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By Compiled from wire service reports by Ross Atkin / December 29, 2008



The slowing economy won't keep the new administration from fulfilling it's plans for a middle-class tax cut in a stimulus package, David Axelrod, a top adviser to President-elect Obama, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

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The Navy reached a settlement with environmentalists Saturday that requires it to spend $14.75 million over three years to study how sonar affects whales and other marine mammals. The agreement ends more than three years of extensive litigation by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups, which argue that sonar used in submarine-hunting exercises harm and sometimes kills whales and dolphins.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy called Saturday for federal and state authorities to issue stronger warnings about the potential health risks from a coal-ash spill in Harriman, Tenn., last week. The spill covered 300 acres in sludge after a retention pond broke at a coal-burning Tennessee Valley Authority plant.

The families of those who died aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which hijackers crashed in Shanksville, Pa., in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, have urged the White House to seize the last 270 acres needed for 2,300-acre park and memorial, a spokesman said Saturday. For the memorial to be ready on the 10th anniversary of the crash, the group says ground must be broken early in 2009.

Saying he was shocked and appalled, Republican National Committee Chairman Robert "Mike" Duncan denounced the distribution of a CD with the song "Barack the Magic Negro" to RNC members by Chip Saltsman, a former Tennessee Republican leader who is seeking the RNC chairmanship. Saltsman defended the tune as a political parody that aired on Rush Limbaugh's radio show in 2007.

Phoenix began service Saturday on its new 20-mile light-rail line, which took $1.4 billion and four years to build. The start-up line runs from north-central Phoenix through downtown and then east through suburban Tempe and Mesa. Plans call for doubling the mileage by 2025.

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