National briefs: Pro-drill group donates big sum

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DENVER -- With a few days before the election, an energy trade group has donated about 32 times more than activists in four Colorado communities in a push to persuade residents to vote against limiting oil and gas drilling.

Broomfield residents are considering a five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

Political issue committees opposing the measures in the four towns made about $606,000 in monetary contributions through mid-October, with about 99 percent from the Denver-based Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

That compares with about $18,470 donated by proponents and groups supporting the limits, campaign finance reports show.

Same-sex benefits defended

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday sharply criticized U.S. states that are defying the Pentagon by refusing to allow National Guard facilities to issue ID cards that enable same-sex spouses of military members to claim benefits.

In his remarks to an Anti-Defamation League centennial dinner speech, Mr. Hagel did not name the states that are defying Pentagon policy on this issue.

But the Pentagon has cited nine: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

Horse slaughterhouses OK'd

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A federal judge on Friday cleared the way for horse slaughterhouses to resume operating in the U.S. as early as next week.

U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo threw out a lawsuit by The Humane Society of the United States, joined by other groups, that alleged the Department of Agriculture failed to conduct proper environmental studies when it issued permits to Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M., and an Iowa company to slaughter horses for human consumption.

The Humane Society, joined by the state of New Mexico, filed an appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Man blinks to ID suspect

BALTIMORE, Md. -- After Melvin Nathaniel Pate was shot in the face, he was paralyzed.

Investigators showed him a photo lineup, and unable to communicate, Pate blinked to identify Jermaine Hailes, 23, as the man who allegedly shot him in 2010. Two years later Pate, 29, died of complications from the gunshot wound.

Now, a Prince George's judge is to decide whether Pate's blinks recorded on video can be used at Hailes' trial, set for next month. If Judge Leo Green Jr. allows the video, it would be the fourth time in U.S. history that a deceased victims' nonverbal identification would be admitted as evidence in a murder case.

Crist to run as Democrat

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Former Republican governor-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist took the first step Friday toward attempting to reclaim his old job with a new party, paving the way for a bitter contest that will be one of the most watched in the nation.

Mr. Crist filed paperwork to get in the race and is now the front-runner to represent Democrats against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most unpopular chief executives in the country. Mr. Scott, though, will be well-financed and is expected to spend as much as $25 million in attack ads against Mr. Crist.

Pittsburgh to see eclipse

On Sunday, the sun will rise with a large bite taken out of it by the moon -- a partial eclipse at dawn.

Early risers as far west as Pittsburgh and Atlanta can observe the rare crescent sunrise. "They will see, near the East Coast, 60 percent of the sun covered by the moon," said Dr. Jay M. Pasachoff, a professor of astronomy at Williams College in Massachusetts. When the eclipse ends 45 minutes later, the sun will be barely above the horizon.

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