300 arrested in raids on Mexican cartel
In the largest single strike at Mexican drug operations in the U.S., federal officials on Thursday announced the arrests of more than 300 people in raids across the country aimed at La Familia, which has earned a reputation for dominating the methamphetamine trade and for its graphic violence, including beheadings. More than 3,000 federal agents and police officers carried out the arrests Wednesday and Thursday in 19 states. The arrests took place in 38 cities, including Boston, Seattle, Tampa and St. Paul, Minn. La Familia is based in the state of Michoacan, in southwestern Mexico.
Obama signs bill on veterans funds
President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law a measure designed to keep funding for veterans' medical care steady amid future budget negotiations. Noting the Veterans Affairs Department is providing care for veterans without a Congress-approved budget right now, Obama said the new law would guarantee timely funding by laying out the VA budget ahead of schedule. The VA provides health care for more than 23 million American veterans; as many as a quarter of the nation's population qualifies for VA coverage, either as veterans or family members of veterans.
Military pay hike: Military personnel will get an above-inflation pay raise of 3.4 percent under a Pentagon policy bill the Senate passed Thursday and sent to the president for his signature. The Senate cleared the House-Senate compromise measure by a 68-29 vote. From Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson voted in support of the bill; Sen. George LeMieux voted against it.
Overseas voters: U.S. troops and other American voters overseas will get more time to send in their ballots and more electronic access to voting forms under legislation Congress passed Thursday. The bill, called the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, aims to remove some of the hurdles that have caused thousands of overseas ballots to be lost or uncounted in past elections.
Hate crime legislation: Physical attacks on people based on their sexual orientation will join the list of federal hate crimes in a major expansion of the civil rights-era law Congress approved Thursday and sent to President Barack Obama. The measure expands current law to include crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The measure is named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student murdered 11 years ago.
Indianapolis highway closed: A liquid propane tanker exploded on an Indianapolis highway ramp on Thursday, closing a section of a major expressway for what could be weeks. The explosion closed Interstates 69 and 465 on the northeast side of the city. I-69 reopened after two hours, but State Police Sgt. Anthony Emery said I-465 would remain closed for repairs. The tanker's driver had injuries that didn't appear to be life threatening. The driver of a vehicle that was behind the truck was taken to a hospital with severe burns.
Bombs fall on air base: An F-16 pilot jettisoned two 500-pound bombs and two fuel tanks before making an emergency landing at Hill Air Force Base on Thursday, officials said. No injuries were reported after the incident at the base about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City, and the pilot was able to land safely, Col. Scott J. Zobrist said. The pilot followed procedures, he said.