- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2008

COURTS

Abramoff says he’s not a bad man

Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff said his lifestyle of trading favors for expensive gifts crossed the line, even by Washington standards, but that he is not a bad man.

Abramoff, the central figure in a corruption scandal that shook up Washington politics, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday. In a letter to the judge Wednesday, he apologized for his crimes and said he was amazed he strayed so far.

Abramoff is asking for a lenient sentence that could result in a release from prison by 2009. He has spent countless hours working with the FBI, providing information about the lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides he corrupted with skybox tickets, lavish meals and golf junkets.

He is serving a nearly six-year prison sentence for a fraudulent casino deal and faces more than 10 years in prison when he is sentenced this week for corrupting Capitol Hill lawmakers with expensive gifts.

STATE DEPARTMENT

U.S. cites Libya as good example

The United States said Wednesday that improved relations with Libya, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits this week, showed how countries like Iran and North Korea could be rewarded for a change in behavior.

Miss Rice is making the first visit to Libya by a U.S. secretary of state since 1953, five years after Col. Moammar Gadhafi announced that his country was giving up its weapons of mass destruction program.

“The secretary’s visit is going to be a huge demonstration of the fact that, by changing behavior, a country can change the nature of a relationship,” said Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation.

“Countries that change terrorism behavior, cooperate with us, have a way forward,” she told a news briefing.

STATE FUNDING

Shortfall slows road construction

States have slowed road construction projects, initially budgeted at more than $41 billion for 2009, in response to a shortfall in federal gasoline tax receipts that help fund them, a congressman said Wednesday.

Rep. John L. Mica of Florida, the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in an interview that the problem should create new urgency in Congress to close the estimated funding gap of at least $4 billion when it returns next week from its August recess.

“We’ve got to make that commitment sometime between now and when the fiscal year expires [Sept. 31] or it could be dire consequences,” Mr. Mica told Reuters.

NAVY

Secretary stresses reliable weaponry

U.S. defense companies need to focus more on ensuring the reliability of new weapons systems rather than just lauding their superior capabilities, Navy Secretary Donald Winter told Reuters on Wednesday.

Mr. Winter, a former defense industry executive, cited several examples in which newly developed weapons were plagued by reliability issues, including a broken stern gate that caused a 48-hour delay in the deployment of the San Antonio amphibious ship built by Northrop Grumman Corp.

Mr. Winter, a former Northrop executive, said the new ship was “under way, finally,” and that the delay was part of an overall shake-down for the ship that was taking longer than he wished.

Work on another amphibious program, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle being developed for the Marine Corps by General Dynamics Corp., had to be delayed because it was not meeting the Navy’s reliability targets, Mr. Winter said.

“Having performance is important, but not as important in most cases, as having reliability,” said Mr. Winter, who displays a Soviet AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle in his office because he says it symbolizes the importance of weapons that work.

REFUGEES

U.S. welcomes 2,183 from Iraq

The United States admitted fewer Iraqi refugees in August than in the previous record-setting month, but remains on pace to meet the Bush administration’s goal of 12,000 by the end of September.

The State Department said Wednesday that 2,183 Iraqi refugees entered the country last month, down from 2,352 in July.

August’s figure brings the number of Iraqi refugees accepted in the U.S. to 10,998 since the current budget year began on Oct. 1. This means the administration will have to accept 1,002 more refugees in September to reach 12,000. August was the fourth straight month when admissions surpassed the administration’s target of 1,000 refugees per month, so it’s likely that the overall goal will be met.

“We’re happy they are likely to meet their goal and we certainly hope they do,” said Kristele Younes of Refugees International, a Washington-based advocacy group. She added that meeting the goal was a “good start, but it’s only a start.”

NUCLEAR PACT

Paper appears to contradict India

A leading Democratic lawmaker has made public a secret Bush administration document that says the U.S. has the right to immediately stop nuclear trade with India if it conducts an atomic test.

The U.S. statement on future Indian testing, contained in a letter kept private for nine months, appears at odds with Indian officials’ insistence that a landmark U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation accord would not ban Indian nuclear tests.

Rep. Howard L. Berman of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is releasing the State Department’s Jan. 16 answers to key congressional questions at a sensitive moment in the countries’ pursuit of a deal that would reverse three decades of U.S. policy by shipping atomic fuel to India in return for international inspections of India’s civilian reactors.

Members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group of countries that export nuclear material are gathering in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday and Friday to discuss the deal. The Bush administration must get an exemption for India from the NSG’s rules before Congress could ratify the proposal, which would allow the sale of nuclear materials to a country that has tested nuclear weapons but has refused to sign nonproliferation treaties.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Scientist guilty of arms violations

A retired professor of electrical engineering at the University of Tennessee was convicted Wednesday of violating U.S. arms export controls and passing sensitive data to a Chinese national, the Justice Department said. The professor, Reese Roth, is a plasma scientist who was hired to work on a U.S. Air Force research contract by privately held firm, Atmospheric Glow Technologies Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn.

The company pleaded guilty last month to illegally providing a Chinese national, Xin Dai, with data used in developing an unmanned aerial weapons system. Xin Dai was Roth’s research assistant.

Another former Atmospheric Glow employee, Daniel Sherman, pleaded guilty in April to charges of conspiring with Roth to export the data.

Roth, 70, maintained that he did not break the law, but a jury in Knoxville found him guilty on 17 counts of conspiracy, fraud and violating the Arms Export Control Act, the Justice Department said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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