National briefs: Military sex assaults spike

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WASHINGTON -- Reports of sexual assault in the military increased sharply during the last fiscal year, new Pentagon figures showed Wednesday, just weeks before a defense bill with provisions to tackle the problem is expected to reach the Senate floor.

There were 3,553 sexual assault complaints reported to the Defense Department in the first three quarters of the fiscal year, from October 2012 through June, a nearly 50 percent increase over the same period a year earlier. Defense Department officials said the numbers had continued to rise.

The numbers included sexual assaults by civilians on service members and by service members on civilians. Sexual assault was defined in the report as rape, sodomy and other unwanted sexual contact, including touching of private body parts.

Food labeling rejected

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Some of the nation's major food companies declared victory Wednesday over an initiative in Washington state that would have required labeling of some foods that contain biotech ingredients.

With roughly 990,000 votes counted, Washington residents appeared to reject mandatory labeling of genetically engineered products, with 55 percent voting against the initiative and 45 percent for it.

Skakel's jail release fight

VERNON, Conn. -- It was not the decision Michael Skakel and his lawyers were hoping for Wednesday, but Judge Thomas Bishop did pave the way for the Kennedy cousin to eventually be released on bail after overturning Skakel's conviction for the 1975 murder of Greenwich, Conn., teen Martha Moxley.

Judge Bishop said releasing Skakel on bail was beyond his purview, and said a judge in Stamford, Conn., where the case will be sent for a new trial, would have to make that decision.

Union's immigration push

WASHINGTON -- The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, will air at least $1 million in advertisements against House Republicans, including Whip Kevin McCarthy, for blocking a rewrite of U.S. immigration laws.

The ads will be broadcast in Spanish and target congressional districts with large Latino constituencies, the group said Wednesday in a statement. Mr. McCarthy's district, which includes Bakersfield, Calif., is about 36 percent Hispanic.

'84 hijacker back in U.S.

MIAMI -- An American who hijacked an airliner to Cuba nearly 30 years ago as a self-described revolutionary flew back home Wednesday to face U.S. justice.

FBI agents took William Potts, 56, into custody shortly after his charter flight from Havana landed at Miami International Airport, said FBI spokesman Mike Leverock. Mr. Potts faces a 1985 federal indictment charging him with air piracy for hijacking a Piedmont Airlines flight in 1984.

In interviews prior to leaving Cuba, Mr. Potts said he was seeking "closure."

Also in the nation ...

Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez was arrested Wednesday in Tampa, Fla., becoming the third senior U.S. Navy official to be held in connection with a massive bribery scheme in Asia involving prostitutes and luxury travel. ... Michael Sestak, 42, a Foreign Service official accused of selling hundreds of visas to residents of Vietnam, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to charges of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering.


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