National briefs: U.S. budget gap narrows

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government posted a 38 percent smaller budget deficit in the 10 months through July than a year earlier, even as the shortfall last month was wider than economists forecast, the Treasury Department said.

Outlays exceeded receipts by $97.6 billion last month, compared with a $69.6 billion shortfall in July 2012, the Treasury said today in Washington. The result partly reflects a difference in the timing of payments in July last year versus this year.

In the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the Obama administration projects the federal deficit will shrink to $759 billion, the smallest gap in five years as a stronger economy bolsters revenue.

Pipeline protest at State

WASHINGTON -- More than 100 Keystone XL pipeline critics protested outside the State Department for the first time Monday, arguing that the government's analysis of the project is biased and flawed.

The complaints focused in part on ERM Group Inc., the contractor hired by the State Department for an environmental impact statement on the $5.3 billion pipeline by TransCanada Corp., and its work on a joint venture that included TransCanada as a partner.

Sinkhole under resort

ORLANDO -- Officials were trying to determine the extent of the damage after a building in a resort community near Walt Disney World partially collapsed into a sinkhole early Monday.

The Summer Bay Resort complex in Clermont, Fla., was stable by midafternoon. Less than an hour passed between the first emergency call around midnight and the collapse into the sinkhole, which was estimated to be as big as 60 feet across and 15 feet deep.

Voter ID bill signed

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday signed into law a bill requiring voters to produce a photo ID when they go to the polls, a measure that was hailed by Republicans as a means for heightening ballot security but which was criticized by Democrats as a thinly disguised effort at voter suppression.

The measure also reduces the early voting period by a week, ends early voting on Sunday, ends same-day voter registration, and does away with pre-registration of 16- and 17-year olds.

North Carolina became one of 34 states with some form of voter ID law.

Witnesses relive horror

KILLEEN, Texas -- Inside a Fort Hood courtroom here last week, the terror and mayhem of one of the deadliest shootings at an Army base in U.S. military history slowly and painfully unfolded.

Witnesses said that, after wounding soldiers once or twice, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot them again as they lay on the floor or crouched behind partitions. Some he shot in the back. Staff Sgt. Alonzo M. Lunsford Jr., the first victim who testified Tuesday, told of being shot at as he lay bleeding outside and was being given first aid.

Despite the gripping testimony, the court sessions proceeded for the most part with the detached emotions and button-down decorum of a court-martial.

-- Compiled from news services



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