National briefs: Violence bill action taken

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WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Monday evening turned back a Republican effort to strip from the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act a provision that would expand the authority of Native American courts to prosecute non-Indians accused of abusing native women, but senators left final passage of the bill until today.

The vote, 31-59, fell largely along party lines, but four Republicans voted to preserve the expansion of tribal authority. Final passage of a reauthorized violence protection act is expected on a bipartisan vote Tuesday.

The tribal courts issue, however, remains the one true obstacle to an agreement with the Republican-controlled House.

Gays in military aided

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has agreed to expand benefits for gay and lesbian couples serving in the military, but officials continued to withhold equal access to base housing, health care and educational services.

Leon Panetta, the outgoing secretary of defense, signed an order Monday that permits same-sex partners and their dependents to use numerous family-oriented facilities and services on U.S. military bases, including recreation areas, counseling programs, school buses, child care and shopping exchanges.

2 held in killing girl, 15

CHICAGO -- Two Chicago men were charged in the shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, prosecutors said Monday.

Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, are charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, and aggravated battery with a firearm in an attack during which two other teenagers were wounded.

Chicago police picked up the two men, 18 and 20, over the weekend, hours after Michelle Obama attended the funeral for the teenager whose death has become a symbol of escalating violence in Chicago.

Hadiya was shot in a park about a mile north of President Barack Obama's Kenwood neighborhood home. The killing occurred a little more than a week after the honor student performed with the King College Prep band in Washington, D.C., during inauguration festivities.

9/11-case spying alleged

FORT MEADE, Md. -- The military judge in the Sept. 11, 2001, conspiracy case abruptly granted a defense request Monday to halt the proceedings until today after lawyers for the five accused plotters raised fresh complaints that government intelligence officials were spying on their confidential attorney-client discussions.

The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, also ordered three top prison officials at the U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to testify today before he rules whether the military trial should go forward.

Also in the nation ...

Christopher Dorner, the fugitive ex-Los Angeles police officer, was charged Monday with murdering a Riverside, Calif., officer in a potential death penalty case, but hundreds of tips triggered by a $1 million reward failed to end the manhunt. ... About 7,000 attended a memorial service Monday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL sniper who was slain last week near Glen Rose, Texas. ... With Chicago's attention focused on the painful price of gun violence, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday called on state lawmakers to increase minimum sentences for gun crimes in Illinois and to require violators to serve the bulk of those prison sentences.



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