Thursday, May 6, 2010

McClatchy Washington Report 5/6

  • As offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere boomed, a 2003 report warned that the industry wasn't taking time to find and fix the problems that commonly plagued blowout preventers — the supposedly failsafe mechanisms designed to stop oil spills such as the one now threatening the gulf coast.
  • With Gov. Charlie Crist reshuffling the U.S. Senate race as an independent candidate, Republican Marco Rubio reaffirmed his frontrunner status Wednesday by announcing a widely anticipated endorsement from former Gov. Jeb Bush.
  • The U.S. House Wednesday took a major step in boosting employment opportunities in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, passing legislation to extend the country's trade preferences. The bill gives Haiti greater access to the U.S. clothing market for woven and knit fabrics, and extends the life of its current duty-free access well into the next decade.
  • The National Day of Prayer, an annual civic and religious ritual established by Congress in 1952, has become a flashpoint in the national culture wars, pitting evangelical Christians against secularists of various stripes and religious minorities.
  • Republican gubernatorial candidates Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman have feuded over which one is a real conservative, but check the expiration date on that label. Whoever emerges from the June 8 primary must pivot away from the conservative tag in the months that follow. Winning the general election will require substantial support from independent voters in California.
  • S.C. House lawmakers think they can muster the votes needed to overturn an expected veto by Gov. Mark Sanford of raising the nation's lowest cigarette tax. The Senate voted Wednesday to agree to the House version of a bill to raise that tax to 57 cents a pack from 7 cents per pack. The higher tax would pay for $125 million in state-run health care programs for low-income residents and $5 million each for smoking cessation and cancer research.
  • Over three days in early December 1982, 17 elite soldiers known as kaibiles entered a village in the tropical forest of northeast Guatemala's Peten region. During three nightmarish days, kaibiles killed 251 children, women and men — one of the worst massacres of the Guatemalan civil war. Now three Guatemalan immigrants are wanted by U.S. immigration authorities in connection with the 1982 massacre. One has been arrested in Palm Beach County, Florida.
  • Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson — who is running for the Legislature — is taking a page from the Democratic playbook on how to tap into populist anger and win quick political points with voters: He's attacking Wall Street.
  • Alaska's gubernatorial candidates have hugely different visions for a natural gas pipeline long touted as savior of the state's economy. One says it's a pipe dream to think Alaska will export much gas any time soon. Others argue the state should finance multibillion-dollar pipelines from the North Slope to Fairbanks or Valdez.
  • Fifty years ago my mother went door to door in St. Louis for the U.S. Census. She knew the importance of the numbers in determining congressional representation and how federal dollars are apportioned. Mom was resolute about ensuring that black people weren't left out. The current census with its new army of door knockers will collect more important data for the nation to digest.
  • If a Martian had descended on earth last week and read the headlines, he would have thought that Latin America is the world's new superpower.

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