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Immigration Reform Bill Could Pass In Six Months, Obama Says

President Obama said that the bipartisan group of senators working on immigration legislation was following a “reasonable timeline” and suggested he would push to get a bill passed in the first half of the year. In a pair of interviews the day after kicking off his public campaign for immigration reform, Obama told the Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo that he would put the weight of his office – and his bully pulpit – behind the effort. Obama began that effort Tuesday with a speech outlining his top priorities for a bill, including a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants currently living in the country illegally. But Obama also encouraged the group of senators crafting compromise legislation and said their principles were in line with his own. Obama said Wednesday that the senators’ aim to propose legislation by March fit his definition of timely. Still, early sticking points have emerged. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a key member of the group, has said the pathway to citizenship must be contingent upon border security, a notion the president argued against Wednesday.

Senators Plan Legislation To Expand Firearm Background Checks

A bipartisan group of senators is working on legislation to expand the system of background checks for gun buyers, but not efforts to restrict access to firearms. The potential move toward background-check legislation arose Wednesday as Senate Judiciary Committee took its first testimony on gun violence since the shooting spree at a Connecticut elementary school last month. The hearing featured an emotional statement from former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, who was almost killed in a 2011 mass shooting. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), himself a gun owner, declined to endorse a ban on certain semiautomatic weapons, but said he supports improving background checks, calling it “common sense” to expand checks to include purchases at gun shows. Currently, only guns bought from a federally licensed dealer are subject to background checks. Two Republican senators, John Cornyn of Texas and Jeff Flake of Arizona, said they favored beefing up the national database for background checks with more mental-health records. A bipartisan group of senators is drafting legislation to require background background checks for all gun purchases, a measure that is expected to be voted on next month in the Senate Judiciary Committee, a Senate Democratic aide said.

Colorado Theater Shooting Prosecutors Hire Death Penalty Expert

An expert in capital punishment cases has joined the attorneys prosecuting accused Colorado movie theater gunman James Holmes, which could indicate they will seek the death penalty. Attorney Daniel Zook has prosecuted four capital murder cases in Colorado, officials with the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office said on Wednesday in announcing the hiring of Zook. Zook supervised a group of 79 attorneys from 2009 to 2011 as assistant district attorney for Colorado’s Fourth Judicial District, which covers El Paso and Teller counties, according to the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office. He also has lectured on criminal law at Colorado Technical University and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Holmes, 25, is accused of opening fire at a midnight screening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” at a theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora in July, killing 12 people and wounding 58. The massacre ranks as one of the worst cases of U.S. gun violence in recent years.

FDA Targets Flu Drug Claims

Scammers looking to make money off consumer fears about this year’s severe flu season are proliferating, the Food and Drug Administration says, causing the agency to take a hard look at products that make claims about protecting against the flu. USA Today reports the FDA has issued a warning letter to one, GermBullet, saying the nasal spray’s claim that it is “laboratory tested and shown to reduce illness-causing bacteria, cold and flu viruses” is a “false and misleading promotional statement.”  GermBullet is a nasal spray made up of “pure essential oils,” according to its website. The product, sold over the counter, is made by Flu & Cold Defense LLC of Boca Raton, Fla. The FDA says the company is illegally selling a misbranded drug.

Zimmerman Seeks To Delay Trial

Attorneys for George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed teen-age Trayvon Martin in February 2012, asked the judge Wednesday to delay the trial. They said they need more time to prepare Mr. Zimmerman’s case and have asked that planned second-degree murder trial be moved from June to November, according to an Associated Press report. Attorneys also put forth a public appeal for more money for Mr. Zimmermans legal defense. A hearing in which Zimmerman will argue he was acting in self-defense is scheduled for April. The judge has said that hearing will be at least 45 days before the trial.

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