- - Tuesday, December 14, 2010

DRUG TRAFFICKING

U.S. blacklists drug kingpins’ associates

The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday said it tightened sanctions on the financial network of two top Colombian drug traffickers, blacklisting 20 individuals and 25 business enterprises.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control named the entities as specially designated narcotics traffickers because of their ties to Daniel Barrera Barrera, known as “El Loco Barrera,” and Pedro Oliviero Guerrero Castillo, known as “Cuchillo.”

The Treasury says the two, previously designated in March, are among the most-wanted drug traffickers in Colombia today.

The actions prohibit U.S. persons from conducting transactions with the designated entities and individuals and seek to freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

The Treasury has said Barrera and Guerrero Castillo operate primarily in the eastern plains of Colombia between Bogota and the Venezuelan border, in partnership with the leftist rebel group FARC.

Among those targeted by the latest sanctions under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designations Act was German Gonzalo Sanchez Rey, who was arrested by Colombian authorities in May and awaits extradition to Spain on drug-trafficking charges.

NEW JOB

Tough-on-illegals mayor quits for Congress

HAZLETON, Pa. | A Pennsylvania mayor whose get-tough policies on illegal immigrants attracted national attention has resigned after 11 years in office and will head to Congress.

Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta was elected to the U.S. House last month, defeating a 26-year Democratic incumbent on his third try. He left the mayor’s office at noon on Tuesday.

Mr. Barletta says he’s proud of his effort to drive illegal immigrants from the city of about 30,000. Four years ago, he championed an ordinance that penalized landlords for renting to illegal immigrants and businesses that employed them. Cities around the country followed suit.

A federal judge struck down Hazleton’s law as unconstitutional in 2007, and it has never been enforced. The city appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court last week.

NEW YORK

State GOP offers rescue of OTB

ALBANY | New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. may not be quite dead yet.

A few potential rescue plans for the 40-year-old bookmaking operation are floating around Albany after the state Senate failed to approve a plan a week ago.

Now closed to betting for a week, New York City OTB is already hurting the racing industry. Its value is also diminishing as more of its bettors close their accounts, making a takeover less enticing.

OTB Chairman Lawrence Schwartz scoffed at the chances of last-minute rescues, including one proposed by Senate Republicans on Tuesday. He’s deeply skeptical legislators will put aside partisanship even to save hundreds of OTB jobs.

After internal political pressures, the Senate last week failed to approve a reorganization plan.

RECALL

Dodge Ram trucks recalled by Chrysler

Chrysler is recalling about 76,000 Dodge Ram pickup trucks to fix a power-steering issue that could lead to brake pedals that are slow to return after the driver applies them.

The recall affects certain 2010-2011 model year Dodge Ram trucks built from March 2009 through October 2010.

Chrysler said some trucks with diesel engines and a hydroboost brake system could be equipped with a power-steering reservoir cap with excessive vent-pressure levels.

The excessive levels could lead to brake pedals that are slow to return and make the brake lights remain on, potentially causing a crash.

Chrysler said it will notify owners and dealers it will replace the power-steering reservoir cap free of charge.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama meets with Buffett, Gates

President Obama invited two of the world’s richest men to the White House on Tuesday to discuss ways to boost the U.S. economy.

The White House says Mr. Obama’s meeting with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett focused on ideas for spurring economic growth and making the U.S. more competitive. They also discussed opportunities to invest in innovative industries that have growth potential.

Mr. Obama has frequently consulted with Mr. Buffett on economic issues. The billionaire has said he favors letting the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire, a position Mr. Obama also held before striking a deal with congressional Republicans to allow the tax cuts to continue.

Mr. Gates’ wife, Melinda, also took part in the Oval Office meeting. The Gates’ and Mr. Buffett have launched an initiative to invite the wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

ALASKA

Judge: State deserves senator by Jan. 3

JUNEAU | Alaska should have a U.S. senator certified by Jan. 3, even if that senator is subsequently replaced because of legal wrangling over the way ballots were counted in the November election, a federal judge said Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said in a written order that he doesn’t think certification of the race between Republicans Joe Miller and Sen. Lisa Murkowski will necessarily end the dispute over the way in which the state conducted the election.

But he also didn’t immediately lift his stay on letting the state certify the race.

Mrs. Murkowski has declared victory, and attorneys for her and the state have sought a speedy resolution that would allow for the race to be certified before the new Congress begins Jan. 3. Members are sworn in Jan. 5.

Judge Beistline said that if Mr. Miller loses his appeal in a separate case to the Alaska Supreme Court, he’d let Mr. Miller plead his case on any outstanding issues in the federal court. The state Supreme Court is hearing arguments Friday.

WASHINGTON

Consolidation of state agencies urged

OLYMPIA | Gov. Chris Gregoire on Tuesday announced a plan that would consolidate several state agencies and eliminate three dozen boards and commissions, a move she says will save the state nearly $30 million over the next two years.

Mrs. Gregoire said her proposal would reduce the number of state agencies from 21 to nine, saving the state $22 million. The Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Recreation and Conservation Office and the law enforcement unit of the Department of Natural Resources would be consolidated into a new Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Mrs. Gregoire also wants to create an Office of Civil Rights, which would encompass the consolidation of the state’s Human Rights Commission, Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise, Commission on African American Affairs, Commission on Hispanic Affairs and Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.

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