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Pastor for Obama inaugural withdraws because of anti-gay rant

The evangelical pastor chosen to give the benediction at President Barack Obama’s inauguration withdrew from the ceremony Thursday after remarks surfaced that he made two decades ago condemning the gay rights movement. The Rev. Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Atlanta said in a statement he withdrew because it was likely that the “prayer I would offer will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration.” Addie Whisenant, a spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said the committee had chosen Giglio because of his work to end human trafficking. Giglio organizes the
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Afghan lawmakers predict disaster, civil war if U.S. pulls troops out

  Afghan lawmakers said on Wednesday disaster and civil war would follow if Washington pushed ahead with a suggestion to withdraw all its troops from the country after 2014. The White House said a day earlier it was considering the so-called “zero option” of a complete pullout – despite earlier recommendations from the top military commander in Afghanistan to keep soldiers there to help the government. That option and the angry reaction from Afghan officials are likely to dominate talks between President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai in Washington on Friday. The meeting was already likely to
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Biden meets today with pro-gun groups, including bombastic NRA

The Obama administration is sitting down with gun owners groups — including the National Rifle Association — as officials look at ways to curb gun violence. Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading an administration-wide review of gun safety laws, has vowed urgent action in the wake of last month’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. The meeting with the NRA is one of three Biden has scheduled for Thursday, as he prepares to make recommendations on gun policy by the end of the month. Besides the NRA, Biden and other officials are meeting with sportsmen and wildlife interest groups,
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Obama turns a page at Treasury with Lew nomination

Jack Lew, President Barack Obama’s nominee for treasury secretary, is a premier federal budget expert who would take the helm of the government’s main agency for economic and fiscal policy just as the administration girds itself for a new confrontation with congressional Republicans over the nation’s debt and deficits. Obama will nominate Lew on Thursday afternoon, continuing to put a second-term imprint on his Cabinet by choosing yet another close ally to a key government post. A year ago, almost to the day, Obama appointed Lew as his chief of staff, taking him from his perch as director of the
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Obama’s second-term, reshuffled cabinet taking shape

The composition of President Barack Obama’s second term Cabinet became clearer Wednesday, with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis resigning and three other members of the president’s team deciding to stay on amid concerns about diversity in Obama’s inner circle. Solis, a former California congresswoman and one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in the Cabinet, said she was departing after leading the department during the economic storms of the first term. She was the nation’s first Hispanic labor secretary. A White House official said three Cabinet members — Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Veterans Affairs Secretary
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Scalpers hawking free Obama inauguration tickets online

Tickets to President Barack Obama’s inauguration are supposed to be free, but they’re being peddled on eBay and Craigslist for up to $2,000 apiece. Congressional offices and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which are both distributing tickets to inaugural events, are trying to clamp down on the black market. So far, their efforts haven’t stopped online entrepreneurs. “These tix are going like hot cakes, and for FAR more than I am listing them for on here,” boasted one anonymous seller in a post Wednesday on the website Craigslist. The seller, who did not return an email from The Associated Press, offered
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Biden meeting with gun safety, victims groups

Seeking to spur fresh action on gun legislation, Vice President Joe Biden is meeting at the White House with victims groups and gun-safety organizations. Wednesday’s meeting is to be part of a series of gatherings Biden is conducting this week at the White House, aimed at building consensus around proposals to curb gun violence following the horrific elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The vice president will meet Thursday with the National Rifle Association and other gun-owner groups. Meetings with representatives from the video-game and entertainment industries are also planned. President Barack Obama wants Biden to report back to him
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GOP Senator threatens to block new CIA director’s nomination

A Republican senator threatened on Tuesday to block the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the CIA until the administration provides more information to Congress about the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Senator Lindsey Graham said his objection was not directed at Obama’s CIA nominee – 25-year agency veteran John Brennan – but was an attempt to extract information about the Benghazi attacks from the White House. “I do not believe we should confirm anyone as Director of the CIA until our questions are answered,” Graham said in a statement. Under Senate rules,
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All U.S. troops out of Afghanistan? It’s possible

The Obama administration says it might leave no troops in Afghanistan after December 2014, an option that defies the Pentagon’s view that thousands of troops may be needed to contain al-Qaida and to strengthen Afghan forces. “We wouldn’t rule out any option,” including zero troops, Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, said Tuesday. “The U.S. does not have an inherent objective of ‘X’ number of troops in Afghanistan,” Rhodes said. “We have an objective of making sure there is no safe haven for al-Qaida in Afghanistan and making sure that the Afghan government has a security force
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National Cathedral in Washington will perform same sex marriages

The Washington National Cathedral, where the nation gathers to mourn tragedies and celebrate new presidents, will soon begin performing same-sex marriages. Cathedral officials tell The Associated Press the church will be among the first Episcopal congregations to implement a new rite of marriage for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members. The church will announce its new policy Wednesday. As the nation’s most prominent church, the decision carries huge symbolism. The 106-year-old cathedral has long been a spiritual center for the nation, hosting presidential inaugural services and funerals for Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. It draws hundreds of thousands of visitors.
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