Friday, August 6, 2010

McClatchy Washington report 8/6

  • A federal grand jury on Thursday charged a once-powerful Washington lobbyist with evading federal limits on campaign donations by using straw donors to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to members of Congress, especially those with influence over military spending.
  • After Vaughn Walker was nominated for the federal court in 1987, gay activists took issue with his role as a lawyer for the U.S. Olympic Committee who successfully sued to bar a San Francisco sports festival from calling itself the "Gay Olympics." After Walker issued a landmark ruling Wednesday that overturned California's Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, his detractors took issue with the fact that the judge is gay.
  • Sixty-five years ago today, high in the mountains of northern New Mexico, the public address system at a secret facility called Site Y — now known as Los Alamos National Laboratory — crackled to life. "Attention, please. Attention, please," the announcer said. "One of our units has just been successfully dropped on Japan." That was it. No details about the destruction or even the name of the city that had been struck, Hiroshima.
  • After months of languishing on the U.S. Senate calendar, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. of Raleigh, N.C., was confirmed late Thursday to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, a position for which he was first nominated in 1999.
  • In the latest round of the Texas vs. Washington political battle, the state's Republican leaders Thursday blasted a U.S. Senate-passed mandate on education funding in Texas, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst threatening legal action against the federal government if the House upholds the measure in a critical vote next week. The provision applies only to Texas and was crafted by Texas Democrats in Congress, who say they want to ensure that more than $800 million in federal education dollars earmarked for the state isn't diverted to other purposes.
  • Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint on Thursday offset each other's votes on Solicitor General Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination, with Graham backing her to become the third sitting female justice and DeMint opposing her.
  • The U.S. State Department on Thursday kept Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, saying that Havana continues to shelter members of two Colombian guerrilla groups and a Basque faction. The list, which includes Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, is part of a State Department report issued annually since 1979 on cooperation with U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. Cuba was first put on it in 1982.
  • In June, Sean Snaith ran the numbers and concluded the Gulf oil crisis might cost Florida's economy $11 billion. This week, the University of Central Florida economist dialed back that nightmare scenario and says the damage will probably be about 80 percent less. Snaith's revised math may be an academic exercise. But it also reflects a hope across the Gulf Coast that the coming weeks will bring a brighter outlook for a battered economy.
  • Alaska Republican congressional candidate Sheldon Fisher on Thursday called on the Justice Department to disclose the results of its investigation of Rep. Don Young's Coconut Road earmark because Congress itself took the unprecedented step of seeking the inquiry. The Justice Department, as is typical in investigations that end without prosecution, has declined comment on Young's assertions. But Fisher said the Coconut Road matter is different because it was requested by a vote of Congress in 2008.
  • Facing an ABC-TV news camera in Arizona just after pieces of that state's highly publicized immigration law were blocked, a young woman who supports the measure said immigrants were taking jobs away from legal citizens.
    With all the political posturing, however, we sometimes forget there are human beings involved. And we definitely forget that laws created in individual states cannot trump federal mandates. That's why key pieces of the Arizona law were blocked.

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