- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2006

High court to hear faith-based case

The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to step into a dispute over the Bush administration’s promotion of federal financing for faith-based charities.

The program has been a staple of President Bush’s political agenda since 2001, when he created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

The case under review grew out of a lawsuit filed by a group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The group contends the Bush administration violates a constitutional ban on state-supported religions by singling out particular faith-based organizations as worthy of federal funding.

The government tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, but a federal appeals court ruled that the foundation’s members are taxpayers who are entitled to sue over a program funded by Congress.

Bayh to take steps for presidential run

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, a Democrat with a record of political success in a Republican-leaning state, intends to take the first official step toward a 2008 presidential campaign early next week, officials said yesterday .

Mr. Bayh’s plans include creation of a presidential exploratory committee, as well as appearances Monday in Iowa and next weekend in New Hampshire, two early states on the campaign calendar.

Mr. Bayh would be the second Democrat to take a formal step toward a presidential campaign. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack is already in the race.

The officials who described Mr. Bayh’s plans did so on the condition of anonymity, saying they had not been authorized to discuss them.

Search continues for three men

LAREDO, Texas — Three men kidnapped this week while hunting in northern Mexico remained the focus of an extensive manhunt yesterday amid escalating violence between warring drug cartels in the border town of Nuevo Laredo, just across the Rio Grande.

The kidnappings of prominent Laredo businessman Librado Pina Jr. and two other Texans was the latest of dozens of abductions in recent years that have many residents here steering clear of the once bustling tourist town south of the border.

Law-enforcement authorities said 30 to 40 armed men stormed Mr. Pina’s remote deer-hunting ranch about 40 miles northwest of Nuevo Laredo. Also abducted were Mr. Pina’s son, Librado Pina III, and David Mueller, of Sweetwater, Texas. Also thought kidnapped were Mexican businessman Fidel Rodriguez Cerdan and Marcos Ortiz, a Mexican national who works as a cook at the ranch. Mr. Mueller and Mr. Cerdan were later released.

Police clear incoming Nevada governor

LAS VEGAS — Police said they will recommend that no criminal charges be filed against Republican Gov.-elect Jim Gibbons, a congressman accused by a cocktail waitress of assaulting her in a parking garage three weeks before Election Day.

The investigation into Chrissy Mazzeo’s accusation was completed earlier this week. Clark County District Attorney David Roger has the final say about whether Mr. Gibbons will be charged.

The probe found “no evidence to support the charge of battery,” according to a police statement.

Miss Mazzeo, 32, told police Mr. Gibbons pushed her up against a wall and propositioned her in a parking garage across the street from a restaurant where the two had been drinking with friends Oct. 13. Mr. Gibbons, 61, denied the account, saying he merely caught Miss Mazzeo when she tripped.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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