AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on January 14, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 14 at 7:01 AM

$1.1 trillion spending bill has dozens of trade-offs between Democrats and Republicans

WASHINGTON (AP) — The sales job is on for a bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending bill that would pay for the operations of government through October and finally put to rest the bitter budget battles of last year.

The massive measure contains a dozens of trade-offs between Democrats and Republicans as it fleshes out the details of the budget deal that Congress passed last month. That pact gave relatively modest but much-sought relief to the Pentagon and domestic agencies after deep budget cuts last year.

The GOP-led House is slated to pass the 1,582-page bill Wednesday, though many tea party conservatives are sure to oppose it.

Democrats pleased with new money to educate preschoolers and build high-priority highway projects are likely to make up the difference even as Republican social conservatives fret about losing familiar battles over abortion policy.

The bill would avert spending cuts that threatened construction of new aircraft carriers and next-generation Joint Strike Fighters. It maintains rent subsidies for the poor, awards federal civilian and military workers a 1 percent raise and beefs up security at U.S. embassies across the globe. The Obama administration would be denied money to meet its full commitments to the International Monetary Fund but get much of the money it wanted to pay for implementation of the new health care law and the 2010 overhaul of financial regulations.

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Egyptians vote on new constitution to enshrine military-sponsored, post-Morsi legitimacy

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptians were voting Tuesday on a draft constitution that represents a key milestone in a military-backed roadmap put in place after the nation's Islamist president was overthrown in a popularly backed coup last July.

The two-day balloting also deals a heavy blow to the Muslim Brotherhood's campaign for the reinstatement of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and paves the way for a likely presidential run by the nation's top general, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

A massive security operation was underway to protect polling stations and voters against possible attacks by militants loyal to Morsi, with 160,000 soldiers and more than 200,000 policemen deployed across the nation of some 90 million people.

In the days running up to the vote, Egypt looked more like a country going to war rather than one preparing for a supposed transition to democratic rule. The government and the overwhelmingly pro-military media have portrayed the balloting as the key to the nation's security and stability over which there can be no dissent.

Hundreds of thousands of fliers, posters, banners and billboards urged Egyptians to vote "yes." Posters and campaigns urging a "no" vote have led to arrests.

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As Egyptians vote on new constitution, a look at key articles in the draft charter

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's more than 52 million voters are going to the polls on Tuesday and Wednesday to decide whether to approve the country's rewritten constitution, which limits the scope of Islamic law and introduces new articles seen as a victory for rights advocates. It also expands the powers of the military in politics.

Here is a look at some of the key changes made to the constitution, previously enacted under the government of toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi:

CIVILIAN GOVERNMENT:

In the preamble, the draft states that the charter "continues to build a democratic, modern country with a civilian government." The word "civilian," which in Arabic indicates non-religious and non-military, has stirred anger among ultraconservative Islamists who consider it synonymous with "secularist" when it was initially phrased as "civilian rule." Some liberal constituent panel members accuse head of the panel of unilaterally changing "rule" to "government" to appease Islamists without telling them.

ISLAMIC LAW:

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Proposal to shift surveillance phone record retention away from government drawing resistance

WASHINGTON (AP) — Telephone companies are quietly balking at the idea of changing how they collect and store Americans' phone records to help the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. They're worried about their exposure to lawsuits and the price tag if the U.S. government asks them to hold information about customers for longer than they already do.

President Barack Obama is expected to announce Friday what changes he is willing to make to satisfy privacy, legal and civil liberties concerns over the NSA's surveillance practices. One of the most important questions is whether the government will continue to collect millions of Americans' phone records every day so that the government can identify anyone it believes might be communicating with known terrorists.

The president's hand-picked review committee has recommended ending the phone records program as it exists. It suggested shifting the storage of the phone records from the NSA to phone companies or an unspecified third party, and it recommended new legal requirements before the government could search anyone's phone records.

The phone companies don't want the job. Executives and their lawyers have complained about the plan in confidential meetings with administration officials and key congressional intelligence and other committees, according to interviews by The Associated Press. Two phone executives familiar with the discussions said the cellular industry told the government that it prefers the NSA keep control over the surveillance program and would only accept changes if they were legally required. The executives spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the private discussions. But there have been public complaints, too.

"Our members would oppose the imposition of data retention obligations that would require them to maintain customer data for longer than necessary," said Jot Carpenter, vice president of government affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association, the trade group for the cellular phone industry.

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To cut off jobless aid is to pinch GOP constituents in pockets of conservatism

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — When federal emergency unemployment benefits expired last month, the effects ran deep in a Colorado county marked by two exit ramps off Interstate 25 — one leading to the conservative religious group Focus on the Family, the other to the Fort Carson Army post.

Hardly a liberal bastion, El Paso County has the largest number of people in the state who lost unemployment benefits, and many aren't happy about it. Plenty of Republicans, too, depend on jobless aid that Republicans in Congress are hesitant to prolong. The ideological argument for standing against an extension of benefits — that the aid can ultimately make it harder to find work — meets a more complex reality where people live.

Democrats propose to extend the emergency benefits for people who have been or are about to be out of work for more than six months; Republicans are less inclined to take that step, particularly if it means the government borrows more money. The paralysis led to the expiration of benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed on Dec. 28. Lawmakers are still working on a compromise.

The standoff infuriates people such as Lita Ness, who lost her job as a civilian contractor at Peterson Air Force Base in August 2012 and just received her final check from the unemployment office.

"I'm registered as a Republican, but if they continue to use this not extending our (aid) I'm probably changing to Democrat," Ness, 58, said as she took a break from a computer training class at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center. "People in our district who vote 'No' on this, I'm not going to support them."

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Older adults, more expensive to cover, outnumber young people so far in health care signups

WASHINGTON (AP) — Younger people went for President Barack Obama at election time, but will they buy his health insurance?

New government figures show it's an older, costlier crowd that's signing up so far for health insurance under Obama's health care law. Enrollments are lower for the healthy, younger Americans who will be needed to keep premiums from rising.

Young adults from 18 to 34 are only 24 percent of total enrollment, the administration said Monday in its first signup figures broken down for age, gender and other details.

With the HealthCare.gov website now working, the figures cover the more than 2 million Americans who had signed up for government-subsidized private insurance through the end of December in new federal and state markets.

Enrolling young and healthy people is important because they generally pay more into the system than they take out, subsidizing older adults. While 24 percent is not a bad start, say independent experts, it should be closer to 40 percent to help keep premiums down.

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Proposal for longer school day, year may help NJ's Christie rebound from traffic jam scandal

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme that threatens to damage his second term and could cut short any ambitions to run for president.

According to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press, Christie, an early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, will make the case Tuesday that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically. Details of the plan will be left for another day.

Christie, who won re-election by 22 points in a Democrat-leaning state, hopes to regain his footing after being shaken by revelations that key aides orchestrated massive traffic backups by closing lanes near the George Washington Bridge, one of the world's busiest spans. Four Christie loyalists have been fired or resigned for the apparent political vendetta against a Democratic mayor who wouldn't endorse Christie.

The governor apologized, and during a lengthy news conference last week said he was "blindsided" by his staff's involvement.

Two state legislative panels announced plans Monday to continue their investigations into the incident one Democratic leader now is calling an "abuse of power" probe. The U.S. Attorney's office also is reviewing the apparent political vendetta, possibly to target a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse Christie for re-election. The mayor, Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee, told the AP Monday he was asked by a Christie operative to endorse the governor but never responded with a definitive answer after saying he would consider the request.

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Authorities: Argument over texting leads to man being fatally shot at Florida movie theater

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — An argument over texting in a Florida movie theater ended with a retired Tampa police captain fatally shooting a man sitting in front of him, authorities said.

The former police captain, Curtis Reeves, 71, has been charged with second-degree murder. It's not immediately clear whether he has retained an attorney.

"Somebody throws popcorn. I'm not sure who threw the popcorn," said Charles Cummings, who, as a birthday treat, was about to watch the movie "Lone Survivor" at The Grove 16 Theater on Monday.

"And then bang, he was shot."

Pasco County Sheriff's officials said the shooting happened when Reeves asked 43-year-old Chad Oulson to stop texting at the theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburb about a half hour north of downtown Tampa.

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Emotions flow as Calif. officers acquitted in death of homeless man who struggled with police

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — By the time all four verdicts were read clearing two California officers of killing a homeless man, people on both sides of the gallery were sobbing.

In the audience, the mother of Kelly Thomas wept into a tissue as someone shouted, "No!" A collective gasp went up from the gallery. Former Officer Jay Cicinelli's attorney pounded twice on the defense table, grabbing his client in a bear hug, as former Officer Manuel Ramos' family clutched hands and cried.

Thomas, 37, died five days after a violent confrontation with six officers in July 2011. A surveillance camera at the busy transit center where the incident unfolded captured him screaming for his father again and again and begging for air as the police kneed him, jolted him with an electric stun gun and used the blunt end to strike him around the face and head.

It was a rare case in which police officers were charged in a death involving actions on duty. Jurors took less than two days to reach their verdicts.

Ramos, 39, was acquitted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter on Monday. Cicinelli, 41, was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.

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5 things to know about Alex Rodriguez's lawsuit to overturn his season-long drug suspension

NEW YORK (AP) — Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez sued Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association in an effort to overturn the season-long drug suspension imposed last weekend by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. Here are five things to know about the complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan:

WHAT IS RODRIGUEZ CLAIMING? His lawsuit accused the Major League Baseball Players Association of "bad faith," said its representation during the hearing was "perfunctory at best" and accused it of failing to attack a civil suit filed by MLB in Florida state court as part of its Biogenesis investigation. His lawyers criticized Michael Weiner, the union head who died from a brain tumor in November, for saying last summer he recommended Rodriguez settle for a lesser penalty if MLB were to offer an acceptable length. The suit claimed Major League Baseball engaged in "ethically challenged behavior" and was the source of media leaks in violation of baseball's confidentiality rules. It said Horowitz acted "with evident partiality" and "refused to entertain evidence that was pertinent and material." And it faulted Horowitz for denying Rodriguez's request to have a different arbitrator hear the case, for not ordering baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to testify and for allowing Biogenesis of America founder Anthony Bosch to claim Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions during cross-examination.

WHAT WAS THE REACTION? Former major league All-Star Tony Clark, who took over from Weiner as the union head, issued a statement saying "it is unfortunate that Alex Rodriguez has chosen to sue the players' association. His claim is completely without merit, and we will aggressively defend ourselves and our members from these baseless charges. The players' association has vigorously defended Mr. Rodriguez's rights throughout the Biogenesis investigation, and indeed throughout his career. Mr. Rodriguez's allegation that the association has failed to fairly represent him is outrageous, and his gratuitous attacks on our former executive director, Michael Weiner, are inexcusable. When all is said and done, I am confident the players' association will prevail."

WHAT DID THE ARBITRATOR FIND? Horowitz, in a decision made public as part of the lawsuit, concluded Rodriguez used testosterone, human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 in 2010, 2011 and 2012 in violation of baseball's Joint Drug Agreement. He wrote MLB was justified in citing violations of the collective bargaining agreement because Rodriguez "played an active role in inducing Biogenesis of America founder Anthony Bosch to issue his own public denial on Jan. 29" and "attempted to induce Bosch to sign a sworn statement on May 31" saying he never supplied the player. Still, Horowitz cut the suspension from 211 games to 162 plus the 2014 postseason.

WHAT'S NEXT? MLB and the union will file answers, and Rodriguez's lawyers may ask for a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the suspension, which starts with the Yankees' season opener on March 31. Rodriguez's lawyers may attempt to depose Selig and others, but MLB could ask U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos to quash any subpoenas. It's not clear whether the legal process will take weeks or months. Supreme Court decisions have set narrow grounds for judges to vacate arbitration decisions, instances such as corruption or not following the rules agreed to by the parties.

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