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Fla. lawmaker looks to ease Social Security penalty for stay-at-home moms

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WASHINGTON -- While Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders advocate equal pay for women, a second-term member of the House of Representatives from South Florida is focused on helping them get higher Social Security benefits when they retire.

Legislation introduced Wednesday by Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat, ...Read more

Sen. Dianne Feinstein tries yet again with California water bill

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WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday relaunched a big California water bill, in what might be cast as the triumph of hope over experience.

Unveiling her third proposal in the past two years for ways to divide California's water supply among many competing interests, Feinstein packaged her latest 184-page measure as a ...Read more

4 things to watch for in the Democrats' debate

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WASHINGTON -- Get ready for Round 2.

Thursday's presidential debate will mark only the second time that Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have engaged in a one-on-one faceoff. The first time, a week ago, was a combative debate that left both sides reeling from attacks.

With the Iowa and New Hampshire ...Read more

In Maryland, 2 sheriff's deputies killed in shooting

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BALTIMORE -- Two Harford County, Md., sheriff's deputies have died after a shooting both inside and near a restaurant in Abingdon late Wednesday morning, the head of the department said.

Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler didn't immediately identify the officers, and asked for "respect and patience during this difficult time for our agency."

He said the ...Read more

Department of Justice sues Ferguson over police practices

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ST. LOUIS -- The Department of Justice filed a 56-page lawsuit against the city of Ferguson on Wednesday afternoon, citing "a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights, privileges or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States."

The lawsuit came one day after the Ferguson City Council ...Read more

Suicide bombers target refugee camp in Nigeria, killing at least 60

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LAGOS, Nigeria -- At least 60 people were killed when two suicide bombers detonated explosives in a camp for internally displaced people in northeastern Nigeria, relief workers said Wednesday.

The attacks were carried out by two teenage girls in Dikwa, about 55 miles northeast of Maiduguri in Borno state, as hundreds of people stood in line to ...Read more

Black votes matter now in Democratic presidential race

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MANCHESTER, N.H.--Hillary Clinton's allies in the black community moved aggressively Wednesday to shore up her support with minority voters following her crushing defeat in New Hampshire, as Sen. Bernie Sanders worked to win over the black and Latino voters who will now be crucial to the outcome of their contest.

Sanders lost little time moving...Read more

Zika virus found in fetal brain

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The Zika virus, thought to be responsible for a surge in birth defects in Brazil, has been found inside the abnormally small brain of an aborted fetus at roughly 29 weeks of gestation, a team of researchers reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

An autopsy of the aborted fetus revealed a brain that had virtually none of the ...Read more

Wistful Obama calls for 'better politics' of civility in return to Springfield, Ill.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- In a memory-filled return to the place that launched his political career, President Barack Obama told Illinois lawmakers Wednesday that they and the nation should insist on a "better politics" based on civility and compromise as a cure to the "poisonous political climate" that pushes citizens away.

Speaking for an hour at ...Read more

As race turns to South Carolina, Graham settles into role of Bush campaign sidekick

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WASHINGTON -- This should have been Lindsey Graham's moment -- a South Carolina Republican senator running for president on the eve of the Palmetto State's crucial Feb. 20 GOP primary. Leading up to 2016 the issues in the spotlight even broke his way, with the looming threat of the Islamic State and other foreign-policy matters commanding ...Read more

Can US businesses help India's chaotic cities become 'smart'?

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MUMBAI, India -- Among his many ambitious ideas, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to modernize his country's pell-mell cities and improve its sometimes frosty ties with the United States.

Modi's plan to build 100 "smart cities" nationwide brings the initiatives together, with the goal of using technology from the U.S. and around the ...Read more

Syria talks at make-or-break point as humanitarian disaster widens

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WASHINGTON -- U.S. officials see Thursday's attempt to renew negotiations on Syria as a make-or-break moment that could lead to a cease-fire or to a disastrously downward spiral in an already brutal war.

World powers will convene in Munich, including allies of the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad, principally Russia, and those who ...Read more

Carly Fiorina ends presidential campaign with message to young girls

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After poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, Carly Fiorina announced Wednesday she is ending her presidential bid.

"I've said throughout this campaign that I will not sit down and be quiet. I'm not going to start now," she said in a statement. "While I suspend my candidacy today, I will continue to travel this country and fight for those ...Read more

Pennsylvania state Senate rejects removal of attorney general

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane escaped potential removal from office Wednesday after the Republican majority in the state Senate failed to pick up the few Democratic votes they needed to oust her.

In urging her removal, Republicans -- and one Democrat -- said that the state Supreme Court's suspension of her law ...Read more

Political news briefs

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One of the most unconventional and unpredictable presidential campaigns in modern U.S. history descended Wednesday on South Carolina, gearing up to test the state's near-perfect record for picking eventual Republican winners.

"South Carolina usually corrects the mistakes from the first two states," joked Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina ...Read more

Republican candidates have already tripled 2012 South Carolina ad spending

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Republican presidential candidates and outside groups supporting them have already poured an estimated $24 million into political ads in South Carolina, nearly triple the amount spent on the party's entire primary there in 2012. And there are still 10 days to go.

Almost half of that spending -- $11.6 million -- has come from Right to Rise USA, ...Read more

Ex-LA County sheriff to plead guilty in jail scandal, his attorney says

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LOS ANGELES -- Retired Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca will plead guilty in a downtown courtroom Wednesday to making false statements, marking a dramatic turn in the ongoing federal investigation into corruption in the Sheriff's Department.

According to a charging document filed by federal prosecutors Wednesday morning, Baca lied twice ...Read more

Yellen indicates Fed could delay interest rate hikes

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WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday that risks are rising for the U.S. economy and indicated central bank policymakers could delay expected interest rate hikes if incoming data show problems increasing.

In her first public comments since mid-December, Yellen said in prepared remarks for a much-anticipated House ...Read more

Secret government payload launched into orbit from California base

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LOS ANGELES -- A rocket carrying a government payload was successfully launched early Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's Central Coast, officials said.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket was carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, which develops and operates satellites used for ...Read more

John McCain joins call to register women for the draft

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WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is the latest to say that women should be registering for the draft.

While there's no expectation the U.S. military will return to conscription any time soon, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is siding with service chiefs who say that with all combat roles opened to women, the ...Read more