Wednesday, July 28, 2010

McClatchy Washington report 7/28

  • As he was named the new chief executive of BP, Bob Dudley said with quiet confidence Tuesday that he believed no more oil would spill into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon. Then, the first American to head the British energy company spoke emotionally about his long-term commitment to the Gulf Coast, especially to Mississippi, where he grew up.
  • Senate Republicans beat back Democratic attempts Tuesday to pass a bill that would impose stringent disclosure requirements on corporations, unions and other independent groups that finance ads for political campaigns.
  • A Pakistani passenger plane crashed into the hills flanking Islamabad on Wednesday, with 152 on board, officials and witnesses said. The plane, flown by Airblue, was due to land at 9:30 a.m. local time. Reports suggest that the plane was circling the airport, awaiting permission to land before it crashed.
  • Some of the economic consequences of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill may take years to identify, and BP's compensation fund should be flexible enough to account for long-term losses, a panel of experts from Alaska's Exxon Valdez tanker spill told a Senate committee Tuesday.
  • Democratic U.S. House candidate Rob Miller proposed slashing congressional pay and perks as part of a plan to win back voter trust. Miller is challenging Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson in a race that is already the most expensive in South Carolina history, after Wilson yelled "You lie!" during President Barack Obama's congressional address in September.
  • With the overhaul of financial regulation in the bag, the Obama administration Tuesday said it'll focus next on housing finance — another key cause of the recent deep economic downturn — with an eye to deciding the fate of mortgage finance titans Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • The filing deadline for Haiti's presidential elections isn't until Aug. 7, but many of the potential contenders are playing coy about their plans and speculation about who will run is rampant. Rumors are flying over a possible bid by Haiti-born multi-platinum musician Wyclef Jean, secret polling by foreign powers in search of a new face to lead Haiti's reconstruction and candidacy declarations by some Haitian diplomats and government officials.
  • The head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency is meeting this week with Alaska village residents on matters ranging from the controversial Pebble mine project to federal spending on rural sanitation projects and coastal village erosion. Today, she is expected in Dillingham to meet with Bristol Bay region tribal governments, Native corporations and other local organizations to get their views on the proposed Pebble project.
  • The body of a sailor who was killed in a Taliban ambush arrived home in the United States Tuesday as the military continued a massive search for his comrade, whom the Taliban claimed it kidnapped last week in eastern Afghanistan.
  • Cigarette sales in California plunged to their lowest level in a decade last year as smokers were squeezed by new taxes and restrictions on where they could light up. Certainly, the drop is good news for public health. But for the state, the decline in smoking also means $74 million in tax revenues have disappeared like a puff of smoke, leaving health programs that rely on cigarette taxes to look for other ways to pay for services.
  • Witchcraft accusations account for 40 percent of the caseload in Central African Republic courts. Not that the judiciary necessarily believes defendants cast hexes on their neighbors. Judges preside over these cases, however unscientific, to keep the rabble from lynching folks blamed for disease, natural disasters or other unhappy occurrences.
    Politicians in Central African Republic understand their constituents require a metaphysical answer to the unhappy vagaries of life. Americans prefer a political answer, even if the problem, like the Gulf oil spill, demands a technical solution.

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