House passes first energy bill in three decades

Washington

The House approved the first increase in federal automobile fuel efficiency requirements in three decades yesterday as part of an energy bill that also repeals billions of dollars of oil company tax breaks and encourages use of renewable fuels.

The bill, passed by a vote of 235-181, faces a certain filibuster in the Senate and a veto threat from the White House.

“We will send our energy dollars to the Midwest, not the Middle East,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, referring to the bill’s emphasis on promoting renewable energy sources, especially ethanol, which would see a sevenfold increase by 2022 to 36 billion gallons a year.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas

Romney addresses role of his Mormon faith

Republican Mitt Romney said yesterday his Mormon faith should neither help nor hinder his quest for the White House and vowed to serve the interests of the nation, not the church, if elected president.

“When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God,” Romney said in a speech that explicitly recalled remarks John F. Kennedy made in 1960 in an effort to quell anti-Catholic bias.

After declining for months to address the issue of his Mormonism directly, Romney switched course as polls showed widespread unease about his religion – and showed him losing his once-sizable lead in the opening Iowa caucuses to Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister and former governor of Arkansas.

WASHINGTON

Tapes of CIA interrogations destroyed

The CIA videotaped its interrogations of terror suspects in 2002 and destroyed the tapes three years later out of fear they would leak to the public and compromise the identities of U.S. questioners, the director of the agency told employees yesterday.

CIA Director Michael Hayden said House and Senate intelligence committee leaders were informed of the existence of the tapes and the CIA’s intention to destroy them. He also said the CIA’s internal watchdog watched the tapes in 2003 and verified that the interrogation practices were legal.

He said the CIA began taping the interrogations as an internal check on the program after President Bush authorized the use of harsh questioning methods. The methods included waterboarding, which simulates drowning, government officials said.

OMAHA, Neb.

Omaha gunman may have smuggled rifle into mall

The teenage gunman who went on a shooting rampage in a department store may have smuggled an assault rifle into the mall underneath clothing, police said yesterday.

The teen entered the store Wednesday using an elevator, and moments later, gunfire pierced through the notes of Christmas music at the Westroads Mall’s Von Maur department store. People huddled in dressing rooms and barricaded themselves in offices as 19-year-old Robert A. Hawkins sprayed the floor with bullets.

Six store employees and two customers were killed. When the shooting was over, Hawkins shot himself.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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