- The Washington Times - Monday, March 9, 2009


Civil union support wavering with vote

HONOLULU | The drive to make Hawaii the fifth state in the country to allow same-sex civil unions is on the verge of failing, despite support from most state lawmakers.

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Senate leaders planned a vote before the full Senate as early as Tuesday, but deep divisions have emerged over whether Democrats should take an extraordinary legislative step to revive the measure after a tie committee vote.

A tie vote in committee usually is enough to kill a measure, but the bill could advance under a rarely used provision of the Hawaii Constitution if more than one-third of senators approve.

The Democratic leadership wants more than half the Senate to agree to put the bill before the full Senate. Some rank-and-file senators who support the bill, however, are unwilling to circumvent the normal legislative process.

The measure already has passed the Hawaii House.


Bunker Hill eyed as grave site

BOSTON | A peaceful garden on land that was once part of the sprawling Bunker Hill battlefield is being eyed as the possible site of a previously unknown makeshift grave for dozens of Colonial-era British soldiers.

A Charlestown historian and a curator for Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia said research into Revolutionary War troop movements and after-battle burials suggest the site may once have been a ditch where scores of Redcoats were killed and buried in the fighting.

Today, however, it features a row of gardens amid a stately neighborhood.

Some landowners and neighbors say they worry any attempts to dig up the site would disrupt their lives and serve little purpose to those who may have died there 234 years ago.

Erik Goldstein, a curator at Colonial Williamsburg who has studied the Bunker Hill battlefield extensively, said there could be a dozen or two dozen bodies under the site. Several Redcoat skeletons also were discovered nearby in 1845.

Mr. Goldstein and Chris Anderson, the Charlestown historian, hope to survey the area with ground-penetrating radar to spot anomalies in the soil that might be human remains.


Canadians, GM strike possible deal

DETROIT | The Canadian Auto Workers union said Sunday it had reached a tentative agreement with General Motors Corp. on a multiyear pay freeze and other concessions needed to qualify the company for government aid.

The deal freezes wages and pensions through September 2012 and for the first time requires workers and retirees to pay health care premiums. Cost-of-living adjustments also are frozen until June 2012.

The deal would extend a previous contract with GM by one year.

The 10,000 workers covered by the contract will hold ratification votes Tuesday and Wednesday, the union said.

The union said it plans to continue its practice of pattern bargaining with the three North American automakers and said talks will begin this week with either Ford Motor Co. or Chrysler LLC.


Foreclosure auction yields deals, protest

NEW YORK | Hundreds of houses - some with starting bids as low as $1,000 - were sold to the highest bidders Sunday in a rare auction of foreclosed properties in the New York metropolitan area, the company running the sale said.

“We don’t see as many properties going to foreclosure or being sold in New York City as we do in other parts of the country that have been hit a lot harder,” said Robert Friedman, chairman of Irvine, Calif.-based Real Estate Disposition Corp.

The auction was only REDC’s second for New York City, although the company runs sales around the country.

About 1,000 people attended the auction Sunday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, with additional bids coming from the Internet for more than 350 condos, single-family houses and duplexes around New York City and Pennsylvania.

Many were eager to score damaged real estate. But, some of the sales were protested by picketers, who at one sale, chanted: “Evictions are a crime! It could be your house next!”

REDC spokesman Rick Weinberg said the auctions help stimulate the economy by putting people in vacant houses.


Liquor board tries to improve manners

HARRISBURG | Pennsylvania liquor store clerks need to be more bubbly when they’re selling Champagne.

The state’s Liquor Control Board is spending more than $173,000 to try to make workers friendlier and more well-mannered at the nearly 650 stores it operates. The board said it wants to make sure clerks are saying “hello,” “thank you” and “come again” to customers shopping for wine and spirits.

It has hired Pittsburgh-based consulting firm Solutions 21 to help coach store managers so they can instruct their clerks on issues such as how to greet customers and where to stand. Training begins this month.

Harrisburg good-government activist Eric Epstein called the idea “a demented interpretation of happy hour.” He said it’s “a sad state of affairs when you have to train people to be kind and courteous.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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