- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2009


Dodd, Shelby see financial deal

The top Senate Democrat and Republican negotiating new Wall Street regulation said Wednesday they expect to resolve their differences before the end of January, an optimistic outlook for a bill that had seemed mired in partisan conflicts.

Sens. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, and Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, issued a joint statement saying bipartisan negotiations have resulted in “meaningful progress.” The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs could consider a compromise bill as early as Jan. 26, people familiar with the discussions said.

The statement’s tone contrasted with Mr. Shelby’s dismissive reaction when Mr. Dodd released a draft of his bill last month. At the time, Mr. Shelby said the Senate had not done enough to study the causes of last year’s financial crisis to adopt regulations to address them.

While both listed common goals for a regulatory overhaul, they offered no specific points of agreement. Still, if the Senate creates a bipartisan bill, it would be in sharp contrast to the House, which passed a regulatory measure with no Republican votes.


Horse roundup to move forward

The Obama administration said Wednesday it is going forward with a contentious plan to round up about 2,500 wild horses in Nevada.

A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said herds in the Calico Mountains Complex in northwestern Nevada are overpopulated and need to be reduced to protect the horses and the rangelands that support them.

“The current population in the five Calico herd management areas is three times what the range can handle, so this gather will ensure high-quality habitat for the wild horse and burros and other wildlife while protecting the public rangeland from overuse,” spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said.

She called the dispute over the roundup “yet another clarion call to develop and implement a long-term solution to the challenges we face concerning wild horses and burros on our public lands.”

The Interior Department announcement came after a federal judge on Wednesday denied a request to block the roundup, saying opponents had failed to demonstrate that removal of the horses would violate federal law.


Chevron to pay U.S. and Indians

Chevron is going to pay $45.5 million to resolve claims that it underpaid natural gas royalties to the government and American Indians.

The Justice Department said Wednesday that most of the settlement money will be distributed to federal, state and American Indian accounts affected by the underpayments.

Each month, companies are required to report to the Interior Department the value of the natural gas produced from their federal and Indian leases. A percentage of the reported value is paid as royalties.

The settlement includes Chevron companies Texaco, Unocal and other affiliates.

Among the government’s charges were that the companies made improper deductions from royalty values.


Homeless grants total $1.4 billion

The Housing and Urban Development Department announced Wednesday nearly $1.4 billion in grants to help fund a record number of programs for the homeless.

The grants will assist 6,445 existing programs across the country, up from $1.2 billion to fund 5,825 ongoing projects last year. This includes more than $733 million for 3,200 programs that serve families with children.

“We all know that this has been an extraordinarily difficult year for families,” Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said on a conference call with reporters.

This is a growing area of concern for the agency, especially in suburban and rural areas where family homelessness has increased more than 50 percent since last year, Mr. Donovan said.

“Homelessness can touch every community, every type of community, every place,” he said.


Obama concedes Copenhagen woes

President Obama on Wednesday said disappointment in the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change summit was justified.

“I think that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in Copenhagen,” he said in an interview with PBS “NewsHour.” “What I said was essentially that rather than see a complete collapse in Copenhagen, in which nothing at all got done and would have been a huge backward step, at least we kind of held ground and there wasn’t too much backsliding from where we were.”


3 African nations lose trade benefits

President Obama said Wednesday he has terminated trade benefits for Guinea, Madagascar and Niger under a U.S. program aimed at creating jobs on the world’s poorest continent.

Mr. Obama said the three countries had failed to make “continual progress” in meeting U.S. requirements.

At the same time, Mr. Obama said he was adding Mauritania to the list of sub-Saharan African countries eligible for preferential U.S. tariff treatment under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.


U.S. hits China for dissident’s trial

The United States is sharply criticizing China’s trial of a prominent Chinese dissident as being “uncharacteristic of a great country.”

Liu Xiaobo was detained a year ago before the release of an appeal for more civil rights in China that he co-authored. He was tried Wednesday on subversion charges and faces up to 15 years in jail. The verdict is expected Friday.

“As far as we can tell, this man’s crime was simply signing a piece of paper that aspires to a more open and participatory form of government. That is not a crime,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “These kind of actions - clearly a political trial that will likely lead to a political conviction - are uncharacteristic of a great country.”

Mr. Liu is a literary critic and former professor. He spent 20 months in jail for joining the 1989 student-led protests at Tiananmen Square.

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