HONOLULU (AP) --
NEW: Obama signs bipartisan budget deal easing cuts
President Barack Obama has signed a bipartisan budget bill easing automatic spending cuts over two years, marking a modest end to a challenging year for the White House and Congress.
Obama signed the bill Thursday while vacationing in Hawaii. The deal reduces across-the-board cuts already scheduled to take effect, restoring about $63 billion over two years. It includes a projected $85 billion in other savings.
It's not the grand bargain that Obama and congressional Republicans once had wanted, but it ends the cycle of fiscal brinkmanship for now, by preventing another government shutdown for nearly two years.
The bill signing marks one of Obama's last official acts in a year beset by the partial government shutdown, a near-default by the Treasury, a calamitous health care rollout and near-perpetual congressional gridlock.
NEW: Obama signs sweeping defense bill
HONOLULU (AP) -- President Barack Obama has signed into law a comprehensive defense bill that cracks down on sexual assault in the military.
The White House says Obama signed the bills Thursday while vacationing in Hawaii.
The bill provides $552.1 billion for the regular military budget, plus $80.7 billion for the Afghanistan war and other overseas operations. It gives military personnel a 1 percent pay raise, but also reflects deficit-driven efforts to trim spending and the drawdown in Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting there.
The bill signing caps a yearlong campaign led by the women of the Senate to address the scourge of rape and sexual assault in the military. Under the bill, military commanders no longer will be permitted to overturn jury convictions for sexual assault.
UPDATE: Better news on US job market sends stocks higher
NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are closing higher in quiet trading on Wall Street as traders return from the Christmas holiday.
Investors were encouraged by a sharp drop last week in the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits, the latest sign of improvement in the U.S. job market.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 122 points, or 0.8 percent, to close at 16,479 Thursday. It was the Dow's 50th record high close this year.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose eight points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,842. The Nasdaq composite rose 11 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,167.
T-Mobile rose 2 percent on talk that Japan's Softbank was considering buying the company.
Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose near 3 percent, the highest since September.
UPDATE: Attorneys will try to have church official quickly freed
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Lawyers for a Roman Catholic church official are going to try to get him released as early as this week from a state prison in Pennsylvania -- now that an appeals court has reversed his conviction for child endangerment.
The appeals panel is ordering the release of Monsignor William Lynn. But prosecutors are planning to fight the ruling, and resist any move to release him.
Lynn is serving a three-to-six-year prison sentence. He was charged over his handling of priest sex-abuse complaints. He was the first U.S. church official ever charged or convicted for the handling of those complaints.
But the appeals panel is rejecting the argument from prosecutors that Lynn was legally responsible for the welfare of an abused child. Prosecutors said he had re-assigned known predators to new parishes in Philadelphia. His conviction stemmed from the case of one priest who was found to have abused a child after one of those transfers.
Lynn's attorneys have argued that the state's child-endangerment law applied only to parents and to caregivers, and not to supervisors like Lynn.
Suspect in LA airport shooting pleads not guilty
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (AP) -- A man charged with fatally shooting a TSA screener and wounding three other people at Los Angeles International Airport last month has pleaded not guilty.
Paul Anthony Ciancia entered his plea Thursday during a brief appearance before a federal magistrate at a Southern California detention center.
The 23-year-old Ciancia was indicted on first-degree murder and 10 other counts in the Nov. 1 shooting that killed Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez.
Trial is set for Feb. 11 in Los Angeles federal court.
Snow slows Maine power work; Mich. effort ongoing
GARDINER, Maine (AP) -- By the time a new snowstorm moves off the coast of Maine tonight, some areas could get as much as seven inches of snow.