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Congress votes to avert shutdown

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a $1 trillion compromise spending bill to keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year.

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The measure passed on a 296-121 vote and now goes to the Senate, where approval is also expected.

The action will prevent a partial government shutdown that would have occurred when current authorization for government funding ends at midnight Friday, CNN reported.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said under a White House ruling "if one house passes a spending bill .... and there's a presumption it will pass in the other body, the time is extended for 24 hours."

"So everyone doesn't have to worry about the government closing tonight," Reid said Friday.

House and Senate lawmakers also cleared the way for at least a short-term extension of a payroll-tax cut set to expire at year's end.

The 11th-hour compromise was finalized after Democrats won last-minute concessions, including an agreement to drop a GOP proposal to overturn an Obama administration policy by imposing stricter limits on Americans' ability to travel and send money to relatives in Cuba.


McQueary testifies about PSU shower scene

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HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Assistant Penn State football coach Mike McQueary testified Friday he witnessed what he thought was former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky molesting a boy.

When he reported what he saw, McQueary said he clearly conveyed to head Coach Joe Paterno, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz what he saw was sexual in nature, the State College Centre Daily Times reported Friday.

"There's no question in my mind that I conveyed to them that I saw Jerry with a boy in the showers and that it was severe sexual acts going on," McQueary testified during a hearing in Harrisburg.

McQueary was the first witness to testify in a preliminary hearing in Dauphin County Court to determine whether there is enough evidence to try Curley and Schultz on charges of perjury and failure to report abuse.

McQueary testified that he walked into a locker room and felt "embarrassed" when he heard someone in the shower, CNN reported.

"I looked in the mirror and shockingly and surprisingly saw Jerry with a boy in the shower," McQueary said.

He said Sandusky was behind the boy and the boy was against a wall. He said he believed the two were engaged in intercourse but couldn't be sure.

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Curley, 57, is on leave, and Schultz, 62, retired in the wake of the allegations. Penn State trustees ousted President Graham Spanier and Paterno amid criticism their actions were inadequate.


Lawyer: Manning hearing officer biased

FORT MEADE, Md., Dec. 16 (UPI) -- A hearing for the U.S. soldier accused in a WikiLeaks documents dump was suspended Friday after defense lawyer asked the hearing officer to recuse himself.

David Coombs, who is representing Pfc. Bradley Manning, argued that Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, a lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department, serving in the Army Reserves, at least appears to be biased, The New York Times reported. Coombs suggested Almanza has already shown prejudice against Manning in some of his rulings.

Almanza halted the pretrial hearing to consider the question.

Manning, who was an Army intelligence analyst, could face a life sentence if he is convicted in a court-martial.

The soldier, arrested in Iraq 19 months ago, pleaded not guilty to more than 20 criminal charges, including aiding the enemy and transmitting national defense information in violation of the Espionage Act.

He is the only person charged with unauthorized release of more than 500,000 classified U.S. military reports and diplomatic cables, as well as a 2007 video of a deadly U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad, to the WikiLeaks Web site.

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FBI considered sting against Gingrich

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- The FBI considered, then abandoned, a sting against Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich when he was U.S. House speaker, The Washington Post reported.

The operation was quashed in 1997 after the FBI determined there was no evidence that Gingrich knew about telephone conversations involving an arms dealer that indicated a $10 million bribe might lead to Congress lifting the Iraqi arms embargo, the Post reported Thursday.

The arms dealer secretly recorded the conversations with a man who said he was acting on behalf of Gingrich's then-wife, Marianne, people knowledgeable about the investigation said.

"There are so many falsehoods," Marianne Gingrich said Thursday. "The FBI, they should have been protecting me, not going after me. This is scary stuff."

Her lawyer, Victoria Toensing, said there was no basis "whatsoever" for an investigation.

These were people "making up access to a high-level government person," Toensing told the Post.

Details of the matter became public this week in an article and documents posted online by a journalist who operates a Web site called DC Bureau.


ICC says Gadhafi killing may be war crime

TRIPOLI, Libya, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- International Criminal Court officials say Moammar Gadhafi's killing in Libya creates "suspicions" of war crimes.

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Gadhafi was killed Oct. 20 after being captured by rebel forces in his home town of Sirte, the BBC reported.

"I think that's a very important issue. We are raising this concern to the national authorities and they are preparing a plan to have a comprehensive strategy to investigate all these crimes," ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said.

Gadhafi may have been killed in the custody of National Transitional Council soldiers, which is a violation of international law, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

Moreno-Ocampo has requested the authority to investigate the incident from the United Nations.

"The death of Moammar Gadhafi is one of the issues to be clarified -- what happened -- because there are serious suspicions that it was a war crime," Moreno-Ocampo said.

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