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WASHINGTON: Sen. Ensign stepping down

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) will retire rather than seek re-election in 2012, bringing to an end a tumultuous several years following an extramarital affair with a former staffer. "There are consequences to sin," Ensign said at a news conference in Las Vegas. Ensign, first elected to the Senate in 2000 after two terms in the House, is the third Republican to announce his retirement, after Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). Four Democrats and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, are also retiring after the 2012 election.

Military weak on diversity

The U.S. military is too white and too male at the top and needs to change recruiting and promotion policies and lift its ban on women in combat, an independent report for Congress said Monday. Seventy-seven percent of senior officers in the active-duty military are white, while only 8 percent are black, 5 percent are Hispanic and 16 percent are women, the report said, quoting data from September 2008. One barrier for women is their inability to serve in combat units. Promotion and job opportunities have favored those with battlefield leadership credentials. The report ordered by Congress in 2009 was made by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission, whose more than two dozen members included current and former military personnel as well as civilians.

Locke eyed for China envoy

President Barack Obama will nominate Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the son and grandson of Chinese immigrants, to be the next U.S. ambassador to China, a senior official said Monday. If confirmed by the Senate, Locke would succeed Jon Huntsman, one of the few Republicans in Obama's administration. Huntsman's recently tendered resignation is effective at the end of April, and he is eyed as a potential GOP challenger to Obama in the 2012 presidential contest. Locke, 61, is the first Chinese American to serve as commerce secretary. His father and grandfather were born in China. Locke worked on China issues for a Seattle-based law firm, which he joined after declining to seek a third term as Washington state's governor.

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