Senate approves bill to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

Posted April 26, 2012, at 9:01 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A measure that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act was approved by the Senate on Thursday with broad bipartisan support, despite some Republican objections to key provisions.

After the 68-31 Senate vote, the battle over those differences will now move to the House, where Republicans are pushing an alternative version of the bill.

Democrats have tried in recent weeks to paint Republican objections as reflecting a lack of concern about issues that are important to women, who will be a key target group in the fall elections. President Barack Obama holds a significant advantage among the group over presumptive GOP challenger Mitt Romney, according to opinion polls. By Thursday, many Republicans were insisting that they want the bill to pass quickly, despite their concerns.

GOP leaders had urged the Democrats who control floor action to allow votes on a Republican-sponsored alternative to the bill, as well as an amendment by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas that would earmark money for testing a backlog of rape kits and impose new mandatory minimum sentences for perpetrators of some domestic violence crimes. Both of those measures failed Thursday.

The Senate bill was crafted in consultation with law-enforcement groups and victims advocates and was introduced with a filibuster-proof 61 co-sponsors, including eight Republicans.

Poll: State, local government more popular than federal

WASHINGTON — A new poll from the Pew Research Center has found that more people have positive impressions of their state and local governments than of the government in Washington.

Just one-third of the public views the federal government favorably, the least positive rating in the 15 years since Pew began asking the question.

But slightly more than half of those surveyed by Pew, or 52 percent, view their state governments favorably. The rating climbs to 61 percent for local governments.

Still, those positive views do not mean people are impressed with their state government’s performance.

Majorities say their state government is inefficient and, like Washington, not careful with the people’s money.

Student researcher spies odd lava spirals on Mars

LOS ANGELES — A researcher has spotted lava flows shaped like coils of rope near the equator of Mars, the first time such geologic features have been discovered outside of Earth.

These twisty volcanic patterns can be found on Hawaii’s Big Island and in the Pacific seafloor on our planet. While evidence for lava flows is present in many places on Mars, none are shaped like this latest find.

“I was quite surprised and puzzled when I first saw the coils,” Andrew Ryan, a graduate student at Arizona State University, said in an email. He reported the discovery in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

The biggest surprise? The largest Martian lava spiral measured 100 feet across — bigger than any on Earth. It is further evidence that Mars was volcanically active recently — geologically speaking within the past 20 million years.

Deer makes bloody trail through western Pa. school

FARRELL, Pa. — State wildlife officials say a deer smashed into a western Pennsylvania elementary school, frightening students and teachers as it ran through hallways leaving a trail of blood.

The game commission says the animal broke its leg and had to be euthanized.

The Herald of Sharon reports the incident happened Wednesday morning at Monsignor Geno Monti School in Farrell, about 60 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Principal Alice Connelly says there was “blood all over” because the deer cut itself on the way into the school.

Lawrence Hergenroeder, a wildlife conservation officer for the game commission, says the deer likely saw its reflection in a glass door and darted toward it, smashing into the school.

85 arrested as Canadian students protest tuition

MONTREAL — The Quebec government withdrew its offer Thursday to resume talks with university student leaders following the arrests of 85 people during riotous protests by thousands in Montreal over planned tuition hikes.

Windows of local businesses, banks and cars — as well as a police station — were smashed after talks broke off Wednesday between the provincial government and student groups over the planned tuition increase of $325 a year. Some protesters fought with police. Three police officers were injured.

Several thousand students took to the streets after the government excluded the more militant of the student groups from the bargaining table, accusing CLASSE of promoting violence.

The government said talks would resume Friday, but the other major student groups said they will not return to the bargaining table without student federation CLASSE.

Rupert Murdoch apologizes for phone hacking

LONDON — By turns contrite and defiant, media magnate Rupert Murdoch on Thursday apologized for the phone-hacking scandal that has tarnished his company but then blamed subordinates for covering up the problem and police for failing to investigate it properly.

“The buck stops with me,” Murdoch said. “I failed. And I’m very sorry about that. … It’s going to be a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life.”

Had he known the extent of hacking by the News of the World tabloid, he would have “torn the place apart, and we wouldn’t be here today,” Murdoch testified on his second day before a British judicial inquiry of media ethics, which was spawned by the hacking scandal.

Yet the Australian-born tycoon acknowledged that, as chairman of media giant News Corp., he hadn’t bothered to delve into the issue himself when evidence of wrongdoing began emerging as early as 2006. Then, when the scandal erupted last summer with revelations that the cellphone of a kidnapped girl was among those hacked, he shut down the 168-year-old News of the World in a rush of fear.

“You could feel the blast coming in the windows,” Murdoch, 81, said in a London courtroom.

“I panicked. But I’m glad I did,” he said.

“All I can do is apologize to a lot of people, including all the innocent people in the News of the World who lost their jobs.”

Three criminal investigations have been launched as a result of the scandal; Scotland Yard says hundreds of people may have been the victims of illegal snooping by the News of the World. Dozens of journalists from the defunct paper and its sister tabloid the Sun have been arrested, although none has been charged.

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