Friday, September 12, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Gumming up the works The (republican) Attorney General of Wisconsin has filed a lawsuit that will wreak havoc on election day, causing long lines, delays and ultimately disenfranchisement. The ostensible reason for the lawsuit is to remove ineligible voters from the rolls. It calls for a court order mandating the Government Accountability Board to cross-check voters who have registered since Jan. 1, 2006, when federal Help America Vote Act legislation required that states implement a voter database to cross-check voter registrations with Department of Transportation, criminal and death records. The GAB didn't have the voter registration system up and running until Aug. 6 of this year and has said it will cross-check from that date on. Van Hollen said that to comply with federal law, the state has to go back to the federal deadline. Van Hollen spokesman Kevin St. John said Van Hollen wants the GAB to verify voters who registered by mail since Jan. 1, 2006, because they didn't have to show an ID.

But McCain's lobbyists are "honorable" Two of McCain's lobbyists campaign staffers worked for companies at the center of the unfolding scandal at the Department of the Interior. McCain's national finance co-chair, Wayne Berman, and campaign congressional liaison John Green for years lobbied for two of the oil companies that are smack in the middle of the sex, drugs and oil scandal unfolding at the Department of the Interior.

Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenas Todd Palin in the "Troopergate" scandal, which alleges the governor and her spouse abused the power of her office to have a former brother in law, who was involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle with the governors sister, fired from his job as a state trooper. When the director of public safety refused to fire the trooper, Palin fired him.

That was then, this is now During the primary, John McCain attacked Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani as insufficiently experienced in national security and foreign policy because they had been governor or Massachusetts and Mayor of New York City, respectively. "I am prepared. I need no on-the-job training. I wasn't a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn't a governor for a short period of time," McCain said in October 2007. But now, in September 2008, one could almost come away thinking that Sarah Palin - the governor of Alaska for the last 20 months, who happened to be mayor of the hamlet of Wasilla for four years before that - is practically overqualified for the job, McCain touts her so highly.

Passenger and freight trains collide in California Four people were killed and 23 injured, ten seriously, when a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train collided head on in Chatsworth this afternoon. Several cars derailed and ignited a blaze. A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reported said they expected the death toll to rise.

Those were some nice civil liberties we had - pity something happened to 'em The Justice Department today introduced their proposed new rules for FBI investigations. In the first major change in years, the Justice Department proposed a consolidated set of guidelines for domestic FBI operations, seeking to apply the same rules for criminal and terrorism cases, and for collecting foreign intelligence. The ACLU criticized the new rules for giving agents powers to go on fishing expeditions and investigate anyone, without cause or even suspicion. Of course the FBI would never abuse those powers. Or would they?

First it was pet food, now it's baby formula Chinese authorities today launched a nationwide recall and are investigating how melamine, the industrial chemical that was found to be the culprit in the tainted pet foods in 2007 has now been found in infant formula. One child died and fifty more have suffered kidney damage. No Chinese infant formulas have been cleared for import into the United States, but the CDC is warning that small amounts might have made it's way to ethnic markets here.

Judge halts ban on renting to immigrants in Dallas: A federal judge on Friday stopped a Dallas suburb's latest attempt to drive away illegal immigrants, ruling that Farmers Branch cannot enforce a ban on apartment rentals to those who can't prove they live legally in the country. U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle's temporary restraining order stopped an ordinance that had been set to go into effect Saturday. The ordinance was intended to replace a similar measure that was struck down in federal court. "We're very disappointed in Judge Boyle's view of the ordinance, but we're confident that ultimately it will be upheld by the federal court system," said Michael Jung, the attorney representing the city of Farmers Branch. The judge said the ordinance has the potential to cause irreparable injury to landlords who are likely to lose business to neighboring cities that don't have similar laws.

Failing schools are asked to replace personnel:
State education officials are pushing failing schools to replace principals and teaching staffs more than officials in other states, according to a report evaluating restructuring Maryland schools under the No Child Left Behind Act. The report released Friday by the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based nonprofit advocacy group for public education, found that such drastic measures aren't being used as widely at schools failing to meet federal standards elsewhere in the country. "I think in Maryland it has grown out of a frustration at the pace of change," said Jack Jennings, the center's president. Maryland initially brought in turnaround experts, but the report said only 16 percent of the most troubled schools saw significant improvements.

Lawmakers want caution on deal with India over nuclear energy: Three lawmakers cautioned the US Congress on Friday against rushing through with a vote on a landmark nuclear pact with India that President George W. Bush wants approved before he leaves office in January. "We strongly oppose rushing consideration of the proposal to adhere to an imaginary clock, since the process of full congressional oversight and deliberation necessarily and properly requires a significant investment of time," the trio from the House of Representatives said. Bush submitted the nuclear agreement Wednesday to Congress for endorsement to lift a three decade-old ban on atomic commerce with India. The nuclear deal, approved by Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005, offers India access to Western technology and cheap atomic energy as long as it allows UN nuclear inspections of some of its nuclear facilities. Democratic lawmakers Edward Markey, Ellen Tauscher and John Spratt, in a joint letter to House foreign affairs committee chairman Howard Berman, said the deal contained many lingering questions and required further examination.

Oh, poor Arnold: The summer's been a bummer for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although he still likes to say being governor of California is the best job he's ever had, Schwarzenegger has faced near-constant criticism from all sides in the state's drawn-out fiscal crisis. It's the same type of crisis he promised to lead the state out of when he jumped from Hollywood into politics five years ago, replacing former Gov. Gray Davis and promising to "blow up the boxes" of state government. Forget the GOP national stage for the moment: Schwarzenegger put off any plans to appear on the campaign trail with John McCain, a good friend, and gave up a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention last week. Well, when you take power in what amounted to a bloodless coup, you get to reap the whirlwind...

Exactly the kind of ingenuity we need: When fishing gear is lost off boats, it's not really gone. In webs and rolling clumps, the nets, ropes and traps endure for decades as destructive artifacts of the fishery, suffocating life on the ocean floor, snaring fish and twisting into propellers. But this "derelict gear" might actually be able to do some good. A program introduced in New England this year aims to clean the ocean by collecting everything from nylon nets to wooden lobster traps and burning it to generate electricity. Fisherman Frank Mirarchi of Scituate says he spends hours untangling discarded gear from his nets. It can be dangerous if heavy pieces snap free of the net. Getting it out of the ocean is essential, he said. Turning it into electricity is a bonus.