Friday, May 7, 2004

Clinton’s pardons remain secret

A federal appeals court yesterday removed one barrier to release of some internal records about President Clinton’s pardons, including 177 on his final day in office, but the documents will remain secret for now.

A panel of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia voted 2-1 that the White House can’t claim Justice Department records are covered by a special exemption from the Freedom of Information Act reserved for “presidential communications.”

In a partial victory for the government accountability organization Judicial Watch, the appeals court sent that part of the case back to a lower federal judge to consider whether the White House can refuse to release the records on other grounds.

Judicial Watch sued in 2001 to see the ordinarily private records compiled by the lawyers and others who choose which persons will receive presidential pardons or clemency.

The Bush White House has argued that such a release would have a chilling effect on internal discussions leading up to a pardon.

Laser downs its largest rocket

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — A U.S.-Israeli laser designed to protect northern Israel from missile attacks downed its largest rocket to date during a test over the southern New Mexico desert, the Army said yesterday.

The ground-based Tactical High Energy Laser, or THEL, locked on and destroyed the 11-foot-long, 6-inch-diameter rocket in flight over White Sands Missile Range on Tuesday, said Pam Rogers, a U.S. Army spokeswoman in Huntsville, Ala.

The system, which eventually would be mobile, uses an advanced radar to spot and track incoming rockets and then fires a deuterium fluoride chemical laser to destroy them.

Liberal radio station dealt a setback

NEW YORK — The chairman and vice chairman of Air America Radio have resigned, dealing the latest setback to the fledgling liberal radio network headlined by comedian and author Al Franken.

The departures of Evan Cohen and his investment partner Rex Sorensen came just one week after the company said that co-founder Mark Walsh had stepped down as CEO to take a smaller role at the company. Last week the company also said it had forced out David Logan as head of programming.

Mr. Cohen declined to discuss the reasons for his departure yesterday but confirmed that he was stepping down both as chairman and as a member of the company’s board. News of the departures, which occurred Thursday, was first reported in the Chicago Tribune.

Feds deny ban on junk food

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The federal government rejected a Minnesota plan to bar people from using food stamps to buy junk food, saying the proposal could create “confusion and embarrassment” in the checkout aisle.

Minnesota had sought permission from the U.S. Agriculture Department to become the first state to impose its own restrictions on what food could be bought with food stamps. The plan by Gov. Tim Pawlenty would have narrowly targeted certain unhealthy foods, especially candy and soda.

But in a strongly worded response sent Tuesday and received by state officials yesterday, the USDA turned back the request. Regional administrator Ollice Holden said the change would violate the Food Stamp Act’s definition of what is food.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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