USA

The House approved a $417 billion defense spending bill Tuesday, but the Senate continued shifting through more than 30 proposed amendments, weighing disagreements over missile defense and progress in postwar Iraq. Senators also rejected a proposal that would have taken $515 million from President Bush's proposed $10.2 billion missile defense budget to police American borders and secure "loose nukes."

Democratic presidential contender John Kerry made a rare appearance in the Senate Tuesday to support an amendment to the military spending bill on healthcare for veterans. But procedural delays on the matter kept him from voting. Kerry has missed more than 80 percent of the roll-call votes this year as he conducts his campaign. Also Tuesday, he met privately with Senate colleague John Edwards of North Carolina, who's believed to be a leading contender for the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket in November.

Stung by suggestions that the administration condoned torture, the White House released hundreds of pages of documents Tuesday concerning the treatment and interrogation of persons captured in the war against terror. But critics such as US Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York said the documents raise more questions than they answer.

US Rep. Jim DeMint easily defeated ex-Gov. David Beasley Tuesday to win the Republican runoff in South Carolina in the race to succeed retiring US Sen. Ernest Hollings (D). Demint will be opposed by Democratic nominee Inez Tenenbaum.

By a 99-to-1 vote, the Senate agreed Tuesday to fine broadcasters up to $3 million a day for airing indecent entertainment. The move came as lawmakers face increasing public ire over racy language and explicit scenes, such as the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Superbowl scandal that generated more than 500,000 complaints to the Federal Communications Commission.

Get-tough approaches to crime, such as mandatory minimum sentences, generally don't work and should be abolished, the American Bar Association argued in a new report. The document says existing requirements do not account for differences among crimes and criminals, resulting in more people behind bars for longer terms without necessarily keeping society safer.

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