Monday, June 28, 2010

McClatchy Washington report 6/28

  • Byrd died at 3 a.m. after a short hospitalization over the weekend. He was very much a man of his turbulent era and a man of West Virginia, able to dramatically influence and shape policy for more than half a century while bestowing billions on his beloved state.
  • It's become a familiar Tuesday ritual: Another member of Congress loses his bid for re-nomination, and incumbents in Washington shudder — and get more timid about taking politically risky votes on economic matters. That's making it hard for the increasingly fractured House of Representatives Democratic caucus, which has an overwhelming majority, to complete even the most routine matters.
  • The security contractor Blackwater Worldwide tried for two years to secure lucrative defense business in Southern Sudan while the country was under U.S. economic sanctions, according to current and former U.S. officials and hundreds of pages of documents reviewed by McClatchy. But the Obama administration has decided against prosecution, which could have resulted in Blackwater being barred from doing business with the U.S. government.
  • What South Mississippi officials had been fearing for weeks came true Sunday when large, gooey globs of weathered oil, chocolate-colored oil patties and tar balls washed ashore in quantity along the Mississippi Coast. Local officials were livid, saying the Coast Guard and BP had failed to move fast enough Saturday, even though it was apparent the oil was heading toward the shoreline.
  • When Gregorio Sanchez, gubernatorial candidate and former mayor of the Caribbean resort of Cancun, was arrested last month, alarms went off among some Mexican analysts. His Cuban-born wife has relatives who had high-level jobs in Havana's security services, and his ex-security advisor served 16 years in the Cuban army.
  • At $5, the Kansas penalty is the lowest seat belt fine in the nation. The state earlier this year passed a "primary" seat belt law, which says failure to buckle up is reason enough for an officer to stop you.
  • Despite concerns about slipping back into recession, world leaders signaled Sunday they have a new fear — that the deficit spending that stimulated growth could produce a crippling debt crisis. They pledged to cut deficits by half within three years. Obama administration's projections show the U.S. will meet the goal.
  • Sarah Palin spent only a few hours in Turlock, Calif., but the repercussions will last a long time, from the big money she drew to a legal investigation into the nonprofit foundation that signed her. Officials at Cal State Stanislaus said they couldn't be happier; Palin's appearance brought in the most money of any event in campus history.
  • The oil industry employs 32,000 people in Louisiana's coastal parishes and pumps an estimated $3 billion into the state economy. In cities like Houma in Terrebonne Parish, more than 60 percent of the jobs are oil-related. So when U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ruled last week that the Obama administration had overstepped its authority by ordering a six-month moratorium on deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, he became a folk hero.
  • Nikki Haley's gubernatorial campaign once was thought moribund. Afterall, one of her biggest supporters was Gov. Mark Sanford, whose reputation had slid in the past year. But her GOP opponents underestimated her political skills and then a scorched earth attack they mounted that included accusations she'd committed adultery put her over the top.
  • When two Alaska state agencies received complaints in 2005 that a BP drilling contractor routinely cheated on tests of blowout preventers and that BP knew it, the agencies let both companies join the investigation. In at least three instances, after witnesses confirmed allegations, company lawyers took them aside for private conversations. One witness recanted his statement immediately after emerging from his private meeting with a company attorney, state records show.
  • Washington State's Senate race is another one that pits an establishment Republican candidate against a tea party favorite. Sarah Palin has endorsed Clint Didier for the job, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has endorsed Dino Rossi. But Washington State's primary election system may thwart the challenge.

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