Lansing
GOP rejects part of Granholm’s plan for this year’s budget

Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants Senate Republicans to put out their own plan for cutting nearly $900 million out of this year’s state budget now that they have rejected part of her budget-balancing plan.

“I can’t negotiate with vapor, when they’ve put out no plan on the other side,” she said during a news conference yesterday morning. “I call on Republican lawmakers to have the backbone and the courage to put their plan on the table.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Ron Jelinek (R-Three Oaks) said after the governor’s news conference that Republicans who control the Senate do have a plan and are willing to sit down with the Democratic governor to discuss it.

“She has to talk to us. We are a part of the process,” he said.

The GOP-led Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday voted along party lines to reject Granholm’s proposed executive order making cuts to the existing budget.

Granholm wants to offset this year’s nearly $900 million deficit through a mix of spending reductions to day care, foster care and other programs; a new 2 percent tax on services such as haircuts and movie tickets starting June 1; delayed funding; and changed accounting practices.

Republican lawmakers object to the tax increase and say they instead want more spending cuts in the budget year that started Oct. 1.

Washington
Pelosi says Bush would need congressional approval to invade Iran

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that President Bush lacks the authority to invade Iran without specific approval from Congress, a fresh challenge to the commander in chief on the eve of a symbolic vote critical of his troop buildup in Iraq.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) noted that Bush consistently said he supports a diplomatic resolution to differences with Iran “and I take him at his word.”

At the same time, she said, “I do believe that Congress should assert itself, though, and make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the president, any president, to go into Iran.”

Pelosi spoke in an interview in the Capitol as lawmakers plowed through a third day of marathon debate in the House on a nonbinding measure opposing the administration’s plan to increase troop strength in Iraq – and as Democrats readied a more provocative challenge to the president.

Washington
Investigators say billions of dollars wasted in Iraq

About $10 billion has been squandered by the U.S. government on Iraq reconstruction aid because of contractor overcharges and unsupported expenses, and federal investigators warned yesterday that significantly more taxpayer money is at risk.

The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.

More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.

“There is no accountability,” said David M. Walker, who heads the auditing arm of Congress. “Organizations charged with overseeing contracts are not held accountable. Contractors are not held accountable. The individuals responsible are not held accountable.

“People should be rewarded when they do a good job. But when things don’t go right, there have to be consequences,” he said.

London
Cleopatra’s beauty called into question

So maybe Mark Antony loved Cleopatra for her mind.

That is the conclusion being drawn by academics at Britain’s University of Newcastle from a Roman denarius coin which depicts the celebrated queen of Egypt as a sharp-nosed, thin-lipped woman with a protruding chin.

In short, a fair match for the hook-nosed, thick-necked Mark Antony on the other side of the coin, which went on public display yesterday at the university’s Shefton Museum.

Replicas of the denarius can be found on eBay, and images on other ancient coins are no more flattering.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

Notable Number
385 Million

The amount of money in dollars that Chinese con man Wang Zhendong swindled from investors in an ant-breeding scam. Ants, which are used in some traditional Chinese medicines, fetch a high price in China. Wang sold ant-breeding kits for inflated prices, claiming that investors would collect returns of up to 60 percent. Chinese courts sentenced Wang to death this week, CBS reported.

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