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National Briefs (Oct. 18 - 24)

10/17/2013, 7:41 p.m.

Another year, another small benefit increase for Social Security recipients, disabled veterans

WASHINGTON (AP) - For the second straight year, millions of Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees can expect historically small increases in their benefits come January. Preliminary figures suggest a benefit increase of roughly 1.5 percent, which would be among the smallest since automatic increases were adopted in 1975, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Next year's raise will be small because consumer prices, as measured by the government, haven't gone up much in the past year.

NSA sifting through millions of contact lists

WASHINGTON (AP) - The National Security Agency has been sifting through millions of contact lists from personal email and instant messaging accounts around the world - including those of Americans - in its effort to find possible links to terrorism or other criminal activity, according to a published report. The Washington Post reported late Monday that the spy agency intercepts hundreds of thousands of email address books every day from private accounts on Yahoo, Gmail, Facebook and Hotmail that move though global data links. The NSA also collects about a half million buddy lists from live chat services and email accounts. The Post said it learned about the collection tactics from secret documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden and confirmed by senior intelligence officials.

Sorority bids offered to 23 minorities at UA

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - University of Alabama President Judy Bonner says more than 20 minorities have been offered membership in historically white sororities after school officials railed against the campus' Greek system in response to allegations of systemic racism. Al.com reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/17GKTfc) that Bonner said the school's Greek organizations are far from achieving full integration, but have made notable strides recently. The UA student newspaper quoted a member of an all-white sorority in September who said alumnae blocked undergraduates from accepting a qualified prospective member because she was black. A member of another all-white sorority said she left the organization after it failed to add a black woman as a member. The faculty senate recently voted to create a task force of faculty members, administrators and students to improve campus diversity.

Detroit's white CFO quits over 'hoodie' remark

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit's chief financial officer has quit after an investigation of a complaint that the white official made an insensitive reference to the killing of black Florida teen Trayvon Martin. State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr says Jim Bonsall submitted his resignation Tuesday. Recently demoted Detroit finance director Cheryl Johnson wrote Orr that Bonsall created a hostile work environment. Johnson's letter says Bonsall asked during a meeting about the city's annual Angels' Night anti-arson patrols if he could "shoot someone in a hoodie." Johnson is black. Bonsall apologized last week for the comment. Orr's office says a search will begin for a replacement.

International

With suicide blasts and waves of car bombs, al-Qaida picking up tempo of attacks in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) - Al-Qaida has come roaring back in Iraq since U.S. troops left in late 2011 and now looks stronger than it has in years. The terror group has shown it is capable of carrying out mass-casualty attacks several times a month, driving the death toll in Iraq to the highest level in half a decade. It sees each attack as a way to cultivate an atmosphere of chaos that weakens the Shiite-led government's authority. Recent prison breaks have bolstered al-Qaida's ranks, while feelings of Sunni marginalization and the chaos caused by the civil war in neighboring Syria are fueling its comeback.