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WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate Thursday confirmed Elena Kagan as the newest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Senate voted 63-37 in favor of the nomination, making Kagan, 50, the third woman sitting on the current court and the fourth woman ever confirmed to the nation's highest bench.

Republicans had objected to Kagan's lack of judicial experience and expressed fears that because of her political background would be an activist judge.

Supporters, however, described Kagan as a brilliant lawyer.

She replaces Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired at the end of the last term and she is the second justice President Barack Obama has named to the court.

"Through most of my professional life, I've had the simple joy of teaching, of trying to communicate to students why I so loved the law: not just because it's challenging and endlessly interesting, although it certainly is that, but because law matters, because it keeps us safe, because it protects our most fundamental rights and freedoms, and because it is the foundation of our democracy," Kagan said as Obama nominated her earlier this year.

Kagan's Harvard resume says her particular areas of interest are constitutional and administrative law. She held the Charles Hamilton Houston professorship at Harvard and also taught at the University of Chicago Law School, where she played Chicago-style 16-inch softball, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. During the Clinton administration, she was associate White House counsel.

Kagan was born in New York April 28, 1960, the second of three children, to Gloria Gittelman Kagan and Robert Kagan, Wikipedia reports. She graduated summa cum laude in 1981 from Princeton, earning the Daniel M. Sachs Memorial Scholarship along the way as well as an M.Phil degree from Oxford University in 1983. Her law degree came in 1986 from Harvard where she served as supervisory editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Senate approves jobs bill, Medicaid funds

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate Thursday approved a $26 billion plan to save the jobs of thousands of teachers across the country and help state Medicaid programs.

The bill is now headed back to the U.S. House, where Democratic leaders scheduled a Tuesday vote to approve the legislation and send it on to President Barack Obama for signing.

The Washington Post said Democrats in the Senate approved the bill 61-39 with the help of two Republicans. Wednesday, those two Republicans, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, helped Democrats break a GOP filibuster of the bill.

Lawmakers from both parties indicated the measure is probably the end of the line for spending bills aimed at boosting economic activity.

"I think that this should be sort of the final down payment," said Snowe.

"Washington needs to take care of its own fiscal mess, not deepen it by bailing out the states," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Post reported. Americans "are alarmed at the fact that the federal government is now for the first time in our history the single largest source of revenue for the states."

The U.S. Education Department estimates the education funding would save the jobs of about 160,000 teachers and other educators, with California getting the most funding, $1.2 billion to preserve about 16,500 jobs.

Governors are promised $16.1 billion to help pay Medicaid bills, Politico reported, and $10 billion will be distributed to state and local school boards to stave off teacher layoffs.

Obama: 'We don't give up'

CHICAGO, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama touted the federal bailout of parts of the U.S. auto industry at a Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) assembly plant in Chicago Thursday.

"There were a lot of folks who were ready to write off the American auto industry, who thought we should just have walked away from you," Obama told a friendly Ford crowd. "Some still think that today. But you know what? That's not how you build a better future. That's not how you build a better America. We don't give up. The United States does not quit. We always compete. That's what we do. And that's what we're doing with the U.S. auto industry."

Ford was the only one of the Big Three automakers that didn't require a federal loan to survive the depths of the recession.

"This plant has stood through the good times, when American auto industry ruled the world, and in the not-so-good times, when the future of the auto industry was very much in doubt," Obama said. "And let's face it, we've seen some of those not-so-good times in recent years. The year before I took office, this industry lost hundreds of thousands of jobs."

Now, "America's automakers have added 55,000 jobs since last June," he said. "That's the best job growth in more than 10 years in this industry. Sales have rebounded. Automakers are keeping plants open through the usual summer shutdown to keep up with demand. Across the supply chain, plants that would not exist without the sacrifices made across industry are running at max or near-full capacity.

"And this plant, right here, is shifting into higher gear," Obama said. "What I said last year was if American automakers were willing to make the tough choices necessary to make them more competitive in the future, America would stand by them. And one thing we did was put in place a new national fuel-efficiency standard for all new cars and trucks sold in America."

Obama said: "All three ... U.S. automakers are now operating at a profit. That's the first time it's happened in six years."

Accompanied by first dog Bo, Obama went to Chicago without wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha. Michelle and Sasha were traveling to Spain and Malia was at summer camp. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama's wife and daughters called with birthday wishes.

Onlookers lined the streets of the president's Hyde Park neighborhood to wave, cheer and offer birthday greetings. One girl held a sign reading, "Happy 49th Birthday, Pres. Barack Obama" and another had a sign that said, "Happy Birthday, Mr. Pres."

14 named in U.S. terror indictments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Fourteen U.S. residents have been charged with supporting al-Shabaab, the Somali Islamic terror group, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.

The 14 were named in four indictments unsealed Thursday. Twelve of the suspects are not in custody and are believed to be overseas, the department said.

"These indictments and arrests in Minnesota, Alabama and California shed further light on a deadly pipeline that has routed funding and fighters to al-Shabaab from cities across the United States," Attorney General Eric Holder said at a Washington news conference.

"An indictment was unsealed in Minnesota charging 10 men with terrorism offenses for leaving the United States to join al-Shabaab as foreign fighters," he said. "Seven of these defendants had been previously charged by either indictment or criminal complaint. The remaining three defendants had not been charged before."

Two of the suspects were taken into custody Thursday by the FBI. Agents arrested Amina Farah Ali, 33, and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 63, both naturalized U.S. citizens from Somalia and residents of Rochester, Minn.

The department said each is charged in an indictment with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Shabaab from Sept. 17, 2008 through July 19, 2010. Ali is also charged in the indictment with 12 substantive counts of providing material support to al-Shabaab. Hassan is charged with three counts of making false statements.

The indictment alleges that Ali communicated by telephone with people in Somalia who requested financial assistance for al-Shabaab, the department said. Ali, Hassan and others allegedly raised money for these individuals by soliciting funds door-to-door in Somali communities in Minneapolis, Rochester and other locations in the United States and Canada, without identifying al-Shabaab was the final recipient.

Petraeus issues new battlefield directive

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The new U.S. commander of troops in Afghanistan has issued a directive that they should defend themselves, but also should safeguard Afghan civilian lives.

The directive is the first by the new U.S. commander of Western forces in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Some had complained his predecessor, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, recently fired by President Obama, had issued battlefield rules that tied the hands of troops involved in conflicts for fear of injuring civilians.

Civilian casualties are a painful point between North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the paper reported.

Unidentified U.S. military officials said the directive includes "refinements" to previous rules of engagement on the use of artillery fire and aerial bombardment, the paper said.

"We believe the most pertinent issue in play is uneven application of the [previous] tactical directive," said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, the operations spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force. He said the new directive is "intended to ensure that everyone is on the same page."

In an unclassified portion of the directive, Petraeus said each Afghan civilian death hurts "our cause," the paper reported.

But it "does not prevent commanders from protecting the lives of their men and women," the general said.

Two school buses in highway crash, 2 dead

ST. LOUIS, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- A crash involving a tractor-trailer and two school buses Thursday killed two people on a Missouri interstate highway, authorities say.

Dozens were injured in the collision on eastbound I-44 in Gary Summit, Mo., involving two buses carrying members of a St. James, Mo., school band to a Six Flags (NYSE:SIX) theme park, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

The crash also left a car wedged underneath one of the buses, KMOV-TV, St. Louis, reported.

Rescue crews extracted many people trapped in the buses and said about half the 50 people involved in the crash were injured.

Officials at one local hospital said they had been notified to expect to receive 36 students, ages 13 to 17, with minor injuries.

One of the buses carried girls, with the second bus full of boys, the Missouri Highway Patrol said.

The crash occurred as the tractor-trailer owned by Climate Express was slowing down in construction-related congestion, company President Tim Lake said.

A car hit the truck from behind, Lake said, and was hit by the first bus that rode up onto the car before being struck by the second bus.

The truck driver was one of those injured in the crash, he said.

The highway was closed as Franklin County police investigated the accident, KSDK-TV, St. Louis, said.

(Source: UPI )
 

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