- - Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is going into business with two other top officials from the George W. Bush administration.

Mr. Gates will join an international consulting firm headed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley.

Mr. Gates left his Pentagon job last year. He was the only senior member of the Bush administration who stayed on to work for President Obama, a Democrat. Mr. Gates has described himself as a Republican.

When he left, Mr. Gates said he wanted to write books and relax at his home in Washington state.

The new firm, to be called RiceHadleyGates, is based in California and Washington, D.C.


Agency rules transgender people protected from bias

The agency that enforces the federal job discrimination laws has for the first time ruled that transgender people are protected from bias in the workplace.

In a groundbreaking decision late last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said a refusal to hire or otherwise discriminate on the basis of gender identity is by definition sex discrimination under federal law.

While some federal courts have reached the same conclusion in recent years, employment law experts say the EEOC decision sets a national standard of enforcement that offers employers clear guidance on the issue.

“This decision is important because the EEOC is the agency with lead authority to interpret and enforce the nation’s employment rights laws,” said Jennifer Pizer, legal director of the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy.

The case involved a California woman who claimed she was denied a contractor job with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after the contractor learned she had undergone a procedure to change her gender from male to female.

EEOC spokeswoman Justine Lisser said the unanimous ruling from the five-member agency does not create a new cause of action. It clarifies that charges of gender stereotyping are considered claims of sex discrimination under existing law.


Democratic governor signs bill to repeal death penalty

HARTFORD — Connecticut’s governor has signed a new law that abolishes the state’s death penalty for future crimes.

A spokeswoman says Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy signed the bill Wednesday afternoon at a private ceremony with lawmakers, clergy and family members of victims.

Mr. Malloy issued a statement calling it a “historic moment” as Connecticut joins 16 other states that have abolished capital punishment. He said it was a moment “for sober reflection, not celebration.”

The law replaced the death penalty with a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release. It does not affect the sentences of the 11 inmates already on Connecticut’s death row.

A former prosecutor, Mr. Malloy said his position on the death penalty has evolved over the years.


Obama raising money at $35,800-a-ticket event

President Obama was back in Washington from a three-state trip courting young voters in time to raise money from big-dollar donors.

Mr. Obama attended a fundraiser Wednesday with 25 supporters who each paid $35,800 toward his re-election effort. The event was at a hotel just blocks from the White House.

Mr. Obama made his way to the Jefferson Hotel just minutes after returning from a two-day visit to college campuses where he promoted a plan to renew a low-interest student loan program.

As with other events, the $895,000 raised is split between Obama’s re-election campaign and the Democratic Party.

As of the end of March, Mr. Obama had raised about $350 million for his re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee so far in this election cycle.


Senator asks FBI to look into ‘Girls Gone Wild’ claim

LITTLE ROCK — Sen. Mark L. Pryor of Arkansas says he’s asked the FBI to investigate who auctioned off an internship to his Washington office that the founder of “Girls Gone Wild” says he bought for the winner of a reality show.

Pryor on Wednesday denied a claim that the winner of a contest put on by the “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis will intern in Mr. Pryor’s office for four weeks this summer. Mr. Pryor’s office later said it believed someone was fraudulently impersonating a senator to offer the internship.

Mr. Francis announced the internship would be part of the prize package for the winner of “The Search for the Hottest Girl in America” after bidding on it at an online charity auction for a Los Angeles temple last weekend.


TSA screeners charged in drug trafficking probe

LOS ANGELES — Two former and two current Transportation Security Administration employees have been arrested on federal drug trafficking and bribery charges for allowing large amounts of cocaine and other drugs to pass through X-ray machines at security checkpoints in exchange for cash, authorities said.

A 22-count indictment unsealed Wednesday outlined five incidents during which the employees took payments of up to $2,400 to provide drug couriers unfettered access at Los Angeles International Airport over a six-month period last year.

“The allegations in this case describe a significant breakdown of the screening system through the conduct of individuals who placed greed above the nation’s security needs,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said.

Among those arrested and charged are Naral Richardson, 30, of Los Angeles, who was fired by TSA in 2010 and accused of orchestrating the scheme; John Whitfield, 23, of Los Angeles, a current TSA screener; Joy White, 27, of Compton, who was terminated last year; and Capeline McKinney, 25, of Los Angeles, also a current screener.

It wasn’t immediately known if any of the four had retained attorneys. Authorities became aware of the smuggling scheme in February 2011.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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