Researchers hope new bridge sensors will prevent disasters

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (Aug. 9, 2012)

— Five years after the devastating collapse of an interstate bridge in Minneapolis, university researchers are developing new wireless technology that would warn of problems that could cause such disasters.

On Aug. 1, 2007, rush-hour traffic moved along the Interstate 35 West bridge in Minneapolis. Suddenly, most of the bridge broke off and fell into the Mississippi River, killing 13 people and injuring 145. It was one of the worst bridge disasters in U.S. history.


Experts: Ruling could hurt Bradley Manning’s defense in WikiLeaks case

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (July 20, 2012)

— Legal experts say WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning’s lawyers might have lost a key element of their defense because of a military judge’s ruling this week that would prevent them from using evidence to contend that there was little “actual harm” from the enormous leak of secret government documents.

Manning, a U.S. soldier, is charged with “aiding the enemy” through leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified documents – the largest in U.S. history – to the secret-exposing website. Recent evidence from dozens of government reports showed the leaks caused little “actual harm” to national security, Manning’s defense says, arguing that it should be able to use that evidence.


Obama hosts perfect Baylor women’s basketball team

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (July 18, 2012)

— President Barack Obama on Wednesday thanked the Baylor University women’s basketball team for helping him get it right – at least in the realm of NCAA basketball.

“I want to thank all the outstanding young women who are behind me, and the coach, for making my bracket look good – at least on the women’s side,” Obama joked. The president had correctly picked the Texas team to beat Notre Dame in the NCAA championship game.


For Ecuadorian village, a struggle to adapt to changing climate

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (July 18, 2012)

— Frosts aren’t on time for the 960 people living in this tiny, remote village, hidden on a chilly, windswept mountain ridge in South America.

A minor problem? Maybe for some. But in the Andean community, 8,800 feet above sea level, frosts – and their impact on crop cycles – are kind of a big deal.

In this agricultural community, crops are planted during the full moon, a tradition meant to help ensure a full harvest. But these days, the harvests aren’t as full.

Village residents say it’s the mark of climate change descending upon the Ayaloman people.


Senate explores limits to schools’ use of restraints, seclusion

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (July 12, 2012)

— Violently restraining and secluding problematic students in small, inescapable areas actually increases assaults and behavior problems, experts on Thursday told a Senate committee that is considering legislation to curtail the practice.

Many schools rely on seclusion and restraint to control students with behavior problems, especially minorities and those with disabilities, according to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.


Congress considers prosecutions of reporters over leaked information

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (July 11, 2012)

— In response to New York Times stories that relied on leaks of sensitive national-security information, a House of Representatives panel on Wednesday discussed legislation that could allow journalists to be prosecuted for disclosing such information.

Army Col. Ken Allard testified to a House Judiciary subcommittee that the extent of national security leaks is “unprecedented” in American history. Recent examples include the Times’ investigations of President Barack Obama’s terrorist “kill list” and American cyberattacks on Iran.


Alaska lawmakers differ on impact of Supreme Court health care decision

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (June 28, 2012)

Alaska’s congressional delegation is at odds over Thursday’s pivotal Supreme Court decision on the Obama administration’s health care act, with Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Don Young already talking about pushing for the law’s repeal while Democrat Mark Begich said it was now time to move on.

Alaska was among the states that challenged the constitutionality of the health care law. Murkowski, the state’s senior senator, said Alaskans will see tax increases and individual rights violations because of the court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act.


Democrats push to give attorney general new election powers

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (June 26, 2012)

— At a time when the Republican House of Representatives is poised to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, Democrats in the Senate want to give him broad new powers in elections.

A group of Senate Democrats pushed Tuesday for a new law to combat the use of campaign tactics meant to deceive people into not voting, tactics often aimed at minorities and other vulnerable groups. As part of the law, the group wants Holder, and any future attorney general, to have the power to prosecute offenders. At the same time, it would require the attorney general to step in as an arbiter of the truth in elections, telling the public about deceptive practices and labeling them as false.


Puerto Rico governor urges federal help in drug war

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (June 21, 2012)

— Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno asked the federal government Thursday for help battling drug trafficking and violence on his island and accused the United States of favoring states over territories in the drug war.

“We feel that Washington has not understood how serious our situation is,” Fortuno, a Republican, told a House Homeland Security subcommittee. When asked if the federal government has ever given him responses to his previous pleas for help, he replied: “None whatsoever.”


Sen. Richard Durbin urges revamping prison solitary confinement

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (June 19, 2012)

— Keeping prisoners locked alone in tiny cells 23 hours a day is inhumane, costly and ineffective, a key U.S. senator said Tuesday in a hearing about ways to revamp the practice of solitary confinement in American prisons.

The hearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee came after a lawsuit last month against solitary-confinement policies at a California prison and a widespread hunger strike against that state’s use of the practice.


Marco Rubio excites faithful at Faith and Freedom Conference

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (June 14, 2012)

— Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who’s often mentioned as a possible vice-presidential running mate, was received warmly by a crowd of influential conservatives Thursday at an annual conference that also drew one of his potential rivals for the VP nod.

Rubio and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, spoke to about 250 conservatives at the annual Faith and Freedom Conference in downtown Washington.

JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon takes responsibility – but not blame – for $2 billion loss

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (June 13, 2012)

— JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told Congress on Wednesday that he bore ultimate responsibility for a $2 billion trading loss, but that the bank might financially penalize some of the executives involved.

Two months ago to the day after telling analysts that concerns about the company’s trading practices were “a tempest in a teapot,” Dimon said he was “dead wrong” and admitted that his management had been flawed. Since Dimon became the chief executive in 2005, he’d pushed for the company’s chief investment office to make more profits with bigger, riskier bets.


Bill seeks to reduce errors in medical radiology

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (June 8, 2012)

— A bipartisan bill working its way through the House of Representatives would create a set of uniform standards for the radiologic technicians who treat patients with cancer and illnesses.

Right now, 11 states and the District of Columbia only have voluntary education and training standards for the technicians who handle medical imaging equipment.


Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Justice Department disagree over misconduct in Ted Stevens case

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (June 6, 2012)

— Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, argued in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday for legislation that would create a uniform standard for prosecutors to disclose all possibly exculpatory evidence to the defense.

In the wake of the case against then-Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, in which prosecutors were shown to have withheld evidence that could have supported him, Murkowski said the problems that the case exposed extended throughout the Department of Justice and could be solved only by establishing uniform standards.


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