**U.S. Senate Passes Superstorm Aid **
The U.S. Congress has completed action on a $50.5 billion package of emergency relief for the victims of Superstorm Sandy, three months after the storm severely damaged the New York and New Jersey coastlines.
Members of the Senate approved the bill Monday by a vote of 62 to 36. The House passed the legislation earlier this month, and President Barack Obama has promised to sign it as soon as it reaches his desk.
Discussions about aid for one of the worst storms ever to hit the U.S. northeast have been complicated by the nation's poor economic situation. An aid package was up for a vote in the House in early January, but members failed to vote on it because of disputes over spending. When new members of Congress were sworn in a few days later, negotiations on storm aid had to start over again.
The delay in the Republican-controlled House triggered criticism from Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
** Terror Suspect Rejects US-Appointed Lawyer**
One of the accused masterminds of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 fired one of his military lawyers on the first day of pretrial hearings Monday.
Walid bin Attash complained that he does not trust his attorneys, and said the government is stifling his defense.
Judges presiding at the hearings, held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are also struggling with questions about how much of the proceedings should be made public.
Reporters and witnesses are not in the same room as the defendants. The audio feed to them went silent unexpectedly at one point Monday. No one would say who authorized the interruption, but military officials say audio may have been cut to prevent anyone from hearing classified information.
The Pentagon is under pressure from human-rights groups and journalists for a open trial.