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AROUND THE NATION

Gibe about Capitol offends governor

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- North Dakota's governor has bridled at a Minnesota lawmaker's scathing assessment of the state's austere, Depression-era Capitol, saying the critic knows little about architecture.

The Bismarck Capitol was built with less ornamentation and flourish than its designers wanted because lawmakers wanted to make sure the project stayed within its $2 million budget. Minnesota State Rep. Matt Dean described the gray skyscraper as "embarrassing."

"It's like State Farm Insurance called, they want their office building back," Dean, the Minnesota House's Republican majority leader, said Thursday during a debate in St. Paul on legislation to fund repairs to the Minnesota Capitol.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple called his state's seat of government "one of the most pleasing Capitol buildings in the United States "

Dean, an architect, said Friday he meant the comment as a gibe at Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who is a North Dakota native. He said he meant no disrespect and considered the remark as "good-natured rivalry from one state to the next."

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Senate Democrat finds fault with Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin says he's unsure whether he'll vote for his party's leader, President Obama, or the likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

In a statement Friday, the West Virginia lawmaker said he had "some real differences" with both leaders, finding fault with Obama's energy and economic policies while questioning whether Romney could understand the challenges facing ordinary people.

"I strongly believe that every American should always be rooting for our president to do well, no matter which political party that he or she might belong to," Manchin said. "With that being said, many West Virginians believe the last 3 1/2 years haven't been good for us, but we're hopeful that they can get better."

His state has backed the Republican candidate in the last three presidential elections. The administration has angered some in West Virginia with its increased scrutiny of the destructive practice of mountaintop coal mining, which is concentrated in Appalachia.

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Former base named national monument

SEASIDE, Calif. (AP) -- A rare California coastal wilderness that served as a training ground for generations of soldiers was designated a national monument Friday in a presidential signing ceremony.

President Obama signed a proclamation that protects nearly 15,000 acres of the decommissioned Fort Ord military base along Monterey Bay.

About 1.7 million soldiers trained at the former U.S. Army post from the beginning of World War I through Operation Desert Storm. Now, the scenic area is a popular spot for hikers and mountain bikers and home to protected wildlife and plants.

The area coming under federal protection will preserve a major swath of the rare Central Coast Maritime chaparral ecosystem, a habitat unique to California. Mountain lions, deer and the protected California black legless lizard all make their homes at Fort Ord. The preserve will formally be known as Fort Ord National Monument.

Obama in November designated a shuttered Army fort in Virginia with an important role in the nation's slavery history as a national monument.