- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 28, 2010

TRANSPORTATION

Southwest fined for passenger bumps

Southwest Airlines has been fined $200,000 for violating rules on bumping passengers from oversold flights.

The Transportation Department said Tuesday that it reviewed passenger complaints and found many cases of improper bumping.

Airlines are allowed to sell more seats than they have because some passengers don’t show up.

Federal rules require airlines to ask for volunteers first, then begin to bump passengers who bought tickets. Most passengers bumped from flights are entitled to up to $800 in cash.

VETERANS AFFAIRS

Noncompliance seen on military suicides

A key House member is asking Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to explain an apparent “emerging pattern” of agency noncompliance with congressional requests for information about military suicides.

Rep. Harry E. Mitchell, Arizona Democrat, canceled a hearing on suicide prevention efforts, which was scheduled for Wednesday, saying he was upset about the witnesses the agency wanted to send. Mr. Mitchell is chairman of the House Veterans Affairs’ subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

Mr. Mitchell said in a letter to Mr. Shinseki that he has heard complaints from other members of Congress about requests for information going unanswered or taking too long.

OKLAHOMA

Senate overrides abortion vetoes

OKLAHOMA CITY | The Oklahoma Senate has voted to override Gov. Brad Henry’s vetoes of two abortion bills, meaning the bills become law without his signature.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted Tuesday to override the vetoes, a day after the House had done the same.

One of the bills requires women to undergo ultrasounds and listen to detailed descriptions of their fetuses before getting abortions. The other prohibits pregnant women from seeking damages if physicians withhold information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancies.

The Democratic governor had said the vetoes were needed because the measures lacked exemptions for rape and incest victims.

SENATE

Pentagon to withhold some Fort Hood data

The Obama administration said Tuesday that it will provide some but not all the materials a Senate committee wants on last year’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, setting up a potential legal showdown with Congress.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee had demanded that the Pentagon share documents and witnesses about the deadly incident by Tuesday morning.

An unusual Senate subpoena sought material the Pentagon claims would jeopardize prosecution of the suspect, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. The U.S. Army psychiatrist has been accused of killing 13 people in November at the base.

Senators have said they want to be sure the Pentagon is working to prevent similar tragedies.

Committee spokeswoman Leslie Phillips said that “as far as we’re concerned they have not complied with the subpoena.” She said the panel is considering its next step.

The Pentagon and Justice Department sent a letter to the committee Tuesday morning that Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said lays out a compromise.

The committee would be able to read Maj. Hasan’s personnel file and a secret addendum to the Pentagon’s internal report on how the Pentagon failed to head off the shootings despite concerns over Maj. Hasan’s behavior and apparent religious radicalization.

REGULATION

Feds to crack down on mine safety

The nation’s top mine safety official says the government will start going directly to federal court to shut down mines that make habits of ignoring safety.

Joe Main, director of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, told lawmakers that his agency has had the power to seek federal injunctions for years but no administration has ever tried to use it.

Mr. Main also is seeking other legal and regulatory changes to beef up safety enforcement in the wake of the April 5 explosion at a mine in West Virginia.

He was testifying before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee at the first hearing since the accident, which killed 29 workers.

Senators were also considering how to improve safety compliance in other industries.

USDA

Additives rethought for baby formula

The Agriculture Department says it may ban two synthetic additives from organic baby formula, overturning a Bush administration decision to allow them.

The USDA said Tuesday that the department incorrectly interpreted Food and Drug Administration guidelines that appeared to allow the additives, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids also known as DHA and ARA, respectively, to be added to formula.

A Wisconsin organic advocacy group had filed a complaint about the additives because they are extracted using a chemical that is banned in organic production. The USDA is not saying the additives are unsafe.

Many companies have added DHA and ARA to their infant formulas in recent years, saying they improve brain development and eyesight in babies.

The department’s move to overturn the Bush-era decision is part of an Obama administration effort to scrutinize the National Organic Program. Critics have charged that the government has not been restrictive enough in what it allows to be labeled as organic.

Oversight of organics have become more important as the industry has exploded in popularity over the past decade, growing 14 percent to 21 percent annually with sales of $24.6 billion in 2008.

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