- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2009

SENATE

Ensign stays to hinder Reid

Sen. John Ensign said Monday that heeding calls for his resignation would make it harder for Republicans to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid next year.

Mr. Ensign admitted in June to having an affair with a former member of his campaign staff. The two-term GOP senator from Nevada has made it clear he intends to serve out his term, which extends through 2012. But during a Monday morning radio show in Las Vegas, Mr. Ensign added Mr. Reid’s name to his list of reasons for staying on.

The senator said that leaving office meant Nevada voters would have a second Senate race to deal with in 2010, taking some of the attention off Mr. Reid, who is struggling in the polls. Mr. Ensign also said that a second race would split GOP resources in Nevada, which would end up hurting “the conservative cause.”

Mr. Ensign said he has talked with some GOP candidates who want him to help with their campaigns, though he did not mention the candidates by name. He was clearly mindful that Democrats are prepared to criticize any of the GOP candidates who may appear with him on the campaign circuit.

“I want to be helpful without being hurtful,” he told KXNT radio during an hourlong appearance.

POLICY

District to host AIDS conference

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Monday that the International AIDS Society will host its 2012 conference in Washington, as the Obama administration lifts a decades-old ban on HIV-positive visitors.

“I’m pleased to announce that, with the repeal of the ban, the International AIDS Society will hold the 2012 international AIDS conference in Washington, D.C.,” Mrs. Clinton said on the eve of World AIDS day.

“This conference will draw together 30,000 researchers, scientists, policymakers, health care providers, activists and others from around the world,” Mrs. Clinton said at the White House.

In July, the South African city of Capetown hosted the 2009 conference. Vienna, Austria, is due to host the conference in 2010 and Rome in 2011.

President Obama announced at the end of October that his administration would overturn a policy that had been in place since 1987.

The ban on foreign nationals with HIV/AIDS visiting the United States will effectively be lifted early next year.

LEGISLATION

7 senators want NAFTA changed

A group of U.S. senators urged President Obama on Monday to back legislation requiring the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and a long list of other trade pacts they blame for millions of lost U.S. manufacturing jobs.

“We want trade and plenty of it, but we want trade under new rules. The TRADE Act will help Congress and the White House craft a trade policy that makes sense and learns from our many mistakes over the past couple of decades,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat, told reporters in a conference call.

The bill, which has seven co-sponsors in the Senate, shows the strong opposition Mr. Obama could face from many members of his own Democratic Party if he pushes for new trade agreements without addressing concerns about past trade pacts. Six Democrats are among the co-sponsors, as well as independent Bernie Sanders.

GUANTANAMO

U.S. transfers Tunisians to Italy

Two Tunisians held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been transferred to Italy where they will face prosecution, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday.

Abel Ben Mabrouk bin Hamida Boughanmi and Mohammed Tahir Riyadh Nasseri were handed over to the Italian authorities where they face arrest warrants, the Justice Department said. The agency did not describe the pending Italian charges.

COPENHAGEN

World leaders may join Obama

An administration official says some world leaders may change their schedules so they can attend an upcoming climate conference the same day as President Obama.

Mr. Obama will attend the Copenhagen summit Dec. 9 before heading to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. At least 90 other world leaders will also attend the conference, though most are expected to arrive the following week.

Mr. Obama will personally commit the U.S. to a goal of substantially cutting greenhouse gases. He will insist America is ready to tackle climate change despite resistance in Congress over higher costs for businesses and homeowners.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because final decisions on the leaders’ schedules have not been made.

WILDFIRES

Forest Service mulls night flights

LOS ANGELES | The U.S. Forest Service says it is considering allowing its aircraft to attack wildfires at night.

The Forest Service typically bans its pilots from dropping water or retardant on fires at night because of safety risks.

However, Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management Director Tom Harbour said Monday that the policy is being reviewed.

To make a change, the agency would have to determine the benefits of flying at night outweigh the risks for pilots.

Los Angeles County supervisors have pushed for broader use of night flying after a wildfire in Angeles National Forest burned more than 250 square miles, destroyed 89 homes and led to the deaths of two firefighters.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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