- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 2, 2008

POLITICS

Obama team to raise convention money

Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama has put his fundraising team to work helping raise unlimited donations from big donors for the cash-hungry Democratic National Convention.

Federal campaigns are not permitted to raise unrestricted amounts of money from wealthy donors, unions or corporations for their campaigns or parties, but they can do so when fundraising for the host committees that finance national presidential conventions.

Last month, the convention’s Denver host committee reported an $11.6 million shortfall in its mid-June fundraising goal of $40.6 million. Organizers had, in part, blamed the lengthy Democratic primary for their fundraising difficulties.

The Obama campaign declined to say whether the candidate himself has solicited money as part of this effort, but members of his vaunted fundraising team have been involved and the campaign gave the host committee a list of his donors to contact.

PENTAGON

Bill grants benefits to ‘sole survivors’

Legislation to ensure veterans benefits to “sole survivors” in military families passed the Senate on Friday. It now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.

The bill is called the “Hubbard Act” after a family from California’s Central Valley that lost two of three sons in the Iraq war.

After the combat deaths of his two brothers, Jason Hubbard left the Army under the military’s “sole survivor” policy, which allows sole surviving siblings to be discharged before their enlistment is over. But he soon found that the Army was denying him benefits he would otherwise have been entitled to, including health coverage and access to the GI Bill. He was asked to repay some of his enlistment bonus.

The Hubbard Act would ensure that Mr. Hubbard and others in his position are entitled to the same benefits as others who honorably leave the military, including transitional health care, educational support and separation pay that compensates for inability to continue service.

The bill passed the Senate by unanimous voice vote and passed the House earlier this week. The sole survival policy was established 65 years ago after the widely publicized deaths of the five Sullivan brothers at sea during the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II.

SUPREME COURT

Mexican killer asks to delay execution

Four months after losing his case in the Supreme Court, a Mexican citizen facing execution next week in Texas asked the justices Friday for a last-minute reprieve.

Jose Medellin, set to die Tuesday for his participation in the gang rape and beating deaths of two Houston girls, said that the high court should block his execution until Texas grants him a new hearing to comply with an international court ruling.

The state has thus far refused, and the court ruled in March that neither President Bush nor the international court can force Texas to do so. But Medellin says Congress or the Texas legislature should be given a chance to pass a law ordering a new hearing before he can be executed.

Four Democratic U.S. lawmakers have introduced such a bill, but Congress adjourned Friday until after Labor Day and the bill probably will not be acted on this year. The Texas legislature does not meet again until January.

Medellin is one of about 50 Mexicans on U.S. death rows who were denied prompt access to their country’s consular officials after being arrested, a right guaranteed by international treaty.

STATE

July sets record for Iraq refugees

The United States admitted more than 2,300 Iraqi refugees last month, setting a record and putting the Bush administration on pace to surpass its goal of accepting 12,000 by the end of September.

The State Department said Friday that 2,352 Iraqi refugees had arrived in the country during July, bringing to 8,815 the number of Iraqi refugees admitted in the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30. It gives the administration two months to take in 3,185 to hit the target.

“These are good results and we feel we’re on track to reach the 12,000 goal,” said James Foley, the department’s coordinator for Iraqi refugee issues.

The 12,000 target is still far lower than the number admitted by other countries and only a small slice of the some 2 million Iraqis who have fled to neighboring countries since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. For example Sweden, with just one-thirtieth the population of the U.S., has granted asylum to about 40,000 since 2003.

Advocacy groups and lawmakers have criticized the U.S. for its poor performance on Iraqi refugees, but over the past several months the administration has rapidly increased the number it has allowed in, breaking admissions records in April, May, June and now July.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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