Nation briefs 2/28/06

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

AFL-CIO partners with largest teachers' union

CORONADO, Calif. -- The AFL-CIO, invigorated by a new alliance with the nation's largest teachers union, said Monday that it would spend $40 million this year to elect labor-friendly candidates. The announcement of the political plans came the same day that the AFL-CIO, a federation of more than 50 unions representing about 9 million workers, announced a partnership with the nation's largest teacher's union, the National Education Association. The 2.8-million-member NEA agreed to allow its local affiliates to join the AFL-CIO, though the national union does not plan to join the federation at this point.

Texas redistricting issue goes to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON -- In less than three years, a Republican-imposed redistricting of Texas' congressional districts strengthened the GOP grip on Congress, hastened former Majority Leader Tom DeLay's fall from power and triggered a partisan clash over the voting rights of blacks and Hispanics. Now the Supreme Court will consider whether it was constitutional as well as controversial. In legal terms, the dispute turns largely on this: Whether the Republican maneuver in 2003 crossed the line between "excessive partisanship -- which is unconstitutional -- and permissible partisanship -- which is not unconstitutional," according to Guy-Uriel E. Charles, a law professor who summarized the case in an American Bar Association publication.

Document: Coast Guard had doubts on ports deal

WASHINGTON -- Citing broad gaps in U.S. intelligence, the Coast Guard cautioned the Bush administration weeks ago that it could not determine whether a United Arab Emirates-based company seeking a stake in some U.S. port operations might support terrorist operations. The disclosure came during a hearing Monday on Dubai-owned DP World's plans to take over significant operations at six leading U.S. ports. The Bush administration said the Coast Guard's concerns were raised during its review of the deal, which it approved Jan. 17, and that all those questions were resolved.

White House rejects call for special counsel on NSA

WASHINGTON -- The White House on Monday rejected the call by several House Democrats for a special counsel to investigate the Bush administration's eavesdropping program. In a six-page letter, the Democrats said the special counsel should investigate any possible violation of federal criminal law, noting that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act says the monitoring of U.S. citizens and residents -- without a warrant -- is punishable by imprisonment. Bush administration officials have argued the program does not fall within that law. They say Bush was exercising his constitutional authority as commander in chief when he allowed the National Security Agency to monitor -- without court approval -- the international calls and e-mails of people inside the United States when one party may be linked to terrorism.

-- From wire reports

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