Nation Briefs: Congress gets debt warning Congress gets debt warning

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WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew formally told congressional leaders Thursday they must raise the debt limit by early March at the latest, warning that the government has less ability to postpone a potential default than in the past.

Some top Republicans have said in recent days they plan to try to get concessions from the Obama administration in exchange for raising the $16.7 trillion debt limit, which was suspended last fall until Feb. 7.

New Iran curbs pushed

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of 26 senators Thursday introduced legislation calling for tough new Iran sanctions that the Obama administration warned could deal a death blow to upcoming negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program.

A group that includes top Democrats introduced a measure that would tighten economic sanctions on Iran if it doesn't cooperate in the upcoming talks, and also sets a minimum requirement for a final deal to curb the nation's nuclear development activities.

Deportations fall in '13

WASHINGTON -- The number of immigrants deported from the country decreased this year for the first time since President Barack Obama came into office, according to figures released Thursday.

About 369,000 immigrants were deported in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30. That was about a 10 percent decline from the previous year, when immigration agents sent 409,847 people out of the country.

Superfund site fire

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A large industrial fire at a federal Superfund site in central Tennessee was almost completely contained Thursday night, a day and a half after it started.

Kevin Eichinger, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on-scene coordinator, said officials were continuing to monitor air quality around the site in rural Hickman County, about 45 miles southwest of Nashville. The fire was about 95 percent contained.

Division of Detroit duties

DETROIT -- The city's emergency manager and its mayor-elect announced a plan Thursday to divide responsibilities for running the government, as Detroit reorganizes under federal bankruptcy laws.

The agreement between Kevyn Orr, the state-appointed emergency manager, and Mike Duggan, who becomes Detroit's mayor next month, establishes guidelines and specific duties for managing city operations.

Murder trial ruled

DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. -- A Detroit-area man who fatally shot a drunk, unarmed woman on his porch will stand trial for second-degree murder, a judge said Thursday, rejecting a self-defense argument for the killer's "bad choice."

There is no dispute that Theodore Wafer shot Renisha McBride, 19, through the screen of his front door in the early hours of Nov. 2. His attorneys said the 54-year-old man feared for his life, but Dearborn Heights Judge David Turfe said there were other ways to protect himself, including a phone call for help.

New delay in 9/11 case

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- A military judge on Thursday ordered a mental competency evaluation for a Guantanamo prisoner charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Ramzi Binalshibh has repeatedly disrupted pretrial proceedings in recent days, freezing preparations for a trial that has already been plagued by delays.

Prison escape charges

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A Florida man was charged with helping his brother's killer and another murderer escape from prison with bogus court documents, authorities said Thursday in announcing more charges in the scheme.

Willie Slater Jr. helped Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins escape from a Panhandle prison this fall because he owed Jenkins a favor, the authorities said.

-- Compiled from news services

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