- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2008

WHITE HOUSE

Businesses fear punishing Russia

Business groups said Thursday they had received few clues about what steps the United States might take to punish Russia for its military action in Georgia, but urged the White House to proceed cautiously.

“We made a real effort to find out and they were entirely uncommunicative,” said Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents U.S. exporters such as Boeing, Microsoft and General Electric.

But “I came away with a very clear impression that something is going to happen, that doing nothing is not a choice here,” Mr. Reinsch said.



“We’ve been telling them to think very carefully before acting and move very cautiously and whatever you do, make sure that it’s multilateral, not unilateral.”

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the Bush administration was discussing whether to nix a civil nuclear pact with Moscow, but told reporters it was too early to say what action the United States might take.

TRANSPORTATION

Drunken-driving deaths decline

Drunken-driving deaths fell in 32 states in 2007, the government reported Thursday, but alcohol-related fatalities increased among motorcycle riders in half the states.

Nearly 13,000 people were killed in crashes in which the driver had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08, the legal limit in the United States, or at higher levels.

Overall, alcohol deaths were down nearly 4 percent compared with 2006, when nearly 13,500 people died on the highway.

Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said she was disappointed by the increase in deaths involving drunk motorcycle riders. A total of 1,621 motorcyclists were killed in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2007, an increase of 7.5 percent.

Motorcycle riders have been featured in the government’s $13 million advertising campaign surrounding the Labor Day holiday. Law enforcement agencies are increasing their enforcement against drunken driving during the end of the summer.

AIR STRIKE

U.S. disputes Afghan death toll

U.S. officials say a review of an American air strike in Afghanistan refutes claims by the United Nations and others that as many as 90 civilians were killed.

The results of the review have been presented to Afghan government officials, and the Americans have asked them to participate in a joint U.S.-Afghan investigation in hopes of arriving at a common conclusion. This is according to two U.S. defense officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Afghan government has said publicly that dozens of civilians were killed, and it sharply criticized the U.S. military for a mistaken attack.

The U.S. military says it is sticking to its initial finding that 25 militants were killed, plus five civilians.

PESTICIDE

Group sues EPA over bee deaths

The Natural Resources Defense Council has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming the federal agency is withholding evidence of a link between the pesticide clothianidin and the mysterious deaths in U.S. honey bee colonies.

The pesticide is produced by Bayer CropScience. The bee problem is known as colony collapse disorder.

“Recently approved pesticides have been implicated in massive bee die-offs and are the focus of increasing scientific scrutiny,” NRDC Senior Attorney Aaron Colangelo said. “EPA should be evaluating the risks to bees before approving new pesticides, but now refuses to tell the public what it knows.”

Clothianidin was recently banned in Germany due to concerns about its impact on bees and a similar insecticide was banned in France for the same reason, the NRDC said.

COURTS

Polar bear rule inspires lawsuit

Five industry groups are suing the Interior Department over a rule designed to protect the polar bear.

The groups representing the oil and gas, mining, and manufacturing industries say the rule discriminates against business activities in Alaska that might harm the bear, which was recently designated as a threatened species.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington by the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Mining Association and the American Iron and Steel Institute.

The groups want a judge to block government plans to review projects in Alaska that might harm the polar bear by contributing to global warming.

STATE DEPARTMENT

U.S. not ready to talk to Syria

The United States refuses to follow France’s lead and will not talk to Syria until it decides to take a “positive role” in international affairs, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Thursday.

Mr. Wood declined to comment on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s announcement Wednesday that he would visit Damascus on Sept. 3-4, after welcoming Syrian President Bashar Assad to Paris last month.

The spokesman, however, restated U.S. policy that precludes any dialogue with Syria unless it decides “to play a positive role, stay out of the internal affairs of Lebanon, stop supporting terrorists and be a productive player on the world scene.”

“Today, it has not been” the case, Mr. Wood added.

WHITE HOUSE

Panama’s president, Bush to talk trade

President Bush will welcome Panamanian President Martin Torrijos on Sept. 17 for talks on efforts to expand U.S. trade with Latin America, the White House said Thursday.

“This visit, following President Torrijos’ visit last May, underscores the ongoing deep friendship and cooperation between the United States and Panama,” Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Mr. Bush “looks forward to discussing a range of issues with President Torrijos, including our common commitment to the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, expanding free trade and strengthening democracy throughout the region, enhancing security cooperation,” Mrs. Perino said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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