- - Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Obama, Israeli leader to meet May 20

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet May 20 in Washington.

The White House says the two leaders are expected to discuss issues of mutual interest to the U.S. and Israel. Among them are the stalled Middle East peace process and broader unrest in the region that has toppled Egypt’s longtime leader, Hosni Mubarak, and threatens the regimes in Syria and Yemen.

Another topic for discussion would be the landmark reconciliation agreement that rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas signed Wednesday. It ends a four-year rift that had divided the territory envisioned as a future Palestinian state.

Mr. Netanyahu said the agreement is a “mortal blow to peace.”


Indian tribe wants military name change

Following on the heels of other American Indian leaders, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly on Wednesday urged President Obama to change the name of the military operation that killed Osama bin Laden from “Geronimo,” saying it was “dehumanizing.”

Mr. Shelly, whose Navajo Nation is the largest American Indian tribe in the U.S., said using the name was an insult to the Apache tribe — Geronimo was a member — but it also hurt the Navajo, whose “code talkers” helped the U.S. create an unbreakable code in World War II.

“It is not only disrespectful to Geronimo and the Navajo Nation code talkers, but to the 11 Navajo warriors who have recently lost their lives fighting against terrorism since 9/11,” Mr. Shelly said. “Still today, alongside other Indian nations of the United States, we send our sons and daughters into conflict to fight for liberty, freedom and justice.”

Even though the operation to capture or kill bin Laden is over, Mr. Shelly said, the name should be changed so that children don’t encounter it in the history books. Leaders of several other Indian tribes have issued similar calls.


Bill would limit tax breaks for abortions

The House on Wednesday approved a bill that would limit tax breaks for insurance policies that cover abortions.

The 251-177 vote sent the bill to the Democrat-led Senate. The White House this week threatened to veto it.

The legislation is the Republicans’ latest attempt to chip away at President Obama’s signature health care overhaul. It would prevent people from deducting the cost of an abortion from their taxable income, except when the procedure is performed in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is at risk.

Opponents of abortion rights say the bill would close loopholes in the new health law. Abortion rights supporters say the bill is really about discouraging insurance companies from covering the procedure.


Government properties eyed for sale, demolition

The Obama administration asked Congress on Wednesday to sell off or demolish more than 12,000 government-owned or leased properties, saying they are underutilized or no longer needed.

The White House recommended the creation of a seven-person independent commission of property experts that would determine how best to get rid of the properties. They include warehouses, office buildings, storage facilities, laboratories and unused roads.

The move to sell off government land comes as President Obama and congressional Republicans are debating ways to slash deficits expected to average more than $1 trillion annually over the coming decade. If enacted, the plan would use 60 percent of the savings to pay down the deficit and 40 percent to cover costs for other government-run facilities.

Taking the properties off the federal government’s books would save $15 billion over three years, administration officials said. The federal government is the largest landowner in the United States. It owns more than 1 million properties and has an annual operation and maintenance budget running more than $20 billion.


Panel OKs funds for special forces

A House panel on Wednesday approved $10.5 billion for Special Operations Command and its Navy SEALs unit widely praised for the bold mission to take out terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

By voice vote, the House Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities agreed to the amount, an increase of about 7 percent from the current level, with lawmakers marveling at the success of the Navy SEALs. The elite unit infiltrated bin Laden’s Pakistan compound Sunday and killed the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, Texas Republican, chairman of the subcommittee, said Special Operations Forces “do such things time and again with precision and professionalism that is unmatched.”


ACLU sues over data collection

NEWARK, N.J. — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit in New Jersey over the FBI’s collection of racial and ethnic data in local communities.

In the complaint filed Wednesday, the ACLU says it filed a Freedom of Information Act request in July seeking the release of records about the FBI’s “mapping” of local communities under the Domestic Intelligence Operations Guide.

The complaint contends the FBI sent back some documents in December that were improperly redacted and has failed to release any more since then.

An ACLU-New Jersey spokeswoman says more than 30 ACLU branches around the country filed similar requests for documents and are considering legal action. The organization says the FBI program raises civil rights concerns.

The FBI had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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