The Morning News is an Open Thread
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1 Housing rescue plan passes key Senate test
By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, Associated Press Writer
32 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON – A massive foreclosure rescue bill cleared a key Senate test Tuesday by an overwhelming margin, with Democrats and Republicans both eager to claim election-year credit for helping hard-pressed homeowners.
The mortgage aid plan would let the Federal Housing Administration back $300 billion in new, cheaper home loans for an estimated 400,000 distressed borrowers who otherwise would be considered too financially risky to qualify for government-insured, fixed-rate loans.
An 83-9 vote put the plan on track for Senate passage as early as Wednesday, but President Bush is threatening a veto, and Democrats are fighting each other over key details. Those challenges will probably delay any final deal until mid-July.
2 McCain calls for energy efficient government
By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer
1 minute ago
|SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Republican John McCain said Tuesday the federal government should practice the energy efficiency he preaches, pledging as president to switch official vehicles to green technologies and do the same for office buildings.
Expanding upon his ideas to address the nation’s energy crisis, the Arizona senator also called for a redesign of the national power grid so power is better distributed where it’s needed and the country has the capacity to run electric vehicles that he wants automakers to supply.
“Our federal government is never shy about instructing the American people in good environmental practice. But energy efficiency, like charity, should begin at home,” McCain said before conducting an energy round-table at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
McCain drives a 2003 Cadillac CTS, a sedan the Environmental Protection Agency says gets 16 to 24 miles per gallon and emits about 9.6 tons of greenhouse gases annually. When campaigning, he’s ferried by the Secret Service using a fleet of Chevrolet Suburbans, a full-size SUV the EPA estimates gets 12 to 20 mpg and emits 9 to 13 tons of greenhouse gases.
3 Obama dismisses Dobson criticism about Bible
By SARA KUGLER, Associated Press Writer
19 minutes ago
|LOS ANGELES – Barack Obama said Tuesday evangelical leader James Dobson was “making stuff up” when he accused the presumed Democratic presidential nominee of distorting the Bible.
Dobson used his Focus on the Family radio program to highlight excerpts of a speech Obama gave in June 2006 to the liberal Christian group Call to Renewal.
Speaking to reporters on his campaign plane before landing in Los Angeles, Obama said the speech made the argument that people of faith, like himself, “try to translate some of our concerns in a universal language so that we can have an open and vigorous debate rather than having religion divide us.”
Obama added, “I think you’ll see that he was just making stuff up, maybe for his own purposes.”
4 McCain runs into opposition over offshore oil plan
By Steve Holland, Reuters
Tue Jun 24, 2:33 PM ET
|SANTA BARBARA, California (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Tuesday ran into opposition in environmentally conscious California to his policy switch in favor of U.S. offshore oil drilling.
McCain appeared with California’s popular Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to promote his ideas on how to wean the United States from foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
Outside the museum, a group of protesters took issue with McCain over backing offshore oil drilling, chanting “Get oil out” and holding up such signs as, “Not off our coast” and “We can’t drill our way out of the energy crisis.”
5 Mugabe defies mounting pressure to stop vote
By Cris Chinaka, Reuters
1 hour, 43 minutes ago
|HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe defied mounting pressure on Tuesday from both inside and outside Africa to call off Friday’s presidential election, saying he had a legal obligation to go ahead.
Both Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and South African ruling ANC leader Jacob Zuma said the presidential run-off must be postponed after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the vote and fled to the Dutch embassy in Harare.
The U.N. Security Council issued an unprecedented and unanimous condemnation of violence against the opposition and said it made a fair poll impossible. The statement won support from South Africa, China and Russia which have previously blocked such moves.
6 Bush, Talabani to meet Wednesday on Iraq security
37 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush will meet Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Wednesday to discuss a long-term security pact for U.S. forces to stay in Iraq, among other issues, the White House said on Tuesday.
“The U.N. mandate expires at the end of this year, the Iraqis have told us they do not want to renew that mandate,” said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe. “Their preference is to set an agreement with the United States for future involvement in Iraq and so I’m sure they will discuss that.” Talabani is traveling to Washington for the meeting.
The two countries have been negotiating a new security deal to provide a legal basis for U.S. troops to stay in Iraq after a United Nations mandate expires on December 31, and a separate long-term agreement on political, economic and security ties.
7 Fed opens 2-day meeting amid economic angst
by Rob Lever, AFP
Tue Jun 24, 3:18 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Federal Reserve opened a two-day meeting on interest rates Tuesday amid growing anxiety over inflation even with the US economy likely on the brink of recession.
The Federal Open Market Committee headed by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke was widely expected to hold its base lending rate at 2.0 percent after a series of aggressive cuts since last September.
Based on signals from Bernanke and others, analysts are anticipating a new statement from the panel highlighting the risks of inflation heating up.
8 Gloom deepens in Europe as inflation makes rate cut unlikely
by William Ickes, AFP
Tue Jun 24, 1:18 PM ET
|FRANKFURT (AFP) – German consumers and bosses share serious worries about the economy but record eurozone inflation will likely prevent policymakers from easing their concerns with interest rate cuts.
“German consumers have now really thrown in the towel,” UniCredit Markets analyst Andreas Rees said Tuesday after the GfK consumer confidence index fell to 3.9 points for July, its lowest level since 3.5 points in December 2005 and down from 4.7 points in June.
The news came a day after a German survey showed business sentiment had fallen to an 18-month low in the biggest European economy in June.
9 Exhibit slamming eight years under Bush begins US tour
2 hours, 47 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – An exhibition slamming the legacy of US President George W. Bush was unveiled Tuesday in Washington in a 45-foot (15 meters) long, 28-ton bus parked just steps from the White House.
Emblazoned on the side of the bio-diesel powered bus are the words “The Bush Legacy,” and bullet points to highlight, in the words of organizer Americans United for Change, “how eight years of failed conservative policies” under Bush have damaged the United States.
“The idea is not to bash Bush as an individual but to show that he had help from Congress in creating all of the disasters you see in this bus,” Julie Blust, press secretary for the exhibition told AFP.
10 Whaling commission meets with own future at stake
by Paulina Abramovich, AFP
Mon Jun 23, 5:25 PM ET
|SANTIAGO (AFP) – The 80-nation International Whaling Commission opened its annual meeting Monday with its very existence at stake amid tension over Japan’s perennial bid to resume commercial whale hunting.
The IWC has been divided between pro-whaling nations led by Japan and Australia’s anti-hunting faction since a moratorium on commercial whale hunting was imposed 22 years ago.
Japan has repeatedly threatened to bolt the IWC if it does not allow commercial whaling.
During the group’s first work session on Monday, member states discussed a proposal to focus on the IWC’s future instead of voting on resolutions related to whaling.
11 Case of sonar’s effects on whales heads to high court
By Warren Richey, The Christian Science Monitor
Tue Jun 24, 4:00 AM ET
|Washington – The US Supreme Court announced on Monday it would examine whether a federal judge acted properly in ordering the US Navy to alter its sonar training procedures to protect whales and dolphins off the California coast.
At issue is whether the judge – and a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the judge’s ruling – overstepped their authority by enforcing environmental regulations at the expense of national defense training in wartime.
US environmental regulations are “not a suicide pact,” the Bush administration argued in its brief urging the high court to take up the case. The case, Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, will be heard in the high court’s next term, which begins in October.
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12 Congress rushes to fill oil speculation loophole
By Gail Russell Chaddock, The Christian Science Monitor
Tue Jun 24, 4:00 AM ET
|Call it Enron, the sequel.
In a scramble to find a fix for energy prices, Congress has tried (and failed) to strip tax breaks from Big Oil, to open protected sites for exploration and drilling, and to jump-start a new era in nuclear power.
Now, Capitol Hill is zeroing in on speculators and the legal loopholes that some lawmakers say are adding as much as $70 to the price of a barrel of oil.
“Energy speculation has become a fine growth industry and it is time for the government to intervene,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D) of Michigan, at hearing on Monday.
13 Michigan: Epicenter of Unemployment
By David Kiley, Business Week Online
Tue Jun 24, 8:08 AM ET
|The line forming at the former high school in Southgate, Mich., on a recent Thursday morning stretches some 150 feet outside the front door. The parking lot had filled up early, and now people are cantering up Northline Road from parking spaces they scrounged on side streets and the Sam’s Club up the street. With the rush and anticipation of the crowd, you might think that tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert are going on sale. But this is serious business. Another job fair has come to the beleaguered suburbs of Detroit.
Michigan, once the center of America’s industrial heartland, now holds a more dubious distinction: It leads the U.S. in joblessness. The state’s unemployment rate hit 8.5% in May. That’s up 2 percentage points from April, and compares with a figure of 5.5% for the whole U.S. in May.
There’s little mystery as to the cause. Detroit’s bet on big trucks and sport-utility vehicles has turned snake-eyes. With each tick of the gas price above $4 comes another announcement that General Motors (NYSE:GM – News), Ford Motor (NYSE:F – News), or Chrysler are cutting back production (BusinessWeek.com, 6/3/08) of big pickup trucks and SUVs, or closing a factory. Overall U.S. vehicle sales are expected to drop below 15 million this year. Three years ago, the industry sold 17 million cars and trucks.
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14 House fails to move gas pump price gouging bill
By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer
19 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON – House Democrats failed Tuesday to resurrect a bill to punish price gouging at the gas pump, while maneuvering to block Republican attempts to expand offshore drilling, an idea gaining in popularity amid $4-a-gallon gas prices.
Action on legislation that would assure continuation of the ban on oil and natural gas drilling in most of the country’s coastal waters was put off until later this summer after it became increasingly clear that Republican lawmakers may have the votes to lift the drilling moratorium.
As Democrats prepared a string of energy proposals before lawmakers depart for the July 4 holiday recess, Republicans charged that they were being blocked from getting a vote on whether to end the ban on offshore oil and gas drilling.
15 Obama Leads McCain by 15 Points as Voters Reject Republicans
Heidi Przybyla, Bloomberg
2 hours, 39 minutes ago
|June 25 (Bloomberg) — Democrat Barack Obama has opened a 15-point lead in the presidential race, and most of the political trends — voter enthusiasm, views of President George W. Bush, the Republicans, the economy and the direction of the country — point to even greater trouble for rival John McCain.
Illinois Senator Obama, winning support from once skeptical women and Democrats, beats McCain 48 percent to 33 percent in a four-way race, a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll shows. Independent candidates Bob Barr and Ralph Nader get 7 percent combined, with the remainder undecided.
Obama’s margin and most of the poll’s findings in other areas give the Democrats a commanding advantage more than four months before the November election, says Susan Pinkus, the Los Angeles Times polling director.
16 Pregnant Mass. teen says there was no pact
7 minutes ago
|GLOUCESTER, Mass. – One of the girls who became pregnant at Gloucester High School this year denied Tuesday there was any pact among them to have children, saying instead they decided to help each other make the best of their situations.
Lindsey Oliver refuted the principal’s claim that a sharp increase in teen pregnancies – 17 compared to a typical four – was in part because several girls planned to get pregnant so they could raise their babies together.
“There was definitely no pact,” Oliver told “Good Morning America.” “There was a group of girls already pregnant that decided they were going to help each other to finish school and raise their kids together. I think it was just a coincidence.”
17 Booting US Sugar from the Everglades
By MICHAEL GRUNWALD/WELLINGTON, FLA., Time Magazine
Tue Jun 24, 3:45 PM ET
At a news conference Tuesday morning near the imperiled “River of Grass”, Governor Crist announced a $1.75 billion deal to buy the U.S. Sugar Corporation, including 187,000 acres of farmland that once sat in the northern Everglades. If the deal goes through, it will extinguish a powerful 77-year-old company with 1,700 employees and deep roots in South Florida’s coal-black organic soil. It will also resurrect and reconfigure a moribund 8-year-old Everglades replumbing effort that is supposed to be the most ambitious ecosystem restoration project in the history of the planet.
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18 McCain’s EBay Model for Jobs Finds Few Buyers Among Economists
Hans Nichols, Bloomberg
Tue Jun 24, 12:01 AM ET
|June 24 (Bloomberg) — John McCain’s model for ginning up the economy isn’t Keynesian or Milton Friedmanite. It’s EBay Inc.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee regularly asserts that 1.3 million people worldwide “make a living off EBay.” He holds up the figure as evidence the world’s largest Internet auctioneer is a model for job and economic growth.
McCain, seeking to address voter anxiety about the economy, uses EBay to signal that he is “fundamentally optimistic about the capacity of the U.S. economy to innovate, for that innovation to give new opportunities for jobs,” said Doug Holtz-Eakin, the candidate’s senior economic adviser. “We shouldn’t be obsessed with looking backwards all the time, and saying, `Gee, where did those jobs go?'”
19 AP IMPACT: Kenyan children abducted, tortured
By KATHARINE HOURELD, Associated Press Writer
17 minutes ago
|BUNGOMA, Kenya – Dozens of scared children filed silently into the bare room, their eyes on the cracks in the floor. One by one, in low voices, they told of being tortured by the Kenyan army because they were suspected of aiding rebels. They told of being beaten and made to shake hands with corpses. They told of being forced to crawl through barbed wire tunnels and of genitals squeezed by pliers.
Then the children took off their shirts. White scars crisscrossed the dark skin on their backs like grains of rice. Some were still bleeding.
These children are among hundreds in western Kenya who have been terrorized, many twice over, first by a militia in their villages and then by the army sent to fight it. The militia forced children as young as 10 to become soldiers. In a widespread crackdown, the army then rounded up the children and thousands of adults and tortured them, human rights groups say.
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20 Sadr City blast kills 4 Americans
By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jun 24, 4:48 PM ET
|BAGHDAD – A bomb exploded inside Sadr City’s district council building Tuesday, killing 10 people, including four Americans working to restore local government and services in the former Shiite militia stronghold.
Iraqi officials said it appeared to be an inside job, and suspicion fell on the headquarters’ Shiite guard force. The blast was the second deadly attack to strike Americans promoting municipal governments in as many days.
The attack comes as U.S. military and civilian officials step up efforts to take advantage of a sharp drop in violence to promote the local administration and restore services in Sadr City and other areas. Failure to do so could allow Sunni and Shiite extremists to regain a foothold, U.S. commanders believe.
21 Ruling against anonymous witnesses halts trial
By MEERA SELVA, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 41 minutes ago
|LONDON – A murder trial collapsed Tuesday in the wake of a House of Lords ruling that bars the use of anonymous witnesses in court.
The trial of two men accused of shooting London businessman Charles Butler was halted because the jury had heard from four witnesses who gave evidence anonymously.
Judge David Paget said the trial had been derailed by the House of Lords’ recent decision that defendants have a right to know the identity of witnesses giving evidence against them.
22 Canada terror suspect faces first legal setback
By Louise Egan, Reuters
Tue Jun 24, 12:35 PM ET
|OTTAWA (Reuters) – A Canadian man accused of helping plan bomb attacks in Britain suffered his first setback in court on Tuesday, when the judge allowed the prosecution’s star witness to take the stand, despite conceding that some of his testimony may be hearsay.
Judge Douglas Rutherford said that, on day two of this high-profile trial of computer expert Momin Khawaja, it was too early for him to throw out the testimony of Mohammed Junaid Babar — a convicted Al Qaeda supporter turned informer — in case some of it turned out to be useful evidence.
“I feel compelled to allow the witness to deal with the question that provoked the objection,” Rutherford told the court. “Some of the hearsay admitted might have to be considered for much more limited purposes,” he added.
23 Mugabe says open to negotiations after election: state media
7 minutes ago
|HARARE (AFP) – Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe said he is open to negotiations after this week’s runoff presidential election, state media reported Wednesday.
“We are open, open to discussion, but we have our own principles,” The Herald newspaper quoted Mugabe as saying at two rallies on Tuesday.
“If they (the opposition) have problems they can always bring them forward.”
The government mouthpiece said Mugabe indicated talks would occur only after Friday’s presidential runoff vote.
24 Obama camp lets rip over McCain aide’s terror claim
by Jitendra Joshi, AFP
Tue Jun 24, 4:32 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – Democrat Barack Obama kept up an onslaught on John McCain Tuesday after one of the Republican’s most trusted aides said a terrorist attack on US soil would benefit his White House bid.
Despite an apology from campaign strategist Charlie Black, and a disavowal from McCain himself, Obama’s campaign said Black’s slip had unmasked the “politics of fear” behind Republican election tactics.
The remarks generated an avalanche of US media coverage, overshadowing speeches by McCain on energy as he attempted to wrest the policy initiative from Obama at a time of sky-high fuel prices.
25 U.S.-allied Iraqi politician kills 2 U.S. troops, wounds 4
By Mohammed al Dulaimy and Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers
Mon Jun 23, 10:28 AM ET
|MADAIN, Iraq – A U.S.-allied Iraqi council member sprayed American troops with gunfire Monday, killing two soldiers and wounding three and an interpreter, Iraqi authorities and witnesses said. The attack occurred minutes after they emerged from a weekly joint meeting on reconstruction in this volatile town southeast of Baghdad .
Raed Mahmoud Ajil , a former high school principal in his mid-40s, was known as a respected city council member and devoted educator who’d recently returned to Iraq after completing his master’s degree in India , stunned colleagues said. U.S. troops shot and killed him at the scene.
Ajil’s colleagues said they could think of no motive for the deadly rampage, which is thought to be the first incident of a U.S.-allied Iraqi politician carrying out such an attack. Ajil comes from a distinguished Sunni Muslim family. His brother is security chief for the Iraqi Ministry of Justice and a cousin is a high-ranking judge, relatives said.
26 Baghdad bombing kills 4 Americans, 6 Iraqis
By Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers
2 hours, 18 minutes ago
|BAGHDAD _A bomb hidden in a meeting room killed two U.S. soldiers and two American government employees Tuesday at a local council office in the Baghdad district of Sadr City, according to the U.S. military.
An Italian working for the Defense Department and six Iraqis also died in the blast, bringing the total death toll to at least 11, U.S. and Iraqi authorities said. An American soldier and 10 Iraqis were wounded, including three Iraqi council members.
The blast ripped through the municipal building just before elections to pick a chairman for a district advisory council in Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite Muslim slum that supporters of the militant cleric Muqtada al Sadr mostly control.
27 Surge Protection
Posted by Joe Klein, Time Magazine
June 24, 2008 10:35
|I think David Brooks has it essentially right here about Bush’s stubborness–as opposed to his knowledge of strategy or tactics or the situation on the ground in Iraq–as the reason why he made the correct choice on Iraq in late 2006. But, as Brooks says, history is complicated–and the current reduction in violence in Iraq was a combination of many factors.|
28 Mugabe’s victory by violence
By ALEX PERRY, Time Magazine
Tue Jun 24, 11:05 AM ET
|Morgan Tsvangirai’s decision to seek shelter at the Dutch embassy hours after announcing his withdrawal from Zimbabwe’s runoff presidential election signals the collapse of organized efforts to unseat President Robert Mugabe. The 84-year-old despot who has ruled his country for 28 years and plunged it into economic ruin is now certain to remain in office, whether he is re-elected on Friday or declares himself the winner – as the sole candidate – before then. Mugabe had, of course, declared himself the winner long before Tsvangirai pulled out, making clear that he would not allow the opposition leader to take power regardless of the verdict of the electorate. Now, despite the fact that Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won a parliamentary majority on March 29, it may have little influence over the country’s immediate future.|
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29 Case against fake police officer upends Mo. town
By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jun 24, 3:30 PM ET
|GERALD, Mo. – Bill Jakob arrived in this small town with an offer to help police curb the community’s methamphetamine problem. He had a badge and a gun and told officials he had previously worked as an anti-drug agent in Illinois. He even drove a fully equipped Ford Crown Victoria, which he said was for undercover work.
There was just one problem: Jakob was no cop. He was an unemployed truck driver with a criminal record and had recently filed for bankruptcy.
Now this village of 1,200 people southwest of St. Louis is confronting allegations that Jakob and other officers mistreated and robbed many of the people they arrested.
30 Key teen witness in sect case denies Texas’ claims
By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 35 minutes ago
|SAN ANGELO, Texas – A 16-year-old girl is a key witness in the state’s effort to pursue criminal charges against members of her polygamist sect, even though she denies investigators’ claims that she was abused.
The girl, a daughter of the sect’s jailed prophet, says she’s never been married and doesn’t have a baby. She denies church elders are influencing her and wants to fire her lawyer. The state can’t even prove her alleged abuse happened in Texas.
A court filing shows that the girl has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury Wednesday, the day the panel convenes in Schleicher County, home of a west Texas ranch run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
31 Next battle over border fence may be Texas
By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jun 24, 3:33 AM ET
|McALLEN, Texas – A U.S. Supreme Court decision paving the way for a 670-mile federal fence along the U.S.-Mexico border drew swift criticism from environmentalists, who promised to make another legal stand in Texas.
The justices’ turned down a plea Monday to hear a lawsuit opposing a two-mile section of the fence in Arizona brought by the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife.
The section of fence in question in that case has already been built and even if the court had taken the case, oral arguments would not have been heard until October.
32 Expert says worms and parasites drain U.S. poor
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, Reuters
Tue Jun 24, 2:25 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Diseases caused by worms and parasites are draining the health and energy of the poorest Americans, an expert said on Tuesday.
And diseases associated with the developing world, such as dengue fever and Chagas disease, may become a bigger problem for the United States as the climate changes, said Dr. Peter Hotez of George Washington University and the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington.
“The message is a little tough because they are not killer diseases — they impact on child development, intellectual development, hearing and sometimes even heart disease,” Hotez said in a telephone interview.
33 Happy hours: good times but no promotion: survey
Tue Jun 24, 3:53 PM ET
|NEW YORK (Reuters) – One in five U.S. workers regularly attends after-work drinks with co-workers, where the most common mishaps range from bad-mouthing another worker to kissing a colleague and drinking too much, according to a study released on Tuesday.
Most workers attend so-called happy hours to bond with colleagues, although 15 percent go to hear the latest office gossip and 13 percent go because they feel obligated, said the survey conducted for CareerBuilder.com, an online job site.
As to what happens when the after-work drinks flow, 16 percent reported bad-mouthing a colleague, 10 percent shared a secret about a colleague, 8 percent kissed a colleague and 8 percent said they drank too much and acted unprofessionally.
34 Justice Dept. hiring marred by politics: probe
By Randall Mikkelsen, Reuters
Tue Jun 24, 11:58 AM ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President George W. Bush’s Justice Department improperly injected politics into hiring programs, a department investigation released on Tuesday found.
A report by the department’s inspector general and office of professional responsibility said members of a screening committee were asked to weed out “wackos” and ideological “extremists” who sought work in a competitive honors program for entry-level attorneys or as summer interns.
It said the committee rejected applicants with liberal or Democratic affiliations at a much higher rate than those with Republican, conservative or politically neutral backgrounds.
35 Border farmers seek change on guest workers
By Tim Gaynor, Reuters
Tue Jun 24, 8:54 AM ET
|YUMA, Arizona (Reuters) – Mexican migrant worker Fidel Castaneda hunkers down, brushes the sweat from his eyes and moves swiftly along the sun-blasted row cutting vines as the temperatures rises to 111 Fahrenheit (44 C).
“Watermelons are tough, because of the heat,” he said.
Behind him, a woman wearing a straw hat, long sleeves and a cotton scarf slaps produce labels on the fruit, as other workers follow through lifting them into a trailer.
The job is one of the toughest in agriculture, and farmers in the irrigated desert around Yuma, Arizona, which produces around 90 percent of America’s winter produce, struggle to fill them with American workers in this election year.
36 McCain bucks Bush on climate change
2 hours, 16 minutes ago
|LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Republican nominee-elect John McCain Tuesday vowed to combat global warming without sacrificing economic growth, contradicting President George W. Bush on the need for binding emissions cuts.
Unlike Bush, McCain pressed for mandatory cuts in emissions of warming gases as he spoke at a California event alongside Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who opposes the White House hopeful’s call for offshore oil drilling.
McCain said lifting a federal ban on coastal drilling may not bring down sky-high fuel prices for “some years,” but could have a psychological impact as the United States takes greater control over its energy future.
37 Will Pro-Choice Women Back McCain?
By AMY SULLIVAN, Time Magazine
Tue Jun 24, 2:25 AM ET
|The 2008 presidential race may have been branded a “change” election, but abortion rights advocates have seen this movie before. Once again they face a Republican nominee who supports abortion restrictions yet is widely viewed as moderate and unthreatening to pro-choice voters. Eight years ago, it was George W. Bush who convinced pro-choice Republican and independent women that he was a safe bet, asserting that “America is not ready to ban abortions.” This time, according to a poll released last week by NARAL Pro-Choice America, voters have a fuzzy sense of John McCain’s views on abortion – which is just the way the McCain campaign wants it.|
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38 McCain to visit Colombia next month
By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 59 minutes ago
|RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Tuesday he wants to show his support for Colombia’s anti-drug efforts and a pending free-trade agreement with the U.S. by visiting the South American ally.
In announcing the trip and citing his friendship with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, the Arizona senator sought contrasts with his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.
McCain said Obama opposes U.S. anti-drug aid for the world’s largest producer of cocaine and also is against the free-trade agreement, despite having described himself as a proponent of free trade.
39 New Iraq war guidelines underscore role of citizens
Tue Jun 24, 10:31 AM ET
|BAGHDAD (AFP) – The US military chief in the Middle East, General David Petraeus, has issued new counter-insurgency guidelines that underscore the importance of winning citizens’ hearts and minds in the war in Iraq.
The 23-point document demands that US soldiers engage with and respect citizens while relentlessly pursuing Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups blamed for destabilising the nation of 25 million people.
“The Iraqi people are the decisive terrain,” according to a statement dated June 21.
40 US to carry on military trials at Guantanamo despite ruling
by Fanny Carrier, AFP
Tue Jun 24, 8:59 AM ET
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – Hearings for terror suspects before US military tribunals in Guantanamo are going ahead despite a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed detainees have a right to challenge their detention in a civilian court.
Legal experts had described the high court’s decision as the death knell of the special tribunals created by President George W. Bush and his Republican allies in Congress to try “war on terror” suspects.
But Justice Department chief Michael Mukasey said the controversial tribunals at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba would continue their work and last week, two preliminary hearings were held as scheduled.
41 US official visits Syria for talks on Iraq refugees
Tue Jun 24, 10:14 AM ET
|DAMASCUS (AFP) – Senior US official James Foley on Tuesday held talks in Syria on the growing needs of some 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in the country and praised Damascus for its “generosity.”
“We salute Syria, the government and its people for its generosity in welcoming” Iraqis who fled the US-led 2003 war, said Foley, the State Department coordinator for Iraqi refugees.
“We recognise the considerable burdens that are shouldered here by the Syrian government and its people… (and) are appreciative of the cooperation that we have on this issue,” he added.
42 Rice laments US civilian deaths in Iraq
Tue Jun 24, 1:17 PM ET
|BERLIN (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the death of two US government civilian employees in Iraq on Tuesday was “a terrible reminder of the dangers” faced by Americans working in Iraq.
In a statement, Rice identified one of the dead in the Sadr City bombing as State Department employee Steven Farley.
The other victim was not named but was a Department of Defense civilian.
Two US soldiers, an Italian and six Iraqis also died in the bomb attack in the district council building of Baghdad’s Shiite bastion of Sadr City.
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43 Stocks end lower after drop in consumer confidence
By MADLEN READ, AP Business Writer
Tue Jun 24, 5:38 PM ET
|NEW YORK – Wall Street ended an erratic session moderately lower Tuesday as concerns grew about the impact of high fuel costs on consumers and corporate profits. Treasury prices rose on the economic uncertainty.
The Conference Board said its June consumer confidence index came in at 50.4, far below economists’ expectation of 56.5 and May’s reading of 58.1. The disappointing news arrived after shipper UPS Inc. warned late Monday that high oil prices are dampening its profits, and after a dismal reading on U.S. home prices.
Crude oil prices rose 26 cents to settle at $137.00 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, adding to investors’ anxiety.
44 US home prices tumble in April at record rate
By J.W. ELPHINSTONE, AP Business Writer
Tue Jun 24, 4:36 PM ET
|NEW YORK – No matter who’s measuring, the results are the same: Housing prices are tumbling at the sharpest rates ever with a bottom still at least a year away, economists say.
Both the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price indices and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight index on Tuesday reported record year-over-year declines in April, a sobering signal that the housing slump not only is deepening, but also engulfing markets once above water.
The last holdout in the Case-Shiller index, Charlotte, N.C., finally succumbed to the national housing downturn, with prices slipping 0.1 percent from a year ago. No city in the Case-Shiller 20-city index appreciated in April, the first time that’s happened since its inception in 2000.
45 Dow Chemical raising prices by another 25 percent
By JAMES PRICHARD, AP Business Writer
Tue Jun 24, 4:31 PM ET
|GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Shares of several chemical companies fell Tuesday after industry leader Dow Chemical Co. announced its second set of wide-ranging price hikes in less than a month, again trying to offset record costs for energy and raw materials.
Midland-based Dow said it will raise the prices of its products by as much as 25 percent in July after implementing across-the-board price increases of up to 20 percent on June 1.
The company makes everything from the propylene glycols used in antifreeze, coolants, solvents, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, to acrylic acid-based products used in detergents, wastewater-treatment and disposable diapers. Its products are sold in 160 countries.
46 EU declares war on illegal fishing with tougher sanctions
Tue Jun 24, 1:32 PM ET
|LUXEMBOURG (AFP) – EU governments agreed Tuesday to step up the fight against illegal fishing with plans for hefty fines for the worst offenders amid a row over whether tuna fishermen declared all of their catches.
The measures, unanimously adopted by fisheries ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg, “set an example for other world countries,” said Slovenian minister Iztok Jarc, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
Under the package, a European blacklist would be set up not only for vessels deemed to flaunt quotas or regulations, but also for countries that turn a blind eye.