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In brief: Bachmann launches 2012 campaign

WATERLOO, Iowa – Michele Bachmann formally kicked off her campaign for president on Monday in the town of her birth, as the Minnesota congresswoman seeks to parlay her Iowa roots and socially conservative credentials into a successful run for the GOP nomination.

“I seek the presidency not for vanity, but because America is at a crucial moment,” Bachmann said, speaking to supporters and reporters on the lawn of the Snowden House, a historic Victorian mansion. “I believe that we must make a bold choice if we are to secure the promise of our future.”

The announcement was a formality; she declared during a June 13 debate that she had filed paperwork for a run. But the decision to announce in Iowa, where Bachmann lived until age 12, rather than the neighboring state where she currently resides and which elected her to Congress, served to emphasize the importance of the Hawkeye State.

A strong showing in the caucuses here, the first scheduled voting in the 2012 race, is vital for Bachmann’s chances. The 55-year-old tea party favorite has repeatedly stressed her Iowa roots on a two-day swing through the state, visiting the house where she grew up and the church where she was baptized, and talking about how she wept when her mother told her they had to move to Minnesota because of her father’s career.

Portions of immigration law blocked

ATLANTA – A federal judge has granted a request to block parts of Georgia’s law cracking down on illegal immigration from taking effect until a legal challenge is resolved.

Judge Thomas Thrash on Monday blocked parts of the law that penalize people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants. He also blocked provisions that authorize officers to verify the immigration status of someone who can’t provide proper identification.

Thrash also dismissed parts of the lawsuit at the state’s request. Most parts of the law were set to enter into effect Friday. Civil liberties groups had filed a lawsuit asking the judge to declare the law unconstitutional and to block it from being enforced.

Nuclear plants safe, official asserts

BLAIR, Neb. – The nation’s top nuclear power regulator said Monday that both of Nebraska’s nuclear power plants have remained safe as they battle floodwaters from the bloated Missouri River.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko visited the Fort Calhoun and Cooper nuclear power plants in eastern Nebraska this week to see how the utilities that run them are coping with the flooding. Both plants sit on the river.

The Omaha Public Power District’s Fort Calhoun is the subject of more public concern because the floodwaters have surrounded that plant and forced workers to use elevated catwalks to access the facility. Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper plant is more elevated.

Jaczko’s visit to Fort Calhoun on Monday came one day after an 8-foot-tall, water-filled temporary berm protecting the plant collapsed early Sunday. Workers were at the plant Monday to determine whether the 2,000-foot berm can be repaired.

“We don’t believe the plant is posing an immediate threat to the health and safety of the public,” Jaczko said.

Omaha Public Power District spokesman Jeff Hanson said pumps at Fort Calhoun were handling the problem and that “everything is secure and safe.” The plant has been closed for refueling since April.

Man travels 300 miles on paddleboard

HONOLULU – Bart de Zwart expected to be in more pain after paddling 300 miles from the Big Island to Kauai.

“I’m not even sore,” he said Monday morning from his Kauai hotel room, where he slept in a bed after arriving at Kalapaki Beach the night before onboard a stand-up paddleboard.

The 41-year-old Maui man spent five days alone at sea attempting what he believes to be the first-ever solo crossing from the Big Island to Kauai on a standup paddleboard. Aside from the blisters and losing about six pounds, he said he felt fine.

He said he was inspired to embark on the passage by ancient Hawaiians who voyaged in simple canoes.

Strapped to his 14-foot longboard were enough freeze-dried meals and water in watertight containers for seven days. He slept on inflatable water mattresses glued together, he explained. “At night, I blew it up and strapped it on the board.” The choppy waters and windy conditions would occasionally flip the board over, startling him awake in the water.


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UN says over 25,000 people fled Yemen fighting at Hodeida

UPDATED: 12:34 p.m.

The U.N. spokesman said on Monday that tens of thousands of residents have fled the fighting along Yemen’s western coastline where Yemeni fighters backed by a Saudi-led coalition are engaged in fierce battles with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.