HOUSE OKS GOP'S ANTI-VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN BILL: WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans set up a showdown Wednesday with the Senate and President Barack Obama over legislation to protect women from domestic violence, a fight that's become as much about female voters this election year as cracking down on abuse.
The House voted 222-205 to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act for five years, as the Senate already had done. But big differences remain: Obama, other Democrats and a long list of advocacy groups say the House bill doesn't go far enough to protect abused immigrants, Native Americans or gays. Republicans say their bill does more to protect taxpayers from fraud and maintains the constitutionality of law enforcement procedures on Indian land.
It's unclear whether the differences will be reconciled before the November elections, or whether the bills will be used as campaign weapons.
But a pair of domestic violence survivors who fell on opposite sides of the debate reminded their House colleagues that for them and other abused women it's about far more than politics.
BLOOMBERG GIVES TO CALIF. TOBACCO TAX CAMPAIGN: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given half a million dollars to a campaign supporting a California initiative that would raise the state's cigarette tax to fund cancer research.
Bloomberg challenged supporters of Proposition 29 this week to match that amount, hoping to raise a total of $1 million to help pass the June ballot measure.
The measure championed by cycling legend and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong would add a $1 per pack cigarette tax.
Bloomberg says he put up the money to counter the nearly $40 million contributed by major tobacco companies, whose opposing campaign says the measure would create a bureaucracy that could send tax dollars out of state.
In his decade in office, Bloomberg has expanded his city's no-smoking policies, banning cigarettes in workplaces, parks and beaches.
2 US NAVY SHIPS COLLIDE IN PACIFIC; NO INJURIES: SAN DIEGO (AP) — An 844-foot-long U.S. Navy vessel collided with a refueling tanker Wednesday in the Pacific Ocean, causing damage to both ships, but there were no injuries or fuel spills, military officials said.
The midmorning accident between the amphibious assault ship USS Essex and the oiler USNS Yukon occurred about 120 miles off the coast of Southern California as the Essex was approaching the Yukon to get in position to be refueled, said Cmdr. Charlie Brown, a spokesman for the 3rd Fleet.
Navy officials said there apparently was a steering malfunction on the Essex, which was carrying 982 crew members on its way to San Diego for scheduled maintenance. It had spent the past 12 years based in Sasebo, Japan, as command ship for the Navy's Expeditionary Strike Group 7.
19 ARRESTED IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA DRUG BUST: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The owners of two Northern California gardening stores and 17 other people are facing drug charges after federal agents say the stores were used as the center of a drug trafficking operation.
A spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration says teams of federal agents and local police arrested 19 people Wednesday during raids of 14 marijuana growing operations.
DEA spokeswoman Casey Rettig says authorities seized a little more than 3,600 marijuana plants, nearly 100 pounds of processed marijuana, dozens of guns, a grenade launcher and other items.
Rettig says investigators determined the ring was centered at Grower's Choice Hydroponics, a hydroponic equipment store with locations in Tracy and Hayward.
The owners of the two stores, Steven Ortega Sr. and Marla Ortega, appeared in court Wednesday along with the 17 other suspects, but none entered a plea.