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Congress relaxes whole grain standards for schools

whole grain program stoppedCongress is taking some whole grains off the school lunch line.

A massive year-end spending bill released Tuesday doesn't allow schools to opt out of healthier school meal standards championed by first lady Michelle Obama, as House Republicans had sought. But it would ease standards that require more whole grains in school foods.

The bill also would put off rules to lower sodium in school meals. Those rules were supposed kick in by 2017.

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The Most Gruesome Moments in the CIA ‘Torture Report’

Torture reporthe CIA’s rendition, interrogation, and detention programs were even more nightmarish than you could imagine.

Interrogations that lasted for days on end. Detainees forced to stand on broken legs, or go 180 hours in a row without sleep. A prison so cold, one suspect essentially froze to death. The Senate Intelligence Committee is finally releasing its review of the CIA's detention and interrogation programs. And it is brutal.

Here are some of the most gruesome moments of detainee abuse from a summary of the report, obtained by The Daily Beast:

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Senate report on CIA interrogation methods has tortured history

CIA torture reportAfter a long and drawn-out process involving multiple branches of the U.S. government, the summary of an exhaustive report detailing Bush-era CIA detention and interrogation policies could be released as early as Monday. The report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) examines the CIA’s use of torture after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and looks at the efficacy of such intelligence-gathering methods.

The report, which cost the federal government more than $40 million to produce, is said to cast doubt on intelligence gains gleaned from an interrogation program that embraced torture.

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Congress takes another crack at war memorial cross

War Memorial CrossCould one of the nation's longest-running church-state conflicts be nearing a conclusion?

As part of a bill setting defense policy, Congress would authorize the defense secretary to transfer a scenic parcel of federal land in the La Jolla section of San Diego, to a private group. The parcel contains a memorial to the nation's veterans and a 43-foot-high cross that federal courts have determined is an unconstitutional effort by the government to endorse a religion.

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Kerry Puts Brakes on CIA Torture Report

KerrySecretary of State John Kerry personally phoned Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Friday morning to ask her to delay the imminent release of her committee’s report on CIA torture and rendition during the George W. Bush administration, according to administration and Congressional officials.

Kerry was not going rogue -- his call came after an interagency process that decided the release of the report early next week, as Feinstein had been planning, could complicate relationships with foreign countries at a sensitive time and posed an unacceptable risk to U.S. personnel and facilities abroad. Kerry told Feinstein he still supports releasing the report, just not right now.

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The Power of AIPAC: Congress to pass Israel partnership bill

AIPAC bill to pass congressCongress was poised to give its final approval Wednesday afternoon to a bill that supporters say will create a unique status for Israel and serve as a framework for increased partnership in a number of key sectors, particularly energy and defense.

If all goes as expected, the long-anticipated legislation will represent a significant achievement for the pro-Israel groups that pushed for its passage.

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Lawmakers make 'hands up' gesture on House floor

Hands up in CongressSeveral lawmakers took to the House floor Monday evening to make the “Hands up, don’t shoot,” gesture to protest the police shooting of the unarmed Ferguson teen, Michael Brown.

“Hands up, don’t shoot. It’s a rallying cry of people all across America who are fed up with police violence,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said as he took the floor. “In community, after community, after community, fed up with police violence in Ferguson, in Brooklyn, in Cleveland, in Oakland, in cities and counties and rural communities all across America.”

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