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News Wrap: Department of Justice Won’t Block Marijuana Laws in Colo., Wash.

August 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: The U.S. Justice Department signaled a major drug policy change today. The department announced it will not go to court to block Colorado and Washington state from permitting recreational use of marijuana. Voters in the those states approved the practice last year. Justice said it will focus on other priorities, including drugged driving and violence in the cultivation of marijuana.

A federal appeals court has upheld the nation’s first law barring medical therapy aimed at making gay youth straight. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling today, letting stand California’s ban on so-called conversion therapy. The state ban applies to health care practitioners, but doesn’t extend to pastors and unlicensed lay counselors.

The Obama administration is moving to curb the re-importation of military surplus weapons sold overseas. Vice President Biden made the announcement today, as he swore in a new head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He said the new federal rule will mostly end a policy that’s let 250,000 guns back into the country since 2005.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: We’re ending the practice of allowing countries to send back to the United States these military weapons for — to private entities, period, period. The new policy is going to help keep military-grade off our streets. And, again, it’s a simple commonsense way to try to reduce gun violence in America.

KWAME HOLMAN: The administration also will require background checks for some owners of machine guns and some shotguns. Broad gun control legislation failed in the Senate four months ago. Since then, the White House has worked on executive actions that do not require congressional approval. The National Rifle Association said the latest moves are misdirected.

Fire crews have made more headway against the Rim fire burning into California’s Yosemite National Park. The weather was cooler and humidity higher today, and that helped slow the flames. The fire now is 30 percent contained, and officials hope to keep it from advancing much deeper into Yosemite, where crowds are expected for the Labor Day weekend.

Fast food workers across the country walked off the job today in their latest protest for a higher minimum wage. Employees from McDonald’s, Burger King and other restaurant chains are asking for $15 an hour and the right to unionize. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which most of those workers are paid.

WOMAN: McDonald’s make a lot of money, and I have a child to take care of. I have to survive by living off of welfare, and I don’t think that that’s right for me.

WOMAN: I don’t always know if I’m going to eat. I don’t always know if I’m going to be able to do my laundry. That’s not OK.

KWAME HOLMAN: The walkouts occurred in 60 cities, but the size of the turnout varied.

 In Pakistan, a senior judge today overturned the prison sentence of a doctor who helped the U.S. find and kill Osama bin Laden. The judge cited procedural issues and ordered a new trial. Dr. Shakil Afridi faced 33 years behind bars for providing money and medical help to Islamic militants, allegations he denied. He also ran a vaccination program for the CIA that helped locate bin Laden.

Another major disclosure has emerged from documents leaked by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden. The so-called black budget details $52 billion in spending this year for secret U.S. intelligence efforts. The Washington Post reports that, among other things, the National Security Agency was investigating up to 4,000 reports of possible security breaches by its own employees last year.

In economic news, the Commerce Department announced growth last spring was much better than first estimated at an annual rate of 2.5 percent. The numbers helped Wall Street overcome worries about Syria. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 16 points to close near 14841. The Nasdaq rose almost 27 points to close at 3620.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.