The Daily Muck

December 5, 2008 9:08 a.m.

Some things don’t change. The Bush administration has just 46 days before its time expires, but that isn’t stopping it from running roughshod over Congress in an effort to loosen environmental regulation. The Interior Department issued a new rule Thursday that prevents Congress from blocking the use of federal land for mining and drilling. The law, invoked just five times since its creation in 1976, was used this summer to place a moratorium on mining and drilling on lands near the Grand Canyon. (New York Times)

The Chicago Tribune reports on U.S. involvement in the indiscriminate roundup and imprisonment in the Horn of Africa of 100 people, including 22 women and children, who fled Somalia last year. The “snatch-and-jail operation,” conducted in the name of anti-terrorism, captured some militants, but most of the detainees have been released without charge. Kenya and Ethiopia led the program, dubbed “Africa’s Guantanamo,” but European diplomats, human-rights groups, and detainees say the C.I.A. and F.B.I. interrogated many of the captives. (Chicago Tribune)

Arizona GOP Rep. Rick Renzi pleaded not guilty Thursday to new charges brought against him alleging that he participated in an insurance scam. He has already been indicted for using his legislative position to engineer a land swap. The new charges accuse Renzi of bilking $400,000 from clients of his insurance company. (MSNBC)The Justice Department may use a drug law to prosecute guards for Blackwater, the largest private U.S. security firm working in Iraq, for the 2007 shooting of Baghdad civilians. The law allows judges to impose 30-year sentences for using machine guns to commit a crime, but since the crime took place overseas and Blackwater is employed by the State Department, the legal issues remain murky. Blackwater has said its guards were provoked into the shooting. The guards, not the company, face criminal charges. (AP)

1000 Asian men lured to Iraq by the promise of work will be sent home, after reports broke earlier this week about their squalid living conditions and lack of work and pay. But the news manifested itself in protests against the Kuwaiti company Najiaa, a subcontractor for the U.S. military, because the men, many of whom paid sizable sums to get to Iraq, are refusing to return home without compensation. Najiaa is a subcontractor for the scandal-ridden KBR Inc., a former Halliburton subsidiary. In addition to a suit filed Wednesday by 16 National Guardsmen that says KBR knowingly exposed employees to a carcinogen, the company faces suit from a civilian claiming that it intentionally supplied food and water “that was expired, spoiled, rotten, or that may have been contaminated with shrapnel, or other materials.” (McClatchy/AFP)

Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, a Republican, was fined $29,000, after it was found that he violated state ethics laws by paying a heavily discounted legal fee to the lawyers who successfully defended him for promoting Harriet Miers’ nomination to U.S. Supreme Court. Under Texas law, justices cannot make public political endorsements. (Austin American Statesman)

Democrats say the defense of Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who said Wednesday that employees who were involved with the Bush administration’s torture policies did so in the belief that they were acting lawfully, overlooks significant internal opposition to the program. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Mukasey yesterday asking for clarification. (The Hill)

The Pentagon, the nation’s largest polluter, must comply with year-old EPA orders to clean up three military sites tainted by toxic chemicals, according to a letter issued yesterday by the Department of Justice. As Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), House Energy and Commerce Committee chair, put it: “Even the Bush Department of Justice is now telling the Department of Defense that it is not above the law.” (Washington Post)

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