- The Washington Times - Friday, August 21, 2009

MICHIGAN

Keep terrorists out, speakers say

STANDISH, Mich. | Opponents dominated a public meeting on Thursday on moving terrorism suspects from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a prison in this small town, many accusing President Obama of making Michigan a target for killer jihadists.

Nearly every speaker during the two-hour gathering denounced the idea, many arguing that the 229 detainees should remain where they are, despite Mr. Obama’s pledge to close the Guantanamo prison complex by 2010.

“They are enemy combatants,” said Tom Kerrins, chief steward for the union representing prison workers at Standish Maximum Correctional Facility. “They want to kill you, they want to kill me, they want to kill our families.”

Despite the one-sided tenor of the meeting, some officials in the town of 1,500 said in interviews that a “silent majority” of local residents would accept the detainees in order to save the prison, which is scheduled to close this year because of state budget cuts.

The prison provides about 300 jobs, making it the top employer in the rural community about 145 miles north of Detroit.

NEW YORK

Court rejects governor’s choice

NEW YORK | An appeals court Thursday struck down Gov. David A. Paterson’s appointment of a lieutenant governor, upholding a constitutional challenge to a move spurred by a paralyzing political drama in the state Senate.

The decision at least temporarily prevents longtime government adviser Richard Ravitch from serving as the state’s second-highest executive, though the case is expected to go on to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

The appellate panel said no state law or constitutional provision allows the lieutenant governor’s post to be filled by anything but an election, making the appointment unlawful.

The decision upheld a lower court’s order blocking Mr. Ravitch from holding the post, an order that had been stayed while the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division considered the case.

The Democratic governor said he was “obviously disappointed” by the ruling, though he noted that the case had long been seen as headed for the Court of Appeals.

“The governor does have the explicit right to fill vacancies, and we see the lieutenant governor as one of those offices,” he said.

HEALTH

U.S. flu strategy flawed, study finds

CHICAGO | Contrary to current federal strategy, vaccinating schoolchildren and their parents against the flu is the best way to protect the nation from influenza, including the new pandemic swine flu, researchers said Thursday.

They said vaccine priority should be given to people most likely to spread the virus, not those most at risk of serious complications from it.

Seasonal and H1N1 vaccination guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently target people who are likely to become the most ill if infected.

“The vaccines would be better used to prevent transmission within schools and out to parents, who then spread the flu to the rest of the population,” said Jan Medlock of Clemson University in South Carolina, whose study appears in the journal Science.

The researcher developed a mathematical model of flu spread that takes age and transmission patterns into account.

REPORTS

VA bonuses alarm inspector general

Thousands of technology office employees at the Veterans Affairs Department received a total of $24 million in bonuses over a two-year period, some under questionable circumstances, the agency’s inspector general said in scathing reports that also detail abuses ranging from nepotism to an inappropriate relationship.

The inspector general accused one recently retired VA official of acting “as if she was given a blank checkbook” as awards and bonuses were distributed to employees of the Office of Information and Technology in 2007 and 2008. In some cases the justification for the bonuses was inadequate or questionable, the IG said.

The official, Jennifer S. Duncan, also engaged in nepotism and received $60,000 in bonuses herself, the IG said. In addition, managers improperly authorized college tuition payments for VA employees, some of whom were Ms. Duncan’s family members and friends. That cost taxpayers nearly $140,000.

Separately, a technology office employee became involved in an “inappropriate personal relationship” with a high-level VA official. The technology office employee flew 22 times from Florida to Washington, where the VA official lived. That travel cost was $37,000.

SURVEILLANCE

Judge upholds eavesdropping law

NEW YORK | A federal judge in New York has rejected a challenge to a law allowing the United States to eavesdrop on overseas conversations. He says U.S. residents who fear surveillance could not show they were harmed.

Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan upheld the latest version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was amended in 2008. It authorizes surveillance of non-U.S. citizens outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information.

The law was challenged by lawyers, journalists and organizations in the United States whose work causes them to speak with people and organizations they believe are likely targets of surveillance allowed by the law.

Judge Koeltl said the mere fear of surveillance was not enough to bring a lawsuit.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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