Natrional Briefs / Plastic gun ban extension advances

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WASHINGTON -- The House voted Tuesday to extend a law banning firearms that can pass undetected through airport X-ray machines, but left out provisions that law enforcement officials say are necessary to combat the growing threat of guns made with 3-D printers.

The legislation was approved overwhelmingly on a voice vote, meaning that House members on both sides of a politically sensitive gun-safety issue avoided having their individual votes officially recorded.

The focus now shifts to the Senate, where Democrats will introduce a stricter measure of their own next week, along with the extension the House passed. But they are expected to act Monday, the day the law expires.

Engineer investigated

NEW YORK -- Hours after crews cleared derailed cars from the scene of Sunday's fatal Metro-North Railroad crash in the Bronx, investigators Tuesday turned a closer eye toward the engineer's possible inattention before the derailment.

A law enforcement official briefed on an account provided by the engineer, William Rockefeller, said that Mr. Rockefeller did not appear to have been fully focused shortly before his train barreled into a sharp curve at 82 mph -- nearly three times the speed allowed through the curve, just north of the Spuyten Duyvil station.

Four people were killed and more than 70 were injured in the crash Sunday morning.

Fast-food workers to strike

NEW YORK -- Fast-food workers in about 100 cities, including Pittsburgh, will walk off the job Thursday, organizers say, which would mark the largest effort yet in a push for higher pay.

The actions are intended to build on a campaign that began about a year ago to call attention to the difficulties of living on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or about $15,000 a year for a full-time employee.

Protesters are calling for $15 an hour, although many see the figure as a rallying point rather than a near-term possibility.

Tablets on the tables

GLENDALE, Calif. -- How to deal with boredom at the table and long waits for the check while dining out? Applebee's is betting on 100,000 tablets. The casual dining chain is planning to install the technology at every table and many bars at its more than 1,800 locations by the end of 2014.

The E La Carte Presto tablets -- powered by Intel -- will allow patrons to pay from their seats while also adding food and beverages to their existing orders. A pilot program helped customers save time, according to DineEquity, Applebee's Glendale, Calif.-based parent company.

Eventually, the gadgets also will feature an expanded lineup of games, video streaming capabilities, music options, gift card sales and social media interaction.

Also in the nation ...

The Illinois Legislature approved a historic plan Tuesday to eliminate the state's $100 billion pension shortfall, a long-delayed decision proponents described as critical to repairing the state's deeply troubled finances but one that faces the threat of a legal challenge from labor unions. The measure now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who said he expects to sign it promptly. ... Eager to find new revenues to fend off automatic spending cuts next month, Republicans in Washington are embracing an increase to the so-called Sept. 11 security fee on U.S. airline tickets they've long resisted. The Department of Homeland Security proposed raising the fee in its 2013 budget request to $5 per one-way trip, no matter how many stops, up from $2.50 per flight segment.

-- Compiled from news services



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