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Monday, Oct 20th

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Report: Obama rode elevator with armed man

US Secret servicePresident Barack Obama rode an elevator this month with an armed security contractor who had three criminal convictions, a violation of Secret Service security protocols, according to published reports.

The latest embarrassment for the Secret Service comes after agency Director Julia Pierson on Tuesday took full responsibility for a Sept. 19 breach of security when a man carrying a knife got into the White House. The Washington Examiner and The Washington Post reported that the elevator incident took place during Obama's Sept. 16 visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

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NYC mayor signs order expanding living wage law

Di BlasioMayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order on Tuesday that expanded New York City's living wage law, increasing the hourly rate to $13.13 from $11.90 for workers who do not receive benefits.

The significant expansion, which will cover thousands of previously exempt New Yorkers, fulfilled a campaign promise made by de Blasio, who became the city's first Democratic mayor in a generation when he took office in January. It strengthened a law that was approved by the City Council in 2012.

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Frac Sand Rush Threatens American Towns, Advocates Warn

Frac sandVictoria Trinko hasn't opened the windows of her Wisconsin home in two years -- for fear of the dust clouds billowing from a frac sand mine a half-mile away.

"This blowing of silica sand has not abated since the inception of the mine in 2011," Trinko, a farmer and the town clerk for Cooks Valley, Wisconsin, said during a media call on Thursday highlighting an industry proliferating alongside horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Frac sand is an essential ingredient in the process of natural gas drilling.

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Police Want to Get Rid of Their Pentagon-Issued Combat Gear. Here's Why They Can't.

police can't return weaponsAn officer with the Chelan County Sheriff's Department in central Washington is offering me a tank. Three of them, actually.

"We really want to get rid of these," Undersheriff John Wisemore says. "We've been trying to get the military to take them back since 2004."

The tanks came from a vast Defense Department grant program that has furnished American police arsenals, at no charge, with $4.3 billion worth of combat equipment leftover from two foreign wars. The tanks are amphibious, capable of firing 107-mm mortars—and not remotely useful to Wisemore's rural police department. But the county can't seem to unload them. Back in June,

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Judge rules against White House on Affordable Care Act

Obamacare rulingA federal judge in Oklahoma has ruled that Obamacare subsidies cannot go to residents of states that are not running their own insurance exchanges, a second blow to the Obama administration on a issue that threatens a key element of the health law’s coverage expansion.

Judge Ronald A. White said that the administration’s decision to allow subsidies to go through either a state-run health insurance exchange or the federal exchange is an improper and invalid reading of the Affordable Care Act and must be struck.

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European Activists Say They Don't Want Any U.S. 'Chlorine Chicken'

Europeans don't want chlorinated chickenMute Schimpf doesn't want to eat American chicken. That's because most U.S. poultry is chilled in antimicrobial baths that can include chlorine to keep salmonella and other bacteria in check. In Europe, chlorine treatment was banned in the 1990s out of fear that it could cause cancer.

"In Europe there is definitely a disgust about chlorinated chicken," says Schimpf, a food activist with Friends of the Earth Europe, an environmental group.

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Army opens Ranger School to women, a historic leap toward equality

Army Rangers accept womenFor the first time, women are being invited to apply for training with the Rangers, the elite group that the Army considers its “premier direct-action raid force.”

At this point, women will not be allowed to join the Rangers even if they complete the course; the ban on women in combat still holds. But that ban is slated to be lifted no later than January 2016, potentially opening the Rangers – and other combat roles – to qualified women.

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Gitmo hunger strikes are a cry for help. Why is the US fighting back with secret torture?

gitmo hunger strike“Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent”: so goes the slogan of the world’s most famous offshore prison. It’s an Obama-era rebrand, a bid by Gitmo’s PR people to persuade Americans that today’s is a kinder, gentler Guantánamo Bay. There’s just one wrinkle: Gitmo is stilldangerous, nasty, lawless and secretive – and the evidence just keeps piling up.

At the forefront of this war over the truth is the first-ever trial concerning the practice of force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike, due to start Monday. My client, Abu Wa’el Dhiab – a Syrian man who has never been charged, and indeed has been cleared to leave Guantánamo by the US government for more than five years – has been fighting for over a year to reform the way he and other hunger-strikers have been treated. He’s finally about to have his day in court.

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California Becomes First State To Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags

Ban the bagGov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation imposing the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, driven to action by a buildup of litter and damage to aquatic ecosystems.

A national coalition of plastic bag manufacturers immediately said it would seek a voter referendum to repeal the law, which is scheduled to take effect in July 2015.

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