NATION IN BRIEF: Dozens of airport construction projects halted

Dozens of airport construction projects halted

WASHINGTON -- Dozens of airport construction projects across the country are on hold and thousands of federal employees are not working because Congress failed to pass legislation to keep the Federal Aviation Administration operating, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday.

The FAA's operating authority expired at midnight Friday, forcing a partial agency shutdown. Dozens of stop-work orders were issued over the weekend for projects to build and modernize airport control towers, as well as other improvement projects, officials said. Many of the airport projects are designed to improve the efficiency of air travel and reduce congestion.

''Because Congress didn't do its work, FAA programs and thousands of public and private sector jobs are in jeopardy,'' LaHood told reporters in a conference call. He called on lawmakers to quickly pass legislation to restart shuttered operations.

Democrat Wu won't seek new term in House

WASHINGTON -- A spokesman for Rep. David Wu said the embattled Oregon Democrat will not seek re-election next year.

Spokesman Erik Dorey said Monday that Wu has not made a final determination about finishing his current term, but Dorey emphasized that Wu is focused on serving his constituents to the best of his ability.

The 56-year-old Democrat is under fire after a report in his hometown paper said an 18-year-old California woman left a voicemail in his Portland office earlier this year that accused Wu of an unwanted sexual encounter three weeks after the November general election.

Gay weddings continue as opponents sue over NY law

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- Opponents of New York's gay marriage law filed the first lawsuit challenging the measure, an anticipated salvo that came Monday as dozens of same-sex couples exchanged vows in a group ceremony overlooking Niagara Falls a day after the first gay weddings.

A representative of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and a rabbi said in a lawsuit filed in state court that New York's Senate violated its own procedures and the state's open meetings law when it approved the bill last month.

The lawsuit claims that the Senate prevented lawmakers who opposed the bill from speaking and that the Senate didn't follow procedures that require a bill to go through appropriate committees before a full Senate vote.

Impasse over debt limit sends stocks lower

NEW YORK -- The debt showdown in Washington is rattling the stock market again.

Stocks fell Monday after Republican and Democratic lawmakers offered competing proposals to solve the nation's debt crisis. If an agreement is not reached by Aug. 2, the U.S. won't have enough cash to pay all its bills. That could have a catastrophic impact on financial markets.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 88 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 12,593. The Dow had been down as many as 145 points earlier. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 8, or 0.6 percent, to 1,337. The Nasdaq composite index fell 16, or 0.6 percent, to 2,843.

About four stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was relatively light at 3.3 billion shares.

UAW, Chrysler kick off talks for new contract

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Detroit's carmakers and the United Auto Workers union have officially begun bargaining for a new four-year contract.

UAW and Chrysler Group leaders kicked off the talks Monday morning with a series of friendly handshakes. The current contract expires Sept. 14.

Company and union officials wore matching maroon jackets to signify their unity. Both sides say they want fair contracts that keep the automakers competitive.

Man pleads guilty in soldier killing

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A man who confessed to shooting two soldiers outside a military recruiting station in Arkansas has pleaded guilty.

Abdulhakim Muhammad pleaded guilty to capital murder in the middle of his trial Monday.

Muhammad previously tried to plead guilty in court, but Arkansas law doesn't allow that in death penalty cases. It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors had agreed to take the death penalty off the table in return for Muhammad's plea.