Political Scene

ALASKA

Ruling due soon in disputed election

JUNEAU | An Alaska judge will decide by Friday a case that will determine the fate of Republican Joe Miller’s challenge to how write-in ballots were counted in the U.S. Senate race.

Judge William Carey heard arguments for nearly two hours Wednesday. He has been asked to decide whether to grant the state’s request to dismiss Mr. Miller’s lawsuit or grant the candidate’s request to strictly enforce election law.

A decision favoring Mr. Miller could result in thousands of challenged write-in ballots for Sen. Lisa Murkowski being discarded and lead to a recount. The current unofficial tally shows Mrs. Murkowski ahead, and the state argues that the math isn’t in Mr. Miller’s favor regardless.

But Mr. Miller has raised questions about voting irregularities that he says put enough ballots in dispute to possibly sway the election to him.

SENATE

Vote on military gay ban is delayed

A proposal by Senate Democrats to repeal the military’s 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops stalled Wednesday after a key Republican refused to sign on and Democrats feared a critical test vote would fail.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continued to talk with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine about how he could win her support, Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. Miss Collins’ vote is considered critical to the monthslong effort by Democrats to repeal the 1993 law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“We’re getting close, but negotiations are still ongoing,” Mr. Manley said.

A provision that would overturn the law contingent upon certification by the president and the Pentagon that doing so won’t hurt military effectiveness is included in a broader defense policy bill.

HOUSE

House asks China to free dissident

The House of Representatives called on China on Wednesday to release imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo, the human rights activist who is due to receive the Nobel Peace Prize later this week.

By a vote of 402-1, the House approved a resolution that congratulates Mr. Liu for winning the peace prize and honors his efforts to promote democratic reform in China.

The resolution also calls on China to release Mr. Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, and cease censoring news of the award. The measure “emphasizes that violations of human rights in general … are matters of legitimate concern to other governments.”

Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas Republican known for his efforts to rein in U.S. foreign policy, was the only lawmaker to vote against the measure.

Mr. Liu, 54, is serving an 11-year sentence for organizing a petition calling for greater political rights in China. His wife is under house arrest.

NORTH KOREA

Richardson confirms ‘citizen’ travel

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday he would travel to North Korea from Dec. 16 to Dec. 20, with the intent to ease tensions with Pyongyang over its nuclear program and belligerence toward South Korea.

“I am increasingly concerned with the recent actions by the North Koreans, which have raised tensions and are contributing to instability on the Korean Peninsula,” Mr. Richardson declared in a statement, noting he was going as a private citizen.

“I am not carrying any messages, but I want to be helpful during this volatile period,” Mr. Richardson said. “If I can contribute to the easing of tension on the peninsula, the trip will be well worth it.”

EPA

EPA delays pollutant rules

The Environmental Protection Agency is delaying new rules that would impose stricter limits on two key pollutants smog and mercury drawing complaints from environmental groups that say the Obama administration appears to be caving in to political pressure from congressional Republicans.

“It is hard to avoid the impression that EPA is running scared from the incoming Congress,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch.

Republicans took control of the House and gained seats in the Senate in the midterm elections, and many GOP lawmakers have vowed to target the EPA for what they call a series of job-killing regulations. Lawmakers from both parties especially in industrial states in the Northeast and Midwest have complained about the boiler rule, which they say could place an added burden on business for lower emissions.

HOUSE

New rules rejected for mine safety

The House has rejected a bill that would have adopted sweeping changes to rules about mine safety. The legislation was prompted by the deadly explosion in April that killed 29 West Virginia coal miners.

The measure would have made it easier to shut down problem mines, increased penalties for serious safety violations and offered more protection for whistle-blowers.

Democrats brought up the bill under a special procedure in which debate was limited and no amendments were allowed. That procedure requires a two-thirds majority to pass. The vote was 214-193 in favor of passage, short of the two-thirds needed.

Republicans say the bill is too punitive and call it premature because investigators are still looking into the Upper Big Branch disaster in West Virginia.

NORTH CAROLINA

Service planned for Edwards

RALEIGH | A public memorial service is being planned to honor the life of Elizabeth Edwards.

A family friend said Wednesday that Mrs. Edwards, who died Tuesday, will be honored Saturday at Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh at 1 p.m. The public is allowed to attend the event. The family is still working on burial plans.

The family is asking that people make donations to the Wade Edwards Foundation, which was created in honor of Mrs. Edwards’ son who died in a car crash at age 16.

Mrs. Edwards died of breast cancer six years after she was first diagnosed with the disease. Family, friends and admirers said she was an inspiration for how she handled a series of adversities in her life.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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