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Saturday, Dec 20th

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Senate Confirms Vivek Murthy As Surgeon General Over NRA Opposition

Vivek MurthyIn a rare show of defiance of the National Rifle Association, the Senate on Monday confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as surgeon general of the United States. Murthy's nomination had been stalled for nearly a year due to comments he made in support of stricter gun laws.

Murthy is a Harvard- and Yale-educated physician, and has identified obesity and chronic disease as areas of focus for his tenure. He will be the first Indian American to hold the position.

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Senate Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill

Senate passes spending billThe Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending package Saturday night on a 56-40 bipartisan vote, after overruling an objection from Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Earlier Saturday, the Senate had voted on a short-term continuing resolution that extended their deadline to pass the spending bill. But in the evening, Senate leadership came to an agreement and the legislative body voted to move the bill forward sooner than anticipated, ending debate and allowing a vote Saturday night.

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House votes to avoid govt shutdown, passes $1 trillion spending bill

House of RepresentativesThe House of Representatives voted to pass a massive spending bill that will keep the government running into next year, narrowly avoiding a shutdown as Republicans and Democrats spent the night at odds over various provisions.

Next, the Senate will vote on the bill – the so-called “cromnibus,” which is part continuing resolution and part omnibus spending bill. If the chamber approves, it will head to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature. Obama previously said he would support the bill’s passage.

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Congressional staffers walk out over Brown, Garner decisions

Congressional staffers walk out over Brown, Garner decisionsCongressional staff members staged a walkout Thursday in protest of the recent killings of black men by police officers, both of which did not result in grand jury indictments.

They were protesting the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York as racial tension builds across the nation.

The walkout comes as both chambers attempt to pass a $1.1 trillion spending measure and avoid another government shutdown.

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Not just torture: Senator says CIA stalling over bogus intelligence that led to Iraq war

John BrennanCIA Director John Brennan, under fire over the Senate report on the CIA’s use of torture, is facing new heat over his role in what a senior lawmaker calls an apparent coverup involving bogus intelligence used by the George W. Bush administration to help justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Carl Levin, D-Mich., who’s ending 36 years in the Senate, plans to press Brennan one last time to fulfill a pledge to support the full declassification of a CIA cable debunking the claim that the leader of the 9/11 hijackers met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in the Czech capital of Prague just months before the attacks.

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Senate report on CIA torture could lead to prosecutions of Americans abroad

ICC at the HagueUS officials and military officers implicated by the Senate report on torture could face arrest in other countries as a result of investigations by their national courts, human rights lawyers said on Wednesday.

The report, released on Tuesday by the Senate intelligence committee, found the CIA misled the White House, the Justice Department, Congress and the public over a torture programme, launched in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, that was both ineffective and more brutal than the agency disclosed.

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Congressional leaders hammer out deal to allow pension plans to cut retiree benefits

US CongressA measure that would for the first time allow the benefits of current retirees to be severely cut is set to be attached to a massive spending bill, part of an effort to save some of the nation’s most distressed pension plans.

The rule would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets.

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