- - Thursday, November 25, 2010

TEXAS

DeLay judge holds sentencing discretion

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay argued throughout his trial that the deck was stacked against him by a politically motivated prosecutor and a jury from the most Democratic city in one of the most Republican states.

But following DeLay’s conviction Wednesday on money laundering and conspiracy charges, some legal experts say the edge may now shift to the Republican who represented a conservative Houston suburb for 22 years.

While technically the money-laundering charge carries a punishment of up to life in prison, Senior Judge Pat Priest has wide latitude and could end up just giving him probation.

“It is absolutely impossible he would get anywhere near life,” said Philip Hilder, a Houston criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor. “It would be a period of a few years, if he gets prison.”

Barry Pollack, a Washington-based lawyer who represents clients in white-collar and government corruption cases, said the judge may not see a need to throw the book at DeLay, figuring the conviction itself severe enough punishment for someone who once ascended to the No. 2 post in the House of Representatives.

For example, as a convicted felon, DeLay won’t be able to run again for public office or even cast a vote until he completes his sentence.

Republicans

GOP: House majority to make changes

One of the incoming members of the new House Republican majority says Americans picked “the right group of messengers” to do the job of turning the country around.

In the weekly Republican radio and Internet address, Rep.-elect Austin Scott of Georgia characterized the 85-member incoming freshman class as a “new breed of leaders for a new majority and a new Congress.”

The GOP won control of the House in elections earlier this month and will take over in January.

Mr. Scott says that while there is much to be thankful for, “too many Americans have been out of work for far too long.” He says the GOP House majority “is ready to focus on creating jobs and putting a stop to the runaway spending in Washington, D.C.”

WHITE HOUSE

Obama places holiday calls to troops

President Obama has called 10 members of the armed services stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan to wish them and their families a happy Thanksgiving.

The White House says Mr. Obama thanked two each from the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy for their service and sacrifice. He made a similar series of phone calls last year.

The calls came as the president, wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha spent the holiday at the White House.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama pardoned Apple and Cider, two 21-week-old, 45-pound turkeys raised on a farm outside Modesto, Calif.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama on Heat: ‘It takes some time’

ORLANDO, Fla. | Miami’s slower-than-expected start is a talking point around the NBA. Around the White House, too.

And the nation’s First Fan says the Heat will need time to reach their best.

President Obama - who wasn’t thrilled that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade turned down the Chicago Bulls this summer - told ABC’s Barbara Walters that when it comes to the Heat, it would be prudent for fans to be patient.

“It takes some time for the team to come together,” Mr. Obama said. “There’s no ‘I’ in team. So no matter how good a player is, no matter how good a group of players are, if they haven’t played together before, they are not going to be as good as a team that has played together a long time.”

FDA

Caffeinated alcoholic drinks being taken off shelves

The Food and Drug Administration says major brands of caffeinated alcoholic drinks should be off store shelves by mid-December.

The FDA issued warning letters to four companies earlier this month, saying their drinks were unsafe. The agency said the combination of caffeine and alcohol in the drinks can lead to a “wide-awake drunk” and have led to alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults.

The agency said Wednesday that Phusion Projects, maker of Four Loko, and United Brands Co., maker of Joose, are no longer shipping the products and expect them to be off store shelves by Dec. 13.

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