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Date: Wed Jun 26 04:01:26 MDT 2013
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Controversial gun legislation cleared a key Senate hurdle Thursday, as lawmakers voted 68-31 to start debate on the package which includes expanded background checks and new penalties for gun trafficking.Senate Democrats, joined by 16 Republicans, were able to overcome an attempted filibuster by GOP senators opposed to the current bill. Those senators could still slow-walk the debate, but the Senate will eventually begin votes on amendments -- one of which is considered crucial to winning support for a final vote.The White House called Thursday's tally an "important" but "early milestone," as both sides of the issue prepare for a grueling debate -- one that is being waged in Washington and on the airwaves. The amendment likely to be at the front of the line is one from Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., which would scale back the call for universal background checks. The plan would expand checks to gun-show and Internet sales, but exempt certain personal transactions.The National Rifle Association and other gun-rights supporters voiced concern about the new proposal, saying it still goes too far. But the plan, offered by two lawmakers who are at the conservative end of their respective parties, could help ease opposition ahead of a final vote.The legislation required at least 60 votes to advance Thursday.If the bill ultimately passes the Senate, it would still have to pass the Republican-dominated House."The hard work st BAMAKO, Mali A police officer says that the Malian army has arrested the leader of a village in the country's north on drug trafficking charges.Chief Warrant officer Alassane Toure said Thursday that the mayor of Tarkint, a village about 160 kilometers (99 miles) north of Gao, was arrested on Wednesday. He identified the man as Baba Ould Cheick and said his name was on a list of six people who were issued arrest warrants in February for drug trafficking. Toure says the arrest took place far from the village.Toure said that a plane stopped near Tarkint in November 2009 carrying at least five tons of cocaine from Venezuela. He says this is why Cheick was arrested.Cheick is now in custody in Mali's capital, Bamako.