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Brian Naylor

Though wildfires this summer have burned hundreds of homes and scorched thousands of square miles of land in Washington, Oregon and California, officials say that so far, this wildfire season could be worse.

But the cost of fighting those fires has skyrocketed, and the Obama administration and some in Congress say it's time to rethink how those dollars are spent.

In places like central Washington, watching the evening news has recently not been for the faint of heart, with daily broadcasts chronicling evacuations of local towns with the approach of "firestorms."

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Tennessee's Lamar Alexander is one of a number of incumbent Republican senators caught in the cross hairs of Tea Party groups, taking on several challengers in next month's GOP primary.

But while Tea Party groups may be optimistic about the race, challengers like Joe Carr face an uphill battle to unseat the two-term senator.

Carr's campaign office is just across the street from Murfreesboro's antebellum courthouse. An American flag hangs out front, and in the window a big campaign sign calls on Tennessee Republicans to vote for "Carr, not Lamar."

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It's rare to find Sally Jewell in her Washington, D.C., office.

A little more than a year into her job as Interior Department secretary, she spends much of her time out in the field. It's unavoidable for someone who heads the federal agency that oversees some 400 national parks and nearly 300 million acres of federal lands.

"It's in the job description," she says. "It's also a fun part of the job."

Of late, Jewell has been in the forefront of the administration's efforts to raise awareness of the threat of climate change.

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In Oklahoma, Republicans will vote Tuesday on a nominee to finish the term of current GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, who is retiring at year-end with two years left to spare. For the two front-runners, Rep. James Lankford and former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, immigration has suddenly become an issue in the race.

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The upset of Rep. Eric Cantor by Dave Brat in Tuesday's primary rocked Washington. It also left its stamp on a tiny college in Ashland, Va. Brat is a professor at Randolph-Macon College — as is his next opponent, Democrat Jack Trammell.

Skip Stiles stands on the edge of a small inlet known as the Hague, near downtown Norfolk, Va. The Chrysler Museum of Art is nearby, as are dozens of stately homes, all threatened by the water.

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The mission of the Agriculture Department's Wildlife Service is to mitigate conflict between humans and wildlife. But critics say some of its activities are cruel to animals and that it should be more transparent.

The USDA's inspector general is conducting an audit of the agency. Results are expected later this year.

The announcement by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn that he is resigning his seat at the end of the year has set up a spirited battle among Oklahoma Republicans to replace him.

Leading the pack are Rep. James Lankford and former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon. At age 36, Shannon is an up-and-coming star in the GOP, and if elected he would become the third African-American in the Senate — two of them Republicans.

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