Senate confirms Brennan as CIA chief
WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate voted 63-34 Thursday to confirm John Brennan as the next director of the CIA.
Notice of the vote was immediately sent to President Obama in the White House that Brennan's long, rocky road to the post was over.
Immediately before the confirmation vote, senators voted 81-16 to end debate on the Brennan's nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency.
A number of Republicans added their votes to the 55 Democratic-controlled votes in the Senate. Republicans voting to end the Brennan debate included some of his harshest critics in the confirmation process. One of those critics, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, voted to close debate.
Earlier, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he heard from the White House following his 13-hour filibuster of the Brennan nomination.
During his Senate floor talkathon, Paul demanded the Obama administration explain its policy on use of drones against U.S. citizens.
"We want the president to respond," Paul said during an interview on CNN. "And what we're hearing from the White House is they may respond to my question. If they do, we're willing to let the Brennan nomination go forward."
The Paul filibuster delayed Senate confirmation of Brennan, an architect of the administration's drone program.
Without offering details, Paul said "somebody on my staff and other Republican staffs are talking to the White House."
Paul started his filibuster after receiving a letter Monday from Attorney General Eric Holder that refused to rule out the use of drone strikes against Americans within the United States in "extraordinary circumstances" such as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Holder sent Paul another letter Thursday in response to the filibuster saying the United States does not have the authority to use a drone attack against a U.S. citizen not engaged in combat on U.S. soil, The Hill reported.
"The president has not and would not use drone strikes against American citizens on American soil," White House press secretary Jay Carney said when he discussed the letter during a press briefing. "This debate has nothing to do with the qualifications of John Brennan, Sen. Paul said as much yesterday."
Security Council OKs N. Korea sanctions
UNITED NATIONS, March 7 (UPI) -- The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved more sanctions Thursday against North Korea, imposing penalties on the country's banking, travel and trade.
The vote on the resolution drafted by the United States and China came hours after the reclusive country warned for the first time it would launch pre-emptive nuclear attacks on the United States and South Korea, The New York Times reported.
"The strength, breadth and severity of these sanctions will raise the cost to North Korea of its illicit nuclear program," said Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "Taken together, these sanctions will bite and bite hard."
The Treasury Department Thursday moved to immediately freeze the U.S. assets of Mun Cho'-ng-Ch'o'l, a representative of commercial bank Tanchon in Beijing, and Yo'n Cho'ng-Nam and Ko Ch'o'l-Chae, based in Dalian, China, and representatives of Korea Mining Development Corp., under an executive order targeting proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters.
"These individuals are important actors within North Korea's proliferation network who have been working to gain access to international markets," said David Cohen, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Obama signs Violence Against Women Act
WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama, as victims and advocates watched and cheered, signed into law Thursday the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
The new version of the law championed by Vice President Joe Biden when he was in the U.S. Senate in the 1990s includes provisions that, among other things, grant American Indian tribes jurisdiction to prosecute accused non-native abusers of American Indian women. Previously, tribes had no jurisdiction over non-tribal members, even if they were married to American Indian women or lived on tribal lands.
"As soon as I sign this bill, that ends," Obama said to an eruption of applause and cheers.
"Today's about all the survivors, all the advocates ... and the millions more they represent," Obama said. "It's about our commitment as a country to address this problem."
While the country has made "incredible progress" since the bill was first passed in 1994, "we cannot let up."
Obama and Biden thanked Republicans and Democrats for their bipartisanship to pass the reauthorization bill.
"They didn't renew what I consider a sacred commitment ... they strengthened that commitment," Biden said.
Besides the new provisions to protect American Indian women, the act allows advocacy groups representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals to apply for grants to prevent sexual violence and care for victims and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which provides services to victims of human trafficking.
The bill authorizes up to $660 million each year for the next five years for programs that help with victim assistance and in the prosecution of sexual assault and domestic abuse. The funding amount is a 17 percent decrease from 2005, the last time the act was reauthorized.
The act expired in September 2011 and languished in Congress after House Republicans took issue with some of the new provisions in the Senate-passed version. A Republican-drafted alternative failed when it was brought to a vote Feb. 28, and the House later that day passed the Senate version and sent it to Obama.
Grassley supports gun straw purchase bill
WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- A U.S. Senate panel Thursday approved a measure that would make illegally buying a gun for someone else a felony.
Using someone able to buy a gun to give it to someone who isn't allowed to have a gun is called a "straw purchase."
The vote was 11-7 on the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa being the only Republican to vote for the proposal, The New York Times reported. The panel is made up of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans.
The bill now goes to the full Senate.
The Times said several Republicans spoke out against the proposal, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. Cornyn said the bill would be used "to show we are doing something," but would not halt gun crimes.
The committee is expected to vote on three other gun control proposals, including an assault weapons ban from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
Feinstein said despite support for the ban from law enforcement, medical and other groups, "it's as if we have a minority insubstantial piece of legislation."
The Times said if Congress fails to pass more than a modified straw purchasing bill, it would be a victory for the National Rifle Association, which opposes each measure.
NRA official banned from owning guns
NEW YORK, March 7 (UPI) -- The National Rifle Association's field representative for New York and its suburbs was banned by a judge from possessing any of his 39 firearms for one year.
Richard D'Alauro, 62, pleaded guilty Oct. 3 to a harassment charge stemming from a Sept. 1, 2010, domestic incident with his wife at their Long Island home, the New York Daily News reported Thursday.
D'Alauro, who was also charged with misdemeanor charges of assault and endangering the welfare of a child over the incident, admitted to Suffolk County Court Judge Toni Bean he intended to "harass, annoy or alarm" his wife "by subjecting her to physical contact."
Bean issued a one-year order of protection against D'Alauro, which prohibits from owning or purchasing firearms for one year. Police said they had to make multiple visits to the NRA official's home to round up all of his 39 firearms.
The NRA declined to comment on the case.
John Ray, D'Alauro's attorney, said the protection order would not affect his client's employment with the rifle association.
"The NRA does not require its employees to own guns," he said.
13.3 percent in U.S. are seniors
WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- Seniors made up 13.3 percent of the U.S. population in 2011 and will account for at least 20 percent of the population by 2060, the Census Bureau said Thursday.
In a report based on various sources of demographic data, the bureau said there were 41.4 million people age 65 or older in the United States in July 2011, up from 40.3 million in April 2010. The number of seniors is projected to reach 92 million by 2060, with 18.2 million age 85 or older.
Surviving baby boomers will number 2.4 million by 2060, with the youngest among them age 96.
The median income for households with householders age 65 and older was $33,118 in 2011, essentially unchanged from 2010 -- while 8.7 percent of seniors lived in poverty in 2011, also statistically unchanged from 2010.
People age 65 and older accounted for 16.1 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2010, or 6.5 million workers, up from 12.1 percent, or 3.8 million workers, in 1990.
The 2010 census counted 53,364 people who were 100 years old and older, with 100 centenarian women for every 20.7 centenarian men.
The report said the number of people in the United States age 65 and older will exceed the number of people age 18 and younger for the first time in 2056.
In releasing the report, the Census Bureau noted that 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's designation of May as Senior Citizens Month, intended to encourage Americans to honor elders. President Jimmy Carter changed the name to Older Americans Month in 1980.