- - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

STATE

Clintons to attend Havel funeral in Czech Republic

The White House says former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to the Czech Republic for Friday’s funeral of former President Vaclav Havel.

The White House says the Clintons will be joined by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen on the presidential delegation to the funeral.

Mr. Havel was the leader of the peaceful anti-communist “Velvet Revolution.” He died Sunday at age 75.

The Clintons called Mr. Havel a “towering figure in the world of human rights and a force for progress in Eastern Europe.”

MISSISSIPPI

Barbour plans return to his lobbying firm

JACKSON — When Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour leaves office Jan. 10, he’ll return to the lobbying firm he founded in 1991.

That’s according to a person with direct knowledge of the plan, who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because Mr. Barbour’s plans were not yet public.

The person said Wednesday that Mr. Barbour will return next month to the BGR Group. It is a government affairs, strategic communications and investment banking firm. The person said Mr. Barbour’s new office is under construction in Washington, and newly hired people will work for him.

Mr. Barbour recently has worn BGR golf shirts at public events. He cannot seek a third term as governor.

Mr. Barbour’s spokeswoman said the governor had no comment.

CAMPAIGN

Huntsman team blasts Romney for jobs record

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr.’s campaign said Wednesday that jobs lost at a company managed by rival Mitt Romney counter his claims of being a job creator.

Mr. Huntsman’s campaign and allies said Mr. Romney’s venture capital firm oversaw more than 100 layoffs in New Hampshire but eventually reaped millions in profits.

An Associated Press report this week found that the Holson Burnes Group, controlled by Mr. Romney’s Bain Capital LLC, closed plants in New Hampshire and Gaffney, S.C., as it shipped other jobs overseas.

Former Claremont, N.H., Mayor Scott Pope a Huntsman supporter said Holson Burnes had told local officials the plant was closing in 2005 so it could expand operations in Mexico, long after Bain relinquished control of the company. But a bulk of Holson Burnes layoffs and furloughs occurred in the early 1990s under Bain’s ownership.

The AP’s review of financial and regulatory documents in the case of Holson Burnes contrasts with Mr. Romney’s statements during the GOP presidential campaign about his success creating jobs in the private sector. It showed that Holson Burnes trimmed its workforce by hundreds while Bain eventually earned a 20 percent return on its investment.

The economic fallout from Bain’s decisions struck hardest in New Hampshire and South Carolina, early primary states that will shape the Republican race and Mr. Romney’s White House prospects. Mr. Romney knows President Obama and other Republican contenders will be picking apart his tenure at Bain.

“President Obama and his friends on the left are continuing their attacks on the free-enterprise system, and by attacking free enterprise, they are willingly dividing Americans,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the AP in response. “Mitt Romney has a quarter-century of experience working with entrepreneurs and real businesses in the real economy.”

WHITE HOUSE

Administration says Assad does not deserve to rule

The White House is renewing its call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, saying his regime does not deserve to rule.

The White House said in a statement Wednesday that Mr. Assad’s regime has no credibility and has “flagrantly violated” its commitment to end violence.

The statement said the Obama administration is deeply disturbed by continued reports of government-backed violence against the Syrian people. Witnesses said more than 200 people have been in killed in two days of violence this week.

The violence came after Mr. Assad agreed to allow foreign monitors under an Arab League plan aimed at stopping the bloodshed.

The White House warned Damascus that additional steps will be taken to pressure Mr. Assad’s regime if the Arab League initiative is not fully implemented.

UTAH

Mexico, other nations pan state immigration laws

SALT LAKE CITY — Mexico and other Latin American countries say Utah’s new immigration laws interfere with diplomatic relations.

The Deseret News reports that 14 Latin American countries signed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against Utah’s effort to control immigration.

A federal judge has temporarily blocked Utah’s laws from taking effect. They require people held for serious crimes to prove their citizenship and allow Utah police agencies to check citizenship for others picked up on minor charges.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups will hold a hearing Feb. 17 on a possible permanent injunction against the laws.

Mexico and the other countries say Utah’s immigration efforts are part of a patchwork of illegal state laws that disrupt diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Latin America.

MICHIGAN

Feds to drop gray wolf from endangered list

ATLANTA — The Obama administration is taking gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region off the federal endangered species list.

The Associated Press obtained a Wednesday statement in which Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the more than 4,000 wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin have exceeded recovery goals and no longer need federal protection.

Responsibility for managing and protecting those wolves will be turned over to state wildlife agencies. The populations will be monitored for at least five years to make sure they remain at sustainable levels.

The Interior Department also says it’s reconsidering a previously announced plan to remove endangered-species protections for wolves in 29 Eastern states even though they aren’t believed to have any established wolf populations. Officials say they’ll decide later on the status of Eastern wolves.

From wire dispatches and staff reports