- The Washington Times - Friday, December 11, 2009

COURTS

Gate-crasher’s watch is a fake

A couple who crashed a White House party turned over a watch to pay a landscaping debt, but a jeweler is saying it’s a fake luxury timepiece.

Tareq Salahi last week gave up his Patek Phillipe watch, and his attorney said it would be worth more than enough to pay a $2,000 debt to a landscaper.

But a Pennsylvania watch specialist said it’s an imitation. Ray Cosey, owner of R E Jewelers Watch & Clock in Chambersburg, Pa., said Thursday that the watch might be worth $100.

Mr. Cosey said the watch could probably be bought on the street for less.

It turns out the watch wasn’t needed. An attorney for the landscaper said a check was delivered Monday for $2,063.55 and would cover the bill.

A judge ordered the watch released.

CALIFORNIA

Democrats choose gay as speaker

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | The California Assembly has picked its first openly gay speaker.

Assembly Democrats on Thursday unanimously backed John Perez, the chairman of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, to be its next speaker.

Mr. Perez will hold one of the most powerful positions in state government. A cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Mr. Perez was elected to the Assembly last year.

He was challenged in the speakership race by Democratic Assemblyman Kevin De Leon, a fellow Hispanic lawmaker. The nomination now goes before the full Assembly, but the candidate with the most Democratic support usually wins because Democrats hold a majority of seats in the 80-member chamber.

He will take over the position from Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, who was elected by her colleagues in February 2008.

SENATE

‘Media shield’ bill clears committee

A bill to protect reporters’ confidential sources in federal court has cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The panel ended months of stalemate Thursday and sent a so-called “media shield” bill to the full Senate.

The bill does not give journalists absolute authority to protect sources. Those rights can be overridden in national security cases.

The legislation has broad support from journalism organizations. Conservative Republicans and some in the intelligence community think it can harm attempts to track down leakers of classified national security information.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Agency opposes pardon for boxer

The Justice Department is refusing to back a posthumous pardon for Jack Johnson, the black heavyweight boxing champion who was imprisoned nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman.

In a letter obtained Thursday by the Associated Press, the department’s pardon lawyer, Ronald L. Rodgers, told Rep. Peter T. King that the Justice Department’s general policy is not to process posthumous pardon requests. In cases such as Johnson’s, given the time that has passed and the historical record that would need to be scoured, the department’s resources for pardon requests are best used on behalf of people “who can truly benefit” from them, Mr. Rodgers wrote.

The letter was in response to one that Mr. King, New York Republican, and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, sent to President Obama in October urging a pardon.

HHS

DWI won’t cost official federal job

SANTA FE, N.M. | A former New Mexico Cabinet secretary arrested for drunken driving three days after being named to an Obama administration post will assume her federal job.

Prosecutors said Cindy Padilla, 48, pleaded no contest to her first DWI offense in Santa Fe Municipal Court. She received a deferred sentence Nov. 19.

Ms. Padilla was secretary of New Mexico’s Aging and Long-Term Services Department.

The charge resulted from an Oct. 24 traffic stop.

Three days earlier, Ms. Padilla accepted the job of principal deputy assistant secretary at the Administration on Aging in Washington. After her arrest, Ms. Padilla asked her start date be postponed while she resolved the DWI.

A Heath and Human Services spokeswoman said Thursday that Ms. Padilla would start “within a few weeks.”

ENVIRONMENT

Senators unveil climate-change bill

Senators on Thursday unveiled a framework for action on climate change in line with President Obama, hoping to show U.S. commitment to the success of the global summit in Copenhagen.

“This indicates to folks in Copenhagen that we’re serious,” Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, told reporters.

The framework says the world’s largest economy would cut carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, slightly less ambitious than an earlier Senate bill but in line with Mr. Obama’s proposals for the Copenhagen negotiations and a bill that squeaked through the House in June.

In a bid to win over reluctant Republicans, the bill said the U.S. will encourage nuclear power and offshore oil drilling.

The White House welcomed the framework, which was released a week before Mr. Obama heads to Copenhagen to lend his prestige to the 192-nation summit on fighting climate change.

COURTS

Man loses bid to limit Patriot Act

PORTLAND, Ore. | A federal appeals court overturned a lower court Thursday and ruled against an Oregon lawyer once wrongly suspected in a terrorist bombing.

Brandon Mayfield was arrested in 2004 and held for two weeks after his Portland home and office were searched and bugged. The FBI relied on a fingerprint from the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people.

It turned out the fingerprint didn’t belong to Mr. Mayfield, who got an apology and $2 million from the federal government.

Mr. Mayfield wants to overturn two parts of the USA Patriot Act passed after Sept. 11, 2001, that ensnared him.

A district judge sided with him in 2007. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Mr. Mayfield can’t challenge the act because the settlement limited his legal options.

NASA

Bad wheel leaves Mars rover in sand

PASADENA, Calif. | A faulty wheel on the Mars rover Spirit is complicating efforts to free it from a sand trap where it has been stuck for the past eight months.

NASA said Thursday that it would continue to run tests to see whether there’s any movement in the right rear wheel. Spirit, which landed on the Red Planet with six working wheels, lost the ability to move its right front wheel three years ago.

Engineers are studying whether it’s possible to free Spirit with only four operable wheels.

Spirit became bogged down in soft soil in April during a routine drive. NASA last month outlined a rescue plan with little progress made.

Spirit and its twin, Opportunity, landed on Mars in 2004 and have outlasted expectations.

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