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NATIONAL BRIEFS


TEXAS: Suspect drops attorney

The Army psychiatrist charged in the Fort Hood shooting rampage unexpectedly severed ties with his lead attorney Wednesday, eight months before the military trial at which he faces the death penalty. Maj. Nidal Hasan confirmed during his arraignment that he dropped his civilian attorney, John Galligan, a retired Army colonel who had represented him since the 2009 attack on the Army post. Hasan, who is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, said he wanted to be represented by three military attorneys. Hasan did not enter a plea during the 15-minute arraignment. According to military law, he cannot plead guilty because it is a death penalty case. Col. Gregory Gross, Fort Hood's chief circuit judge, set the military trial date for March. Jurors will be brought in from Fort Sill, Okla.


MINNESOTA: Government shutdown ends

The state government shutdown ended Wednesday after 20 days, millions in lost revenue and frustration on the part of residents and politicians. The stoppage made the state a national example of political dysfunction, a small-scale mirror of the dispute in Washington over whether to raise the debt ceiling. In Minnesota, the budget agreement was widely panned for just putting the problems off until later. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton had pushed for months to raise taxes on the state's richest residents to provide more money for social services.


FLORIDA: Dora now a Category 4

Hurricane Dora has rapidly strengthened into a Category 4 storm moving northwest off Mexico's Pacific coast. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Wednesday night that the storm's center was about 235 miles southwest of Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico, and moving west-northwest at 16 mph. Maximum sustained winds had reached 135 mph. The fourth hurricane of the eastern Pacific season was forecast to stay offshore.

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