- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

Pentagon wins ruling on labor issues

A federal appeals court said yesterday the Pentagon has the authority to pick and choose which labor issues it will negotiate with unions representing more than 600,000 civilian employees.

The policy has been on hold since early last year when a federal judge said it eroded collective-bargaining rights.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned that ruling yesterday, saying in a 2-1 decision that Congress temporarily authorized the policy change until 2009.

The policy gives Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates greater flexibility to change workers’ assignments and refuse to negotiate over certain issues.

The American Federation of Government Employees said the policy unfairly restricts the appeals process for unfavorable personnel decisions and allows the Pentagon to avoid negotiating at all.

Rocket’s payload of ashes found

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — A rocket payload that flew briefly into space with ashes of astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan was recovered yesterday in the New Mexico mountains.

The payload was found in its designated recovery zone 20 days after Farmington, Conn.-based UP Aerospace sent it up in a 20-foot rocket on April 28.

The rocket, the first to be successfully launched into space from the fledgling Spaceport America in southern New Mexico, made a four-minute suborbital flight before drifting back to Earth.

Onboard were partial ashes from Mr. Cooper, Mr. Doohan — who played Scotty on “Star Trek” — and 200 others.

UP Aerospace co-founder Eric Knight said the payload “landed where we wanted it to be.”

“It was just in difficult terrain,” he said.

Scientists hatch new plan for whales

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Marine scientists trying to lure two injured whales out of a river prepared yesterday for Plan B: Herding the animals by boat while banging pipes underwater.

In the meantime, a marine-mammal rescue crew aboard a Coast Guard cutter stuck with the original strategy of playing recorded sounds of other humpbacks feeding.

The mother whale and calf are stranded at the Port of Sacramento, having hit a dead end after traveling 90 miles through San Francisco Bay and up the Sacramento River. Their cuts were apparently caused by a boat propeller.

The herding and banging technique would be applied Tuesday only if the more numerous and varied whale sounds planned for yesterday fail and the twosome do not start swimming toward the Pacific Ocean on their own over the weekend, said Frances Gulland, director of veterinary science at the Sausalito, Calif.-based Marine Mammal Center.

Border agents rescue illegals

TUCSON, Ariz. — A U.S. Border Patrol search, trauma and rescue team responded to a distress call near Comobabi on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, south of here, rescuing more than a dozen and discovering a body in two separate rescue efforts this week.

The Tucson sector agents responded to a 911 distress call and after initiating a search, rescued 11 suspected illegal aliens, including a pregnant female and two small children. They were transferred to an area hospital for treatment for severe dehydration.

During the rescue effort, the agents also discovered the body of a deceased male. The other rescued illegals, all Mexican nationals, were transported to the station and processed for removal.

Border Patrol officials said that during the rescue operation, agents were told that five persons were missing in the same area. One mile from the original rescue location, agents made contact with the five — two of whom were also transferred to an area hospital for treatment, while the others were taken to the station and processed for removal.

From wire service dispatches and staff reports.

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