Former Democratic congressman William Jefferson was convicted yesterday on 11 of 16 criminal counts on charges stemming from soliciting bribes in exchange for official acts. “In July 2005, FBI agents filmed Jefferson taking $100,000 in bribes from a government informant. In a subsequent raid, agents found $90,000 in marked money in the freezer of Jefferson’s Virginia home.”
The Obama administration plans to announce an ambitious plan today to “overhaul the much-criticized way the nation detains immigration violators, trying to transform it from a patchwork of jail and prison cells to what its new chief called a ‘truly civil detention system.’” “The plan aims to establish more centralized authority over the system, which holds about 400,000 immigration detainees over the course of a year.”
“Pressed by industry lobbyists, White House officials on Wednesday assured drug makers that the administration stood by a behind-the-scenes deal to block any Congressional effort to extract cost savings from them beyond an agreed-upon $80 billion.” The commitment may “irk some of the administration’s Congressional allies who have an eye on drug companies’ profits as” a way to pay for reform.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today in Kenya that it was a “great regret” the U.S. has not yet signed on to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. President Clinton signed the treaty which President Bush later rejected. “I think we could have worked out some of the challenges that are raised concerning our membership,” Clinton said. “But that has not yet come to pass.”
The American Psychological Association released a report yesterday saying “that there is little evidence that efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay or lesbian to heterosexual are effective.” The organization’s Council of Representatives also passed a resolution “urging mental health professionals not to recommend to their clients that they can change their sexual orientation.”
The U.S. has asked Israel to freeze West Bank settlements for one year “to prod Arab countries to take steps toward normalizing relations with the Jewish state.” Middle East envoy George Mitchell made the proposal last week during talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel is said to prefer a six month freeze.
The Obama administration awarded more than $2 billion in grants “for manufacturing advanced batteries and other components for electric cars.” The money comes from stimulus funds and is intended to “help companies bolster large-scale manufacturing lines for modern batteries” while “cutting dependence on petroleum, reducing carbon emissions, [and] creating jobs.”
A bipartisan group of senators introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act yesterday, which would “prohibit bias on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.” Lead sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) left open the possibility that the legislation “could be passed by year’s end.”
With the threat of mobs at town hall meetings, lawmakers may be looking for alternatives. A new study by Harvard University suggests that one option for members of Congress may be virtual town halls, where satisfaction levels are “unbelievable.”
And finally: Fox News host Trace Gallagher faced a tough guest in Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) earlier this week, when she tore apart his arguments against the “Cash for Clunkers” program. Looking for a lifeline, Gallagher then ended the interview to turn to important “breaking “news” — a story about Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Watch the segment here.
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