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ALABAMA: Obama's attack 'troubling,' Roberts says

Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday the scene at President Barack Obama's State of the Union address was "very troubling" and the annual speech has "degenerated into a political pep rally." Obama chided the Supreme Court, with six of the nine justices seated before him in their black robes, for its decision on a campaign finance case. Responding in Tuscaloosa to a University of Alabama law student, Roberts said anyone was free to criticize the court, but he wonders whether justices should attend the speeches. Obama criticized the decision that allows corporations and unions to freely spend money to run political ads in election campaigns. Justice Samuel Alito was the only justice to respond at the time, shaking his head and mouthing the words "not true" as Obama spoke.

WASHINGTON: Extension of jobless benefits gains

Legislation to give additional months of unemployment benefits to people who have been out of a job for more than half a year cleared a key hurdle Tuesday that guarantees it will soon pass the Senate. The sweeping bill also would prevent doctors from absorbing a crippling cut in Medicare payments and extends health insurance subsidies for the unemployed through December. It would add $132 billion to the budget deficit over the next year and a half. Eight Republicans voted to defeat a GOP filibuster of the measure, setting up a final vote Wednesday.

FLORIDA: Will Tilikum be back?

SeaWorld in Orlando has not decided whether a whale that killed its trainer by dragging her into the water will keep performing, an official said Tuesay. In the days after Dawn Brancheau died, the park's top official had pledged that the killer whale, Tilikum, would return to the shows. But park spokesman Fred Jacobs said yesterday that nothing will be decided about the whale's future until after a thorough review of the accident.

OKLAHOMA; Tornado Alley awaits active season

Forecasters say a wetter-than-usual winter and a jet stream ripping over the part of the country known as "Tornado Alley" could lead to an active spring, perhaps starting with the strong twister that nicked a western Oklahoma town Monday night. "It's time to get ready," Michelann Ooten of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said Tuesday as she surveyed damage from a storm that destroyed five homes and tore the roofs off several others in Hammon. The nation typically sees 70-100 tornadoes by early March, but only 42 had been reported until Monday night's twister. There was only one tornado nationwide during February.


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