- - Thursday, December 29, 2011

WHITE HOUSE

U.S. targets money laundering activity for cartels

The Obama administration has hit two men with sanctions for suspected laundering money on behalf of Mexican and Colombian drug cartels.

The move blocks any assets in the U.S. belonging to Lebanese-Colombian nationals Jorge Fadlallah Cheaitelly and Mohamad Zouheir El Khansa, and blocks Americans from doing business with them.

The Treasury Department said Mr. Cheaitelly leads a Panama-based drug trafficking and money laundering organization with operations as far as Hong Kong. Mr. El Khansa is seen as a key partner.

The department also applied sanctions to nine people with ties to the men, and 28 entities in Colombia, Panama, Lebanon and Hong Kong.

The department’s sanctions chief, Adam J. Szubin, said the U.S. was forcing a major money laundering network out of the international financial system, undermining its ability to help the cartels.

VIRGINIA

Lawsuit seeks to get Gingrich on Va. ballot

A Virginia lawyer and tea party activist is seeking to have Newt Gingrich’s name placed on the state’s Super Tuesday primary ballot.

Lawyer Jonathon Moseley, of Reston, says he filed the suit Thursday in the Circuit Court of Richmond County. It contends that Mr. Gingrich met the requirement of filing 10,000 signatures and that many of those were improperly excluded. The suit also takes issue with how the Republican Party of Virginia determined that not enough signatures were valid.

Only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas have been found eligible for the Virginia primary ballot. The campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry is also challenging his exclusion in court.

Mr. Moseley says he is acting independently of the Gingrich campaign, but is encouraging the former House speaker to join his lawsuit. 

WHITE HOUSE

U.S. tells Egypt to halt raids on NGOs

The Obama administration is demanding that Egyptian authorities immediately halt raids on nongovernmental organizations in the country, calling the action “inconsistent” with long-standing U.S.-Egypt cooperation.

The State Department on Thursday expressed deep concern over the raids, which targeted the offices of at least 18 NGOs, including the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. It called on the Egyptian government “to immediately end the harassment of NGO staff, return all property and resolve this issue.”

Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. ambassador to Egypt and the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East have spoken to Egyptian officials about the situation and “made very clear that this issue needs immediate attention.”

CAMPAIGN

Huntsman on Iowa absence: ‘They pick corn in Iowa’

Jon Huntsman Jr. is defending his refusal to compete in the leadoff Iowa Republican precinct caucuses, focusing instead on New Hampshire.

Mr. Huntsman told CBS’ “The Early Show” the formula, so far as he is concerned, is quite elementary. Says Mr. Huntsman: “They pick corn in Iowa. They actually pick presidents here in New Hampshire.”

The former Utah governor has made little effort to win in Iowa, focusing mostly on New Hampshire in the early going. He has remained in the lower tier of candidates as others, including Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum — and at one time, Herman Cain — soared in the polls. He was ambassador to China for President Obama but says that shouldn’t be used against him as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination.

 

IMMIGRATION

Hotline launched for jailed immigrants

The Homeland Security Department is launching a hotline for people jailed on immigration charges who believe they are victims of crime or may be U.S. citizens.

The toll free hotline — 855/448-6903 — will be staffed 24 hours a day and run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to answer questions from people held in local jails about whether they may face deportation proceedings.

The hotline is the latest move by the Obama administration to address concerns about suspected illegal immigrants held in local jails. Earlier this month, Homeland Security ended agreements that had allowed deputies at an Arizona sheriff’s office to check the immigration status of local jail inmates after a Justice Department report outlined allegations of racial profiling and discrimination against Hispanics.

NEW YORK

Muslims upset by NYPD to boycott mayor’s breakfast

NEW YORK — Activists upset at police efforts to spy on Muslims plan to skip Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s annual year-end interfaith breakfast, saying Mr. Bloomberg shouldn’t be defending the tactics.

The imams and activists from a variety of faiths said in a letter to Mr. Bloomberg that they’re disturbed at his response to a series of stories by the Associated Press detailing New York Police Department intelligence-gathering programs that monitored Muslim groups, businesses and houses of worship. Mr. Bloomberg has defended the department, saying last week it doesn’t take religion into account in its policing.

About a dozen people turned down invitations to Friday’s breakfast but “a couple dozen” more said they plan to attend, Mr. Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said Wednesday.

The letter to Mr. Bloomberg contained the names of several dozen Muslim leaders and organizations and said they believe the police department’s tactics “threaten the rights of all Americans, and deepen mistrust between our communities and law enforcement.”

“Mayor Bloomberg, the extent of these civil rights violations is astonishing, yet instead of calling for accountability and the rule of law, you have thus far defended the NYPD’s misconduct,” the letter said.

MILITARY

Book: Petraeus almost quit over Afghan drawdown

A new book says general-turned-CIA-director David H. Petraeus almost quit over President Obama’s decision to quickly draw down forces from Afghanistan.

The forthcoming biography says Mr. Petraeus ultimately decided that quitting would be a “selfish, grandstanding move,” and that he must “salute and carry on.”

Petraeus insider Paula Broadwell had an all-access pass to Mr. Petraeus for two years, covering him in the war zone and in Washington.

Her book “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus” is a flattering account of his time in Afghanistan, sometimes at the expense of others.

In the book, the popular general also sends a strong signal that he has no desire to challenge his boss, Mr. Obama, for the White House.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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