AG Holder in contempt for failing
to turn over Justice documents
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Republican-controlled House committee voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over Justice Department documents.
The party-line vote was 23-17. The controversy goes next to the full House, which is to vote next week unless there is some resolution in the meantime.
The vote followed a decision by President Barack Obama earlier in the day to assert executive privilege for the first time in his administration in order to protect the confidentiality of the documents.
The last Cabinet member to be cited by a congressional committee for contempt was Attorney General Janet Reno in President Bill Clinton’s administration.
The recommendation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee next will go to the full House for a vote. Speaker John Boehner’s office said that vote would occur next week unless a resolution concerning the documents is worked out before then.
Immigration roiling presidential contest as Obama and Romney face Latino convention
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- No longer a backburner issue, immigration is roiling the presidential contest as President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney seek to court the nation’s swelling Hispanic population. The outcome could influence political battle lines and shape American
By week’s end, both candidates will address the same Latino political convention in Florida, showcasing contrasting political ideologies at a pivotal time. The Supreme Court is about to render judgment on a get-tough Arizona law, and just last week the Democratic president announced plans to ease deportation rules for some children of illegal immigrants.
With Election Day less than five months away, Hispanic voters are energized and paying close attention, said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which hosts this week’s convention.
"There’s a lot at stake. We’re talking about a significant share of the American electorate that could well decide this election," Vargas said. "It’s only now that both candidates are turning their attention to the Latino vote."
Indeed, both sides are crafting aggressive strategies to appeal to a demographic that is by no means monolithic but has supported Democrats in recent elections. Some Republicans fear -- and Democrats hope -- that Obama could capitalize on this moment to help solidify Hispanic voters as predominantly Democratic this fall and for years to come, much as President Lyndon Johnson hardened the black vote for Democrats as he pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Liberal activists urge Obama to adopt more combative approach to Wall Street
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Message from liberals to President Barack Obama: Your economic message is muddled, go after Wall Street harder.
With the November election looming, some of the president’s most ardent backers are fretting that the incumbent Democrat isn’t successfully making the case for a second term at a time of economic turmoil. And they argue that he should sharpen his message by taking a firm stand against the financial sector’s excesses.
"If he really took on Wall Street big time, if he told the story of how Wall Street are villains, made them the enemy, we could take them down," Paul Sasso, a 47-year-old liberal from San Diego, said this week. "To me, that could win him the election, I’m sure."
It was a sentiment similarly expressed by more than a dozen other self-described progressive activists attending this week’s Take Back the American Dream conference in Washington.
Some said that the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement had been disappointingly absent from Obama’s message. Others implored the president to pressure Republican challenger Mitt Romney to reveal the big-dollar donors who are fueling his campaign by "bundling" contributions from smaller donors. Activists also said they were put off by what they called Obama’s lack of exasperation when efforts to regulate Wall Street post-recession fell short of what many had demanded.
On eve of Court ruling, just a third of Americans support Obama health care law
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Just a third of Americans back President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul on which the Supreme Court is about to pass judgment, a new poll finds. But there is overwhelming support among both supporters and opponents for Congress and the president to begin work on a new bill if the high court strikes down the two-year-old law.
The overall level of support for the law is relatively unchanged in recent months, with 47 percent opposing it. But an Associated Press-GfK poll shows that only 21 percent of independents approve of the law, a new low in AP-GfK polling.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the 2010 law in the next week or so. Most of the law’s major changes aimed at extending health insurance to more than 30 million Americans who now lack coverage have yet to take effect, including the requirement that most people have health insurance or pay a penalty. The insurance mandate has been among the least popular aspects of the law. Provisions that have gone into effect include extended coverage for young adults on their parents’ insurance and relief for seniors with high prescription drug costs.
But whatever people think of the law, they don’t want a Supreme Court ruling against it to be the last word on health care reform. More than three-fourths of Americans want their political leaders to undertake a new effort, rather than leave the health care system alone if the court rules against the law, according to the poll.
Large majorities of both opponents and backers of the law share the view that Congress and the president should start anew. The lowest level of support for new health care legislation comes from people who identify themselves as strong supporters of the tea party. Even in that group, though, nearly 60 percent favor work on a new bill.
Egypt delays announcing winner in presidential race because of complaints
CAIRO (AP) -- Authorities delayed Thursday’s planned announcement of the winner of Egypt’s presidential election, likely for several days, hiking tension as allegations of fraud swirled and each candidate declared he was the victor.
Amid the atmosphere of political confusion, the Muslim Brotherhood claimed there was an organized campaign of allegations against it to mar the election and keep its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, out of the presidency. The accusation raises temperatures and the possibility of a backlash from the Brotherhood if its rival -- former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq -- is declared the winner.
On top of the potentially explosive dispute over the election is murkiness over the latest health scare of the 84-year-old former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in Egypt’s uprising last year and is now serving a life sentence in prison.
Overnight, state media reported that he suffered a stroke and was put on life support. He was transferred to a military hospital from the Cairo prison hospital where he has been kept since his June 2 conviction and sentencing for failing to stop the killing of protesters during the uprising.
Security officials said Wednesday he was in a coma but off life support and his heart and other vital organs were functioning. But the ambiguity over his condition has fueled skepticism among the public, where many already suspect that reports of his deteriorating condition are merely a pretext by security and military officials sympathetic to the former boss to get him out of prison to a more comfortable facility.
Defense for Sandusky rests case without calling him to stand
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) -- Jerry Sandusky’s lawyers finished putting on their case Wednesday without calling the former Penn State assistant football coach to the stand to rebut child sex abuse allegations that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.
The sudden end to the defense’s presentation came on the seventh day of the trial, during which the jury heard from eight men -- now 18 to 28 -- who said the former coach sexually assaulted them after they met him through the charity he founded.
Sandusky is charged with 51 criminal counts for alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years. He has denied the allegations but acknowledged in interviews following his arrest that he had showered with boys.
The accusers described for jurors a range of sexual abuse at his hands, from allegations of grooming and fondling to oral sex and forced anal sex that one young man said left him injured. The identities of two other alleged victims are unknown to investigators.
The defense has suggested the accusers have financial motivations for their claims and were improperly influenced by investigators. They also put on character witnesses who spoke of Sandusky’s sound reputation. Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, took the stand Tuesday and said she never saw him act inappropriately with the accusers.
Fed extends ‘Twist’ program with $267B more to drive long-term rates down
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve is trying again to jolt the American economy out of its stalled recovery. It’s extending a program that aims to encourage borrowing and spending by reducing long-term interest rates.
Wednesday’s decision followed months of concern that the economy is being held back by a weakened job market.
At the end of a two-day policy meeting, the Fed also sharply reduced its forecast for U.S. growth and said it’s prepared to take more action if necessary. It reiterated plans to keep short-term interest rates at record lows until at least late 2014.
"If we’re not seeing a sustained improvement in the labor market, that would require additional action," Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said later in the day.
Wall Street wasn’t impressed by the Fed’s limited response. Stock prices barely budged. And analysts questioned how much benefit the Fed’s latest economy-boosting effort would have, in part because interest rates are already near record lows.
Uruguay government reportedly plans to sell marijuana to registered users
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) -- Uruguay’s government apparently plans to take a step beyond legalizing marijuana: It wants to sell it.
Local news media cited unnamed ruling-party lawmakers saying that the government planned to send a bill to Congress on Wednesday that would legalize marijuana sales as a crime-fighting measure. Only the government would be allowed to sell the marijuana cigarettes, and only to adults registered as users.
Uruguay’s presidency did not immediately confirm the report, but told The Associated Press in an email statement that an official announcement later could include "the marijuana issue."
Uruguayan newspaper reports about the bill said that people who use more than a limited number of marijuana cigarettes would have to undergo drug rehabilitation and that money from taxes on the cigarettes would go to rehabilitating addicts.
The idea is weaken crime by removing profits from drug dealers and diverting users from harder drugs.