the event moving.

WTOP's Noah Frank talked with her for our Sports page and found out the challenges and rewards of the gig -- and the day job that she says helps her keep the fans engaged.

Bias to be inducted into Terps' Hall of Fame

Len Bias, who died of a drug overdose soon after being the No. 2 pick in the 1986 NBA draft, will be inducted into the University of Maryland Hall of Fame. Bias, who left as the school's career scoring leader, was among eight players announced Wednesday by the Terrapins' athletic department.

The induction ceremony is set for Oct. 3.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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