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PENTAGON

Officials seek sale of planes to Saudis

The Obama administration is seeking a go-ahead from Congress to sell up to $60 billion worth of sophisticated warplanes to Saudi Arabia and could add another $30 billion worth of naval arms in a deal designed to counter the rise of Iran as a regional power.

The deal would apparently represent the largest single U.S. arms sale ever approved. It would allow Saudi Arabia, the most militarily advanced of the Arab Gulf states and one of the richest countries in the world, to buy top-line U.S.-made helicopters and fighter jets with ranges that would span the Middle East and beyond.

Unlike some previous sales to Saudi Arabia, this one is not expected to be derailed by opposition in Congress or from U.S. backers of Israel, who have worried in the past about blunting Israel's military edge over its Arab neighbors.

Iran is now seen by Israel, the Gulf Arab states and the West as a significant and unpredictable threat that has changed the old calculus of the region's balance of power.

The U.S. is realigning its defense policies in the Persian Gulf as Iran improves the range and accuracy of missiles and other weapons that could threaten Israel or U.S. allies in Europe. Besides the Saudi deal, the U.S. has pending or proposed arms sales to Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, and has repositioned some U.S. forces and military assets around the Gulf.

NEW YORK

New ballots bring new complications

NEW YORK | When New York's primary takes place Tuesday, the state will become the last to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act.

But some voters may still need more help.

New electronic voting machines are being introduced for the primary. But with state and city budget cuts, not enough staff has been trained to help voters use them.

The machines come with paper ballots that are so hard to read, voters will be offered magnifying glasses. They'll choose candidates by filling in an oval next to the person's name. The ballot then goes into an optical-scanning machine.

But there are concerns that a lot of ballots won't be counted. If someone inadvertently votes for too many candidates, the ballot will still be cast, but the vote will then be invalidated.

The disputed Florida presidential vote count in 2000 led to the federal law telling states to adopt simpler voting systems.

TEXAS

Shop owner cries foul over Perry ad

AUSTIN | The owner of a small Austin grocery store whose shop is shown in Republican Gov. Rick Perry's new television ad says she doesn't endorse him for re-election.

Farm To Market Grocery owner Peg McCoy said Monday she did not give permission for her shop to be used in Mr. Perry's campaign commercial and that she wants the ad to be taken off the air.

Mr. Perry's campaign spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about the ad dispute from the Associated Press.

Miss McCoy's shop sells locally grown food and flowers. An image of the storefront can be seen in the ad, which also shows other Texas businesses as Mr. Perry talks about creating jobs.

Miss McCoy said she's not endorsing Mr. Perry's Democratic opponent, Bill White, either.

MARYLAND

McCain endorses Ehrlich for governor

Former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain says Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has his support in Maryland's Republican primary for governor.

Mr. McCain expressed his support for the former governor's comeback bid in an interview Monday with the Associated Press after a meeting of the U.S. Naval Academy's Board of Visitors.

Mr. McCain says he thinks Mr. Ehrlich is "a fine guy," and he says Mr. Ehrlich has his endorsement.

Sarah Palin, who was Mr. McCain's running mate, has endorsed business investor Brian Murphy in the GOP primary, which is Tuesday in Maryland.

Mr. Ehrlich is seeking a rematch with Democratic incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley.

CONNECTICUT

McMahon at event with bomb threat

MADISON | A bomb threat forced the evacuation of a political fundraiser in Connecticut attended by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon.

Mrs. McMahon was among more than 60 people at the home of Madison Republican Town Committee Chairman Tom Banisch on Sunday afternoon during a fundraiser for the local GOP.

Police say someone called them shortly after 4:30 p.m. to report a bomb at Mr. Banisch's home. State police searched the house for about an hour and determined the threat was bogus. No one was injured.

Authorities are trying to determine who made the threat.

WHITE HOUSE

First lady asks eateries for help

First lady Michelle Obama is prodding the nation's restaurants to add more healthy options to menus, label those items more prominently and market nutritious foods to children.

Speaking to the National Restaurant Association on Monday, Mrs. Obama pleaded with restaurants small and large to take a little butter or cream out of their dishes, use low-fat milk and provide apple slices or carrots as a default side dish on the children's menu.

Mrs. Obama said that Americans are spending half their food dollars outside the home and eating a third of all meals in restaurants. She asked the restaurants to rethink the food they offer and reformulate their menus to help combat childhood obesity.

"We have to do more, we have to go farther, and we need your help to lead this effort," she told the restaurateurs and executives.

The first lady has delivered similar messages to schools and the nation's largest food companies as part of her effort to boost childhood nutrition. She told the restaurant industry that parents' choices at restaurants need to be easier and said that healthy options shouldn't be buried on the menu.

She appealed to the industry's creativeness to get the job done.

"You know what gets them to drive their poor parents crazy because they just have to have something," she said.

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