- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2009

TREASURY

Nominee runs into tax troubles

President Obama’s choice for a top job with the Treasury Department is having tax problems.

A congressional report says Mr. Obama’s nominee for undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs, Lael Brainard, was late in paying real estate taxes in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The report by the Senate Finance Committee staff also challenges the accuracy of a deduction Ms. Brainard claimed for running an office from her home. The challenge led Ms. Brainard to reduce the deduction on her 2008 return.

The committee’s top Republican is unhappy that the committee staff had to submit 10 sets of questions to Ms. Brainard before getting complete information about the discrepancies.

Ms. Brainard is the fifth Obama nominee to have tax problems.

COURTS

Ex-Rep. Jefferson will remain free

A former Louisiana congressman who was sentenced to 13 years in prison on bribery charges will be allowed to remain free on bond while he appeals his conviction.

Wednesday’s ruling from a federal judge makes it likely that William Jefferson, a Democrat who represented parts of New Orleans, will not serve any prison time for at least a year or more.

The 62-year-old was sentenced Friday to the longest prison term ever imposed on a congressman for corruption charges.

The judge said that the legal questions in his case are unsettled enough that an appeals court could decide to overturn the convictions.

Jefferson was the target of an FBI sting, in which he was videotaped accepting a briefcase filled with $100,000 cash.

DIPLOMACY

Clinton gushes over ‘young’ Brit

NEW YORK | Talk about Washington and London’s special relationship.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has admitted she has a “crush” on David Milibrand, Britain’s youthful-looking, 44-year-old foreign minister, according to an interview published in Vogue magazine.

“Oh, my God!” she was quoted as telling a Vogue journalist in the December issue. “If you saw him, it would be a big crush.”

Mrs. Clinton, who is married to former President Bill Clinton, described Mr. Miliband as “vibrant, vital, attractive, smart. He’s a really good guy - and he is so young!”

According to Britain’s Sun daily, Mr. Miliband reciprocated the gushing feelings, calling Mrs. Clinton, 62, “delightful” and a “tease.”

HOUSE

Bill would allow U.S. to break up big firms

A House committee voted Wednesday to give the government the right to dismantle financial firms that are so big, interconnected and leveraged that they could harm the economy, even if they are healthy.

Voting along party lines, the House Financial Services Committee modified a sweeping financial-regulation bill to give broad new power to a proposed Financial Services Oversight Council that would monitor risk across the financial system.

The provision, proposed by Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, Pennsylvania Democrat, was staunchly opposed by Wall Street because it would let the government break apart firms even if they were sound and well-capitalized.

“No firm should be considered to be too big to fail,” Mr. Kanjorski said. “Financial firms that want to play in a casino need to have their own resources to cover their bets and not assume that tax dollars are available in reserve if their bets fail.”

The amendment approved Wednesday says the government could intervene when a firm presents a “grave threat” to the financial system - a higher bar than what many large financial institutions thought Mr. Kanjorski would set.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Group: Raul Castro keeping jails full

Cuba’s Raul Castro has kept the system his brother Fidel used to repress critics, refusing to free scores of people imprisoned years ago and jailing others for “dangerousness,” Human Rights Watch said in a report issued Wednesday.

The assessment came as President Obama said he wants to “recast” ties with Cuba and Congress is considering lifting a ban on U.S. travel to the communist-run island 90 miles from Florida.

Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power to his younger brother Raul in July 2006 and formally stepped aside as president last year because of illness.

Raul Castro has relied in particular on a Cuban law that lets the state imprison people even before they commit a crime, Human Rights Watch said.

The group documented more than 40 cases under Raul Castro in which Cuba has imprisoned individuals for “dangerousness” because they sought to do things, such as stage peaceful marches or organize independent labor unions.

INTERIOR

Mountain mining gets more scrutiny

The Interior Department said Wednesday it will more closely monitor and review state-approved permits for mountaintop coal mining and also tighten the federal permitting process to better protect streams from mining waste.

The department said its actions are designed to serve as interim steps until a new federal regulation on mountaintop mining can be completed that will impose tighter restrictions on dumping the huge amount of generated fill dirt and waste near and in streambeds.

While America’s vast coal reserves are a vital part of the country’s energy mix, “We have a responsibility to ensure that development is done in a way that protects public health and safety and the environment,” said Assistant Interior Secretary Wilma Lewis in a statement outlining the new actions.

In mountaintop mining, vast amounts of dirt are removed to get at the coal, and it is then transported into low-lying areas and in some cases streambeds. It has been the source of heated arguments for years between mining interests and environmentalists who say it is destroying vast areas of Appalachia and contaminating streambeds and in some cases blocking water flow. The practice is widely used in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, producing 130 million tons of coal annually.

BIRTH

It’s baby girl for Mary Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary Cheney has delivered a baby girl.

It’s the second child for Ms. Cheney and her partner of more than 17 years, Heather Poe.

Sarah Lynne Cheney was born Wednesday morning at Sibley Hospital in Washington, weighing 6 pounds and 14 ounces. She is the seventh grandchild of the former vice president and his wife, Lynne.

Mary Cheney and Miss Poe had their first child, Samuel David Cheney, in 2007.

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