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A third of American counties are dying

A record number of U.S. counties — more than 1 in 3 — are now dying off, hit by an aging population and weakened local economies that are spurring young adults to seek jobs and build families elsewhere. New 2012 census estimates released Thursday highlight the population shifts as the U.S. encounters its most sluggish growth levels since the Great Depression. The findings also reflect the increasing economic importance of foreign-born residents as the U.S. ponders an overhaul of a major 1965 federal immigration law. Without new immigrants, many metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and St.
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Republicans showcase budget differences with Obama

House Republicans are staking out stark differences with Democrats as they prepare to meet with President Barack Obama for talks over the budget impasse, while Obama is conceding that a political accommodation may be impossible. On the one hand, many Republicans who long have chided Obama for failing to engage their party on the nation’s biggest problems are applauding his newfound outreach — part of a concerted effort by the president to mend ties with Congress in hopes of reaching a grand compromise on fiscal issues. On the other hand, neither side is backing down from entrenched positions that have
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Disturbing questions about veterans charity in Florida

The next phase of an investigation into a veterans charity accused of being a front for a $300 million gambling operation will focus on lobbying and campaign donations, authorities said. While authorities wouldn’t talk specifics Wednesday, records showed the Florida-based charity Allied Veterans of the World and another company involved in the alleged fraud have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying and political campaigns in Florida. Nearly 60 people were charged in the probe so far and Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll stepped down after being questioned by investigators. Allied Veterans ran nearly 50 Internet parlors with computerized slot
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Changing attitudes found among working mothers

Working mothers increasingly want full-time jobs, and tough economic times might be a big reason, according to a national survey. In the Pew Research Center study being released Thursday, researchers saw a big spike in the share of working mothers who said they’d prefer to work full time; 37 percent said that was their ideal, up from 21 percent in 2007. The poll comes amid a national debate on women in the workplace ignited by top Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, who writes in a new book about the need for women to be more professionally aggressive. In “Lean In: Women,
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Colorado moves to legalize same-sex civil unions

A bill to legalize same-sex civil unions in Colorado won final approval from state lawmakers on Tuesday and was expected to be signed into law, reflecting a recent shift to the left in the political balance of power in the Denver statehouse. Supporters of the Democratic-sponsored measure, which cleared the state House of Representatives on a 39-26 vote, say it would make gay and lesbian couples eligible for the most of the same benefits, protections and responsibilities currently extended only to heterosexual spouses. Colorado is one of 30 states with a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as exclusively between a
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Senate committee approves expanded background checks on gun sales

Democrats gave a boost Tuesday to the pillar of President Barack Obama’s plans for reducing gun violence, pushing a bill requiring nearly universal federal background checks for firearms buyers through the Senate Judiciary Committee over solid Republican opposition. The proposal still faces a difficult path through Congress, where GOP lawmakers say it would have little impact on crime and warn that it is a precursor to a federal registry of gun owners. Such a listing is forbidden by federal law and is anathema to conservatives and the National Rifle Association. The committee approved the bill 10-8, supported by every Democrat
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Once again, mixed signals from obstructionist Republicans

House Republicans are sending mixed signals in agreeing to meet with President Barack Obama for talks over the budget impasse. On the one hand, many Republicans who long have chided Obama for failing to engage their party on the nation’s biggest problems are applauding his newfound outreach — part of a concerted effort by the president to mend ties with Congress in hopes of reaching a grand compromise on fiscal issues. On the other hand, neither side is backing down from entrenched positions that have prevented deals in the past. Exhibit A: the House GOP’s new budget proposal, crafted by
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Grand bargain? More like a another grand debacle

For all the talk of a presidential “charm offensive” and possible thaw in partisanship, ample signs show that Congress is far from reaching a “grand bargain” to shrink the deficit. The Senate’s top Republican, standing just outside the Capitol room where President Barack Obama was meeting with Democratic senators Tuesday, said he will push for trims to Medicare and Social Security without yielding another dollar in new tax revenues. Democrats have long insisted that higher taxes — chiefly on the wealthy — must accompany any reductions in those entitlement programs. There must be a “balanced approach” to reducing the deficit,
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Maine town voters overwhelmingly reject mandatory gun ownership

Voters in a small Maine town unanimously rejected a proposal on Monday that would have required every household to own a firearm and ammunition. More than 60 residents of Byron, Maine, packed into the tiny Coos Canyon Schoolhouse and quickly voted to make the symbolic measure the first order of business during the town’s annual meeting. After a brief discussion, residents elected to skip debate and vote. Not even Bruce Simmons, the resident who originally came up with the proposal, voted to support it. Backers said the point of the measure, which was considered unenforceable, was to send a message
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New gun control laws pass Colorado Senate

A gun control package pushed by Colorado Democrats cleared the state Senate on Monday, as sponsors described it as a needed response to Colorado’s blood-soaked history of mass shootings. One Democrat after another rose Monday to talk about restricting gun rights after last July’s shooting at a suburban Denver movie theater. The vote came on the eve of an expected plea by the alleged gunman, James Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and injuring dozens more. The measures approved by the Senate included a limit on the kinds of high-capacity ammunition magazines Holmes is accused of using in
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