- - Sunday, March 4, 2012

NEW YORK

9-11 families seek hearings, oppose remains plan

NEW YORK — Families of Sept. 11 victims on Sunday called for congressional hearings to establish federal protocols on how to handle human remains after disasters like the terror acts that took thousands of lives in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

At a news conference near the Sept. 11 memorial, family members spoke days after Pentagon officials revealed that partial remains of several victims were incinerated by a military contractor and sent to a landfill.

The families said they oppose a plan to place unidentified human remains of the New York victims in an underground repository at bedrock they say “desecrates” the memory of their loved ones.

“Are our loved ones’ remains marketable?” asked Rosaleen Tallon, sister of firefighter Sean Tallon, who died in the 2001 attack. “They’re using them to market trinkets.”

She held up a gift keychain inscribed with “No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory” — the same words that grace a memorial wall 70 feet underground.

JUSTICE

Official: Holder speech to defend drone attacks

An Obama administration official said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected to outline the legal framework for the use of lethal force in targeted killings of Americans overseas in a major speech Monday at Northwestern University.

Mr. Holder’s speech comes five months after a drone attack in Yemen killed U.S.-born Islamist Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the cleric who blessed a Nigerian Muslim’s bid to blow up an airliner over Detroit with a bomb hidden in his underwear.

The official said Mr. Holder also will address how the Obama administration reformed military commissions and how both the Obama and the George W. Bush administrations have successfully used civilian courts to convict and sentence terrorists.

The official spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the contents of the speech haven’t been released.

CAMPAIGN

Gingrich says Israel can’t let Iran go nuclear

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich says he sees no evidence that the Obama administration is taking steps to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Gingrich told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Iran is playing U.S. leaders for fools.

He said the White House is “trying desperately” to persuade the Israelis not to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. But Mr. Gingrich said no leader of Israel could responsibly allow Tehran to have any nuclear capability.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

President Obama is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday.

JUSTICE

Florida opposes trial on voting changes

The Justice Department is opposing changes in Florida voting procedures and says it wants a trial in the dispute, a move that could impact the state’s August primary elections.

In court papers filed Friday night, Florida officials said they strongly oppose having a trial and noted that the federal court hearing the case in the District of Columbia wants sufficient time to issue a decision before the August primaries. The state is seeking court approval for changes that shorten the time for voter registration groups turning in forms to 48 hours and that narrow the time frame for early voting to 10 days before an election day.

Florida says the court in Washington can decide the case on the basis of information already submitted in the lawsuit.

FDIC

Feds close small bank, brings 2012 total to 12

Regulators have closed a small bank in Georgia, bringing to 12 the number of U.S. bank failures this year.

The pace of bank failures has slowed markedly, however. By this time last year, 23 had been shuttered.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Friday closed Global Commerce Bank in Doraville, with $143.7 million in assets and $116.8 million in deposits.

Metro City Bank, also of Doraville, agreed to assume all of Global Commerce Bank’s deposits and about $79 million of the failed bank’s assets.

As a result, the three branches of Global Commerce Bank will reopen as branches of Metro City Bank.

The bank failure is expected to cost the deposit insurance fund $17.9 million.

Global Commerce Bank is the third FDIC-insured bank in Georgia to fail this year.

In all of 2010, regulators seized 157 banks, the most in any year since the savings and loan crisis two decades ago. Those failures cost the fund about $23 billion. The FDIC has said 2010 likely was the high-water mark for bank failures from the Great Recession. Last year’s 92 banks failures cost an estimated $7.9 billion.

NEW YORK

FBI is told rabbi donated illegally

NEW YORK — The FBI is considering whether to open an investigation into allegations that followers of a New York City rabbi made illegal campaign contributions to Rep. Michael G. Grimm, according to a law enforcement official.

Followers of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, an influential figure in Israel with headquarters in Manhattan, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Mr. Grimm when he first ran for office in 2010, according to campaign records. Some donors have since said that they broke rules to donate more cash to the Republican’s campaign than allowed by law.

Mr. Pinto hasn’t commented publicly, but former Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, a Democrat who had been close to the rabbi, said in interviews with several media outlets Friday and Saturday that Mr. Pinto approached him in the fall of 2010 to complain that Mr. Grimm had extorted him for the money.

Mr. Weiner, who resigned last year amid a scandal over sexually explicit texts and Twitter messages, told the political newspaper Roll Call that he didn’t know whether the allegations were true, but reported them to the FBI anyway. He declined to discuss in detail why the rabbi felt he had been threatened.

“I can confirm the rabbi did bring allegations to me and I can confirm that I turned them over to the FBI immediately,” Mr. Weiner told Roll Call. Mr. Weiner didn’t immediately respond to an interview request from the Associated Press.

A law enforcement official confirmed Saturday that Mr. Weiner had contacted the bureau about Mr. Pinto’s allegations in 2010.

From wire dispatches and staff reports