Thursday, March 4, 2010

McClatchy Washington Report 3/4

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Daily News Update

8:00am Thursday, March 4, 2010 EST
  • Torn between international diplomacy and domestic politics, the Obama administration is speaking softly and not using any stick as a House of Representatives committee moves toward approving a controversial Armenian genocide resolution Thursday.
  • The Army's ability to train its forces is "increasingly at risk" because of the nation's protracted commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan, the general in charge of training has told the Army's chief of staff.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry's Tuesday night primary win in his bid for re-election prompted chuckles in the nation's capital over his past remarks favoring the Lone Star State's secession from the United States. One person not laughing, however, is Ron Kirk, the former Dallas mayor and current U.S. trade representative.
  • South Carolina juries would be limited to awarding $350,000 in punitive damages to winners of civil lawsuits under a bill approved by the S.C. House on Wednesday. The proposed cap will make the state more appealing to businesses, argued House lawmakers, even though punitive damages are rare in the state.
  • Wells Fargo & Co.'s top executives will get much bigger paydays for 2009, including $18.7 million for chief executive John Stumpf. Stumpf and three other top executives did not get bonuses and their perks were worth less compared to recent years. But they did get much bigger salaries and stock awards, and a few cashed in previously awarded stock options.
  • Another State Department construction project has gone awry, and once again the builders of the troubled U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad are involved. This time, the problem is in Saudi Arabia.
  • Remember ergonomics? Expect the political hot potato of 2000-2001 to be juggled again this year. Among a raft of regulatory crackdowns promised by the Obama administration are tougher rules governing repetitive-motion activity at work.
  • The U.S. Agency for International Development awarded a $3.5 million contract to PHS Group, a Silver Spring, Md., engineering firm, for cleanup work in Haiti, the first earthquake-related contract to go to a Haitian American. A spokeswoman for USAID said the contract to manage a debris site near the port in Port-au-Prince "was offered as a set-aside for a small business."
  • It is an unremarkable beige-brick building known by its military acronym, the JRIC. Behind several secure doors requiring top-secret clearance sit analysts who conduct counterterrorism investigations in the Philippines, analyze military buildups in Venezuela, and dissect confrontations between China and Taiwan in the strait that separates them.
  • Narcotics investigators on Wednesday raided three South Florida pain clinics suspected of feeding a black-market pipeline of prescription painkillers stretching to Kentucky and other Appalachian states. Loose regulations have made South Florida a haven for storefront clinics selling oxycodone and other painkillers at a pace unseen anywhere else in the country.
  • Cuba's military dictatorship — that's what it is, by any dictionary's definition — is in an awkward position following the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata after an 83-day hunger strike, and the decision of four other jailed dissidents to stop eating to demand the release of all prisoners of conscience.

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