- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

U.S. mulls terrorism trial in New York

Federal prosecutors are considering sending Guantanamo Bay detainee Majid Khan to New York to face a federal civilian trial, a person familiar with the discussions said Monday.

Khan is one of fewer than 20 detainees at the detention center for terrorism suspects at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, labeled high-value by the U.S. government, meaning someone thought to be a senior member of al Qaeda, or someone with extensive knowledge of the terrorism network.

The Justice Department is weighing whether to put him on trial in federal court in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, but no final decision has been made, according to a person speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the deliberations.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. already has decided that self-declared Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others will be tried in federal court in Lower Manhattan.

Sending Khan and possibly other Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial in Brooklyn raises the possibility of one city hosting two major terrorism trials in separate locations, though it is difficult to predict when either would start, given the lengthy pretrial process for each that could easily last more than a year.

DEMOGRAPHICS

Study: Americans to live longer

Americans may live significantly longer in the future than current U.S. government projections, and that could mean sharply higher costs than anticipated for Medicare and other programs, researchers reported Monday.

The researchers say that by 2050 Americans may live as much as eight years longer than government forecasts and that spending by Medicare and Social Security could rise by $3.2 trillion to $8.3 trillion above current projections.

Advances in medical care will accelerate, stretching out life spans, the MacArthur Research Network on an Aging Society wrote in the report, published in the Milbank Quarterly.

“If we’re right, we’ve got a problem,” Dr. Jack Rowe of Columbia University’s School of Public Health and chairman of the MacArthur Research Network said in a telephone interview. “Can we really afford to have everybody quit work at 65?”

TRADE

U.S. seeks deal with seven nations

U.S. trade officials formally notified Congress on Monday of President Obama’s intention to negotiate a regional free-trade deal with Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and three other countries in the Pacific Rim.

The action came as the eight-year-old Doha round of world trade talks remains in doubt, and as Mr. Obama delays submitting trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea negotiated by his predecessor, George W. Bush, to Congress for a vote because of concerns from fellow Democrats.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the United States’ participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement was vital to reversing “a significant decline” in U.S. export market share over the past decade in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.

It also “provides an opportunity to develop a new model for U.S. trade negotiations and a new regional approach that focuses more on jobs, enhances U.S. competitiveness and ensures that the benefits of our trade agreements are shared by all Americans,” Mr. Kirk said in a letter to congressional leaders.

CENSUS BUREAU

Head count ready to begin, chief says

The head of the Census Bureau says with preparations for next year’s count nearly complete, he’s growing more hopeful the government can achieve a strong response rate, similar to what was seen in 2000.

In a news briefing, Robert Groves said the bureau recently finished compiling its master address list used to send out forms. He says an independent estimate shows the list’s accuracy to be higher than what was seen in the last census.

The Census Bureau faces special challenges next year locating residents because of foreclosures, as well as immigrants wary of government workers amid a crackdown on illegal immigration. Mr. Groves said he’s hopeful of a good response because of strong outreach that emphasizes the information will be kept confidential. The form next year also will be the “shortest census in our lifetime” - taking just 10 minutes to complete.

He said people should stay tuned as the bureau kicks off its $300 million advertising campaign next month and begins its head count in parts of rural Alaska.

HOUSE

Murtha in hospital for gallbladder issue

Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, has been hospitalized with abdominal pains.

His spokesman said he was admitted to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda on Sunday night. The spokesman, Matt Mazonkey, said it has been determined that the 77-year-old retired Marine colonel has a gallbladder issue. Mr. Mazonkey said Mr. Murtha is resting and doing well at the hospital.

The 19-term Democrat was the first Vietnam veteran elected to Congress. He heads the influential House Defense appropriations subcommittee.

TARIFFS

House approves trade extension

Two trade programs allowing developing nations to sell their products duty-free in the United States would be extended for a year under legislation approved by the House on Monday.

The first program, implemented in 1976, allows 132 developing countries to export about 3,400 types of products without paying duties. Among those, the 44 least developed may export an additional 1,400 types of products.

The second program, enacted in 1991, provides duty-free treatment to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru as a means of helping those countries develop economic alternatives to drug production and trafficking.

Bolivia was also part of the original Andean Trade Preferences Act, but the Obama administration ended its benefits earlier this year because of lack of cooperation in counternarcotics efforts.

Both programs are set to terminate at the end of the year. The bill to extend them now goes to the Senate. The House approved the measure by voice vote.

DEFENSE

Congress switches Afghanistan cash

Congress is knocking nearly $1 billion off President Obama’s request for Afghanistan’s security forces and instead devoting the money to buying more mine-resistant vehicles for U.S. troops there.

The move comes as top House and Senate lawmakers are putting the finishing touches on a $626 billion Pentagon spending bill that Democratic leaders hope to clear for Mr. Obama’s signature by Friday. Passage of the politically popular measure has been held up for weeks because Democratic leaders want to attach other controversial items to it.

The measure contains $128 billion to support Mr. Obama’s February request for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The president has yet to request funds for his recently announced troop increase in Afghanistan.

The package contains about $465 million to develop an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Air Force’s multimission fighter of the future. The administration said in June it would veto the legislation if it would “seriously disrupt” the F-35 program. It has since backpedaled from the veto threat after the program won an impressive Senate vote.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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