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FARM BILL PASSES HOUSE AFTER YEARS OF DISAGREEMENT: WASHINGTON (AP) — After years of setbacks, a nearly $100 billion-a-year compromise farm bill cleared the House on Wednesday despite strong opposition from conservatives who sought a bigger cut in food stamps.

The five-year bill, which preserves generous crop subsidies, heads to the Senate, where approval seems certain. The White House said President Barack Obama would sign it.

The measure, which the House approved 251-166, had backing from the Republican leadership team, even though it makes smaller cuts to food stamps than they would have liked. After wavering for several years, the GOP leaders were seeking to put the long-stalled bill behind them and build on the success of a bipartisan budget passed earlier this month. Leaders in both parties also were hoping to bolster rural candidates in this year's midterm elections.

House Speaker John Boehner did not cast a vote on the bill, a commonplace practice for a speaker, but he had issued a statement Monday saying it was "worthy of the House's support." Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., voted for the bill despite concerns from some in her caucus that the bill cut too much from the food stamp program.

The bill ultimately would cut about $800 million a year from the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program, or around 1 percent. The House had sought a 5 percent cut.


POLICE: MD. MALL GUNMAN WROTE OF KILLING PEOPLE: WASHINGTON (AP) — The gunman in a deadly attack at a Maryland shopping mall wrote in general terms about killing people in his journal and said that he was ready to die, police said Wednesday in releasing new details about writings the shooter left behind.

Darion Aguilar did not mention targeting specific people, groups or locations but expressed in his journal "a general hatred of others," the Howard County police department said on its Twitter account. He apologized to his family for what he was planning to do and wrote that his plan was set, but did not specify what that meant, police said. He also revealed that he thought he needed to see a mental health professional but had not told his family.

Police say the 19-year-old Aguilar killed two employees of a skateboard gear shop on Saturday at the Mall in Columbia and then took his own life.


BILL LETS RESIDENTS DONATE TO GAY MARRIAGE FIGHT: SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah lawmaker hopes residents can soon donate to the state's fight against gay marriage by checking a box on a tax form.

Republican Rep. Merrill Nelson of Grantsville has proposed a bill that would give residents the option of donating a portion of their income-tax refund to a "Marriage Defense Fund." The tax form already allows donations for nine other groups, including a homeless trust fund and one for organ transplants.

Nelson said the option is meant to placate proponents of same-sex marriage who complain the state is wasting money appealing a federal decision striking down Utah's gay marriage ban. It also allows supporters of "traditional marriage" a way to show their support for the cause, he said.

"This bill really is designed to appease both sides," said Nelson, who is an attorney for Kirton McConkie, which represents The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Utah will spend $300,000 to bring in a team of three outside attorneys to help defend the state's same-sex marriage ban before a federal appeals court. If Utah's case moves to the U.S. Supreme Court, the costs of hiring the team of private attorneys would be another $300,000, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said.


NJ TOT LEFT ON COLD SCHOOL BUS FOR NEARLY 6 HOURS: FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Officials in central New Jersey have fired a school bus driver after a toddler was left on his bus in bitter cold weather for nearly six hours.

The 3-year-old got on the bus at 8 a.m. Tuesday for the ride to the Franklin Park School in Somerset County. He sat at on the bus without heat, food or water until he was discovered around 2 p.m.

The manager of the bus company tells the Courier News of Bridgewater  the bus driver ignored a child reminder system that requires the driver to walk to the back of the bus to disable an alarm. The manager says the driver went outside to walk to the back of the bus, where he opened and closed the door to disable the alarm.



OREGON CRIME SUSPECT SHOOTS HIMSELF IN THE GROIN: PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Police in Portland, Ore., say a man suspected of shooting a neighbor shot himself in the groin while trying to leave the scene of the crime.

The 40-year-old man's wound is "consistent with somebody putting a gun in his pants."

The initial shooting happened Tuesday night during an apparent robbery attempt a downtown apartment building near Portland State University.

The 32-year-old man who was shot ran to a grocery store for help. He was later taken to the hospital with a leg wound.

Police say that as the suspect left the scene, he accidentally shot himself in the testicles.



DAD GETS 5 YEARS IN PRISON FOR STARVING GIRL: MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin father convicted of abuse for starving his teenage daughter down to 68 pounds was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison.

Before being sentenced by Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese, the 42-year-old man read a statement insisting his daughter suffered from severe emotional and behavioral problems that he couldn't handle, that his job as a trucker kept him away from home and that he didn't notice how thin she had become.

"There was no master plan against my daughter," the man said, his voice breaking at times. "I was bailing water from a sinking boat with my bare hands."