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National News Archives for 2017-02

US consumer confidence rises to highest level since 2001

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer confidence rose to the highest level in more than 15 years, good news for the economy.

 

The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index rose to 114.8 in February from 111.6 in January and the highest since July 2001.The index measures both consumers' assessment of current conditions and their expectations for the future. Both improved in February.

 

"Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue expanding in the months ahead," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the business group.

 

Americans overall have been in a sunny mood since the Nov. 8 election of Donald Trump ended a divisive presidential campaign and increased the odds of a tax cut.

 

Economists closely monitor consumers' mood because their spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

 

 

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Sessions: Law enforcement must 'put bad men behind bars'

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is creating a multi-agency task force to combat violent crime.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday in his first major policy speech.

 

Jeff Sessions

 

He said the task force will include the heads of Justice Department agencies such as the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

 

Sessions told a gathering of state attorneys general he's concerned an uptick in violent crime in some large American cities was the "start of a dangerous new trend," according to prepared remarks. He said law enforcement should "put bad men behind bars."

 

He also signaled agreement with FBI Director James Comey that some police are pulling back on crime enforcement for fear of being captured on video.

 

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Senate Hearings for Supreme Court Pick to Begin March 20

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch on March 20.

 

Nominee

 

That's the word from Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who made the announcement Thursday after consulting with the panel's top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein.

 

Grassley says he expects the hearings to last three to four days. The first day will have opening statements by committee members and the federal judge tapped for the high court vacancy.

 

Questioning of Gorsuch will begin March 21.

 

Gorsuch has been paying courtesy calls on senators for the past few weeks.

 

The vacancy happened more than a year ago when Justice Antonin Scalia died. Republicans refused to consider former President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, insisting the voters should have a say.

 

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Boeing's North Charleston plant votes on union

 

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The morning round of voting has concluded among South Carolina Boeing workers considering if they want representation by a union.

 

The first of two voting shifts wrapped up around midmorning at the aviation giant's North Charleston facilities.

 

Nearly 3,000 production workers are eligible to vote in the election to determine if they'll be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The union initially petitioned for a vote in 2015 but called off that election because of what the union called a toxic atmosphere and political interference.

 

Machinists spokesman Jonathan Battaglia says the union feels Boeing workers are "ready to make history" with the vote.

 

Boeing came to South Carolina in part because of the state's minuscule union presence. Labor experts say a "yes" vote would have repercussions throughout the South, potentially inspiring other workers to think about unionizing.

 

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Following Trump order, IRS shifts on health care mandate

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS says it's following President Donald Trump's executive order on health care by easing enforcement of the unpopular Obama-era requirement for people to have coverage or risk fines.

 

Trump directed federal agencies to ease the health law's rules after he took office.

 

An IRS spokesman says the IRS had planned to start rejecting returns this year on which the taxpayer failed to indicate whether or not he had coverage.

 

But the IRS says it will keep processing such returns, as it has in the past.

 

Many of the law's supporters consider the coverage requirement essential for nudging younger, healthy people into the insurance pool to keep premiums in check.

 

The IRS says the requirement is still the law.

 

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Arguments set for Tuesday over Trump travel ban

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appellate court has scheduled telephone oral arguments for Tuesday afternoon in a lawsuit over President Trump's travel and refugee ban.

 

Trump

 

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear from lawyers from the federal government and states suing Trump.

 

Washington state and Minnesota sued Trump last week, saying the ban harmed residents and effectively mandated discrimination. The Justice Department says the issue is a matter of national security and Trump's executive order affecting seven predominantly Muslim countries was well within his authority.

 

The appellate court this weekend denied the Trump administration's request to immediately set aside a Seattle judge's ruling that put a hold on the ban nationwide.

 

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House passes bill updating email privacy protections

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has approved legislation updating privacy protections for emails maintained by third-party service providers such as Google and Yahoo.

 

House

 

The legislation requires the government to obtain a warrant from a court before requiring providers to disclose the content of emails, regardless of how long they have been in storage. Currently, a warrant is not required for communications stored beyond 180 days.

 

Supporters such as Rep. Tom Graves, R-Iowa, note that the last time email privacy laws were updated, Ronald Reagan was president and the Chicago Bears were Super Bowl champions.

 

Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., has sponsored the bill, which has widespread support in the House. A similar measure easily passed in the last Congress, but did not get Senate approval.

 

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