- - Thursday, July 14, 2011

COURTS

Administration appeals gays in military ruling

SAN FRANCISCO | The Obama administration asked a U.S. appeals court to reconsider an order that requires the immediate end to a policy preventing homosexuals from serving openly in the military, according to a court filing.

President Obama last year signed a law repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The Pentagon has been writing rules for the new policy, and expects to finish within weeks. However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week ordered the military to immediately stop enforcing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The Justice Department asked the 9th Circuit to reconsider, saying the order gives no weight to Congress‘ judgment about the time needed to effectively implement repeal.
“That step is particularly unjustified at this late stage of the process,” the government’s filing said.

The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group that is plaintiff in the case, criticized the administration. “This latest maneuver by the president continues a pattern of doublespeak that all Americans should find troubling,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the group.

TSA

More-information airport screening to be tested

The Transportation Security Administration said Thursday it will test a program to prescreen a small group of select air travelers who volunteer more personal information about themselves so they can be vetted to get faster screening at airport checkpoints.

The new program represents the Obama administration’s first attempt at a more risk-based, intelligence-driven passenger-screening program that could respond to travelers’ complaints that the government is not using common sense when it screens all passengers at airports in the same manner. The change comes amid a typically busy summer travel season and on the heels of a public outcry over TSA agents giving enhanced pat-downs to children and the elderly - people who ostensibly pose no security threat.

HOUSE

More money OK’d for nuclear-waste review

The House has approved more money to review an application to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, deviating from the Obama administration’s effort to kill the project.

The 297-130 vote on an amendment to an energy spending bill doubles from $10 million to $20 million the budget for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to review a licensing application for the Yucca operation.

Some $15 billion has been spent over the past several decades to prepare Yucca Mountain as the central burying point for the nation’s nuclear waste, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has long opposed the project, and President Obama has followed through on a campaign promise to shut down the project. His administration has sought to withdraw the government application to build the dump.

INTERIOR

Feds to refine plan on solar development zones

DENVER | Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar says federal officials will refine a plan for speeding up solar-energy development on public land in six Western states, after receiving roughly 80,000 public comments on the plan.

In December, the Interior Department released a draft identifying 24 solar development zones in California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona with the highest potential for solar development with the fewest environmental conflicts.

The Bureau of Land Management’s deputy director of operations, Mike Pool, said Thursday the department anticipates eliminating or reducing some zones.

TEXAS

Ron Paul debuts new TV ad on debt

AUSTIN  | Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul is using his first campaign television ad to promote his longtime opposition to raising the federal debt limit.

In the ad released Thursday to run in early primary states, the Texas congressman criticizes both Republicans and Democrats for striking deals in the past and says Congress should not compromise this time. Mr. Paul also notes that he always has voted against raising the federal limit on borrowing.

“In the ‘80s, they did it to [Ronald] Reagan, a debt ceiling compromise, Democrats promising spending cuts, but delivering only tax hikes,” the ad says. “The ‘90s brought more compromises, more broken promises and more new taxes. Will our party’s leaders repeat the mistakes of the past?”

President Obama has said that if a deal to raise the debt ceiling is not passed by Aug. 2, the U.S. government could default on its loans, creating a financial crisis. Mr. Paul and some conservative Republican members of Congress reject that conclusion and have insisted on spending cuts.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Romney brags about, bemoans state economy

PORTSMOUTH | Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is both bragging about New Hampshire’s economy and bemoaning it.

The former Massachusetts governor released an online video Thursday intended to show that President Obama’s policies were hurting New Hampshire’s job market and small businesses.

But New Hampshire has the nation’s third-lowest unemployment rate, and Mr. Romney bragged about that fact in an appearance in the first-in-the-nation primary state just hours later.

He mentioned the 4.8 percent state unemployment rate during an event in Portsmouth and called New Hampshire a hotbed of entrepreneurship that could teach other states a lesson.

The nation’s unemployment rate stands at 9.2 percent.

ISLAM

Cain opposes mosque as speading extremism

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. | Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain opposes a planned Tennessee mosque that has been the subject of protests and legal challenges.
Mr. Cain didn’t bring up the controversial facility in a campaign rally Thursday, but told reporters afterward that he’s concerned about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, calling it “an abuse of our freedom of religion.”

“I don’t agree with what’s happening, because this isn’t an innocent mosque,” he said. “This is just another way to try to gradually sneak Shariah law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that.”

The new mosque has been the subject of protests and counterprotests in this city.

A county judge ruled in May that the mosque construction does not harm the residents who sued to try to stop it, but he allowed them to move forward on claims the county violated an open-meetings law in approving it.

NORTH CAROLINA

Tentative October trial scheduled for Edwards

GREENSBORO | The trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards can begin in October, a federal judge said Thursday, despite arguments from the former senator’s attorneys that they need more time.

Mr. Edwards is accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions to hide an affair during his unsuccessful 2008 White House bid. Prosecutors also say he filed false campaign reports to cover up the payments. Mr. Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six felony charges.

His attorneys had argued for a January trial, but District Court Judge Carlton Tilley said repeatedly that postponing the trial was not an option.