WASHINGTON: 2 Obama picks confirmed

The Senate plugged two more vacancies in President Barack Obama's second-term leadership team on Thursday, confirming Thomas Perez as secretary of labor and Gina McCarthy as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. After months of Democratic complaints that Republicans were stalling Obama's efforts to staff his administration and the federal courts, the spurt of movement followed a bipartisan deal reached Tuesday. The chamber had approved two others to top jobs earlier in the week.

PENNSYLVANIA: Tentative Sandusky pacts

Penn State University has reached tentative settlements so far totaling about $60 million with men who claim to have been sexually abused by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a trustee, Ted Brown said Thursday. Brown said he was unsure how many claims have been settled and how many remain in negotiations. He noted the $60 million figure does not cover every claim and that he expected trustees to be asked to approve more when tentative agreements are reached. The trustees voted last Friday to authorize members of a committee to approve settlements on the university's behalf, without detailing how many accusers have come forward with sex-abuse claims involving Sandusky, how many have settled and how much money might be involved.

MARYLAND: Aiding enemy charge kept

The judge in the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning refused on Thursday to dismiss the most serious charge against him, damaging his prospects for emerging from the trial as a whistle-blower concerned about government abuse rather than a disgruntled soldier driven to assist al-Qaida. The decision by Col. Denise Lind upholding the charge of aiding the enemy could mean that Manning, who gave WikiLeaks more than 700,000 U.S. intelligence files, videos and diplomatic cables, might spend the rest of his life in a military brig with no chance of parole.

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