National briefs: Supreme Court declines cases

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WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear closely watched cases on gay rights, campaign finance and lethal injections. As is their custom, the justices gave no reasons for turning down the appeals.

The gay rights case, Elane Photography v. Willock, No. 13-585, was an appeal from a wedding photographer in New Mexico who asserted a constitutional right to refuse to provide her services to gay and lesbian couples.

The justices also declined to hear a campaign finance case, Iowa Right to Life Committee v. Tooker, No. 13-407, which was a challenge to an Iowa law that bans contributions from corporations but allows them from unions.

Additionally, the Supreme Court declined to hear two cases concerning whether death row inmates have a constitutional right to know what chemicals states plan to use to execute them.

Users lobby for medical pot

WASHINGTON -- Medical marijuana users took their complaints to Congress on Monday.

Concluding a three-day conference in Washington, the group Americans for Safe Access organized 200 medical marijuana advocates from 37 states for its second annual lobbying day on Capitol Hill, lining up more than 300 meetings with legislative offices.

Pot backers say Congress needs to get involved to resolve a growing conflict between state and federal laws.

In January, President Barack Obama said reclassifying marijuana and making it legal in any way "is a job for Congress."

In February, 18 members of the U.S. House of Representatives told Mr. Obama in a letter he should use his executive power to make the change.

Argument preceded shooting

FORT HOOD, Texas -- The Fort Hood soldier suspected of killing three people and wounding 16 others last week began his eight-minute rampage on the sprawling Texas Army post after an argument related to taking leave, military investigators said Monday.

Army spokesman Chris Grey didn't indicate during a brief news conference whether Spc. Ivan Lopez was granted the leave or the circumstances behind the request. The shooting spree Wednesday ended when Lopez killed himself with his .45-caliber pistol.

A spokesman for Lopez's family said last week that Lopez was upset he was granted only a 24-hour leave to attend his mother's funeral in November. That leave was then extended to two days.

Engineer had sleep disorder

NEW YORK -- The engineer of a Metro-North train that derailed in December after speeding into a tight curve, killing four passengers, suffered from a "severe" sleep disorder, investigators said Monday in a report after the train operator's admission that he "zoned out" shortly before the wreck.

A report from the National Transportation Safety Board included a detailed account of engineer William Rockefeller's medical reports, and the transcript of an interview investigators did with Mr. Rockefeller two days after the Dec. 1, 2013, crash of the Metro-North Railroad train.

Firm drops mine project

WASHINGTON -- Global mining giant Rio Tinto is pulling out of the Pebble Mine project in Alaska, the latest blow to the controversial plan to build an open pit mine in the best wild salmon stronghold in the world.

Rio Tinto's decision comes after the Environmental Protection Agency moved closer in recent weeks to blocking the Pebble Mine. Now Rio Tinto is abandoning the effort, saying Monday, "The Pebble Project does not fit with Rio Tinto's strategy."

-- Compiled from news services

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