White House vows to remain silent

The White House yesterday rebuffed calls for a staff shakeup, the firing of Karl Rove and an apology by President Bush for the role of senior administration officials in the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Three days after the indictment and resignation of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, the administration said it would have to remain silent as long as there was an investigation of the leak and legal proceeding under way. Bush ignored reporters’ questions during an Oval Office meeting with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

“We don’t want to do anything from here that could prejudice the opportunity for there to be a fair and impartial trial,” presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Friday’s indictment of I. Lewis Libby and the continuing investigation of Rove were a blow to Bush’s already troubled presidency. The president’s approval rating has tumbled to the lowest point since he took office and Americans are unhappy about high energy prices, the costly war in Iraq and economic uncertainties.

Republicans and Democrats alike have urged Bush to begin remaking his presidency by bringing in fresh advisers with new energy to replace members of a team worn down by years of campaigning and governing. But administration officials said that was not in the works.



Pretrial investigation opened in fragging case

A pretrial investigation opened yesterday for a U.S. Army sergeant charged with killing two superior officers in Iraq, with a witness testifying that the defendant told him he wanted to kill one of the victims.

Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez, of Troy, N.Y., faces murder charges in the June 7 killing of Capt. Philip Esposito and Lt. Louis Allen in an explosion at Forward Operating Base Danger, near the central Iraqi city of Tikrit, the hometown of the deposed Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, some 80 miles north of Baghdad.

It is believed to be the first case of an American soldier in Iraq accused of “fragging” his superiors. Fragging is a Vietnam War-era term used to refer to soldiers killing their superiors.


MANAGUA, Nicaragua

Beta’s wrath leaves thousands in shelters

Thousands of people remained in shelters in Nicaragua and Honduras yesterday after Hurricane Beta swept across the Central American nations, flooding rivers, downing trees and destroying houses, churches, medical centers and schools.

The remnants of Beta drifted over the eastern Pacific yesterday. Forecasters said there was a slight chance the storm could reform over the ocean.

Packing winds up to 105 mph, Beta dumped as much as 15 inches of rain in Nicaragua and neighboring Honduras, where its outer bands of rain caused four rivers to overflow, isolated communities and damaged crops.


Report: Flaws in Wal-Mart settlement

There were serious breakdowns in a government settlement with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. over child labor law violations – including allowing attorneys for the world’s largest retailer to write key parts of the deal, according to a Labor Department inspector general report yesterday. The inspector general attributed the problems to inadequate management controls and guidelines.

As a result, Wal-Mart received “significant concessions” in the $135,540 settlement made public in February, the report said. Among them: The Labor Department was required to notify the retail giant 15 days in advance of opening an audit or investigation, something that’s inconsistent with guidelines for the department’s Wage and Hour Division.


– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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