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Political Scene

- - Sunday, October 10, 2010

TERRORISM

U.S. won't appeal Gitmo witness exclusion

NEW YORK | The U.S. government has decided not to appeal a judge's decision to ban a key prosecution witness from testifying at the first civilian trial for a Guantanamo Bay detainee, saying it would cause a delay.

In a letter Sunday to U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz noted that the government disagreed with the decision and that it merited an appeal.

But he said the government could prove its case against Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani without testimony from Hussein Abebe, and that other witnesses and victims had already traveled to New York for the trial, which will begin as scheduled Tuesday.

The judge said last week that Abebe could not take the stand in Ghailani's trial, because investigators learned of his existence through coercive questioning of Ghailani at a secret CIA-run camp.

Ghailani is charged with conspiring in al Qaeda's 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. The attacks killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans. He has pleaded not guilty and has denied knowing that TNT and oxygen tanks he delivered would be used to make a bomb.

HOUSING

Axelrod downplays foreclosure moratorium

A top White House adviser questioned the need Sunday for a blanket stoppage of all home foreclosures, even as pressure grows on the Obama administration to do something about evidence that banks have used inaccurate documents to evict homeowners.

"It is a serious problem," said David Axelrod, who contended that the flawed paperwork is hurting the nation's housing market as well as lending institutions. But he added, "I'm not sure about a national moratorium because there are in fact valid foreclosures that probably should go forward" because their documents are accurate.

Mr. Axelrod said the administration is pressing lenders to accelerate their reviews of foreclosures to determine which ones have flawed documentation.

"Our hope is this moves rapidly and that this gets unwound very, very quickly," he said.

HOUSE

Candidate criticized for Nazi re-enactment

A top congressional Republican is criticizing a House GOP candidate from Ohio who wore a Nazi uniform during re-enactments of World War II battles.

The Atlantic magazine reported last week that Ohio Republican Rich Iott has participated in the re-enactments wearing a Waffen-SS uniform since 2003. Mr. Iott says he has been a historical re-enactor in other venues for many years.

House Republicans' No. 2 leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, says he repudiates Mr. Iott's actions and would not support someone who would do that. Mr. Cantor's remarks came after Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida cited Mr. Iott as an example of GOP candidates she said are extreme.

CALIFORNIA

Giuliani campaigns for Whitman

LOS ANGELES | Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani says Meg Whitman will cut spending and lower taxes as governor to get California's economy moving.

Mrs. Whitman, the Republican nominee, is in a tight race with Democrat Jerry Brown, and Mr. Giuliani told cheering Whitman supporters Sunday in Los Angeles that electing Mr. Brown, who has a political career reaching back to the 1970s, would be a step backward.

Mr. Giuliani, who endorsed Mrs. Whitman last year, called her "the right person at the right time."

Despite that endorsement, Mr. Giuliani wasn't Mrs. Whitman's favorite in the 2008 presidential race: She was an economic adviser to rival candidate Mitt Romney.

ALASKA

Candidate Miller acknowledges aid

ANCHORAGE | Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller says his family benefited from Medicaid and a state-run health care program for low-income children and pregnant women.

Mr. Miller previously acknowledged receiving federal farm subsidies for land he owned in Kansas in the 1990s and low-income hunting and fishing licenses for him and his wife in Alaska.

As a conservative candidate, he's criticized certain entitlement programs. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who's running as a write-in candidate against him, called Mr. Miller a hypocrite.

HEALTH

White House coy on quitting smoking

A top White House adviser says President Obama and the top House Republican would be good role models if both quit smoking, but he's leaving it hazy whether the two would work together on such a campaign.

Asked about such an effort Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the administration wants to work with Republicans on any issue, but refused to commit Mr. Obama to joining with House Minority Leader John A. Boehner to give up cigarettes.

Instead, Mr. Axelrod suggested that Democrats are doing more than Republicans to rein in the tobacco industry.

Last month on CBS, moderator Bob Schieffer also asked Mr. Boehner about quitting smoking with Mr. Obama. The Ohio Republican simply said that he appreciated the suggestion.

TREASURY

8.1M hires qualify for new tax break

The Treasury Department says businesses have hired 8.1 million workers under a new program that provides tax breaks for hiring unemployed workers.

The report, however, does not estimate how many of those jobs would have been added without the tax break.

President Obama signed a law in March that exempts businesses hiring people who have been unemployed for at least 60 days from paying the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax through December. Employers get an additional $1,000 credit if new workers stay on the job a full year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports