- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 3, 2010

FEDERAL COURT

U.S. pushes Noriega’s extradition to France

MIAMI | The U.S. government is asking a Miami federal judge to clear the way for former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to be extradited to France on money-laundering charges.

Prosecutors are asking U.S. District Judge Paul Huck to lift a stay blocking Noriega’s extradition now that the U.S. Supreme Court last week rejected Noriega’s appeals.

Noriega attorney Jon May said Tuesday that he will ask the high court Feb. 19 for a rehearing based on a dissent by Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Mr. May said Noriega should not be extradited while that request is pending.

Noriega wanted to return to Panama after his sentence on U.S. drug charges ended in September 2007. Noriega claims he is a prisoner of war and should be sent home.

TREASURY

Geithner says economy strengthened in year

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner says the nation’s economy is stronger than it was a year ago, yet the government must continue to act to stimulate job growth.

Mr. Geithner told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday that the Obama administration is trying to balance the desire to add jobs with the need to rein in ballooning budget deficits.

President Obama has proposed giving companies a $5,000 tax credit for each new worker they hire in 2010. Businesses that increase wages or hours for their current workers in 2010 would be reimbursed for the extra Social Security payroll taxes they would pay.

HOUSE

Murtha hospitalized in intensive care

Rep. John P. Murtha has been hospitalized in intensive care stemming from complications related to gallbladder surgery.

Spokesman Matt Mazonkey said the 77-year-old Pennsylvania Democrat underwent scheduled surgery last week and was at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington.

Murtha also was hospitalized in December with gallbladder problems.

The 19-term lawmaker was the first Vietnam War veteran to serve in Congress. He leads the powerful House Appropriations subcommittee on defense spending.

HEALTH CARE

First lady holds policy meeting

The first lady met Tuesday at the White House with six legislators and three Cabinet members who have a big role in health care policy as she revs up for her campaign against childhood obesity. Mrs. Obama said she wants to get families, schools, businesses and governments working together on a problem that she says is “imminently solvable.”

Mrs. Obama isn’t the first first lady to get involved in policy. Rosalynn Carter sat in on Jimmy Carter’s Cabinet meetings, and Hillary Rodham Clinton was the architect of President Clinton’s failed attempt to enact a major health care reform package in the 1990s.

SENATE

Volcker supports bank trading limits

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker says prohibiting large commercial banks from engaging in high-risk trades would cut back on institutions deemed “too big to fail” and add security to the financial system.

Mr. Volcker testified Tuesday before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, pushing new bank limitations on behalf of President Obama.

The Obama administration wants to add the restrictions on trading to legislation that would overhaul financial regulations. The banking committee is in the midst of negotiating a bill.

Mr. Obama has embraced Mr. Volcker’s idea to prohibit large financial companies that have both commercial and investment functions, such as Goldman Sachs, from engaging in speculative trading. Large banks oppose the idea.

INTELLIGENCE

Al Qaeda still deemed main U.S. threat

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair says al Qaeda will continue to try to attack the United States until Osama bin Laden and his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, are dead.

Mr. Blair and CIA Director Leon E. Panetta were among top intelligence officials outlining to Congress on Tuesday the main threats facing the United States. They announced the annual threat assessment just weeks after a failed attack to bring down an airliner over Detroit. International terrorism again heads the list.

Mr. Blair also said the nation still does not know the intended targets of suspected terrorist Najibullah Zazi, who was arrested in September and charged with plotting to attack New York City with homemade bombs. Mr. Blair said U.S. intelligence still thinks the Fort Hood shooting suspect, Maj. Nidal Hassan, is a homegrown extremist rather than a terrorist who worked with militants abroad.

HOUSE

Vote set on health insurers antitrust law

The House of Representatives will vote next week on a bill that would repeal the antitrust exemption for health insurers, said an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

A number of House Democrats have said that a repeal of the antitrust exemption was a high priority after a sweeping health care overhaul stalled when Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate in a Republican upset in Massachusetts last month.

The House-passed health care reform bill included a repeal of the antitrust exemption.

TRAFFIC SAFETY

Regulators probe Cobalt complaints

Federal regulators have opened an investigation into complaints that power steering systems in the Chevrolet Cobalt can fail.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 1,132 complaints had been filed about the Cobalt’s electric power steering, including reports of 11 accidents and one injury.

The review covers about 905,000 Cobalts in the model years from 2005 to 2009.

A majority of the complaints have been filed in the past six months. Some drivers said they couldn’t stay in their traffic lanes when steering became difficult.

The Cobalt is made by General Motors Co.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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