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Nation

House passes measure to broaden gun rights in D.C.

The House moved Wednesday to compel the nation's capital to broaden the rights of its residents to buy and own firearms, including semiautomatic weapons.

Critics, led by the District of Columbia's sole delegate to Congress, decried the action. They said the vote tramples on the district's right to govern itself and could endanger both residents and political dignitaries who often travel across the city.

But the National Rifle Association-backed bill passed easily, 266-152, with supporters citing determination to give D.C. residents the same Second Amendment right of self-defense as other Americans.

Associated Press

Atlanta

A violent Mexican drug cartel was dealt a blow with 175 arrests in the U.S. and Italy, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Wednesday. The Gulf cartel is responsible for importing tons of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana from Central and South America into the U.S. and then distributing it, he said. It is also believed to have laundered millions of dollars and has become a driving force behind escalating violence in Mexico and along the southwestern border of the U.S. Associated Press

Texas Presidio

The wreckage of a small plane that disappeared Monday while carrying top U.S. and Mexico officials on a mission to survey flooding along the Rio Grande was found Wednesday, the U.S. Border Patrol said. The International Boundary and Water Commission said all four aboard the plane died, including the heads of its U.S. and Mexico sections. Associated Press

Washington

Congress has approved through the 2010 school year a program that will allow students who rely on loans to continue their educations regardless of current difficulties in the private credit market. The Senate on Wednesday passed the legislation by voice vote. The bill authorizes the secretary of education to buy loans from lenders in the federal guaranteed loan program when those lenders can't meet demand because of the credit crunch. It assures lenders reliable access to capital to make new loans. Associated Press

Washington

College students are seeking federal financial aid in record numbers this year, leading Bush administration officials to warn Congress that the nation's leading college aid program, Pell Grants, may need up to $6 billion in additional taxpayer funds next year.

Driving the increase, in part, have been nontraditional students returning to school to improve their job skills during the economic downturn, said Terry Hartle, senior vice president for public affairs at the American Council on Education, which represents colleges and universities.

Estimates by the Department of Education suggest that the new president will face an unusually burdensome financing shortfall or the fallout that would accompany trimming the nation's leading college aid program.

New York Times

World

U.S. strike kills 6 in Pakistan, threatening relations

A reported U.S. missile strike inside Pakistan on Wednesday threatened to undermine U.S. efforts to defuse a growing confrontation with Pakistan over aggressive U.S. military actions against Islamist extremists in the country's turbulent northwest border region.

The strike in the South Waziristan tribal area, which officials said killed six people, came as the top U.S. military officer pledged during a hastily arranged visit to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, that Washington would respect that nation's sovereignty. He did not specifically rule out further raids, however. Washington Post

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