- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

IMMUNITY

Marine can't sue Murtha, court says

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, cannot be sued for accusing U.S. Marines of murdering Iraqi civilians “in cold blood,” remarks that sparked outrage among conservative commentators.

The appeals court in Washington dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by a Marine who led the squad in the attack. The judges agreed with Mr. Murtha that he was immune from the lawsuit because he was acting in his official role as a lawmaker when he made the comments to reporters.

Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich of Meriden, Conn., charged that Mr. Murtha damaged his reputation by saying the squad he was leading engaged in “cold-blooded murder and war crimes” in Haditha, Iraq, on Nov. 19, 2005.

At a Capitol Hill news conference in May 2006, Mr. Murtha predicted that a Pentagon war crimes investigation would show the Marines killed dozens of innocent Iraqi civilians in Haditha.

Sgt. Wuterich is charged with voluntary manslaughter, the only person still facing charges in the attack. He has pleaded not guilty.

DEFENSE

Gates downplays response to piracy

DOTHAN, Ala. | Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says he doesn't see any immediate need to bulk up the military response to piracy on the high seas. Mr. Gates added, however, that those decisions are being made moment by moment.

Mr. Gates was in Alabama on Tuesday to hear from future military leaders as he tries to sell his new $534 billion budget plan. He said his budget focuses on what those future warriors will need for the kinds of wars the United States is fighting now.

Mr. Gates said the precision work displayed by Navy SEAL snipers during the Somali pirate hostage rescue Sunday shows the importance of proper and targeted training for the military.

REPORT

FDA-cigarette bill would cost states

Legislation recently cleared by the House to give the Food and Drug Administration power over cigarettes would save the federal government some money but seriously dent tax revenues collected by states, a congressional report said Tuesday.

The bill, which passed earlier this month, would also cost the tobacco industry $235 million in 2010 and more than $500 million a year by 2013, the Congressional Budget Office said.

It would save the federal government $5 million over five years and $2 million over 10 years, in part by reducing health care costs, the CBO estimated.

But state and local governments, which collected about $19 billion in 2008 from taxes on tobacco products, would lose more than $1 billion from 2010 to 2014.

“The amount of tax revenues and settlement funds collected by state and local governments would decline as a result of the federal regulations authorized by this legislation because of lower consumption of tobacco products,” the report said.

U.S. CAPITOL

State to unveil Reagan statue

A statue of former President Ronald Reagan will be unveiled June 3 as California swaps one notable speaker for another as part of a collection in the U.S. Capitol.

Each state has two contributions to the National Statuary Hall Collection. California will become the second state, after Kansas, to swap statues.

Mr. Reagan, who was known as “The Great Communicator,” will replace Thomas Starr King, a Unitarian pastor who was described as “the orator who saved the nation.” During the Civil War, King spoke zealously in favor of the Union and is credited with saving California from becoming a separate republic.

California lawmakers approved the swap in 2006. The state's other statue is of Father Junipero Serra, the Franciscan missionary.

JUSTICE

Solicitor general to skip rights case

Elena Kagan, the Obama administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, is passing up the chance to make her first high-court argument in a big case over minority voting rights.

Instead, Miss Kagan, confirmed by the Senate last month as solicitor general, will wait until the fall to make her debut, Justice Department spokeswoman Beverley Lumpkin said Tuesday.

By the time Ms. Kagan took up her post, Miss Lumpkin said, most of the cases the court will hear in April had been assigned.

“I suppose she could have spent the last several weeks doing nothing but preparing, but that's not something she wanted to do. There's a lot to do getting up to speed in the office,” Miss Lumpkin said.

The solicitor general typically handles the top cases before the court. The challenge to a provision of the Voting Rights Act, which will be argued April 29, is perhaps this term's highest-profile case.

TEXAS

Kinky Friedman may run again

AUSTIN, Texas | Humorist and author Kinky Friedman has formed a political committee to begin fundraising for the Texas gubernatorial race in 2010.

Mr. Friedman said Tuesday that he'll travel the state to talk to residents about whether to run as a Democrat in 2010, when Republican Gov. Rick Perry's second term ends.

He ran unsuccessfully as an independent in 2006.

Mr. Friedman told supporters in a letter that he intends to run “a serious campaign” and “play by the rules.”

Democrats who have also expressed interest include former U.S. ambassador to Japan Tom Schieffer and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican, is in the race.

DIPLOMACY

Clinton urges more aid to Haiti

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday urged international donors to provide desperately needed money to Haiti as the Western Hemisphere's poorest country struggles to recover from last year's devastating hurricanes and food riots.

Mrs. Clinton, who is to visit Haiti on Thursday, told a conference of more than 30 donor countries and international organizations that giving Haiti help during a period of global financial turmoil is a “test of resolve and commitment” to those in dire need.

The United States, Mrs. Clinton said, is providing nearly $290 million in non-emergency aid to Haiti this year.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Haiti is at a critical moment and will either slide backward into deeper poverty and misery or move forward with the help of world donors.

“We have an opportunity to bring … a measure of real promise and potential prosperity,” Mr. Ban told the conference.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide