- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 5, 2009


U.S. jobs the ticket for foreign railroads

The Obama administration has secured promises from European and Japanese companies that they will create jobs in the U.S. if they win a slice of the president’s $8 billion high-speed-rail program.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at a round-table Friday with rail manufacturers and suppliers that 30 foreign and domestic companies have promised to establish or expand operations in the United States if they are chosen to build high-speed lines.

The commitments will ensure that the rail program will create jobs in the U.S. and boost domestic manufacturing, Mr. LaHood said.

“We know these are tough economic times for many folks, and we believe that U.S. rail manufacturers and suppliers will benefit greatly from this new program.” the secretary said. “We also look forward to establishing joint ventures with foreign firms who can provide expertise and establish or expand their operations here in the U.S.”

The Federal Railroad Administration has received applications from 24 states seeking $50 billion for high-speed-rail projects, more than six times the money designated under the economic recovery program. The agency plans to announce next month which projects will receive funds.


Pawlenty taps McCain money man for PAC

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is reaching deeper into Sen. John McCain’s campaign structure by luring away a top fundraiser for his upstart Freedom First political action committee.

Mr. Pawlenty’s PAC announced Friday that Brian Haley will be its finance director. Mr. Haley has held the same role for the Country First PAC, which Mr. McCain formed after the Republican presidential nominee’s 2008 loss.

Mr. Haley was also deputy finance director for the McCain presidential campaign in 2008.

Mr. Pawlenty has been touring the country, raising money he plans to spread around to GOP candidates in 2010 races. It’s a move often taken by party leaders ahead of a presidential run.

Many involved in the Pawlenty effort were McCain advisers during his White House campaign.


Homeland Security cancels Vegas emergency exercise

The Department of Homeland Security has called off plans for an emergency exercise in Las Vegas after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid protested that the event could harm the region’s struggling economy.

The exercise had been planned for May and would have simulated a major security threat on the Las Vegas Strip. But Mr. Reid said the exercise would have created unnecessary anxiety and that businesses were worried about the fallout. He wrote DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano last month and asked her to reconsider going ahead with the exercise.

Mr. Reid said he would work with the department to ensure that its workers have the resources necessary to respond to security threats.


Lawmakers rally to sailors’ aid in court-martial

Lawmakers are seeking a reprieve for three Navy SEALs facing court-martial because one allegedly punched a suspect in an ambush killing of U.S. contractors in Iraq.

One of the SEALs is reported to have punched Ahmed Hashim Abed during Abed’s September arrest, said Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican.

Rather than accept a reprimand, the sailors chose to fight the charges in a military court. Their appeal greatly raises the stakes because a guilty finding could bring stiff punishment.

A letter Mr. Hunter is circulating in the House said prosecuting the three SEALs “seems to us to be an overreaction by the command.”

Mr. Hunter, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the men could face loss of rank, up to one year of confinement, a bad-conduct discharge and forfeiture of a portion of their pay each month for up to a year.

About 20 lawmakers have signed the letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, including House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. The letter was to be delivered Friday afternoon.


Senator seeks to curb youth sport concussions

Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, has introduced legislation aimed at curbing concussions in school sports.

The bill would establish a grant program to states to come up with ways to prevent, diagnose and treat sports-related concussions in high schools and middle schools. It also calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to develop concussion management guidelines, including standards for athletes to return after concussions.

It’s called the Concussion Treatment and Care Tools Act, or ConTACT Act. The legislation comes as concussions among athletes at all levels have been getting a look in Congress.

Similar legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., another New Jersey Democrat, is pending in the House.

From staff reports and wire service dispatches

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