Judge doubts Dutch plea deal
A federal judge in Washington expressed misgivings Wednesday about a plea agreement that would return an Iraqi-born Dutch citizen to the Netherlands to serve a prison sentence for planting roadside bombs to kill Americans.
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he was prepared to sign off on the deal federal prosecutors struck with Dutch officials and attorneys for Wesam al-Delaema that could put him in a Dutch prison for up to 25 years. What bothered him was letting a Dutch judge be the final arbiter of how long al-Delaema would actually spend in prison.
“What’s the point of my imposing the sentence if it’s up to some other judge?” Judge Friedman said.
Al-Delaema’s attorney, Robert Tucker, made it clear that he would serve less time in the Netherlands, accusing the United States of having the most punitive sentencing laws in the world.
Before agreeing to extradite al-Delaema to the United States two years ago to face trial, prosecutors had to agree to return him to the Netherlands to serve any sentence.
Greenhouse gas output rose in 2007
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.4 percent in 2007, compared with the previous year, the Environmental Protection Agency reported Wednesday.
The report also indicates that U.S. emissions of suspected climate-warming gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, rose 17.2 percent from 1990 to 2007.
The increase in 2007 mainly was due to a rise in carbon dioxide emissions related to fuel and energy consumption, the agency said. There was more demand for heating fuel and electricity because of cooler winter and warmer summer temperatures, compared with 2006, the report said.
There was also increased demand for fossil fuels to generate electricity, coupled with a significant decrease - 14.2 percent - in hydropower generation to meet this demand. Total emissions of the six main greenhouse gases in 2007 were equivalent to 7,150 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
The EPA’s report is the latest annual greenhouse gas inventory submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts regarding climate change.
Stimulus to pay for 50 cleanups
Fifty of the country’s most polluted and hazardous waste sites were singled out Wednesday to receive a share of federal stimulus money to continue cleanup operations.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced that $528 million in recently approved economic stimulus funding would be used to help clean up the sites in 28 states.
The sites were contaminated years ago by mining waste, lead smelters, landfills and other sources of chemicals but the companies responsible are no longer around to pay for their cleanup. At half the sites, cleanups were either stalled last year or were expected to face delays this year because the EPA was running short of funds.
The money announced Wednesday will pay to excavate contaminated soil from hundreds of residential lawns in Evansville, Ind.; Minneapolis; Madison County, Mo.; and Omaha, Neb.
Half used Internet as political tool
More than half of U.S. adults used the Web to follow or influence the presidential election, and supporters of Barack Obama were considerably more active online than those of John McCain, according to a study released on Wednesday.
“The 2008 election was the first in which more than half the voting-age population used the Internet for political purposes,” said the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, which conducted the study.
Fifty-five percent of all voting-age adults - and 74 percent of all Internet users - said they went online for news and information about the election or to communicate with others about the race, the study found.
The percentage of Americans relying on the Web as a major source of campaign news more than doubled over the 2000 election - from 11 percent to 26 percent, Pew said.
Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace and video-sharing sites like YouTube played a key role, it said, as voters went online to share their views and try to mobilize others to their cause.
Gates hints at big changes
MONTGOMERY, Ala. | A review of defense programs produced every four years could bring big changes in the Pentagon’s fiscal 2011 budget, beyond the sweeping overhaul already unveiled for 2010, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday.
“We have to be prepared for the wars we are most likely to fight - not just the wars we’re best suited to fight, or threats we conjure up from potential adversaries with unlimited time and resources,” Mr. Gates told officers at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base.
The government’s fiscal 2010 year begins on Oct. 1.
Mr. Gates said he has put off decisions on several weapons programs until the Pentagon completes an accelerated Quadrennial Defense Review later this year. Those programs include amphibious military operations, a next-generation cruiser and work on a new bomber.
Mistrial declared in 9/11 fund case
A judge has declared a mistrial in the case of a retired naval officer accused of defrauding a fund for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
A jury found retired Cmdr. Charles Coughlin not guilty of three charges of mail fraud. But jurors said they could not reach a verdict on four other charges, including the main charge of making a false claim to the 9/11 victims compensation fund.
They also were deadlocked on a theft charge against Mr. Coughlin’s wife, Sabrina.
The Coughlins are accused of stealing more that $300,000 from the fund. Prosecutors said Mr. Coughlin claimed a three-year-old injury was actually from the terrorist attack on the Pentagon where he worked.
From wire dispatches and staff reports