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Air Force finds ‘rot’ among ICBM launch officers

The Air Force stripped an unprecedented 17 officers of their authority to control — and, if necessary, launch — nuclear missiles after a string of unpublicized failings, including a remarkably dim review of their unit’s launch skills. The group’s deputy commander said it is suffering “rot” within its ranks. “We are, in fact, in a crisis right now,” the commander, Lt. Col. Jay Folds, wrote in an internal email obtained by The Associated Press and confirmed by the Air Force. The tip-off to trouble was a March inspection of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., which
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Mark Sanford finds redemption from South Carolina voters

In a story of political redemption, Mark Sanford is headed back to Congress after his career was derailed by scandal four years ago. “I am one imperfect man saved by God’s grace,” the Republican told about 100 cheering supporters Tuesday after defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch to win back the 1st District seat he held for three terms in the 1990s. “It’s my pledge to all of you going forward I’m going to be one of the best congressmen I could have ever been.” Although the race was thought to be close going into the voting, Sanford collected 54 percent
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Republicans accuse Obama of Benghazi attack coverup

House Republicans insist the Obama administration is covering up information about last year’s deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, rejecting administration assurances to the contrary and stoking a controversy with implications for the 2016 presidential race. Republicans on five House committees are pressing ahead with their own investigations despite an exhaustive independent review that blistered the State Department, more than 25,000 pages of documents sent to Congress and hours of testimony from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Three State Department witnesses, including the
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Most military sexual assaults not reported

They are young, often low-ranking service members out on the weekend in the late night and early morning hours. Sometimes they’ve been drinking. Often those who sexually assault them are in the armed forces, too. But in the vast majority of military sexual assault cases — as many as 22,000 in 2012 — the victim chooses not to report the attack or unwanted sexual contact. Sexual assaults across the military are a growing epidemic. In releasing a massive report Tuesday, Pentagon leaders continued to struggle with how to combat the problem and give victims enough confidence in the system to
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Congress to start work on new farm bill

Congress will begin writing a new, $500 billion farm law next week, the head of the Senate Agriculture Committee said on Tuesday, even as calls mounted for deeper cuts in farm subsidies and food stamp spending. The Senate panel has scheduled a bill-drafting session for May 14. Its House of Representatives counterpart, unofficially, aims to start writing its version on May 15. The bills are expected to boost crop support rates, expand the crop insurance program, reduce the scope of land-idling programs and cut spending on food aid to the poor. Senate Agriculture chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, has
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A battle royal slated on immigration

The Congress this week opens its first debate in six years on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, testing whether business and labor groups can hold together on a delicately crafted deal that already is under attack. For 11 million illegal residents, the legislation in the Senate is their best hope of removing the threat of deportation and charting a path to eventual U.S. citizenship after a major push in Congress to reform a 1986 law died in 2007. The ambitious bill would put more federal dollars into strengthening the southwestern U.S. border against illegal crossings and aims to revamp a
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Gun control advocates struggle to keep focus on issue

Gun control forces are targeting Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Max Baucus and others as they struggle to persuade five senators to switch their votes and revive the rejected effort to expand background checks to more firearms buyers. With Congress back from a weeklong recess, the bottom line remains familiar: Advocates of broadened checks lack the new votes they need and Congress has moved onto other issues. A few lawmakers who opposed expanding the checks when the Senate defeated the measure last month say they’d consider changes the sponsors might offer but haven’t committed to backing anything, while others show no signs
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Internet sales tax bill a tough sell in the House

Traditional retailers and cash-strapped states face a tough sell in the House as they lobby Congress to limit tax-free shopping on the Internet. The Senate voted 69 to 27 Monday to pass a bill that empowers states to collect sales taxes from Internet purchases. Under the bill, states could require out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes when they sell products over the Internet, in catalogs, and through radio and TV ads. The sales taxes would be sent to the states where a shopper lives. Current law says states can only require retailers to collect sales taxes if the merchant has
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Obama’s golf outreach turns into Senatorial hole-in-one

So much for overshadowing your rivals, Mr. President. Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss didn’t seem fazed by a rare congressional invitation to golf with President Barack Obama Monday, sinking a hole-in-one on the par-three 11th hole. The ace shot helped lead Chambliss and GOP teammate Sen. Bob Corker or Tennessee to victory over the Democratic duo of Obama and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall on an outing meant to strengthen ties between the president and Congress. Chambliss told reporters upon his triumphant return to Capitol Hill that “everyone went crazy” when he made the shot and there were high-fives all around. The
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Fat chance? Christie tried surgery to lose weight

Gov. Chris Christie secretly underwent gastric band surgery in February to try to lose weight at the urging of his family. The father of four agreed to the surgery, in which a tube was placed around his stomach to restrict the amount of food he can eat, after turning 50 in September, he told The New York Post for a story in Tuesday’s edition. He said he wasn’t motivated by thoughts of running for president. “I’ve struggled with this issue for 20 years,” he told the newspaper. “For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and
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