National briefs: 6/26/14

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Utah nuptials ban is axed

DENVER — A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that conservative Utah may not ban gay couples from marrying, a decision that capped a day of victories for same-sex nuptials and nudges the issue closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Denver-based 10th Circuit marked the first time that a regional appeals court has made such a decision in the year since the Supreme Court ordered the federal government to extend benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The decision came as a federal district judge in Indiana joined a growing chorus of jurists who have struck down state gay marriage bans as unconstitutional in rulings that could substantially expand U.S. gay marriage rights if upheld.

Economy dips 2.9% in Q1

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy shrank at a steep annual rate of 2.9 percent in the January-March quarter as a harsh winter contributed to the biggest contraction since the depths of the recession five years ago. But the setback is widely thought to be temporary, with growth rebounding solidly since spring.

The first-quarter contraction reported Wednesday by the government was even more severe than the 1 percent annual decline it had estimated a month ago.

Rangel survives primary

NEW YORK — Charles Rangel, the third-longest- serving current member of the U.S. Congress, won the Democratic primary in his New York district, overcoming shifting demographic trends and clearing the way for a 23rd term.

The 84-year-old icon of black political influence defeated state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in a rematch Tuesday. Mr. Rangel took 47 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press, which called the race Wednesday. Mr. Rangel was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1970.

Bergdahl could lose pay

WASHINGTON — Army officials said Wednesday that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl might have to pay back the Pentagon wages he accrued during nearly five years of Taliban captivity if an investigation finds that he deserted his outpost in Afghanistan before his 2009 capture.

Sgt. Bergdahl hasn’t been read his rights and hasn’t requested or received a military lawyer, but anything he says during what the Pentagon calls his “reintegration” process could be used against him in the ongoing probe of his unusual case, Army officials said.

2 officials to quit VA

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that two senior officials would be leaving their posts as the department’s acting secretary moved to remake the agency and rebuild trust amid a scandal over falsified waiting lists that were used at many hospitals to hide delays faced by veterans.

The two officials are Robert Jesse, who has been serving as the department’s acting undersecretary for health, and Will Gunn, the department’s general counsel.

EPA missing emails

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it can’t find emails from a former biologist who was evaluating the impact of a large gold and copper mine proposed in southwest Alaska.

On Tuesday, the chief of the National Archives and Records Administration told Congress that the Internal Revenue Service had violated the law by not reporting a loss of records after an executive’s computer crashed.


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