- - Monday, July 25, 2011

WHITE HOUSE

Obama fetes World Series champion Giants

President Obama is hailing the World Series champion San Francisco Giants as baseball’s “characters with character.”

He welcomed the team to the White House on Monday to celebrate the Giants‘ 4-games-to-1 triumph over the Texas Rangers in last year’s fall classic.

Mr. Obama was joined by California lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Giants great Willie Mays. Mr. Obama noted that Mr. Mays was a 23-year-old outfielder when the Giants last won the World Series.

He also singled out gangly pitcher Tim Lincecum, whose nickname is “the Freak,” and reliever Brian Wilson, famed for his foot-long beard and outlandish garb. The president said the Giants may be “a little different,” but “one thing they know is how to win.”

HOMELAND SECURITY

U.S. cyber-agency head resigns suddenly

The head of an agency that helps respond to cyber-attacks resigned suddenly after several high-profile attacks on government computer systems, but the Department of Homeland Security declined Monday to comment on the reason.

Randy Vickers resigned as director of the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team on Friday, according to an email from Roberta Stempfley, acting assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications at Homeland Security, which was sent to some employees.

The email, obtained by Reuters, did not disclose any reason for the resignation, and a Homeland Security official would only say, “We aren’t commenting on personnel matters.”

Mr. Vickers‘ resignation follows several high-profile hacker attacks against the Pentagon and public websites of the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Senate.

Lee Rock, who was deputy director, will serve as acting director until a new head of the agency is named.

The email from Ms. Stempfley said, “We are confident that our organization will continue its strong performance under his leadership.”

NEW JERSEY

Fox News communications center of Christie lawsuit

TRENTON — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is being sued over his administration’s refusal to release any correspondence between Fox News President Roger Ailes and the governor or his staff.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey filed suit Monday on behalf of a reporter for Gawker Entertainment LLC.

It’s based on a public-records request made by Gawker reporter John Cook in May. Mr. Cook sought any correspondence, phone records and calendar entries from Mr. Christie’s office on the meeting between Mr. Christie and Mr. Ailes during the summer of 2010.

The governor’s office has refused to confirm whether the records exist and said that if they did they would be exempt from state’s open-records law.

Calls and emails sent to Fox News and Mr. Christie’s office were not immediately returned.

IOWA

Pawlenty: Bachmann gets facts ‘off the mark’

MANCHESTER — Call it the Minnesota feud — Iowa style.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is using a campaign appearance in Iowa to accuse his home-state Republican presidential-nomination rival — Michele Bachmann — of having a record of mixing up her facts.

Mrs. Bachmann is in Iowa, too, but is staying away from what’s become an escalating war of words.

Mr. Pawlenty is responding to weekend criticism from Mrs. Bachmann’s campaign that the former governor supported policies President Obama also backed. Mr. Pawlenty told about 100 people at an event in Davenport, Iowa, that Mrs. Bachmann “has a record for saying things that are off the mark.”

Mrs. Bachmann hit back weeks after Mr. Pawlenty described her record in Congress as “nonexistent.”

MICHIGAN

Court rejects challenge to EPA ballast permit

TRAVERSE CITY — A federal court has rejected a shipping industry challenge to a government permitting system designed to prevent the spread of invasive species in U.S. waters.

The permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency regulates discharges of ballast water and other substances such as bilge water from vessels.

Many species that have invaded and disrupted ecosystems and cost billions of dollars in the Great Lakes and elsewhere in recent decades arrived from other countries in ballast water. Among them are zebra and quagga mussels.

The EPA permit sets rules for ship discharges and lets state governments add provisions to protect their own waters. Shipping groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to throw out the additional state requirements.

In a ruling Friday, the court refused.

IRS

Agency eases liability rule for spouse’s debt

The Internal Revenue Service says it is making it easier for some “innocent spouses” to escape liability for their husband’s or wife’s tax debt.

Under the law, taxpayers who file joint returns are generally liable for the tax debts of their partners. However, spouses who are unaware that their partners have underpaid federal income taxes may qualify for relief from the IRS.

The IRS had required innocent spouses to apply for relief within two years of the IRS starting a collection action. On Monday, the IRS eliminated the two-year time limit for some applications after lawmakers and advocates complained that many abused or divorced spouses may not become aware of IRS collection efforts for years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports