Political Scene

WAR STRATEGY

Gates has no doubts about war strategy

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says he has no doubt that the nation’s war strategy in Afghanistan is sound.

A new book by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward reports that President Obama’s top advisers clashed on how to approach the Afghan war. Mr. Woodward suggests that, in the end, the U.S. exit plan pleased no one and was driven more by politics than national security.

Mr. Gates shrugged off the charges in a press conference on Thursday, telling reporters that “conflict sells” but that relationships within the Obama administration were more “harmonious” than he had ever seen in his time in government.

When asked if he held any personal reservations about the war strategy, Mr. Gates said no. He said he wouldn’t sign the deployment orders if he didn’t believe the plan could work.

FLORIDA

Judge blocks GOP quest for Crist refunds

MIAMI | Republicans upset that Gov. Charlie Crist abandoned the GOP to become an independent were thwarted Thursday in a legal maneuver to force Mr. Crist’s Senate campaign to refund about $7.5 million in contributions.

Circuit Judge Jack Schoonover in Naples refused class-action certification for the Republican donors seeking refunds. That means at least 2,000 GOP contributors would have to pursue individual lawsuits to get back money they gave the Crist campaign before he became an independent.

The lawsuit threatened to tie up Mr. Crist’s remaining campaign funds in the stretch run toward the Nov. 2 election. Mr. Crist trails Republican Marco Rubio, a “tea party” favorite, by about 10 percentage points in an average of polls for the Senate seat vacated by Republican Mel Martinez. Democrat Kendrick B. Meek is running third.

NEW YORK

Cuomo queried on mayoral vote claim

ALBANY | The Republican candidate for New York governor is accusing his Democratic opponent Andrew Cuomo of lying for saying he once voted for New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Meanwhile, Mr. Cuomo has made his first direct hit against Carl Paladino in one of his new television ads in the increasingly feisty race.

The ad against Mr. Paladino attacks the Buffalo developer for getting a $1.4 million tax break and for donating to state and national Democrats and Republicans.

Mr. Paladino accused Mr. Cuomo of lying during the Wednesday press conference where Mr. Bloomberg endorsed him. Mr. Cuomo said he voted for the independent mayor in 2005, but later had to retract his statement. Mr. Cuomo had endorsed the Democratic candidate against Mr. Bloomberg.

Mr. Cuomo’s campaign says the state attorney general misspoke.

DELAWARE

Castle not ruling out write-in Senate race

Delaware Rep. Michael N. Castle said he was stunned by his Senate Republican primary loss to Christine O’Donnell and isn’t ruling out the possibility of a write-in campaign in November.

According to the News Journal of Wilmington, the veteran lawmaker and former governor told reporters Wednesday that he probably would not run, but has not ruled it out.

Ms. O’Donnell, backed strongly by “tea party” activists, upset Mr. Castle in the Sept. 14 primary to snag the Republican nomination in the race to fill the Senate seat once held by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Castle has until Sept. 30 to declare his candidacy in writing at the state election office for his votes to be counted. State elections commissioner Elaine Manlove said Thursday that she has not yet heard anything from Mr. Castle or his representatives.

REGULATION

Congress votes to repeal part of financial overhaul

Lawmakers voted Thursday to repeal a provision in their landmark Wall Street reform bill that exempted securities regulators from complying with some requests for information from the public.

The decision to roll back part of the financial overhaul law - a prime legislative priority of President Obama - comes just two months after the legislation was enacted.

Top regulator Mary Schapiro tried to assure lawmakers that the Securities and Exchange Commission would remain accountable to the public amid concerns the SEC could use the new law to hide information.

But in the end, Congress decided to strike language allowing the SEC to conceal the results of examinations of specific firms.

CONCUSSIONS

Congress takes up student-athlete concussions

Doctors are warning Congress of the risk of altered lives and permanent brain damage if student-athletes aren’t properly protected from head trauma.

Lawmakers at a House hearing also heard Thursday from an NFL player who recently retired because of post-concussion troubles; a mother whose son, a college football player with brain damage, committed suicide; and a high school girl unable to keep up with her classes since suffering a concussion on the soccer field.

Democratic Rep. George Miller of California cited estimates of 300,000 sports-related concussions a year. He said the number is far higher if recreational and playground injuries are included. Mr. Miller says many concussions go unreported, partly because athletes want to stay on the field.

EDUCATION

Department offers grants for teacher merit pay

The federal Education Department is giving school districts and nonprofit organizations across the country $442 million to create merit pay programs for teachers and principals.

The “Teacher Incentive Fund” is aimed at attracting and rewarding quality educators and encouraging them to work in the country’s most troubled schools. The programs will create performance pay systems based on evaluations of educators, among other incentives.

Winners include school districts such as Wake County, N.C., and the New York City Department of Education. State education departments in Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio and Louisiana also won grants, as did private companies such as Uplift Education, which has five charter schools in Texas.

But the effectiveness of merit pay has come into question after a study from Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives this week found that offering bonuses to teachers didn’t improve test scores.

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