National Briefs: Study says veterans care needs aid

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SAN DIEGO -- The nation needs to better acknowledge and support the efforts of the "hidden heroes" from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: the estimated 1.1 million civilian, volunteer caregivers tending to the needs of wounded and disabled veterans, according to recommendations contained in a RAND Corp. study released Monday.

While family members and others have long cared for veterans, the veterans from two recent wars are more likely to have mental health and substance problems, making the task of providing care even more difficult, according to the study, which was funded by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

US melds POW-MIA groups

WASHINGTON -- In a bid to improve the government's accounting for missing U.S. war dead, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday he is establishing a new Pentagon agency with more focused authority and innovative approaches.

After lengthy study, Mr. Hagel decided to combine the functions of the two leading agencies in this field -- the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, based in Hawaii, and the Defense POW-MIA Office, based in the Pentagon.

Undersecretary of defense for policy Michael D. Lumpkin, who is masterminding the reorganization, said be believes a congressional requirement that at least 200 sets of remains be identified each year by 2015 is attainable with a budget close to recent levels of $100 million a year.

Senators to vote on report

WASHINGTON -- A Senate investigation concludes waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods provided no key evidence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to congressional aides and outside experts familiar with a still-secret, 6,200-page report.

The CIA disputes the conclusion. The public may soon get the chance to decide, with the Senate intelligence committee planning to vote Thursday to demand a summary be declassified.

N.M. crowds, police at odds

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A day after hundreds of people clashed with Albuquerque riot officers over police shootings, Gov. Susana Martinez said Monday she understands the public's frustration but called on protesters to remain calm while federal officials investigate.

Mayor Richard Berry said Monday that one officer twisted his knee but no protesters were hurt during the 12-hour demonstration Sunday, despite the use of tear gas on the crowd.

This protest and another last week were in response to the 37 shootings Albuquerque police have been involved in since 2010, 23 of them fatal.

Ga. bill expands gun rights

ATLANTA -- Legislation awaiting the governor's signature in Georgia would allow guns in bars, churches, airports and schools.

The National Rifle Association called the bill's passage a "historic victory for the 2nd Amendment." Americans for Responsible Solutions, founded by Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was wounded in a 2011 shooting, called it the most extreme gun bill in the nation.

Gov. Nathan Deal hasn't indicated his intentions on the bill. But many think the Republican governor, who has an A rating from the NRA, will sign it.

Wash. seeks slide funds

DARRINGTON, Wash. -- Estimated financial losses from the deadly Washington mudslide that has killed at least 24 people have reached $10 million, Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday in a letter asking the federal government for a major disaster declaration.

In seeking additional federal help following one of the deadliest landslides in U.S. history, Mr. Inslee said about 30 families need assistance.

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