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Obama to sign farm bill today at Michigan State
Written by NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press   
Friday, 07 February 2014 07:32

WASHINGTON (AP) β€” President Barack Obama is carrying out a presidential duty that he hasn't had a lot of opportunity to perform recently: signing into law a major piece of bipartisan legislation.

Obama planned to sign a far-reaching farm bill Friday at Michigan State University, a rare celebration of Washington political compromise being held in heartland America. The bill expands federal crop insurance and ends direct government payments to farmers, but the bulk of its cost is for the food stamp program that aids 1 in 7 Americans.

The bill cuts food stamps by $800 million a year, or around 1 percent, one-fifth of the cut approved last fall by the Republican-led House. Conservatives remain unhappy with the bill and its subsidies for groups ranging from sheep farmers to the maple syrup industry.

A partisan dispute over food stamp spending held up the legislation for two years, and last fall lawmakers were warning of an impending spike in milk prices without a deal on the bill, which contains federal dairy supports. The prospect of compromise seemed bleak at the time, when lawmakers couldn't even pass a budget to keep the government running.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 February 2014 08:43
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Unemployment bill stalled anew in Senate
Written by DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent   
Friday, 07 February 2014 07:29

WASHINGTON (AP) β€” Senate Republicans narrowly blocked the advance of legislation to restore benefits for the long-term unemployed on Thursday for the second time in less than a month, and Democrats said they intended to call yet another vote on the issue.

"We're one Republican vote away from restoring unemployment benefits for 1.7 million Americans," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said.

The White House called the outcome disappointing.

The measure called for a three-month renewal of an expired program that provided up to 47 weeks of federal benefits when state-paid aid runs out, generally after 26 weeks. The cost was estimated at slightly more than $6 billion over a decade. It would have been offset by lowering pension obligations for some companies, a step that would have increased their taxable income.

The vote was 58-40, two shy of the 60 that backers of the measure needed to prevail. That understated the measure's true support, because Reid sided with opponents at the last minute in a maneuver that will permit him to have the issue reconsidered under the Senate's rules.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 February 2014 07:31
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After 22 years, Leno gave 'Tonight' his farewell
Written by FRAZIER MOORE, AP Television Writer   
Friday, 07 February 2014 07:23

NEW YORK (AP) β€” Make way for Jimmy Fallon,

"Tonight Show" host Jay Leno ended a stellar if sometimes stormy run Thursday night with high emotion at concluding what he termed "the greatest 22 years of my life."

Calling himself "the luckiest guy in the world," Leno went out on top, which was where he stayed for most of his stretch as the successor to "King of Late Night" Johnny Carson.

His exit, not entirely by choice, now clears the deck for yet another chapter of the 60-year-old talk show, with Fallon taking over as "Tonight" moves back to New York from its longtime Los Angeles home on Feb. 17.

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Police: Art thief among 2 held in violin heist
Written by DINESH RAMDE, Associated Press M.L. JOHNSON, Associated Press   
Friday, 07 February 2014 07:25

MILWAUKEE (AP) β€” The mystery of what happened to a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen in a stun gun attack was answered Thursday when Milwaukee police recovered the instrument and blamed the heist at least in part on an art thief who once stole a statue from a gallery and then tried to sell it back.

The violin, which was built in 1715 by the renowned Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari, is valued at $5 million. It was found hidden in a suitcase in the attic of a man who police said was unaware the instrument was in his home.

Three people have been arrested in the case, and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said there was no evidence of other "shadowy" figures from the art world behind the theft.

"It appears we had a local criminal who had an interest in art theft and was smart enough to develop a plan for a robbery," Flynn said. "Beyond that, we don't know what his motive was."

The violin, which police said appeared to be in good condition, was stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun. His attacker grabbed the violin and hopped into a waiting vehicle.

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Boehner: 'We're not going to default' on debt
Written by ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press   
Thursday, 06 February 2014 14:44

WASHINGTON (AP) β€” House Speaker John Boehner promised Thursday that the GOP-controlled House won't miss a late-February deadline to increase the government's borrowing cap.

"Look, we do not want to default on our debt, and we're not going to default on our debt," Boehner said.

The Ohio Republican held open the possibility that the House could consider a debt limit increase that's "clean" of any GOP add-ons.

Boehner is struggling to win enough support among Republicans to pass a debt limit measure without help from Democrats. He has already discarded adding provisions to the must-pass measure such as a mandate that the Obama administration approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

The government reaches its borrowing limit on Friday, and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is employing bookkeeping maneuvers to buy a few weeks' time for Congress to act. Lifting the cap on the government's more than $17 trillion debt is needed to permit the government to meet all of its obligations, including Social Security benefits, interest payments on U.S. treasuries, federal workers' salaries and payments to federal contractors. Failing to do so would be unprecedented and, experts warn, could roil financial markets and the economy.

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