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The Bush administration wants to consider relaxing restrictions of how much lead polluters can spew into the air. Why? Because existing environmental policies have lowered the level of lead in the air enough already, according to a draft report (pdf) by the Environmental Protection Agency. Why overdo it?

"Given the significantly changed circumstances since lead was listed in 1976," such restrictions on the deadly substance may no longer be needed, the EPA reasons. (A number of corporate interests, including battery manufacturers, have been lobbying the EPA hard to relax its lead emissions rules, as the AP has noted.)

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the perennial bulldog, fired off a letter to the EPA's head yesterday, marveling that he would revoke the national standard for lead and urging him to "renounce this dangerous policy immediately." We've posted a copy of Waxman's letter here.

For the last couple months a great little story has been bubbling on a back burner, threatening to burst into a classic D.C. potboiler: the feds busted a long-time prostitution service operating in the Washington, D.C. area, with the suggestion of ties to lawmakers.

Indeed, it was the madam herself who told a reporter from the Smoking Gun Web site that the Feds must be going after her as part of a larger investigation into "some Duke Cunningham-type bigwig client that got caught up in something[.]"

Our ears perked up. Has our long-lost Duke-connected hooker arrived? Alas, no hard evidence emerged. The madam, Deborah Palfrey, said she never kept records of clients and commanded her employees to destroy records within hours of a rendezvous. And Palfrey hasn't offer up any names from memory.

But now, juicy tidbits from a new 19-page court filing make the story even more tantalizing, with excerpts from the madam's in-house newsletter and more. (We've got the whole filing for your enjoyment, right here.)

We're only lacking one thing: the name of a congressman who used the service.

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The FBI is investigating leaks to the press confirming various inquiries into federal lawmakers, the bureau's chief told Congress yesterday.

In particular, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said he was incensed that details of the investigation into departing Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) became public. Reports AP's Lara Jakes Jordan:

Mueller described himself as "exceptionally disappointed, and that is being charitable, in terms of my response upon hearing about the leak."

On Oct. 13, McClatchy Newspapers reported that the FBI was looking into whether Weldon illegally steered $1 million in contracts to his daughter's lobbying firm. Agents followed up with the raid three days later, in part out of fear that evidence would be destroyed after the investigation was exposed.

Officials also confirmed federal investigations of several other House lawmakers that month, including former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. All three men have maintained their innocence.

Senators scolded Mueller about the leaks. The committee chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the disclosures were "just disastrous" for suspects who have not been charged, much less proven guilty.

Couldn't help but catch the cover of this morning's New York Post on the subway to work. Their characteristically understated take on the ISG's recommendations:

Lawmakers May Reconsider Suspending Habeas Corpus for Detainees "The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee signaled this week that he'll join prominent Democrats in seeking to restore legal rights to hundreds of suspected terrorists confined at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

"While the measure to restore the right of habeas corpus has almost no chance of passing before Congress adjourns later this week, the message is clear: When Democrats take over in early January, the issue could resurface.

"The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which Bush signed into law in October, prevents detainees who aren't U.S. citizens from challenging their detentions in civilian courts. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter [R-PA] who voted for the legislation despite his opposition to stripping such rights from detainees, on Tuesday reintroduced legislation to restore those rights. A similar measure sponsored by Specter failed by three votes in October.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Specter said he was reintroducing the issue to prevent federal courts from striking down the legislation, which some of the detainees' attorneys have challenged." (McClatchy Newspapers)

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From Roll Call (sub. req.) -- who says white-collar defense lawyers should get all the money? Spokespeople gotta eat, too:

With Hurricane Subpoena bearing down on Capitol Hill, veteran GOP spin masters Mark Corallo and Barbara Comstock are hitching their wagons to help Republicans fight the storm and — well, sure — rake in some dough.

Corallo and Comstock are forming the crisis management firm Corallo Comstock, Inc. They aim to open shop on Jan. 1, just before the new Democratic chairmen will start banging their gavels and demanding information from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Just in time for subpoena season,” Corallo told HOH.

Barbara Comstock and Mark Carallo, of course, are seasoned professionals who have issued "no comment"s on behalf of such notable clients as Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Tom DeLay (R-TX), and Karl Rove. More at ThinkProgress.

Guess what: the U.S. occupation is suffering from a painful lack of Arabic speakers. In the Iraq Survey Group's report, they recommend the government "accord the highest possible priority" to language training and cultural proficiency.

In his press briefing this afternoon, White House flack Tony Snow brought up the recommendation, but squirmed when pushed to admit that it was a criticism of the administration. Ignoring the fact that we're five years out from 9/11, Snow averred that the administration could hardly be expected to "snap its fingers" and make Arabic linguists appear. Watch:

"You don't snap your fingers and have the Arabic speakers you need overnight." As my TPM colleague Eric noted, it's too bad the military's been kicking out Arabic speakers who they think snap their fingers a little too much.

Are you a federal government employee? You've probably been asked -- more than once -- to help the mighty Iraq rebuilding effort by volunteering to fill a post over there for a few months.

Apparently, folks haven't been stepping up to the plate. So you civil servants might not have a choice in the matter, if the Iraq Study Group gets its way. From the final report, Recommendation #74 reads:

In the short term, if not enough civilians volunteer to fill key positions in Iraq, civilian agencies must fill those positions with directed assignments. Steps should be taken to mitigate familial or financial hardships posed by directed assignments, including tax exclusions similar to those authorized for U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq.

So the government might force you, a lanyard-swinging desk jockey, to serve in the fiery chaos of a faraway land, away from friends and family, at risk of death. Silver lining: tax break!

The waning days of the 109th Congress, from The Chicago Tribune:

About the only Republican spotted with a joyous mood was Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, who said he had just returned from South Carolina where he had been "rolling and rocking" in his campaign for the presidency.

Hunter rode the House subway to the Rayburn Office Building, where he immediately ran into Rep. James Leach (R-Iowa), a 30-year veteran who lost his seat in the Democratic victory. Leach, like the other losers, said he has been consigned to a small office in an isolated corridor of the basement, with enough room for a computer, table and chair.

This corridor is like a losers' ghetto, a big comedown for once-powerful members like Leach, considered one of the most thoughtful members of the House.

They talked politics for a while and Leach offered this advice: The value of experience, he told Hunter, is "learning what does not work."

Asked to recall highlights of his career, Leach cited passage of bills dealing with financial modernization, AIDS prevention, aid to poor countries and Internet gambling restrictions. He said his biggest regret is the development of divisive, ideological politics. "I see both parties as mirror images of each other," he said.

And then he headed toward his tiny office in the corridor of lame ducks.

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency are set to resign, knowing their agency will face multiple investigations from a Democratic Congress, according to the Evans Novak Political Report.

(We don't subscribe, so we have to take Political Wire's word for it.)

I'd expect to see a few more stories like this before Hill Dems even have a chance to pick up their gavels in January.