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National leaders have pledged to avoid a repeat of the 2008 competition that prompted Iowa to hold caucuses Jan. 3 amid drawn-out disputes with Florida and Michigan. But a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, and others said Iowa will move up its Feb. 6 caucuses if Florida sticks with a Jan. 31 primary.

“If Florida continues to stay where they are, we’ll move up just as we have in the past,” said Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht.

Iowa traditionally holds the first caucuses, followed days later by the New Hampshire primaries. Politicians elsewhere have argued for years that it is not fair for two states with relatively small populations and few minorities to go first.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties punished Florida in 2008 for moving to an earlier date.


House moves to stop laser targeting of planes

People who knowingly aim laser pointers at an aircraft would be committing a federal crime subject to up to five years in prison under legislation passed by the House.

The House bill responds to growing incidents of pilots being distracted or even temporarily blinded and forced to give up control of aircraft because of laser beams.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the number of cases of people pointing lasers at planes and helicopters nearly doubled last year to more than 2,800 as handheld lasers become more affordable and more powerful.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Lungren, California Republican, says there are also reports of airborne police units aborting crime-scene responses due to laser interference.


Critics: Science cuts could hurt economy

Proposed budget cuts to U.S. scientific research institutions would put the United States at an economic disadvantage with China and India, a former George W. Bush administration official says.

Scientific and environmental communities are raising alarm over proposed reductions of funding for their programs in a bill passed in the House that would cut overall spending through September by about $61.5 billion from current levels.

Former Energy Department science chief Raymond Orbach said the bill’s cuts in funding for research “would effectively end America’s legendary status as the leader of the worldwide scientific community, putting the United States at a distinct disadvantage with other nations in the global marketplace.”

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