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WHITE HOUSE

Obama freezes feds' cash bonuses

President Obama on Tuesday froze any cash bonuses or similar discretionary pay boosts for political appointees, calling it a prudent example of cost-cutting at a time when many families are just trying to get by financially.

The move is expected to affect at least 2,900 people on the federal payroll and save about $1.9 million a year. Mr. Obama has also suggested a salary freeze for senior political appointees throughout the government, but that move would take the approval of Congress.

Mr. Obama spelled out his directive on the bonuses in a memo to agency and department directors. The freeze takes effect immediately and lasts through the budget year ending September 2011.

"I appreciate the hard work of our federal work force [but] ... we need to make tough choices about how to spend our funds," he said.

PENTAGON

McChrystal reporter loses embed bid

The author of the Rolling Stone article that ended the military career of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former top commander in Afghanistan, has been denied permission to join U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Defense Department spokesman Col. David Lapan told reporters that freelance writer Michael Hastings was rebuffed when he asked to accompany, or "embed with," American forces next month.

The rejection came as the Pentagon ramped up an internal investigation into the circumstances behind some of the most salacious material Mr. Hastings used in his article in Rolling Stone.

Col. Lapan acknowledged that it's "fairly rare" for the military to turn way a reporter who wants to embed with front-line troops, but said "a key element of an embed is having trust that the individuals are going to abide by the ground rules."

"So in that instance the command in Afghanistan decided there wasn't the trust requisite and denied this request."

Mr. Hastings did not immediately reply to requests for comment Tuesday.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama inks bill on drug sentences

President Obama on Tuesday signed a bill reducing the disparity between federal mandatory sentences for convictions for crack cocaine and the powder form of the drug.

Mr. Obama's signing of the bill in the Oval Office was open to news photographers but not to the rest of the media. He made no remarks. But as a longtime thorn in the side of the black community, the matter is important to a key Obama constituency.

The quarter-century-old law that Congress changed with the new bill has subjected tens of thousands of blacks to long prison terms for crack-cocaine convictions, while giving far more lenient sentences to those, mainly whites, caught with powder.

However, the new law is not retroactive. And it applies only to federal defendants, with no impact on state mandatory-sentencing laws.

PENTAGON

WikiLeaks: We sought military's review

The Pentagon said Tuesday it had not been contacted by WikiLeaks, despite claims that the whistle-blowing website sought its help reviewing thousands of classified Afghan war documents ahead of their release.

U.S. officials have appealed to WikiLeaks not to post any additional documents and accused the group of endangering the lives of Afghan contacts named in its initial release of tens of thousands of classified U.S. military reports last month.

A WikiLeaks spokesman said Tuesday he wanted the Defense Department's help reviewing 15,000 additional U.S. documents ahead of their potential release, according to the Daily Beast website.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said WikiLeaks had not contacted the Defense Department. He declined to speculate on what might happen if it did request assistance.

SENATE

Reid has slim lead in Nevada

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid leads his Republican rival Sharron Angle by 48 percent to 44 percent among likely Nevada voters, a Reuters-Ipsos poll found Tuesday.

Mr. Reid led "tea party" favorite Ms. Angle 52 percent to 36 percent among registered voters, but when the likelihood of actually voting was considered, his lead slipped to just 4 percentage points, 48 percent to 44 percent, the poll showed.

The poll of 600 Nevada voters July 30 to Aug. 1 also found that 74 percent believe the economy is the state's biggest problem, and 63 percent favor an immigration law like Arizona's that would enable police to check the status of people they stop.

NHTSA

New technology can prevent rollovers

Stability-control systems already on the market for tractor-trailer trucks, including tank trucks hauling hazardous loads, could prevent nearly 3,500 rollover accidents and save an estimated 106 lives a year if they were required on trucks, a federal safety official said Tuesday.

Nathaniel Beuse, director of crash-avoidance standards at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said his estimate was based on tests of the stability systems the agency conducted with researchers from the University of Michigan. The study found that almost 4,400 injuries a year could be prevented with the systems.

All new passenger vehicles are required to have stability-control systems, but not commercial trucks, even though trucks represent a disproportionate share of rollover accidents.

NHTSA hopes to complete studies on the potential benefits of requiring the systems for tractor-trailer trucks before the end of the year, Mr. Beuse told a hearing of the National Transportation Safety Board.

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