- The Washington Times - Friday, March 19, 2010

SUBPOENA

Groups in Ensign probe subpoenaed

A federal grand jury has issued subpoenas to a Republican campaign committee and companies in Nevada in a probe of Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, who has been under scrutiny for his efforts to find lobbying work for the husband of his former mistress.

Two Republican officials said one of the subpoenas went to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Mr. Ensign formerly chaired. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss legal matters.

Earlier Thursday, a Las Vegas television station reported that grand jury subpoenas in the Ensign probe went to half a dozen firms.

According to one subpoena obtained by the Las Vegas television station, recipients were ordered to testify March 31 in Washington, D.C., and to turn over documents relating to the Republican senator.

SANCTIONS

Treasury sanctions firms for Hamas ties

The U.S. Treasury said Thursday it imposed sanctions against two firms in Gaza - Islamic National Bank and Al-Aqsa Television - for their ties to the ruling Hamas movement.

The Treasury said the sanctions prohibit Americans from transactions with the designated entities and seek to freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

The Treasury previously blacklisted Hamas, which rules Gaza, as a “specially designated global terrorist” organization.

It said the sanctions were imposed against Islamic National Bank, opened by Hamas in April 2009, for providing financial services to Hamas members and employees, including members of its military wing. The Treasury said the bank lacks a legal license from the Palestinian Monetary Authority and operates outside the legitimate financial system.

The Treasury said Al-Aqsa Television station is financed and controlled by Hamas and serves as a primary Hamas media outlet that airs programs “designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood.”

RECALL

1.2 million Graco high chairs recalled

The government is announcing a recall of some 1.2 million high chairs, saying they pose a fall hazard to children.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the voluntary recall Thursday involving the product made by Graco Children’s Products Inc. of Atlanta.

The regulatory agency said “screws holding the front legs of the high chair can loosen and fall out” and said cracking plastic brackets can cause the high chair to “tip over unexpectedly.” These tip-overs resulted in 24 reports of injuries including bumps and bruises to the head, a hairline fracture to the arm and cuts, bumps and bruises and scratches to the body.”

The CPSC said consumers should stop using the high chairs immediately and identified the recall product as “all Harmony-TM high chairs.” It said the product is no longer in production and said the model number can be located on the underside of the foot rest.

VETERANS

VA seeks to make getting benefits easier

The Veterans Affairs Department took steps Thursday to make it easier for veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars to get disability benefits. To qualify for the new streamlined status, they must have malaria, West Nile Virus or one of seven other diseases.

The VA has proposed a regulation change that lets veterans qualify for benefits by showing only that they served in the recent conflicts, or in the Gulf War, and have a diagnosis of any of nine diseases. Called “presumptive status,” it’s easier to prove an illness stems from war service.

Such status had been given to veterans from earlier eras with certain diseases, but this is the first time veterans from the recent conflicts qualified.

COURTS

Court won’t rehear suit against Ashcroft

BOISE, Idaho | A federal appellate court says it won’t reconsider its ruling that former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be held personally responsible for misuse of the material witness statute after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a ruling published Thursday, the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted to deny Mr. Ashcroft’s request amid bitter dissent by eight of its judges.

U.S. citizen Abdullah al-Kidd sued Mr. Ashcroft and other federal officials after he was arrested and jailed as a material witness in a terrorism case against another man.

Mr. al-Kidd said his arrest and detention were just a ruse to give the government time to investigate him for any potential wrongdoing. He was never called to testify at trial.

HEALTH

Drug-resistant TB killed 150,000 in ‘08

Multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis killed 150,000 people in 2008 and infects between 400,000 and 500,000 people globally, according to World Health Organization estimates released Thursday.

WHO said the numbers suggest the hard-to-treat infection is spreading and said there is an urgent need for countries to set up labs to fight it.

So-called MDR-TB is especially common in Russia, Tajikistan, China and India, WHO said in a report. It said an especially hard-to-treat form called extensively drug resistant TB or XDR-TB is also growing.

The report uses new methods and new surveillance data from countries around the world, so the figures cannot be compared to older surveys of MDR-TB. But WHO said the findings are startling and show a need to find infected patients and treat them promptly.

From wire dispatches and staff reports