Nation Digest

NATION DIGEST

April 07, 2006

McKinney apologizes in House for clash with police officer

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Cynthia McKinney, facing a grand jury investigation and a cold shoulder from colleagues, apologized yesterday on the House floor for an altercation with a Capitol Police officer who had asked her to stop after she walked around a security checkpoint.

"I am sorry that this misunderstanding happened at all and I regret its escalation," the Georgia Democrat said. "And I apologize."

McKinney's words and tone contrasted sharply with her initial reaction to the incident March 29. Over the next several days, a defiant McKinney insisted the officer had acted inappropriately.

At a news conference last Friday that included singer Harry Belafonte and actor Danny Glover, McKinney, who is black, charged she was a victim of racial profiling and "inappropriate touching."

But after the scuffle was referred to a federal grand jury - and as it turned into a political lightening rod - McKinney came under increasing pressure to defuse the situation.

Los Angeles Times

Talks are suspended on tax cut measure

WASHINGTON -- House GOP leaders failed yesterday to deliver a $2.8 trillion budget blueprint, sending lawmakers home for the Easter holiday and possibly into the fall election with deficits on the rise and no plan to contain them. Opposition to the plan among Republican moderates and a power struggle between a faction of conservatives and the GOP-controlled Appropriations Committee forced party leaders to pull the measure or suffer a humiliating defeat. In the face of solid opposition from Democrats, they chose the former, but said they hoped to revive a revised budget plan when Congress returns from a two-week recess.

No special election to replace DeLay

AUSTIN, Texas --Gov. Rick Perry said yesterday that he would not call an emergency special election to replace Republican Rep. Tom DeLay, meaning the suburban Houston congressional seat will be left unfilled until November. DeLay, who is under indictment on campaign finance charges, announced this week that he will resign before mid-June. The Democratic candidate for the seat, former Rep. Nick Lampson, had called on the governor to set a May 13 special election so the district would be represented after DeLay leaves. Perry, a Republican, refused without elaborating.

SBA to investigate lobbying allegations

WASHINGTON --The Small Business Administration will investigate allegations by a Republican senator that agency employees illegally lobbied special interest groups to sway the outcome of a congressional inquiry. Raul Cisneros, the agency's top spokesman, confirmed yesterday that SBA officials have asked their inspector general to see whether laws were violated when employees essentially asked interest groups to pressure Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who is chairman of a Senate Homeland Security oversight panel. Federal law prohibits agencies from using tax dollars to lobby Congress, either directly or indirectly.

Acting head of FEMA is made permanent

WASHINGTON --With hurricane season two months away, President Bush nominated yesterday the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be permanent head of the disaster response agency. R. David Paulison, a 30-year firefighter, took over at FEMA in September when Bush named him to replace the beleaguered Michael Brown. If confirmed by the Senate, Paulison would be undersecretary for federal emergency management at the Homeland Security Department.

No smoke alarms, 5 die in Poconos fire

HONESDALE, Pa. --A fire yesterday in a house with inoperative smoke alarms killed five people, including three young children, in this quaint village in the Pocono Mountains. Fire officials were called to the home shortly after 6 a.m. and quickly put out the blaze. But when they entered the house, the victims were already dead. "They found one, then another one and then another one until they had a total of five," Fire Chief Stanton Pratt said. Officials said the batteries in the home's smoke alarms were dead.

3 from ski patrol die in Calif. fissure

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. --Three members of a ski patrol team died yesterday when they plunged into a volcanic fissure at the Mammoth Mountain resort, a resort spokeswoman said. Four patrol members were inspecting the mountain after heavy snowstorms, fencing off the gap in the rock, when they fell 21 feet into the volcanic vent. Spokeswoman Joani Lynch said one of the patrol members survived the accident on the 11,053-foot peak in the Eastern Sierra.

Bolton says U.S. looks at Iran options

WASHINGTON --The Bush administration is considering diplomatic and economic options to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons if diplomacy at the United Nations fails, and it envisions sanctions if Tehran won't back down, U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton said yesterday. "It would be, I think, simply prudent to be looking at other options," Bolton said at a breakfast meeting of the State Department Correspondents Association. He said the United States could suspend import allowances for Iranian rugs and pistachios, which were relaxed years ago in hopes of stimulating small business in Iran, and consider a crackdown on alleged financial crimes.

From wire services

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