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Bush signs spending bill

President Bush on Thursday signed a $464-billion spending bill that closes out last year’s unfinished budget business but made clear he wasn’t entirely happy about it.

Bush said in a statement that he was pleased the bill sticks to his overall budget caps. But he said the Democratic-led Congress did so by shifting “funding needed for our armed forces to unrequested domestic programs.”

The mammoth bill pulls together nine unfinished spending bills funding foreign aid and every domestic agency budget except the Homeland Security Department. This budget work should have been completed months ago but was delayed because of election-year pressures.

It freezes most accounts at 2006 levels while awarding exceptions for other programs favored by Democrats and many Republicans – paid for primarily by putting off the cost of implementing a 2005 round of military base closings.

Among the beneficiaries is the National Institutes of Health, the FBI, and an increase in the maximum Pell Grant for lower-income college students. The rapidly growing veterans health care budget got a 13 percent boost.


Drivers stranded after storm

National Guardsmen in Humvees ferried food, fuel and baby supplies Thursday to hundreds of motorists stranded on a 50-mile stretch of highway for nearly a day by a storm blamed for 15 deaths.

The traffic jam on the icy, hilly section of Interstate 78 in eastern Pennsylvania forced authorities to also shut down portions of I-81 and I-80 Thursday afternoon as they struggled to gain ground on the colossal traffic jam.

Drivers were frustrated they were let on the road at all. State police did not close all the entrance ramps to I-78 until around 5 p.m., more than 24 hours after vehicles started to get caught.

The sprawling storm system hit Wednesday and blew out to sea Thursday, leaving huge snow piles, frigid air and tens of thousands without power across the Midwest and Northeast.


Thanksgiving tribe now recognized

The tribe that shared in the first Thanksgiving celebration received federal recognition Thursday as a sovereign American Indian nation, 32 years after it began its quest.

The ancestors of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe were at the area where Plymouth was founded long before the Pilgrims arrived, but their population was nearly wiped out by war and disease.

The roughly 1,500 members of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe learned last March that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had given their bid preliminary approval.

After the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, members of the Mashpee tribe dined with the English settlers at the first Thanksgiving. The harmony, though, gave way to a brief period of bloody war.


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