AUSTIN

Judge in case against DeLay removed

In a courtroom victory for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the judge in the campaign-finance case against the former House Republican leader was removed yesterday because of his donations to Democratic candidates and causes.

A semi-retired judge who was called in to hear the dispute, C.W. Bud Duncan, ruled in Delay’s favor without comment. Duncan ordered the appointment of a new judge to preside over the case.

The ruling came after a hearing in which Delay’s attorneys argued that state District Judge Bob Perkins’s political donations created the appearance of bias. Perkins, a Democrat, has contributed to candidates such as John Kerry and the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org.

“The public perception of Judge Perkins’s activities shows him to be on opposite sides of the political fence than Tom DeLay,” defense attorney Dick DeGuerin argued.

Perkins had declined to withdraw from the case, and prosecutor Rick Reed argued at the hearing that DeLay had to prove that a member of the public would have a “reasonable doubt that the judge is impartial” before Perkins could be removed.

 

WASHINGTON

Interest rates raised to highest level in years

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates yesterday to the highest level in more than four years and indicated that more increases were likely in an effort to keep a lid on inflation.

Outgoing Chairman Alan Greenspan and his colleagues voted unanimously to boost the rate banks charge each other by a quarter-point, to 4 percent. It was the 12th increase of that size since the Fed began tightening credit in June 2004.

In response, commercial banks began increasing their prime lending rate by a corresponding amount, to 7 percent. These rates are used for many short-term consumer loans, including certain credit cards and popular home equity lines of credit.

Wall Street shrugged – the Dow Jones industrials closed down 33.30 points.

“The cumulative rise in energy and other costs have the potential to add to inflation pressures,” the Fed said in a brief statement after the meeting.

Fed policymakers suggested that they are more concerned about the prospects of an inflation flare-up than the economy suffering a serious slowdown from the hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf Coast.

 

WASHINGTON

Roberts faces first religious freedom dispute

The Supreme Court debated yesterday whether to let a small congregation in New Mexico worship with hallucinogenic tea, the first religious freedom dispute under Chief Justice John Roberts.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor seemed skeptical of the Bush administration’s claim that the tea can be banned, but she may not be around to vote in the case.

About 130 members of a Brazil-based church have been in a long-running dispute with federal agents who seized their tea in 1999. The hoasca tea, which contains an illegal drug known as DMT, is considered sacred to members of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal.

The Bush administration contends the tea is not only illegal but potentially dangerous.

 

WASHINGTON

Pentagon: Top al-Qaida operative escaped

A man once considered a top al-Qaida operative escaped from a U.S.-run detention facility in Afghanistan and cannot testify against the soldier who allegedly mistreated him, a defense lawyer involved in a prison abuse case said Tuesday.

Omar al-Farouq was one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants in Southeast Asia until Indonesian authorities captured him in the summer of 2002 and turned him over to the United States.

 

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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