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NATIONAL BRIEFS


WASHINGTON: Hearing on GSA to begin

The senior government executive at the center of the General Services Administration spending scandal told investigators he believed it was acceptable not getting competitive bids because he was paying for quality. Jeffrey Neely also didn't get legal advice on a contract for the Las Vegas conference because it would slow down business and be "discoverable" in lawsuits, according to transcripts of interviews conducted by the agency's inspector general and reviewed by The Washington Post. Neely told investigators that a private party he threw in his Las Vegas hotel suite for $2,717 was an employee-awards event. His conduct as the host of a four-day team-building event that cost $823,000 will be under scrutiny on Capitol Hill starting Monday, when the first of four back-to-back congressional hearings is scheduled.


Obama prods Romney on taxes

President Barack Obama has called on Republican Mitt Romney to release his past tax returns, saying candidates for office need to be "as transparent as possible." Obama told Univision in an interview conducted at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia that candidates need to disclose their tax records to let the public know their financial background. It was the first time Obama had made the request personally. His campaign has pressured Romney to release a trove of tax documents going back to the 1990s. Romney has released tax returns for 2010 and provided an estimate for 2011. He filed for an extension on Friday for last year's tax returns. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said Obama was trying to "distract . . . from the real issues with a series of sideshows."


CALIFORNIA: An unlikely friendship

On Aug. 9, 1969, two 17-year-old girls were launched on a path that led to the unlikeliest of friendships. That infamous night, four young people under the sway of Charles Manson bludgeoned and stabbed rising young actress Sharon Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger and three others. The friends are Debra Tate, Sharon's little sister, and Barbara Hoyt, the Manson family member whose testimony helped put the killers in prison. "We've got a lot in common," said Hoyt, now a retired nurse. Now both about 60, the two have bonded in their long quest to keep those responsible behind bars.

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