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E-Cigarette, Cigar, Hookah Restrictions Laid Out in New FDA Rules

Should electronic cigarettes be sold to children? The Food and Drug Administration says no and has announced historic rules to ban sales of the popular devices to minors and require warning labels.

The FDA wants to regulate more than the booming electronic cigarette market. It is seizing on this opportunity to also restrict sales of cigars, hookahs, water pipes and dissolvable tobacco products.

The proposed rules (attached below) would be the first restrictions on e-cigarettes, a nearly $2 billion industry that for years has operated outside the reach of federal regulators. E-cigarettes have been growing in popularity for years and generally attract younger smokers.

The proposed rules won't ban advertising unless the products make health-related claims. Child-friendly e-cigarette flavors like bubble gum and chocolate (which are banned in traditional cigarettes) will still be allowed. Critics say flavorings like watermelon, grape soda and piņa colada are aimed at attracting young smokers.

E-cigarettes generally resemble the size and shape of traditional cigarettes. But rather than burning tobacco, the battery-powered devices heat up a flavored, nicotine-laced liquid, turning it into a vapor that the user inhales. Industry supporters say that makes e-cigarettes preferable to other cancer-causing tobacco products.

BofA Agrees to $10B Fannie Mae Settlement Over Shoddy Mortgages

Bank of America has agreed to pay more than $10 billion to Fannie Mae to settle claims related to shoddy mortgages sold largely by Countrywide Financial during the subprime housing boom.

BofA, which acquired Countrywide in 2008, said it agreed to buy back $6.75 billion in residential mortgage loans sold to Fannie Mae and pay the housing finance giant an additional $3.6 billion in cash.

During the housing boom, banks sold investors bundles of mortgages that were shoddier than promised, according to lawsuits the federal government filed. Now, BofA is resolving the claims against it from Fannie Mae.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have said the lenders misrepresented the quality of the loans and have been trying to get lenders to pay up for bad loans.

The mortgages were sold to Fannie Mae from 2000 through 2008.

Benghazi Report Blames State Dept. as 3 Top Officials Resign

An independent panel has sharply criticized the U.S. State Department in its report on the Sept. 11 attacks on the Benghazi consulate. The consulate was unable to defend itself thanks to “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies” at the State Department.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 in Benghazi, Libya. The Special Mission post was overrun by militants who used rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and machine-gun fire, the 39-page report states.

One day after the report as released, three State officials are reportedly resigning.

Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell is resigning, NBC News reports. His deputy, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs, Bureau of Diplomatic Security Charlene Lamb, as well as another unnamed official from State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs are resigning as well.

Chicago Board of Education Asks Court to Stop Teacher Strike

The Board of Education of the City of Chicago has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order blocking the teacher strike by the Chicago Teachers Union.  The Board argues that the strike is illegal under the terms of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, and that it creates a public safety hazard by blocking access to meals for children, exposing children to an increased risk of violence, and denying critical special education services.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has brought a civil lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder asking the federal district court in Washington D.C. to reject the Attorney General's assertion of executive privilege in refusing to turn over documents related to the so-called "Fast and Furious" gun walking program.  The lawsuit requests that the court order the Attorney General to comply with the Committee's subpoena and release the documents immediately.

DOJ Sues Florida Over Purge of Voter Rolls

The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit challenging Florida's program to systematically remove names from the list of registered voters that the state believes are ineligible to vote because of lack of citizenship.  The DOJ claims that the National Voter Registration Act prohibits Florida's program, or any program like it, within 90 days of an election for a federal office.  The next such election in Florida will occur on August 14, 2012.

Steve Jobs' FBI File

The FBI has released its dossier on Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Inc. who died on October 5, 2011. The dossier includes documents compiled in 1991 as the federal government considered Jobs for an appointment to the President's Export Council under George H.W. Bush, as well as documents from a 1985 investigation of a bomb threat against Jobs.  The dossier predates Jobs' return to Apple Inc. in 1996.  The release comes as the result of a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Justice Department Memo in Support of Obama's Recess Appointments

The Justice Department has issued a memorandum that supports President Obama's recent recess appointments that occurred despite the fact that the Senate is conducting pro forma sessions continuously through its scheduled recesses. The memo concludes that the pro forma sessions do not remove the president's ability to exercise a recess appointment since no business is conducted during the sessions.

Rick Perry Sues for a Place on Virginia Ballot

Texas Governor Rick Perry has sued the Virginia Board of Elections and the Virginia Republican Party over his failure to obtain the 10,000 signatures necessary to have his name included on the presidential primary ballot. Perry alleges that Virginia election rules violate his right to freedom of speech and association, and has asked the court to order his certification as a candidate on the primary ballot.

DOJ Finds That Joe Arpaio Routinely Violated Civil Rights

An inquiry into the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) by the US Department of Justice has concluded that the MCSO, headed by outspoken Sheriff Joe Arpaio, engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing. The report specifically mentions racial profiling, illegal stops and unlawful retaliation by the department as the basis for its finding.