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Senator confronted over vote against gun background checks

A woman whose mother was killed in last year’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn., confronted Sen. Kelly Ayotte Tuesday during the senator’s first public appearance in New Hampshire since voting against gun control legislation. About 150 people attended the town hall meeting, where Ayotte defended her vote against a bill that would have required criminal and mental health background checks for people buying guns online or at gun shows. After the vote two weeks ago, the New Hampshire Republican, a former prosecutor, expressed concern that expanded background checks could harm the rights of gun owners. “I’m just wondering why the
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Angered lawmakers demand change in flawed military justice system

Outrage over an Air Force officer‘s decision to overturn a jury’s guilty verdict in a sexual assault case has Republicans and Democrats joining forces on ambitious legislation to change the military justice system. On both sides of the Capitol, lawmakers have interpreted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel‘s recent proposal to essentially strip commanding officers of their ability to reverse criminal convictions of service members as an opening to revise the decades-old Uniform Code of Military Justice. Congress repeatedly has challenged the military’s lack of resolve in fighting sexual assault in its ranks, an offense considered far more prevalent than the reported
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Arizona now forcing municipalities to sell guns from buy-back programs

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Monday signed legislation forcing municipalities to resell firearms from gun buy-back programs rather than destroy them, closing a loophole in the conservative state’s laws. Brewer, a Republican and staunch gun rights advocate, signed the bill preventing local governments from melting down the weapons obtained from these popular civic events. Before the new law, the state had allowed such firearms to be destroyed. A spokesman for Brewer could not immediately be reached for comment late on Monday. The bill had the support of the National Rifle Association and Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature. It cleared the state Senate
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FBI probes questionable activity by Virginia governor

The FBI has begun looking at the relationship between Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and the chief executive of a nutritional supplements manufacturer that is the subject of an investigation, two people with knowledge of the review said. Federal authorities began questioning people close to McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, as an outgrowth of a securities probe of Virginia-based Star Scientific Inc., said the two people, who spoke Monday on the condition of anonymity because their roles in the case preclude them from speaking publicly. They said FBI agents have asked questions about gifts the McDonnells have received from company CEO
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Blacks voter turnout now higher than whites in America

America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home. Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press. Census data and exit polling show that whites and blacks will remain the two largest racial groups of eligible
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Congress forces Army to accept tanks it doesn’t want

Built to dominate the enemy in combat, the Army’s hulking Abrams tank is proving equally hard to beat in a budget battle. Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams. But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.” It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt. Yet
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CIA paid tens of millions in cash to Afghan President

Tens of millions of U.S. dollars in cash were delivered by the CIA in suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags to the office of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai for more than a decade, according to the New York Times, citing current and former advisers to the Afghan leader. The so-called “ghost money” was meant to buy influence for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) but instead fuelled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan, the newspaper quoted U.S. officials as saying. “The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan”, one American official said, “was the United States.” The CIA
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Even with less pay, American consumers keep spending

This year got off to a sour start for U.S. workers: Their pay, already gasping to keep pace with inflation, was suddenly shrunk by a Social Security tax increase. Which raised a worrisome question: Would consumers stop spending and further slow the economy? Nope. Not yet, anyway. On Friday, the government said consumers spent 3.2 percent more on an annual basis in the January-March quarter than in the previous quarter — the biggest jump in two years. It highlighted a broader improvement in Americans’ financial health that is blunting the impact of the tax increase and raising hopes for more
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Russian mom still claims her Boston bombing sons are innocent

The angry and grieving mother of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects insists that her sons are innocent and that she’s no terrorist. But Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is drawing increased attention after federal officials say Russian authorities intercepted her phone calls, including one in which she vaguely discussed jihad with her elder son. In another, she was recorded talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, U.S. officials said. In photos of her as a younger woman, Tsarnaeva wears a low-cut blouse and has her hair teased like a 1980s rock star. After she arrived
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Obama wants Charlotte mayor as his new Transportation Secretary

President Barack Obama is nominating Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Foxx, a rising star in Democratic politics, to run the Transportation Department, a White House official said. Obama will announce the nomination from the White House Monday afternoon, according to the official, who requested anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the nomination ahead of the president. Foxx will be the first black nominee among Obama’s picks for open spots in his second-term Cabinet. The president has faced questions, including from the Congressional Black Caucus, about a lack of diversity in his first round of nominations after winning re-election.
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