National briefs: Airline merger said to advance

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DALLAS -- American Airlines and US Airways will merge and create the world's biggest airline, with the boards of both companies approving the merger late Wednesday, according to four people close to the situation.

The carrier keeps the American Airlines name but will be run by US Airways CEO Doug Parker. American's CEO, Tom Horton, will become chairman of the new company, these people said.

A formal announcement is expected this morning.

American has been restructuring under bankruptcy protection since late 2011. Together, American and US Airways will be slightly bigger than United Airlines.

Immigration hearing

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republican leaders on Wednesday demonstrated the fissures that continue to linger over proposals to overhaul the nation's immigration laws.

The upper chamber's first hearing on comprehensive immigration overhaul revealed some Republicans' strong fears that border security will be left by the wayside in any agreement.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified on behalf of a comprehensive package. She called the "'border security first' refrain" an excuse that ignored beefed-up border patrols.

Cyber-espionage addressed

WASHINGTON -- Obama administration officials and lawmakers agreed Wednesday that America is losing an aggressive cyber-espionage campaign waged from China.

They vowed to push legislation that would make it easier for the government and industry to share information about who is getting hacked and what to do about it.

Hagel confirmation stalls

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans refused to allow a vote Wednesday on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to lead the Defense Department, staging the first filibuster against a president's choice to head the Pentagon since the agency was created.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the move "a shame" and filed a motion to end the filibuster, which he said he expected to vote on Friday.

Lew's frosty reception

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans pressed President Barack Obama's choice to head the Treasury Department on Wednesday over an investment in a Cayman Islands fund as well as a bonus deal that came as his then-employer Citigroup was about to need a taxpayer bailout and just before he left the bank to return to the government.

Jacob Lew's confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee lived up to expectations that he would face a frosty reception.

Setback for Brennan

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Intelligence Committee will delay voting to confirm John Brennan as CIA director as the panel's Democratic chairwoman demanded Wednesday that the White House turn over more details about lethal drone strikes on terror suspects and last September's attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left the U.S. ambassador there and three other Americans dead.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said the vote likely will be pushed off until late February.

Also in the nation ...

Carnival Cruise Lines canceled a dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and acknowledged Wednesday that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before an engine-room fire left it powerless in the Gulf of Mexico. ... Army Col. John Vincent Bogdan, the top security officer at the detainee compound on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, testified Wednesday at Fort Meade, Md., that prison cells for high-value inmates and a special visitation room include monitoring equipment that the FBI had installed and later turned over for use by U.S. intelligence officials.



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