Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Florida lawmakers visit Honduras

MIAMI | Three U.S. representatives from South Florida who supported the ouster of Honduras’ president traveled there Monday to meet with the interim government and to pressure President Obama to sanction the upcoming Honduran elections.

It’s the second trip there by a Republican delegation in a week and is part of a broader effort to challenge the Obama administration’s Latin American policy.

Mr. Obama and many world leaders refuse to recognize interim President Roberto Micheletti, who took power following the June ouster of Manuel Zelaya. They say the Nov. 29 election will be illegitimate unless Mr. Zelaya is restored to power or comes to some compromise with the current government. The Organization of American States has refused to observe the elections.

Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and brothers Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, who say they’re on a fact-finding mission, are among Republicans who view Mr. Zelaya’s ouster as a legitimate response to his calls for a referendum on changing the constitution. Such a change, they say, could have enabled him to run again and remain president indefinitely, just as firebrand Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has done.

Whether one supports Mr. Zelaya or Mr. Micheletti, “the way out of this problem is to respect the free and fair elections that the people of Honduras are going to have,” said Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

This summer, Rep. Connie Mack, Florida Republican, brought a group of lawmakers to meet with Mr. Micheletti. Another Republican, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, led a delegation there Friday.


Lobbyist’s fate in hands of jurors

The second trial in the long-running influence-peddling scandal surrounding imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff went to the jury Monday with the defense arguing that a former member of Abramoff’s team is being prosecuted for guilt by association.

Unlike other people implicated in the probe, former lobbyist Kevin Ring is fighting the criminal charges the Justice Department brought against him, rather than pleading guilty in an effort to be granted leniency by a judge. U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle is presiding over the case.

During a trial that began 3 1/2 weeks ago, Mr. Ring’s attorneys maintained Mr. Ring was an excellent lobbyist who stayed completely within the bounds of the law.

“It was his job to influence public officials,” one of Mr. Ring’s attorneys, Andrew Wise, told the jury. “There is no question he used what were traditional tools, including entertainment, meals, tickets to games.”

“When persuasion was done, it was based on politics, sometimes on being a relentless pest” and in other instances “begging,” Mr. Wise said.

Prosecutors said Mr. Ring’s actions rewarded government employees for official favors done and provided inducements for future acts on behalf of Abramoff clients.


Budget director touts stimulus

While the economy is beginning to come out of recession, it has yet to show evidence that it can grow without the help of the government’s $787 billion infusion of taxpayer money, President Obama’s top budget adviser said Monday.

Peter R. Orszag, director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, also said unemployment - now at 9.8 percent - is running about half a percentage point higher than the administration expected.

In an interview with Associated Press reporters and editors, Mr. Orszag said the economic stimulus that Congress approved early this year added 2 to 3 percentage points, on an annualized basis, to the economic activity in the second and third quarters of this year.

“That may well be the entirety of any positive growth,” Mr. Orszag said.


Obama orders climate actions

President Obama ordered the federal government Monday to lead by example on climate change, requiring all federal agencies to begin cutting greenhouse-gas emissions within 90 days.

Mr. Obama also told agencies to increase energy efficiency, cut gasoline consumption by official vehicles, and to save water and reduce waste in moves that would save money and help cleanse the environment.

“As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the federal government can and should lead by example,” Mr. Obama said.

The president earlier signed an executive order containing the new standards to be adopted as part of the administration’s wider attempt to build a clean energy economy.

Under the new rules, agencies must meet a string of targets for energy efficiency and waste reduction.


Bill Clinton raises cash for Newsom

LOS ANGELES | Former President Bill Clinton is in Los Angeles to help raise money for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s slow-starting campaign for California governor.

The mayor, known for his advocacy for same-sex marriages, has lagged in early polls and fundraising for the 2010 race behind another potential Democratic rival, Attorney General Jerry Brown.

Mr. Clinton will headline a private fundraiser Monday for Mr. Newsom after they visit with students at a local college.

In a way, Mr. Clinton’s appearance is returning a favor. Last year, Mr. Newsom was a high-profile supporter of then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential bid before she withdrew.

Mr. Brown and Mr. Clinton were rivals for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination. In one debate, Mr. Clinton said Mr. Brown made “a lying accusation about my wife.”


EPA to put cap on toxic seafloor

LOS ANGELES | The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has chosen a $50 million strategy to place a cap of clean material on a vast deposit of DDT and PCBs on the ocean floor off Southern California.

Keith Takata, EPA’s Superfund director for the region, said Monday that the cap would be placed over the most contaminated sediment on what’s known as the Palos Verdes Shelf.

DDT is a now-banned pesticide. PCBs are toxic chemical compounds. The contamination occurred from the 1950s until the early 1970s.

DDT from a manufacturer and PCBs from other industrial operations flowed through Los Angeles County’s sanitation system and collected along nine miles of seafloor off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The contaminants are too deep for human contact, but are a risk to people who eat fish from the area.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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