- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2009

SENATE

Specter seeks labor compromise

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania says the “prospects are pretty good” for a compromise on legislation making it easier for workers to form unions.

Mr. Specter had come out against the bill in March, which disappointed labor leaders. They had hoped he would be the crucial 60th vote needed to overcome an expected Republican filibuster of the Employee Free Choice Act.

But Mr. Specter has since switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. He said Thursday that he has been meeting with labor leaders and fellow senators to seek a compromise he could support.



Mr. Specter is facing re-election next year and is under pressure from pro-union groups as they consider whether to endorse him.

RELIGION

Notre Dame leader defends invitation

INDIANAPOLIS | The University of Notre Dame’s invitation for President Obama to speak at Sunday’s commencement is an opportunity to broaden the debate on issues important to Roman Catholics, not a step at odds with church teaching, the school’s president said in a letter to graduates.

“Ultimately, I hope that the conversations and the good will that come from this day will contribute to closer relations between Catholics and public officials who make decisions on matters of human life and human dignity,” the Rev. John Jenkins said in the letter dated Monday and first reported Wednesday on a blog of the Jesuit monthly America.

About 70 U.S. bishops and many other Catholics have condemned Notre Dame’s decision to have Mr. Obama deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree, saying Catholic teaching stands in stark opposition to the president’s policies on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

CLIMATE

Gore targets key legislators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. | Al Gore and a band of environmental volunteers are taking the congressional fight over climate change legislation to the home districts of undecided lawmakers.

The mission to spur congressional action marks a new phase for the Climate Project, Mr. Gore said in an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday.

“We have to seize this moment, because it may not ever come around again,” Mr. Gore said. “This is the time when the world is making up its mind.”

The nonprofit group founded by Mr. Gore has trained about 3,000 people to deliver their own versions of the climate change slide show that made him the star of the Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and the leading U.S. voice on global warming.

Volunteers are stepping up their efforts to hold 36 town hall meetings about the bill in the home districts of key members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Gore said.

SENATE

Pakistan gets U.S. drone data

The United States has taken the unprecedented step of sharing with Islamabad surveillance data collected by drones flying over Pakistan, the top U.S. military officer said Thursday.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that Pakistan requested surveillance support missions by U.S. unmanned aircraft.

“In terms of support and information, they have asked for that, and where they have asked for that, we’ve supported them,” Adm. Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But Pakistan had not made a request for more surveillance in recent weeks, he said.

“Those requests have ceased over the period of about the last month,” the admiral said.

He did not explain Islamabad’s stance, but officials say U.S. military assistance and its drone attacks are a sensitive political subject in Pakistan, with the military and intelligence service divided over Washington’s role.

COURTS

FTC sues firms in ‘warranty’ scam

Federal regulators filed suits Thursday against several companies they say are behind a national wave of spam “robo-calls” that warn people their auto warranties are expiring and offer new service plans.

Federal Trade Commission officials said they asked a federal court in Chicago to halt the illegal telemarketing campaign of “Your Car Warranty Has Expired.” Officials say as many as 1 billion of the nuisance calls have been made to Americans.

The FTC named Voice Touch Inc. and Transcontinental Warranty Inc., which it called the telemarketer and promoter of the scheme, respectively, in the lawsuits. The agency is seeking injunctions to force them to return what the FTC called ill-gotten gains.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz called it “one of the most aggressive” telemarketing schemes the agency has ever encountered.

SENATE

Stevens’ defense cost $1 million

New financial disclosures show that former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens spent at least $1 million on legal bills defending himself against charges that he failed to report gifts as required.

A report filed this week with the Senate shows that Mr. Stevens owes between $1 million and $5 million to the Washington law firm Williams & Connolly LLP for defending him in his corruption trial last year.

A jury found the longtime Republican lawmaker guilty in October on seven counts of lying on financial disclosure forms about gifts, including renovations that doubled the size of his home in Girdwood, Alaska. A judge dismissed the case in April, saying prosecutors withheld evidence that might have been favorable to Mr. Stevens.

STATE DEPARTMENT

Clinton: U.S. won’t chase N. Korea

The United States is not interested in making concessions to lure the North Koreans back to six-party nuclear disarmament talks, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday.

“We intend to have an open door for a return to the six-party talks and China, which is the chair, has made it clear as well to the North Koreans that they wish to see this begin again,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters.

“So the ball is in the North Korean court and we are not concerned about chasing after the North Koreans and offering concessions to North Korea. They know what their obligations are,” she added.

The United States has been involved in negotiations with the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia aimed at scrapping North Korea’s weapons-grade nuclear program in return for aid under a landmark agreement signed in 2007.

The negotiations deadlocked late last year in a dispute with North Korea over how to verify disarmament before taking a sharp turn for the worse with North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket on April 5.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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