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WASHINGTON: Patriot Act extended

Congress passed a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists Thursday night. Votes taken in rapid succession in the Senate and the House came after lawmakers rejected attempts to temper the law enforcement powers to ensure that individual liberties are not abused. The legislation passed with only hours to go before the provisions expire at midnight. Obama will be awakened by 5:45 a.m. in France so he can review the bill and authorize his signature. He will use an "autopen" machine that holds a pen and signs his signature.

House OKs defense budget

The House passed overwhelmingly Thursday a $690-billion defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2012 that fully funds operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and limits President Obama's authority to deal with Guantánamo detainees and to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. The White House has warned that those latter provisions could prompt a veto if included in the final version of the bill.

NEW JERSEY: Quitting pollution pact

Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that New Jersey will withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade agreement among 10 northeast states, by the end of the year. Christie acknowledged that humans play a role in global warming but said the program does not address the problem. New Jersey joined RGGI in 2008 in the Corzine administration.

ILLINOIS: Blagojevich testifies

An unmuzzled Rod Blagojevich launched the campaign of his life Thursday, taking the witness stand at his corruption trial in an attempt to sway a jury with the same charm and chattiness that helped him win two contests for governor. Not until five hours on the stand did Blagojevich and his attorneys begin to address the 20 charges of corruption against him. He was not asked about the most explosive allegation: that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old Senate seat for personal gain.

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