- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 2, 2009

STIMULUS

Judge rules against governor

COLUMBIA, S.C. | A federal judge dealt a major blow Monday to Gov. Mark Sanford’s months-long fight to stop South Carolina from taking $700 million in federal stimulus money, and the governor said the battle may be nearing an end.

“It looks like we will be bound to spend that money,” Mr. Sanford told reporters. “I would say that would be a very plausible outcome given the foreshadowing that’s been done today.”

The Republican has criticized President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package, writing op-eds for national publications and appearing on television talk shows. But he has dealt with protests at home, where educators have predicted massive teacher layoffs without the money.

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday in lawsuits filed by two students and the South Carolina Association of School Administrators that seek to force Mr. Sanford to take the cash. U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson on Monday rejected Mr. Sanford’s efforts to get those suits into federal court.

SUPREME COURT

Sotomayor confers with White House

Judge Sonia Sotomayor, preparing for her first visit to the Senate since being nominated to the Supreme Court, met at the White House on Monday with administration lawyers who are working on her confirmation.

White House aides said the judge was finalizing the answers to her Senate questionnaire and getting ready for one-on-one visits with key senators, part of the traditional prelude to a nominee’s formal confirmation hearings.

On Tuesday, Judge Sotomayor is expected to visit top senators including Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat; Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican; Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee; and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the panel’s top Republican.

HARLEM

Rangel regrets remark on Obama

NEW YORK | Rep. Charles B. Rangel says it was “entirely inappropriate” that he made a comment about President Obama needing to be careful when visiting Harlem, where a black police officer was fatally shot by a white colleague last week.

Mr. Rangel said in a statement Monday that it “was entirely inappropriate to bring the president and his wife into this discussion.” He also said he hopes his “off-the-cuff comment did not cause embarrassment to anyone.”

Mr. Rangel was answering a reporter’s question about what Mr. Obama should do on his trip to the city Saturday with the first lady. He was apparently alluding to the fatal shooting of Officer Omar J. Edwards on Thursday in Harlem.

The shooting is under investigation and sparked concerns about whether race was a factor.

ELECTION

Coleman appeal reaches new court

The months-long dispute over Minnesota’s U.S. Senate seat reached the state’s Supreme Court on Monday. The court heard oral arguments about the validity of a ballot count that handed victory to Democrat Al Franken.

Should the court rule in Mr. Franken’s favor, Democrats would finally harness the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

Mr. Franken emerged from a mandatory recount of the November ballot and several court challenges with a 312-vote lead.

But lawyers for Republican incumbent Norm Coleman told the court that some 12,000 absentee ballots were wrongfully rejected.

In arguments streamed live on the court’s Web site, the justices seemed to dismiss many of his arguments.

“You’re offering little more than … theory of the case, but no concrete evidence to back it up,” Associate Justice Christopher Dietzen told Mr. Coleman’s attorney, Joe Friedberg. “Where is the intentional and purposeful discrimination?”

Mr. Franken’s attorney was also quizzed by the justices.

It was not clear when the court will decide the case. It is expected that either Mr. Franken or Mr. Coleman will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

LETTER

Groups outline health savings

A coalition of U.S. health industry groups Monday outlined how they plan to meet President Obama’s goal of cutting $2 trillion in costs industrywide over the next decade.

In a letter to Mr. Obama, the groups said some of the proposed savings can be achieved now, but others depend on “good public policy” in a proposed health industry overhaul that Mr. Obama wants Congress to enact by the end of the year.

“We are committed to doing our part to make the system more affordable and effective for the nation,” wrote the groups, which included representatives of doctors and private insurers as well as the pharmaceutical industry and hospitals.

The proposals included savings of as much as $700 billion from streamlining the insurance claims process and other administrative savings.

The groups said that better management of chronic illness could save between $350 billion and $850 billion. Another $150 billion to $180 billion could be saved by avoiding unnecessary treatments and duplications, they said.

HOSPITAL

Obama awards two purple hearts

President Obama visited wounded and local recovering troops Monday, awarding two Purple Hearts.

Mr. Obama spent about an hour in the afternoon at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

He met with 26 inpatients, as well as about 30 outpatients and their families.

The White House did not release details on those visited by the president.

Mr. Obama also spent time with the hospital’s staff.

FBI

Crime declines for second year

Crime in the United States dropped for a second consecutive year in 2008, the FBI reported Monday, declining 2.5 percent compared with the previous year.

The FBI’s yearly crime assessment saw nationwide declines in all four violent crime categories tracked by the agency.

Reported murders and non-negligent manslaughters were down 4.4 percent; assault dropped by 3.2 percent; rape declined by 2.2 percent and robbery was down by 1.1 percent.

Cities with populations of between 250,000 and a half-million people saw the greatest decline in violent crime - a drop of 4 percent. The downward trend was also noted in cities with 1 million or more inhabitants.

But the tendency did not hold for towns with less than 10,000 residents, which reported increases in those categories of violent crime this past year, the FBI said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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