- The Washington Times - Friday, July 31, 2009

TREASURY

U.S. penalizes North Korean firm

The Obama administration Thursday imposed financial sanctions on a North Korean firm accused of aiding Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. It is the latest move by the United States to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, which have raised tensions across the region.

The Treasury Department announced that it has frozen the U.S.-based assets of the Korea Hyoksin Trading Corp., whose parent company was accused by the United Nations earlier this month of supporting North Korea’s push for weapons of mass destruction.

The Treasury ruling prohibits Americans or U.S. firms from engaging in any transactions with the company, a move aimed at isolating it from U.S. financial and commercial systems.

“The world community is taking forceful action against the arms and agencies of North Korea’s WMD and missile programs,” said Adam J. Szubin, director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The Korea Ryonbong General Corp., which controls Hyoksin Trading and also has been sanctioned, specializes in acquisitions for North Korean defense industries and supports Pyongyang’s military-related export sales.

SENATE

Alexander to vote for Sotomayor

The Senate’s No. 3 Republican announced Thursday he would break with other party leaders to support Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who is in line to become the first Hispanic justice.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said he was voting for President Obama’s nominee despite his differences with her, particularly on gun rights.

“Even though Judge Sotomayor’s political and judicial philosophy may be different than mine, especially regarding Second Amendments rights, I will vote to confirm her because she is well qualified by experience, temperament, character and intellect to serve,” Mr. Alexander said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Mr. Alexander, a conservative, is only the sixth Republican to announce plans to join with majority Democrats to back Judge Sotomayor.

HEALTH CARE

Senate panel delays markup

The Senate Finance Committee will not mark up a bill next week, as Majority Leader Harry Reid has requested, putting a new delay in the health care reform bill.

Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, said the panel will continue negotiations, but the delay means Mr. Reid won’t be able to merge the Finance and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bills over the August recess.

As Congress’ summer break nears, the bipartisan group of six senators is under pressure to release a draft of their reform plan before leaving town. But the group has repeatedly said that a good bipartisan plan is more important than a rushed bill.

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee forged ahead with the markup of its health care reform bill. Chairman Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, said he expected the group to conclude the session Friday. But liberal Democrats threatened to vote down a deal he forged with conservative Democrats.

NUCLEAR WASTE

Reid says Obama to cut Yucca study

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the Obama administration will seek to eliminate funding for a review needed to open a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

The loss of funding, beginning with the 2011 budget, would sap the agency of its ability to continue with a review that began last year.

President Obama promised to oppose the use of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository, but the 1987 law requiring that waste be stored at the site remains on the books, so the project could in theory be revived.

During the George W. Bush administration, the Energy Department submitted a license application with the NRC seeking approval to construct the repository. On Wednesday, the Senate voted to cut next year’s funding for the review to $29 million. The president had requested $56 million.

TELEVISION

Obama banters with comedian

PASADENA, Calif. | George Lopez landed a big-name cameo in the pilot presentation of his talk show: President Obama.

In a clip shown during a Tuesday meeting of the Television Critics Association, the comedian jokingly begs for a Cabinet spot from the president.

Mr. Obama lightly brushes him off, saying, “George, you need to change late night. That’s the kind of change I can believe in.”

Mr. Lopez hopes the president will appear as a full-fledged guest on his upcoming late-night TBS talk show when it premieres in November. The 48-year-old comedian, who stumped for Mr. Obama on the campaign trail last year, told reporters Mr. Obama is a “close friend” and that he would be “personally offended” if Mr. Obama did not appear on “Lopez Tonight” the next time he is in Los Angeles.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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