- - Sunday, January 8, 2012


Obama calls Giffords on attack anniversary

President Obama called Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Sunday to offer his support on the anniversary of the tragic shooting, telling her that she is an “inspiration” to his family and the rest of the country.

Ms. Giffords suffered a debilitating wound to the head during the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting spree in a Tucson parking lot that left six dead and 11 people other than Ms. Giffords wounded.

Mr. Obama also said he is amazed by Ms. Giffords’ courage and determination during her road to recovery, adding that he and the first lady are keeping her, the families of the fallen and the entire Tucson community in their daily thoughts and prayers and join her in continuing to mourn those who lost their lives. Suspect Jared Lee Loughner remains in custody awaiting trial.


Department to ban mining near canyon

The Interior Department is moving forward with a plan to ban new mining claims on 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon, even as congressional Republicans try to block efforts to limit mining operations in an area known for high-grade uranium ore.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to finalize a 20-year ban on new mining claims on public land surrounding the Grand Canyon at an event Monday in Washington.

Mr. Salazar twice imposed temporary bans as officials studied the environmental and economic effects of a longer-term ban.

Conservation groups hailed the 20-year ban, first announced in October, as a crucial protection for an American landmark. The mining industry and some Republican members of Congress called the ban detrimental to Arizona’s economy and the nation’s energy independence.


Group to air film critical of Romney

MANCHESTER — An independent political committee supportive of Newt Gingrich is planning to release a film critical of Mitt Romney’s tenure at a private-equity firm, just days after a Las Vegas billionaire contributed $5 million to the group to bolster the former House speaker’s White House run.

The Gingrich-leaning Winning Our Future PAC said Sunday that the 28-minute video — which assails Mr. Romney for “reaping massive awards” while head of Bain Capital — will be posted online soon and could show up on TV ahead of this month’s primary elections.

Meanwhile, a person familiar with the development said Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul and longtime donor to Republican candidates, made the contribution Friday to Winning Our Future, which is run by Gingrich allies. The person, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Mr. Adelson is expected to contribute to groups backing the Republican nominee, be it Mr. Gingrich or one of his rivals.

Both the film and the large contribution highlight the growing role that new “super” political action committees are playing this election. Just weeks ago, a Romney-leaning super PAC called Restore Our Future hammered Mr. Gingrich with $3 million in negative ads that largely contributed to his eroding support before the Iowa caucuses. Mr. Gingrich finished in fourth place.

Now, the tables have turned: Winning Our Future’s case marks the first time Mr. Gingrich and his allies have targeted Mr. Romney’s time at Bain. They have said Mr. Romney’s record is fair game, but up until now have restricted attacks to his time in government.

The film, called “When Mitt Romney Came To Town,” assails Mr. Romney for “reaping massive awards” for himself and his investors. Bain has been credited with turning around dozens of companies, including well-known brands like Domino’s Pizza, but its record has been criticized for slashing jobs in the process.

Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich aide who is now working for Winning Our Future, said the full video would be posted online “soon.” Some segments could be used in shorter TV ads, he said, although there were no immediate plans to run the full piece on television.


Perry likens campaign to last stand at Alamo

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry is telling South Carolina crowds that his decision to stay in the White House race is like the last stand at the Alamo.

Mr. Perry told a crowd of nearly 300 at a packed burger joint that he’s not quitting on America or the campaign. He likened himself to the South Carolinians who rode to the Alamo to fight for Texas’ freedom even though they knew the fight would be lost.

Mr. Perry briefly re-evaluated his campaign after a disappointing loss in the Iowa caucuses last week and canceled events in South Carolina. But within a day he was putting up an ambitious schedule for the first-in-the-South primary.

Mr. Perry took swipes at front-runner Mitt Romney and the rest of his Republican rivals as Washington insiders.


Senator warns FDA on painkiller dangers

ALBANY — A senator is warning that a new batch of super painkillers now under review could lead to violent robberies.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York is urging the Food and Drug Administration to take extra care as it considers approving the drugs. He worries they would be prized on the black market.

A New Year’s Eve robbery at a Long Island pharmacy netted prescription painkillers and cash and left the robber and a federal agent shot dead. In June, four died in another Long Island pharmacy robbery in which 11,000 hydrocodone pills were stolen.

There was no immediate comment from the FDA on Mr. Schumer’s warning.

The Associated Press reported last month about addiction experts’ fears that the new drugs would lead to abuse.


GOP candidates target latest attacks at unions

CONCORD — Republican presidential candidates are defending some contributions labor unions make but say they should have less power.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry says labor union rights are a federal issue because of a law that requires states to take action to become right-to-work states. He says he is “not anti-union” but is “pro-job.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says he believes union training programs can help make American workers more competitive. But he says public sector unions are hurting economic growth and says their pay should be tied to private sector salaries. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, who is from heavily unionized Pennsylvania, says he worked with unions in Philadelphia and elsewhere to improve communities.

The candidates were speaking at a Republican presidential debate Sunday morning.


Board ruling allows group claims in court

Employers can no longer require workers to sign arbitration agreements that prevent them from pursuing group claims in court.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled earlier this week that agreements that require workers to pursue class-action claims exclusively with an arbitrator unlawfully bar activity protected under the National Labor Relations Act.

In a release issued Friday, the board emphasized the Jan. 3 ruling does not require employees to seek relief through class arbitration as long as the employment agreement allows workers to pursue group claims in court.

The decision looked at an arbitration agreement requiring employees of the nation’s largest homebuilder, Fort Worth, Texas-based D.R. Horton, to waive their right to a judicial forum and pursue all claims individually before an arbitrator.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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