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Political Scene

EPA

Petition denied for lead ban

The Environmental Protection Agency has denied a petition by several environmental groups to ban lead in fishing tackle. The decision comes two months after rejecting the groups' attempt to ban lead in hunting ammunition.

The EPA said Thursday that the petition did not demonstrate that a ban on lead in fishing tackle was necessary to protect against injury to health or the environment, as required by the Toxic Substances Control Act.

In August, the EPA rejected the other part of the petition for lead ammunition, saying it did not have the authority under the law.

In their petition, the groups had argued that lead from spent hunting ammunition and lost lead fishing gear cause the deaths of 10 million to 20 million birds and other animals a year.

MISSOURI

Court urged to uphold law

JEFFERSON CITY | A coalition of 13 states has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold an Arizona law penalizing businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

The Supreme Court is to hear arguments next month on the 2007 Arizona law, which allows business licenses to be revoked or suspended when employers are found to have knowingly hired illegal immigrants. Similar laws are in place in several other states.

Businesses and civil rights groups have challenged the Arizona law, contending it infringes on federal immigration powers - an argument rejected by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September 2008.

A coalition led by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster released court documents Thursday arguing that states have long had the authority to license and regulate businesses. The states contend Congress specifically exempted state licensing laws in a 1986 federal law that prevents states from imposing civil or criminal penalties on businesses for illegal hirings.

"Those state laws complement, rather than replace, federal enforcement" of immigration laws, Mr. Koster wrote in the document filed Oct. 28 with the Supreme Court. "Indeed, absent this complementary approach between federal and state law, a significant deterrent to employing 'unauthorized aliens' would be missing."

WHITE HOUSE

Officials confident of recouping funds

The White House said Thursday it was confident the U.S. government would recoup all the funds it had invested in General Motors to help the car maker through its financial troubles.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs spoke a day after GM finalized terms for a stock offering of about $13 billion to repay a controversial taxpayer-funded bailout and reduce the U.S. Treasury to a minority shareholder.

"The [initial public offering], I think, is going to begin doing a couple of things," Mr. Gibbs said. "One, reduce our stake in General Motors as a company, and as we move forward, begin to recoup the money that we invested in saving those jobs throughout the Midwest."

Asked whether he was confident all taxpayer money would be recovered, Mr. Gibbs said: "Yes."

"First and foremost, you've seen pretty strong sales figures [from GM], which I think are encouraging," he said.

NEW YORK

Stevens voices mosque support

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said Thursday that Americans should be tolerant of plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the World Trade Center in New York.

The 90-year-old Mr. Stevens said it is wrong to lump all Muslims with the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks that killed 3,000 people. "Guilt by association is unfair," he told a Japanese-American group in Washington.

The center's location two blocks north of where the Twin Towers once stood has upset some relatives of Sept. 11 victims and stirred nationwide debate and angry demands that it be moved. Critics say the site of mass murder by Islamic extremists is no place for an Islamic institution, while supporters of the center say religious freedom should be protected.

"We should never pass judgment on barrels and barrels of apples, just because one of them may be rotten," said Mr. Stevens, who left the court in June. He commented on an issue of public debate in a way he most likely would have avoided had he still been serving as a justice.

JUSTICE

BCS investigation being discussed

Utah's attorney general met with Justice Department officials this week to discuss a possible federal investigation into college football's Bowl Championship Series.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is investigating the BCS for possible antitrust violations and is hoping to get the Justice Department to do so as well.

"They are doing their due diligence," Mr. Shurtleff said in a telephone interview Thursday, a day after the meeting. "They had done their homework."

Mr. Shurtleff said department officials did not commit to conducting an investigation. He said among those at the meeting was Gene Kimmelman, chief counsel for competition policy and intergovernmental relations in the department's Antitrust Division.

Justice Department officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

DEFENSE

Military wants better drones

The military aims to develop more sophisticated, high-tech drones and surveillance aircraft that can collect intelligence in increasingly dangerous combat airspace, a senior Air Force leader said Thursday.

Under pressure from Pentagon leaders, the Air Force has already dramatically increased the number of armed and unarmed drones over Afghanistan and Iraq. But there are growing worries that the U.S. needs aircraft able to gather information and wage electronic attacks in airspace that is more contested, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Philip Breedlove, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements.

The Pentagon is keenly aware that the next war could be against an enemy with a well-equipped air force and sophisticated military instead of terrorists armed with guns and roadside bombs.

Persistent and growing terrorist activities in far-flung locations from East Africa to Yemen also require the U.S. to do more intelligence-gathering across a broader geographic spectrum.

Gen. Breedlove declined to detail what the Air Force is considering, but said that it may require new or upgraded aircraft that are stealthier and less visible to radar.

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