National briefs: Obama putting on the charm

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama pressed ahead Thursday with his bipartisan political outreach, eliciting a cautious welcome in a capital that has been riven by gridlock and partisanship over how to lower deficits and stabilize the nation's debt.

Mr. Obama had the Republican House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan, and the committee's top Democrat, Chris Van Hollen, to lunch at the White House, a day after he dined with a dozen Republican senators in what the White House said was an effort to find common ground with rank-and-file lawmakers.

U.S. pulls Egyptian's award

WASHINGTON -- The State Department on Thursday backed off its decision to honor a young woman for her bravery in the Egyptian uprising after it emerged that she had quoted Adolf Hitler on Jews, celebrated a suicide bombing and posted anti-American commentary on her Twitter account.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that officials would defer the presentation of a Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award to Samira Ibrahim, 26, who faced death threats after taking on Egypt's powerful generals in court over the forced "virginity tests" of 17 women protesters who were detained in March 2011.

Text message spam

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on text message spam, announcing Thursday it has filed eight complaints against 29 defendants in courts around the U.S.

The agency said the defendants bombarded consumers with more than 180 million text messages that often promised "free" $1,000 gift cards to popular retailers but then required consumers to pay for a subscription to a service, apply for credit or enter sensitive personal information before they could get their gift card.

Fatal lion attack probed

DUNLAP, Calif. -- A lion used a paw to lift a partially closed door and escape a smaller cage before attacking and killing a 24-year-old intern cleaning a larger enclosure at a privately owned zoo, the Fresno County coroner's office said Thursday.

Coroner David Hadden said investigators told him that the 5-year-old, 550-pound African lion had been fed Wednesday when he charged at Dianna Hanson of suburban Seattle, breaking her neck and killing her with an apparent paw swipe.

Nuke plant safety targeted

WASHINGTON -- Nearly 1 in 6 U.S. nuclear reactors experienced safety breaches last year due in part to poor oversight by federal regulators, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Incidents including a cooling water leak and unusual wear on steam generator tubes were reported at 16 units owned by companies including Entergy and Edison International, the Cambridge, Mass.-based environmental group said in its third annual report on reactor safety released Thursday.

Also in the nation ...

A federal judge has struck down an Idaho law prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks, ruling that the so-called fetal pain law violates U.S. Supreme Court prohibitions against unduly impeding a woman's ability to seek an abortion before her fetus is able to live outside the womb. ... Trans-Canada faced court arguments Thursday from Texas landowners that its plans for the Keystone XL pipeline to transport Canadian tar-sands oil to coastal refineries don't give it the right to condemn their property.



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