Guard presence at border to be cut

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration plans to reduce the number of National Guard troops deployed at the border with Mexico, the spokesman for Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas) said Tuesday.

The force will be reduced from 1,200 troops starting next year, said the spokesman, Mike Rosen. The exact number that will remain on the border is unclear, but they will focus on intelligence operations, Rosen said.

Neither the Defense nor Homeland Security Departments immediately responded to requests for comment.

President Obama ordered the Guard troops to the border last year to help Border Patrol agents watch for illegal crossers and drug and human smugglers. The first troops arrived in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in August 2010. - AP

Blagojevich gets March prison date

CHICAGO - A federal judge is allowing Rod Blagojevich an extra month of freedom, until March 15, before he must start a 14-year sentence for corruption and, at the ousted Illinois governor's request, recommended Tuesday that he be sent to prison in Colorado, 1,000 miles from his Chicago home.

Blagojevich's attorneys told Judge James Zagel that he needed extra time to help his family move into a new home before he goes to prison.

Zagel also agreed to recommend that Blagojevich be sent to the low-security Englewood federal prison outside Denver. Federal prison officials will have the final say. Felons with a sentence longer than 10 years typically are placed in low-security facilities, Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said.

Blagojevich, 55, was sentenced last week on 18 corruption-related charges, including that he tried to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama. - AP

Cost-cutting hits presidential coins

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Mint, to save money, will stop making $1 presidential coins for general use and will produce only enough to meet demand from collectors.

That's bad news for fans of Chester Alan Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison, who are to be featured on the coins made in 2012. Since 2007, the mint has worked its way from George Washington to James Garfield in a set of coins honoring U.S. presidents.

"The call for Chester A. Arthur coins is not big," Vice President Biden said at a cabinet meeting Tuesday at which the cutback was announced. Because people aren't using them, more than 40 percent of the presidential dollars made so far have been returned to the Federal Reserve, giving it a stockpile of 1.4 billion excess coins, the White House said. The cutback will save taxpayers $50 million a year in production and storage costs. - Bloomberg News

Elsewhere:

Injuries involving falls from ladders while stringing lights, cuts from broken glass ornaments, and other holiday decorating activities are on the rise, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday. More than 13,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for such injuries during November and December 2010, it said.