National Briefs: General takes plea bargain

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- A military judge accepted guilty pleas Monday in the sexual assault case of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair in a deal that allowed him to admit lesser charges in exchange for the dismissal of far more serious charges.

The hearing Monday at Fort Bragg was the latest development in the prosecution of Gen. Sinclair in the military's most closely watched sexual assault case.

The general, who could have faced life in prison if convicted on the sexual assault charges, will almost certainly receive a far lighter sentence, but will be required to leave the military.

U.S. seeks later XP date

WASHINGTON -- The deadline for installing secure operating systems on federal government computers will pass next month with the job incomplete, leaving hundreds of thousands of machines running outdated software and unusually vulnerable to hackers.

Federal officials have known for more than six years that Microsoft will withdraw its free support for Windows XP on April 8. Security experts warn that hackers have been preparing for what Microsoft calls the "end-of-life" for Windows XP by stockpiling "vulnerabilities" that can give intruders remote access.

Some federal officials said they asked Microsoft to extend its deadline. The company declined and instead offered -- for new fees -- "custom support agreements."

Court to hear protest case

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court later this month will consider a case filed against Secret Service agents related to a 2004 protest of President George W. Bush.

Secret Service agents Tim Wood and Rob Savage gave the order for local law enforcement in Jacksonville, Fla., to move 200 or so protesters farther away from where Mr. Bush was eating dinner. But a group of Bush supporters, who gathered on the opposite street corner from the protesters, were allowed to stay.

Normally, agents are immune from lawsuits that arise from the actions they take to protect the president. But lower courts have said the suit can go forward. The group makes a plausible argument, they said, that the agents violated the right to free speech when they moved the Bush protesters but not the Bush supporters.

Lobbyists cool on wage hike

The odds that Congress will pass an increase in the U.S. minimum wage before the November elections are so low that even the nation's lobbyists are largely ignoring it.

The proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 is being pushed by President Barack Obama, by U.S. Senate candidates in at least six states, and in campaign commercials in four states. Still, little pressure is being applied in Congress, nine senators said in interviews.

Instead, advocacy groups see the legislation as the beginning of a broader campaign that may span years. In at least eight states so far this year, a proposed increase in the state pay floor has cleared either the Senate or House, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Deal reached in assault case

CHICAGO -- Charles Oliver, who was accused of raping eight women he met on Craigslist and other dating sites, pleaded guilty to two more counts of sexual assault Monday.

Convicted by a McHenry County, Ill., jury last month in the first case, Oliver agreed to the plea deal and now stands to receive a prison term of 20 to 93 years when he's sentenced in May.

In exchange for his guilty plea, the state's attorney's office agreed to end the remaining cases against him and not prosecute him for any additional victims, should they be identified.

-- Compiled from news services

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