- - Sunday, March 25, 2012

A top presidential adviser says President Obama’s decision to comment on the shooting death of a black teenager in Florida was motivated by parental instinct more than the incident’s emergence as a racial issue.

Senior White House adviser David Plouffe says Mr. Obama reacted instinctively as a parent last week in saying that Americans needed “some soul searching” in the wake of the slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer. The gunman was not charged, prompting probes by the Justice Department and local authorities.

Mr. Obama said he supported the investigations, noting: “If I had son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Plouffe said Mr. Obama “was speaking powerfully about this as a parent.” Mr. Plouffe added that “no matter gender or race, this is a tragedy.”


Senators ask feds to probe requests for passwords

SEATTLE — Two U.S. senators are asking Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law.

Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said Sunday that they are calling on the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch investigations. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the agencies.

The Associated Press reported this week that some private and public agencies around the country are asking job seekers for their social media credentials. The practice has alarmed privacy advocates.

Facebook warned employers Friday not to ask job applicants for their passwords to the site, saying protected information is often displayed on profiles.


Doctors doubt favoritism in Cheney transplant

CHICAGO — Doctors say it is unlikely that former Vice President Dick Cheney got special treatment when he was given a new heart that thousands of younger people also were in line to receive.

After spending nearly two years on a waiting list, Mr. Cheney received a transplant Saturday. The 71-year-old underwent surgery at the same Virginia hospital where doctors implanted a small heart pump that has kept him alive the past few years.

Mr. Cheney was recovering Sunday at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church. He had severe congestive heart failure and had suffered five heart attacks over the past 25 years.

Dr. Allen Taylor, cardiology chief at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, said Sunday that the heart transplant waitlist is “a very regimented and fair process, and heavily policed.”


Outside groups spent $1.5M on Senate race

SALT LAKE CITY — Political action committees and nonprofit groups are spending more than $1.5 million on the U.S. Senate race in Utah.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports the money was spent in the weeks leading up to the Republican caucus meetings earlier this month.

FreedomWorks spent nearly $650,000 on mailers and delegate recruitment, the largest amount of any group outside of campaigns. The group affiliated with the tea party is opposing Republican Sen. Orrin G. Hatch but is not endorsing any candidates.

Five groups supporting Mr. Hatch spent nearly $900,000 combined, with Freedom Path accounting for $571,000 of those expenditures.

Freedom Path is supporting Mr. Hatch because of his sponsorship of a balanced-budget amendment. The group has run ads critical of two challengers to Mr. Hatch, former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist and state Rep. Chris Herrod.


Fed wind-power guidelines aim to cut bird deaths

The Obama administration offered new guidance Friday on where wind farms should be located.

Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar said the guidelines, which take effect immediately, provide a scientific basis for developers and government regulators to identify sites with low risk to wildlife while allowing for more wind energy projects on private and public lands.

But a bird advocacy group that lobbied for mandatory standards said the voluntary guidelines will do little to protect hundreds of thousands of birds killed each year by turbines.

The guidelines call on the wind industry to eliminate from consideration areas that would pose high risks to birds and other wildlife. If developers follow the guidelines, they are unlikely to be prosecuted under federal law in the event of bird deaths, said Daniel M. Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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