- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mukasey defends memo writers

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey is defending former government lawyers who drew up the legal basis of the Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation methods against terror suspects.

He told Boston College Law School graduates yesterday that lawyers doing their part to protect the country in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks should not now be held liable or face criminal charges for doing so.

He mentioned no names, but former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo is facing at least one civil lawsuit and demands for his firing from Berkeley Law School over the memos concluding that the president has broad wartime authority that domestic law and international bans on torture do not limit. One memo defined torture under U.S. law as covering “only extreme acts” causing pain similar in intensity to that caused by organ failure or accompanying death.

At the ceremony, according to his prepared remarks, Mr. Mukasey lambasted critics seeking to bring lawsuits or charges, saying “the rhetoric of these discussions is hostile and unforgiving.”

Warning issued on aphrodisiac

NEW YORK — Health officials are warning New Yorkers to stay away from an illegal aphrodisiac made from toad venom after the product apparently killed a man.

The city’s poison control center issued the warning yesterday after receiving a hospital report that a 35-year-old man who ingested the hard, brown substance, which contains chemicals that can disrupt heart rhythms, died earlier this month.

The product is sold under names including Piedra, Love Stone, Jamaican Stone, Black Stone and Chinese Rock at sex shops and neighborhood stores. It is banned by the Food and Drug Administration. City health officials said the victim, whose identity was not released, was admitted to the hospital complaining of chest and abdominal pain. He died two days later.

Soldier earns Medal of Honor

A Pennsylvania soldier who jumped on a grenade in Iraq to save the lives of his comrades at the cost of his own will be awarded the Medal of Honor.

The nation’s highest military honor will be given to 19-year-old Army Pfc. Ross McGinnis of Knox, Pa., on June 2, the White House said yesterday.

Pfc. McGinnis “distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism,” White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said.

He was in the gunner’s hatch of a Humvee on Dec. 4, 2006, when a grenade sailed past and into the vehicle where four other soldiers sat. Pfc. McGinnis shouted a warning, then jumped on the grenade while it was lodged near the vehicle’s radio. It blew up and killed him.

Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman, said he easily could have saved himself.

“The instinct is, ‘jump out of the vehicle,’ but his four buddies were in the vehicle with him,” she said. His jumping on the grenade “saved their lives.”

Crane collapse kills 1, hurts 3

IATAN, Mo. — An 800-ton crane collapsed yesterday at a construction site near a Kansas City Power & Light power plant, killing one worker and injuring three others, authorities said.

The victims were contract employees working on a new coal-fired plant at the site, utility spokesman Matt Tidwell said.

The crane tipped over and crumpled around 7:30 a.m. KCPL said the accident occurred as the crane was lowering its boom, which extended about 15 stories high, after workers had determined wind speeds were too strong for safe operation. The crane was not bearing any load at the time.

The names of the victims were not immediately released. One survivor was released from the hospital and the other two have injuries that are not considered life-threatening.

FCC could regulate cancellation fees

The head of the Federal Communications Commission said yesterday he wants to regulate fees charged to cell phone users who cancel their wireless contracts early.

At a news conference, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin would not say whether he endorses an industry plan to help consumers avoid early termination fees as detailed by the Associated Press earlier this week.

But Mr. Martin said he supports regulating the fees at a federal level, even if it affects a series of class-action lawsuits against carriers in state courts.

Consumers would benefit from a national standard that addresses many of the problems with the current fees system more than “a potential lawsuit that might only affect and impact consumers in one particular state,” he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports