National briefs: Bills target the economy

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WASHINGTON -- Democrats in the Senate rolled out an election-year agenda Wednesday in an appeal to middle-class voters. It includes new tax breaks for college and child care, and expanded refunds for lower-income workers.

Democrats also will push for votes on extending unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour as President Barack Obama has proposed.

Republicans argue that the best way to help middle-class families would be to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, House Republicans' conservative bloc unveiled an agenda largely based on rolling back government regulations they say impede business expansion.

Neither package of bills is expected to gain much traction in Congress, where the parties remain deeply divided over the best approach to stubborn unemployment, low wages and too few new jobs.

Charlotte mayor resigns

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mayor Patrick Cannon has resigned effective immediately just hours after he was charged with federal public corruption and bribery, a city spokesman said.

Mr. Cannon, 47, is accused of accepting more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do work with North Carolina's largest city.

A criminal complaint from the U.S. Attorney says the Democrat, who has been mayor for six months, accepted cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and the use of a luxury apartment as bribes and solicited more than $1 million more.

Mudslide search continues

DARRINGTON, Wash. -- Search crews using dogs, bulldozers and their bare hands kept slogging through the mess of broken wood and mud again Wednesday, looking for more bodies or anyone who might still be alive nearly five days after a wall of fast-moving earth destroyed a small rural community.

But authorities have acknowledged they might have to leave some victims buried -- 24 bodies have been found after the slide that swept through a rural area north of Seattle on Saturday, though not all had been removed from the area. Dozens of people remain unaccounted for, although that number is expected to go down.

Airport security review

LOS ANGELES -- The Transportation Security Administration recommended Wednesday that armed law enforcement officers be posted at airport security checkpoints and ticket counters during peak hours after a review of last year's fatal shooting at Los Angeles International Airport.

The 25-page report to Congress makes 14 recommendations that do not carry a price tag and are somewhat dependent on local authorities who provide airport security.

While airport security has been beefed up since 9/11, the shooting exposed communication problems and gaps in police patrols that left an LAX terminal without an armed officer for nearly 31/2 minutes as a gunman targeted TSA officers with a rifle Nov. 1.

TSA conducted the review of nearly 450 airports nationwide.

Immigration overhaul pushed

WASHINGTON -- As the minority party, House Democrats have little power to move legislation over Republican objections, but they launched a long-shot effort Wednesday to push House Speaker John Boehner to bring an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws to a vote.

The maneuver began with a news conference on the steps of the Capitol and continued as Democrats tried to round up 218 lawmakers' signatures on a discharge petition that would force the vote. And it hit a crescendo when Democratic lawmakers one by one stood on the House floor pleading with GOP leadership to give the bill a chance.

Even President Barack Obama weighed in, shifting blame away from his administration's policies. The House bill is similar to a Senate-passed effort, and Obama noted that most Americans support an overhaul.

Also in the nation ...

The operator of the Chicago Transit Authority train that jumped the platform and climbed an escalator at the O'Hare airport station has admitted to dozing off at the controls, and that she had been admonished last month when she also fell asleep and missed a stop, officials said Wednesday. ... An Atlantic storm whipped the Northeast corridor with powerful wind gusts Wednesday while creating blizzard conditions in parts of Massachusetts and Maine. In West Virginia, two people were killed in a traffic pileup blamed on poor visibility caused by snow.

-- Compiled from news services

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