Morning News - Serious Deficiencies Edition
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The FBI system for checking the names of immigration applicants suffers from "serious deficiencies" that have produced overwhelming backlogs and questions about the reliability of the information, an internal audit has found. The bureau's name checks have fallen victim to "outdated and inefficient technology" as well as inadequately trained employees, according to a report issued yesterday the Justice Department inspector general. More than 327,000 requests were pending as of March, the report said. The reviews are required before applicants can win citizenship, enter the United States to work and study or receive other benefits. The delays have been the focus of persistent criticism by judges, lawmakers and immigration advocates.
With gasoline prices topping $4 a gallon, Senate Democrats want the government to grab some of the billions of dollars in profits being taken by the major oil companies. Senators were to vote Tuesday on whether to consider a windfall profits tax against the five largest U.S. oil companies and rescind $17 billion in tax breaks the companies expect to enjoy over the next decade."The oil companies need to know that there is a limit on how much profit they can take in this economy," said Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 3 Democrat, warning that if energy prices are not reined in "we're going to find ourselves in a deep recession." But the Democrats are going to have to overcome staunch Republican opposition to any new taxes on the oil industry.The five largest U.S. oil companies earned $36 billion during the first three months of the year.Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will need 60 votes Tuesday to proceed with the oil tax legislation in the face of a threatened GOP filibuster.If he doesn't get 60, he likely will pull the bill from the floor.
Leaders of Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest union won a key victory yesterday when County Council members backed plans to expand labor's role in overseeing the county's $3 billion employee retirement system. Council members on the fiscal committee recommended, in a 2 to 1 preliminary vote, increasing the number of union representatives to five from three on the board that controls Montgomery's retirement investments. The decision followed a rancorous discussion marked by allegations of character defamation, bribery and McCarthyism. The majority of the committee rejected the guidance of the council's top adviser, who had cautioned that the board needs "investment experts, not bargaining experts" and that "politics and pension funds are a toxic mix."
The Bush administration increased its budget request for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by $275 million after the agency's commissioner told Congress that more funding was needed to protect against unsafe products. The money would augment $2.4 billion previously sought by President George W. Bush for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt in a conference call with reporters yesterday. More resources are needed to police food, drugs and medical devices, Leavitt said. Lawmakers have criticized the FDA's performance after the blood thinner heparin was found to have a contaminated ingredient from China. The FDA commissioner, Andrew von Eschenbach wrote a letter last month to Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, saying the agency needed $275 million to beef up inspections of manufacturers.