- - Monday, November 22, 2010

NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Report: Nuclear weapon drivers got drunk

Government agents hired to drive nuclear weapons and components in trucks sometimes got drunk on the job, including an incident last year in which two agents were detained by police at a local bar during a convoy mission, according to a report Monday by the Energy Department’s watchdog.

The department’s Assistant Inspector General Sandra D. Bruce said her office reviewed 16 alcohol-related incidents involving agents, candidate-agents and others from the government’s Office of Secure Transportation from 2007 through 2009. There are nearly 600 federal agents who ship nuclear weapons, weapon components and special nuclear material across the United States.

The report said two incidents in particular raised red flags because they happened during “secure transportation missions” when agents checked into local hotels during extended missions, and the vehicles were placed in “safe harbor.”

One of those occurred in 2007, when an agent was arrested for public intoxication; the other happened last year, when police handcuffed and temporarily detained two agents after an incident at a local bar.

The report recommends that officials consider actions such as a “zero tolerance” policy for alcohol incidents.

CRIME

Former aide sentenced to jail

A former congressional aide who golfed in Scotland at lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s expense is being ordered to spend 12 weekends in jail.

Mark Zacharys, former aide to Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, also was sentenced Monday to four years’ probation and 200 hours community service and faces a $4,000 fine.

Zacharys could have faced years in prison, but prosecutors requested a lighter sentence because he helped investigate two congressmen in the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal.

Prosecutors did not identify the congressmen but said they ultimately were not charged.

Zacharys took an all-expense-paid trip with Abramoff in August 2003 valued at more than $160,000 to play golf at Scotland’s St. Andrews and other world-famous courses, then lied about it on disclosure forms.

ENVIRONMENT

New rules for carbon dioxide storage proposed

The Obama administration is proposing new rules to protect drinking water and track the amount of carbon dioxide stored by so-called “clean coal” technology.

The rules, announced Monday, cover an experimental technique to store carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants and other sources underground. The technique is designed to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the rules clarify standards for carbon storage, so industry knows what is required as it develops the technology.

The administration wants to encourage carbon storage while overcoming liability obstacles that could hinder the development of the technology.

SARAH PALIN

Barbara Bush: Palin should stay in Alaska

Former first lady Barbara Bush doesn’t appear to think much of Sarah Palin’s White House aspirations, saying the former Alaska governor should stick to her home state.

In an interview with CNN’s Larry King scheduled for airing Monday, Mrs. Bush says she sat next to Mrs. Palin once and “thought she was beautiful.”

The outspoken wife of former President George H.W. Bush says Mrs. Palin, who is considering a presidential run in 2012, seems “very happy in Alaska” but then adds, “I hope she’ll stay there.”

TEXAS

Deliberations begin in DeLay’s trial

AUSTIN | The fate of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is now in the hands of a jury.

Jurors in Mr. DeLay’s money-laundering trial in Austin began deliberating Monday after more than three hours of closing arguments.

In their final pitch to jurors, prosecutors said the former Republican lawmaker gave his blessing to a scheme to use his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate donations into 2002 Texas legislative races through a money swap.

Mr. DeLay’s attorneys countered that he didn’t commit a crime because no corporate money was sent to Texas candidates. His attorneys told jurors the money swap was legal.

The once powerful but polarizing Houston-area congressman faces up to life in prison if convicted.

ALASKA

Vote-count lawsuit filed in Senate fight

ANCHORAGE | Alaska’s Republican candidate Joe Miller sued Monday to stop the state from using discretion in determining voter intent on write-in ballots cast for rival Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The Associated Press last week called the race for Mrs. Murkowski, who had a 10,328-vote lead over Mr. Miller. Her total includes 8,159 ballots contested by Miller observers. Excluding those, she had a 2,169-vote lead.

Mrs. Murkowski mounted the write-in campaign after losing to Mr. Miller in the primary.

Mr. Miller’s lawsuit was originally filed in federal court, but a judge ruled a state court should decide the issue.

The judge, however, granted a temporary injunction halting certification of the Senate election, stipulating that Mr. Miller take his case to state court by Monday.

NEW YORK

Rangel supporters urge ‘no’ vote on censure

NEW YORK | Rep. Charles B. Rangel’s supporters in New York’s Harlem want members of Congress to stand by him.

A group of local leaders says Mr. Rangel has worked hard in his decades-long career to support his community. They’re urging other members of the House of Representatives to vote no on a recommendation to censure him.

The Democratic congressman was convicted in an ethics trial by a panel of lawmakers on 11 counts of ethical wrongdoing, including his use of House letterheads and staff to solicit money for a college center named after him. A number of the donors had business before the House Ways and Means Committee while Mr. Rangel served as chairman.

The full House is expected to vote after the Thanksgiving break.