Assault weapons ban — Congress’ latest crack at a new assault weapons ban would protect more than 2,200 specific firearms, including a semi-automatic rifle that is nearly identical to one of the guns used in the bloodiest shootout in FBI history. One model of that firearm, the Ruger .223 caliber Mini-14, is on the proposed list to be banned, while a different model of the same gun is on a list of exempted firearms in legislation the Senate is considering. The gun that would be protected from the ban has fixed physical features and can’t be folded to be more compact. Yet the two firearms are equally deadly. Both models of the Ruger Mini-14 specified in the proposed bill can take detachable magazines that hold dozens of rounds of ammunition. “I can’t imagine what the difference is," said former FBI agent John Hanlon, who survived the 1986 shootout in Miami.
Forensic science — The federal government announced Friday that it will commit a scientific agency and launch a national commission to tackle recurring concerns about the quality of forensic evidence used in criminal courts across the country. A new National Commission on Forensic Science will draft proposals for the U.S. attorney general and Justice Department and draw from expert groups led by a Commerce Department science agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the departments announced.“This initiative is led by the principle that scientifically valid and accurate forensic analysis strengthens all aspects of our justice system," said Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
Health insurance exchanges — Florida, New Jersey and Tennessee will not partner with the federal government to create the online insurance marketplaces required under President Barack Obama’s health-care law, the states’ governors announced Friday, ending months of speculation and starting a new chapter in the implementation of the law. The exchanges in those states — and others that have declined to set up their own exchanges or partner with the federal government — will be run by federal officials, at least through 2014.
Jackson in scandal — The prospect of prison looms over former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife after they agreed to plead guilty to charges in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items — including furs, a football signed by U.S. presidents and a hat once owned by Michael Jackson. Prosecutors on Friday filed one charge of conspiracy against Jackson and charged his wife, Sandra, with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns for the years 2006 through 2011 that knowingly understated the income the couple received. The son of a famed civil rights leader, Jackson, a Democrat, entered Congress in 1995 and resigned in November.
Regional airline safety — A federal watchdog says that since a deadly airline crash in 2009, the government hasn’t kept its promise to ensure that major airlines are holding their smaller partners to the same safety standards. The Transportation Department’s inspector general faults the Federal Aviation Administration for not taking steps to encourage the big airlines “to consistently share safety information and best practices" with regional airlines that operate flights under contract for them.
Pakistan bombs kill 81 — The death toll from a horrific bombing that tore through a crowded vegetable market in southwestern Pakistan climbed to 81 with many of the severely wounded dying overnight, a Pakistani police official said Sunday. Police official Fayyaz Saumbal said 164 people also were wounded by the explosion Saturday in the city of Quetta just as people shopped for produce for their evening meal. The bomb was hidden in a water tank and towed into the market by a tractor, Quetta police chief Zubair Mahmood told reporters. It was the deadliest incident since bombings targeting Shiites in the same city killed 86 people earlier this year, leading to days of protests that eventually toppled the local government.
Iranian nuclear aims — Iran’s supreme leader said Saturday that his country was not seeking nuclear weapons but added that if Iran ever decided to build them, no “global power" could stop it. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose 2005 edict banning nuclear weapons is regarded as binding in Iran, told a group of visitors to his home in Tehran, the capital, that his country favored the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons. “We believe that nuclear weapons must be eliminated," Khamenei said. “... But if we didn’t believe so and intended to possess nuclear weapons, no power could stop us."
Pistorius feels ‘shock and grief’ — Oscar Pistorius is “numb with shock as well as grief" after the shooting death of his model girlfriend at his home in South Africa, the runner’s uncle said Saturday, as his family strongly denied prosecutors’ claims that he murdered her. Arnold Pistorius’ statement, the first on camera and directly made in person by Pistorius’ family, also came out strongly against prosecutors seeking to upgrade the charge against Pistorius to one of premeditated murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison.