National briefs: Block pipeline, Texans ask

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AUSTIN, Texas --A group of environmental advocates and Texas landowners is urging federal regulators to block Trans-Canada from starting the southern leg of its Keystone XL pipeline, while new tests and inspections are conducted and the company's construction and safety practices are investigated. The Oklahoma-to-Texas oil pipeline is nearly complete.

The activists, led by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, allege in a report released Tuesday that shoddy construction on the new line has caused more than 100 defects that TransCanada has had to fix. They believe the "anomalies," even after repairs, could leave the pipeline vulnerable to breaks and spills.

Bombing ruling this week

WASHINGTON -- Government prosecutors said Tuesday that U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz would recommend to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. this week whether Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should face the death penalty.

Mr. Tsarnaev faces 30 charges related to accusations that he worked with his older brother, Tamerlan, to detonate bombs at the marathon April 15, killing three people and injuring more than 260. (Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a firefight with the police several days later.)

Gun permits up in Newtown

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Pistol permit applications in Newtown, Conn., skyrocketed in the five months after the December Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, exceeding the entire totals for both 2011 and 2012.

The jump in Newtown, where 20 first-graders and six adults were shot and killed on Dec. 14, mirrors a statewide increase in the months following the shooting and as the Legislature was debating tougher gun control legislation.

Newtown residents applied for 183 permits from January through May of this year, a 110 percent increase from the same period last year.

Hawaii gets gay marriage

HONOLULU -- Hawaii was poised to become the 15th state to allow same-sex couples to marry after the state Senate on Tuesday sent legislation to Gov. Neil Abercrombie's desk.

After a same-sex marriage bill hit legislative roadblocks earlier this year, and after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, Gov. Abercrombie called the Legislature back into special session to pass a compromise measure. Gov. Abercrombie has said he will sign the measure.

GOP blocks Obama's pick

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans blocked another of President Barack Obama's picks for one of the nation's top courts Tuesday, the latest skirmish in a nominations battle that has intensified partisan tensions in the chamber.

The vote derailed Mr. Obama's selection of Georgetown University law professor Cornelia Pillard to fill one of three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Obama tabs Massad

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is nominating a senior Treasury Department official, Timothy G. Massad, as the new chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, an agency that polices some of Wall Street's riskiest activity.

Mr. Massad is an assistant secretary of the Treasury who oversaw the unwinding of the government's bailout program stemming from the financial crisis.

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