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Wars, costs face new Pentagon chief

U.S. senators are warning the man nominated to be the next defense chief to be wary of draconian Pentagon budget cuts, laying down a gauntlet against the $400 billion in national security reductions that President Barack Obama has proposed. Leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee tell Leon Panetta the Pentagon must scrutinize the budget for potential efficiencies. But they also say the U.S. cannot afford to slice into the muscle of America’s military power. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona says defense spending is not what is sinking the nation into fiscal crisis. Panetta was appearing before the panel
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Taxes still a key point in budget talks

Top lawmakers on Thursday are expected to discuss one of the biggest hurdles in the way of a debt-reduction deal that would allow the United States to continue borrowing at rock-bottom rates — taxes. As Vice President Joe Biden and six lawmakers meet for a sixth round of talks, outside pressure is growing for them to reach an agreement that would let Congress raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling before an August 2 deadline. Though bond markets remain placid, investors are increasingly alarmed that Congress will fail to act before that date, when the Treasury Department has warned it will
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More problems for Anthony Weiner

Scandal-scarred Rep. Anthony Weiner is clinging to his perch in Congress despite new efforts to pry him away and a pair of developments that might inspire others in his position to give up the fight: A newly released X-rated photo that Weiner purportedly took of himself turned up on the Internet. And his wife of less than a year, Huma Abedin, is pregnant. The baby on the way complicated an already ominous forecast for the 46-year-old congressman, who admitted on Monday that he had Tweeted sexually charged photos and messages to six women he did not know, then lied about
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Osama bin Laden’s files suggest new threats

Everyone Osama bin Laden ever wrote to, spoke to or even mentioned in the volumes of correspondence seized from his Pakistan hideout is under new scrutiny, U.S. officials say. Surveillance has been stepped up on possible terrorist targets around the world, as intelligence experts near the end of decrypting and translating material seized from the bin Laden compound. The trove of material has helped fill in the blanks on how known al-Qaida operatives work and think, and where they fit in the organization. The CIA and other U.S. counterterror agencies have sharpened their focus on some midlevel members of the
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Weiner roasted by both Democrats and Republicans

A top Republican on Tuesday called on Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner to resign, saying Congress cannot afford to be distracted by the sexually charged photos and tweets he sent to women. House Republican Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia became the first top lawmaker to say that Weiner, an outspoken liberal who easily won a seventh two-year term in the House of Representatives last year, “should resign”. “We’ve got a lot of serious challenges going on in this country and a lot of work for Congress to do. The last thing we need is to be immersed in discussion about Congressman
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HHS cracks down on Indiana Medicaid plan

The Health and Human Services Department rejected changes in Indiana’s Medicaid plan Wednesday, saying it illegally bans funding for Planned Parenthood, and sought to make clear that a similar fate awaits other states that pass legislation barring any qualified health care provider. State officials signaled they would not accept HHS’ decision. In a letter sent to Indiana’s Medicaid director, Medicaid Administrator Donald M. Berwick said Indiana’s plan will improperly bar beneficiaries from receiving services. Federal law requires Medicaid beneficiaries to be able to obtain services from any qualified provider. “Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care providers from providing
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Heated Senate battle over credit card fees

Consumers are caught in the middle of a fight between financial institutions and merchants as the Senate approaches a showdown vote over whether to block the Federal Reserve from capping fees that stores pay banks every time a shopper swipes a debit card. The vote, scheduled for Wednesday, is the climax of a long, expensive lobbying battle between two industries that lawmakers hate to cross because of their influence back home and their campaign contributions. “Those are folks who have a lot of presence in all our states,” said Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who added he was undecided. He said,
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Americans fed up with Obama’s ineffective leadership

A new poll shows an ever-increasing number of Americans fed up with President Barack Obama‘s lack of leadership on the economy and deficit, driving his approval rating before 50 percent. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday says 59 percent — six in ten Americans — disapprove of the way the President is handling the economy and only 33 percent approve of his handling of the deficit. The lackluster ratings showcase a dramatic drop from a 56 percent approval rating following the death of Osama bin Laden just a month ago. The rapidly dropping poll numbers spell political trouble for
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Serial liar Anthony Weiner admits sending lewd photo

Embattled Rep. Anthony Weiner admitted Monday he tweeted a lewd photo of to a young woman and also admitted a number of what he called “inappropriate” exchanges with other women but the serial liar and pornographer said he has no intention of quitting his House seat.   The New York Democrat called his actions “a dumb thing” and admitted “lying about it,” said he never met the women he tormented with lewd correspondence and wasn’t even sure how old they were. While Weiner said he plans to stay in Congress, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called for an immediate ethics committee
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Everything new is old again: Santorum is back

The GOP fruit salad of Presidential wannabes expanded again Monday as former Republican conservative firebrand Senator Rick Santorum jumped into the fray with his usual mix of right wing hyperbole. And he’s offering more of the same. “Someone who’s been there for many, many years talking about the same issues in the same way is what a lot of folks, a lot of conservatives, are looking for,” Santorum declared in his announcement that he’s running for President. “There are things that are right and things that are wrong,” Santorum told the Associated Press in an interview. “That may not be
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