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NATIONAL BRIEFS


WASHINGTON: Decision due from Gingrich

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich intends to take a formal step toward entering the 2012 presidential race in the next two weeks, Republican officials said Sunday. They expect him to make clear his determination to run. If so, Gingrich, 67, would be the first Republican to do so in a slow-to-develop field to challenge President Barack Obama.


Governors dine with Obama

The president welcomed the nation's governors to the White House on Sunday night, joking that the black-tie dinner shared some of the qualities of the Academy Awards. "I know some of you may be confused and think this is the Oscars," Obama said to laughter. "There are some similarities. First of all, everybody looks spectacular. And the second is this: If I speak too long, the music will start playing." Obama urged collaboration to the governors, many of them newly elected Republicans who rode November's wave to power. The governors, in town for National Governors Association meetings, return to the White House on Monday to meet with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other officials.


CALIFORNIA: Legal pot brings tax woes

In Northern California, few cities have worked as long or as hard as Berkeley and Oakland to nudge medical marijuana into the mainstream. But life in the mainstream brings its own set of problems. Even as fears of criminal crackdowns fade, the flagship pot dispensaries in each city are facing tax troubles that could cost them millions. The dispensaries' difficulties stem from the legal haze that still surrounds the drug despite being legalized for medical use in California nearly 15 years ago. The cases also highlight the huge sums of money moving through the state's medical marijuana operations, which must operate as nonprofits under state law.


FLORIDA: Preparing for spacewalks

The astronauts aboard the orbiting shuttle-station complex were gearing up for their first spacewalk Monday. Mission Control told the six shuttle fliers that Discovery made it through its final liftoff relatively unscathed, despite a section of insulating foam breaking off the fuel tank and striking Discovery's belly.

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