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DEFENSE

Arms cheating would backfire

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates assured lawmakers Wednesday that he expects Russia to abide by a new nuclear-arms treaty, but that even if Moscow cheats, it won’t gain any military advantage.

In a newly declassified letter provided to the Associated Press, Mr. Gates wrote that he and the top U.S. military leadership have concluded that Russia would not be able to achieve “militarily significant cheating” under the New START treaty, even if it tried. He wrote that the Obama administration expects Russia to fully adhere to the treaty’s limits.

If Russia were to exceed those limits, the Pentagon could respond by putting its doomsday submarines and bombers on higher alert and arming them with extra nuclear warheads, Mr. Gates wrote.

The “survivable and flexible” U.S. offensive nuclear arsenal will “help deter any future Russian leaders from cheating or breakout from the treaty, should they ever have such an inclination,” he wrote.

Some Republicans have raised doubts about the treaty, questioning whether Russian compliance can be ensured. The Obama administration has made a strong pitch for Senate ratification, arguing that it serves national security interests.

In remarks Wednesday at the Council on Foreign Relations, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the debate over the treaty has become partisan.

PENNSYLVANIA

Rendell: ‘Wackos’ taking over GOP

PHILADELPHIA | Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor says that “wackos” are taking over the Republican Party in Congress.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell made his observation Wednesday as he introduced Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine at an event in Philadelphia to rally Democrats for the November midterm elections.

Mr. Rendell says the GOP “is a party that’s slowly but surely being taken over by wackos” who are “obsessed” with President Obama’s American citizenship and think the unemployed refuse to work.

He says they also want to do away with the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to deny automatic U.S. citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

He adds that Democrats have “a lot to sell, but we haven’t done a good job selling it.”

Mr. Rendell is leaving office in January after two terms.

ILLINOIS

Candidate embraces Obama in new ad

SPRINGFIELD | Illinois’ Democratic U.S. Senate candidate is embracing President Obama in a new campaign ad at a time when some Democrats are keeping the president at arm’s length.

The ad shows Mr. Obama calling Alexi Giannoulias his friend, someone voters can trust. The president praises Mr. Giannoulias for running a campaign that doesn’t take money from federal lobbyists.

Some candidates have kept their distance as Mr. Obama’s approval ratings fall, but Mr. Obama remains relatively popular in his home state of Illinois. Mr Giannoulias is in a tight race against Republican Rep. Mark Steven Kirk for Mr. Obama’s former seat.

Mr. Giannoulias’ campaign says the ad will begin airing statewide Thursday. People familiar with the campaign’s plans say it will spend about $500,000 on the ad.

WISCONSIN

Feingold defends career record

MADISON | Sen. Russ Feingold defended himself as a “career politician” on Wednesday, challenging his Republican opponent to explain to him in person why that’s such a bad thing.

Mr. Feingold said at a press conference that Republican Ron Johnson’s frequent use of the description in a derogatory way is unoriginal and falsely implies that being dedicated to public service is “somehow an awful thing.”

“This man’s campaign so far appears to be the constant repetition of a phrase, ‘career politician, ” Mr. Feingold said. “And it’s not very original because it’s basically being used in every campaign in the United States of America. What it amounts to is an attack on me and what I’ve chosen to do in my life.”

Mr. Feingold is facing a tougher-than-anticipated challenge from Mr. Johnson, a political newcomer Republicans hope can knock off the three-term incumbent and help put the Senate back in GOP control. Polls show a tight race eight weeks from the election.

Mr. Johnson’s latest television ad features people calling Mr. Feingold a career politician. Mr. Johnson spokeswoman Sara Sendek said it’s a negative description because Mr. Feingold has no real-world experience with a business or creating jobs.

“He’s out of touch with the hardships that the people of Wisconsin have to face each day,” Miss Sendek said.

MONTANA

Party members quit over dismissal

HELENA | Several members of a Montana tea party group have resigned after the association’s president was dismissed over an exchange on Facebook that appeared to condone violence against gays.

The party issued a statement over the weekend saying the board voted to kick President Tim Ravndal out of the party.

During a Big Sky Tea Party Association meeting Tuesday, board member Tom Baird called the decision a “knee-jerk reaction” and said he was resigning. The Independent Record reports the group’s secretary said she would also resign, and several association members called for a new board.

The dispute stems from a Facebook conversation on Mr. Ravndal’s page that alludes to the 1998 slaying of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was said to have been killed because he was gay.

LABOR

Job openings rise, first since April

Job openings rose in July after two months of declines, a positive sign that companies could step up hiring in the coming months.

The Labor Department says the number of jobs advertised rose by 6.2 percent to 3.04 million. That’s the highest total since April, when temporary census hiring inflated that month’s figure.

Even with the increase, openings remain far below the 4.4 million that existed in December 2007, when the recession began.

The report, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, indicates heavy competition for jobs. In July, 4.8 unemployed people, on average, were vying for each opening. That’s an improvement from the peak of 6.3 in November 2009. But it’s far more than the 1.8 unemployed people competing for each opening when the recession began.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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