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March 9, 2011 at 10:07 PM
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Wisconsin GOP passes union bill

MADISON, Wis., March 9 (UPI) -- Protests intensified in Madison, Wis., Wednesday after the state Senate used a parliamentary move to pass a collective bargaining bill with no Democrats voting.

The vote was 18-1, with one Republican senator voting against the measure to strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees.

State Senate Republicans voted earlier Wednesday to send Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill to a joint Senate-Assembly conference committee that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said had been formed only hours before the vote. The vote came over protests by Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca that it was being conducted in violation of a state law requiring most government bodies to provide 24 hours notice before meeting, the newspaper said.

Barca was still arguing his case when Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald polled the members and then ordered the meeting adjourned. Senate Republicans then approved the bill amid cries of "Shame on you!" by protesters in the gallery.

The Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill at 11 a.m. CST Thursday.

Walker, in a statement, said he applauded "the Legislature's action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government."

"The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused," Walker said.

Shortly after news of the Senate vote, protesters in Madison tried to get into the Capitol, pounding on doors as security guards struggled to keep them out. As protesters chanted "Let us in!," "Shame!," "This is not democracy!" and "You lied to Wisconsin!"

Video aired on MSNBC showed a few people climbing through a window to gain entry to the building.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller told the Journal Sentinel Republicans will face court challenges and recalls over the vote.

"The people I don't think knew what they were getting when they voted last November, so there will be a do-over" he said.

The Wisconsin State Journal said it was not immediately apparent how the Senate was able to move the bill forward. The Wisconsin Senate had been unable to take action on the budget bill since all 14 Democratic members left the state Feb. 17, depriving the Senate of a necessary quorum.

GOP leaders had held out the possibility that removing fiscal considerations from Walker's bill would enable the Senate to vote on collective bargaining legislation without the Democrats, the Journal reported. Walker and Fitzgerald have maintained collective bargaining issues could not be separated from the budget bill.

Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach said Wednesday's maneuver shows Republicans "have been lying. Their goal is to bust up the unions." Democratic state Sen. Bob Jauch called the development "almost barbaric."

"There's going to be a public hanging of public employee unions at the Capitol tomorrow if it comes out as I expect," Jauch said.

State Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to fine the 14 absent Democrats $100 apiece for missing the session. The Republicans held the vote before going into a closed meeting on the bill, the Journal Sentinel reported.

The vote was 18-0, with all Democrats and one Republican absent.

Under a resolution adopted last week, fines may be imposed on members who miss two consecutive sessions without an excused absence. Fitzgerald said Democrats would face another $100 fine if they are still out Thursday.

Walker Tuesday had offered to concede some union rights to end the standoff, e-mails indicated. Walker's office released the e-mails following public-records requests from news organizations and said the e-mails showed the governor was willing to negotiate.


Judge enters not guilty plea for Loughner

TUCSON, March 9 (UPI) -- A judge Wednesday entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Jared Loughner to 49 federal charges stemming from a shooting massacre in Tucson.

Loughner, 22, was led into the Tucson courtroom of U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns shortly after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in belly chains and wearing a khaki prison uniform, The Arizona Republic reported.

When Burns asked the detainee if his name was Jared Lee Loughner, he replied in a sing-song voice it was and his defense attorney requested the judge to enter a plea on his behalf. Prosecutors also petitioned Burns to consider their request that Loughner provide handwriting samples to compare with documents seized from his home, the Arizona Daily Star said.

Other matters before the judge included a request by the defense to ban the release of Loughner's prison records and a request by the prosecution to have him undergo a psychiatric examination.

Loughner was being arraigned on charges including murder and attempted murder in the Jan. 8 shooting spree that killed six and injured 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.

Loughner was indicted by a grand jury Friday for the slaying of U.S. District Judge John Roll and Giffords aide Gabriel Zimmerman, as well as the killings of four other people who were at Giffords' community event outside a Tucson supermarket.

He pleaded not guilty to earlier charges he tried to assassinate Giffords and kill two of her other aides.

Prosecutors asked Burns Monday night to order Loughner to be moved to a medical prison from Phoenix's medium-security Federal Correctional Institution to undergo extensive examination before standing trial.

"The defendant's online postings are indicative of an individual who may have mental issues," prosecutors said.


Arrest made in Spokane MLK bomb case

SPOKANE, Wash., March 9 (UPI) -- An ex-soldier with alleged white supremacist ties was arrested Wednesday on charges he left a bomb along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Wash.

Kevin Harpham, 36, of Colville, appeared calm and respectful to a federal judge and court officials during his first court appearance in blue jeans and a dark gray sweatshirt bearing a Wells Fargo logo, KHQ-TV, Spokane, reported.

The TV station said Harpham waived his bail hearing and is expected to have his next court hearing March 23. A federal defender will be appointed to represent him.

He is charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to five years court supervision after release; and possession of an unregistered explosive device, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine.

"The tireless dedication and extraordinary efforts of the law enforcement officers involved in all aspects of this complicated investigation are commended," U.S. Attorney Michael C. Ormsby said in a release announcing Harpham's arrest.

The New York Times reported Harpham was arrested near his home in rural Colville by a contingent of federal agents. The newspaper said a law enforcement official said it was unclear whether others were involved in the Jan. 17 incident in which a cleanup crew discovered the bomb in a backpack left on a bench in downtown Spokane shortly before the parade.

The Times said the Southern Poverty Law Center said its research revealed Harpham was a member of the National Alliance as recently as 2004.

The center describes the National Alliance as a neo-Nazi group that has weakened since the 2002 death of its founder, William Pierce.

The Times said Harpham served in the Army for several years.


Gingrich: Working 'too hard' led to affair

DES MOINES, Iowa, March 9 (UPI) -- Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich says "things happened in my life that were not appropriate" because he loved America so much he "worked far too hard."

In an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network, the Georgia Republican said he "felt compelled to seek God's forgiveness" for marital infidelity. Gingrich -- who has been inching toward a possible run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 -- spoke with CBN Monday in Des Moines, Iowa, before speaking at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition presidential candidates forum.

"There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate," said Gingrich, who has been married three times and has admitted having extramarital affairs. "And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn't trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them."

Gingrich said he "felt compelled to seek God's forgiveness. Not God's understanding, but God's forgiveness."

Gingrich co-authored the "Contract with America" manifesto that helped deliver a Republican congressional landslide in 1994. He was the subject of allegations of ethics violations and caught heat for the confrontation with President Bill Clinton that led to the government shutdown of 1995 and 1996.

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