Yorba Linda, Calif.
More Nixon revelations: President Richard Nixon was more personally involved in efforts to smear his political enemies than was previously believed, archival documents released this week by the Nixon Presidential Library indicate. The materials show that Nixon himself initiated dirty tricks aimed at discrediting opponents of the Vietnam War. A handwritten note by Nixon Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, for instance, refers to an order by Nixon to catch Sen. Ted Kennedy in a “compromising situation.” Another records Nixon’s order to bring the weight of the IRS down on former Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford. Documents also show that Nixon wanted to remove portraits of earlier presidents from the walls of all White House offices.
Mayor charged: Federal agents this week charged the mayor of Alabama’s largest city with taking bribes to steer government business to a favored financial firm. Authorities allege that Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford collected the largess from 2002 to 2006, while serving as a Jefferson County commissioner. Prosecutors say investment banker William Blount made the payments to ensure that his firm got a piece of complex bond financing deals. Those deals backfired, leaving the county $3.2 billion in debt and teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Rather than pay Langford directly, authorities say, Blount covered many of Langford’s bills, including $12,015 for a Rolex watch, $4,250 for designer clothing, and $895 for Salvatore Ferragamo shoes. Langford, a Democrat, denies the charges, calling them politically motivated.
Frat booted after death: Joining a growing national trend, Wabash College, a small men’s school in Indiana, this week disbanded a fraternity following the alcohol-poisoning death of a freshman pledge. Wabash administrators revoked the charter of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity after Johnny Smith, 18, died during a frat-house party that, its hosts boasted, featured several kegs of beer and a punch that “makes girls easier.” Smith’s blood-alcohol level was .40, more than five times Indiana’s legal limit. Fraternity members are twice as likely to binge-drink as other college students, and at least a dozen schools have banned fraternities or barred them from serving alcohol. An estimated 1,400 college students die every year of alcohol-related causes.
A Republican victory: Beleaguered Republicans got a much-needed boost this week when incumbent Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss trounced Democrat Jim Martin in the state’s senatorial runoff election. Chambliss’ win killed Democrats’ hopes of gaining a filibuster-proof, 60-seat majority in the Senate. Many Georgia voters said the prospect of Democratic dominance in Washington motivated them to vote for Chambliss. “If you can’t have a little back-and-forth arguing between the parties,” said Atlanta computer consultant Ron Zukowski, “then the party in power will make mistakes.” In the last remaining unresolved Senate race, Minnesota Democratic challenger Al Franken closed to within 13 votes of incumbent Republican Norm Coleman in the official recount, with 7 percent of the ballots still uncounted.
Terror threat rises: Terrorists will likely attack the U.S. with biological weapons within the next five years, a bipartisan panel declared this week. “Our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing,” the panel said. The report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, led by former Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and Jim Talent of Missouri, said that bioweapons, especially those employing the anthrax virus, posed the most urgent danger. The report singled out Pakistan as the source of the greatest terrorist threat. “Were one to map terrorism and weapons of mass destruction today,” the report states, “all roads would intersect in Pakistan.”
Bowing out: Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez surprised his colleagues this week by announcing that he would not seek a second term in 2010. His planned retirement complicates GOP efforts to regain seats the party lost in the past two elections. With Florida trending Democratic, Martinez was facing a tough campaign. “The call to public service is strong, but the call to home, family, and lifelong friends is even stronger,” said Martinez, 62. Republicans say their best hope of retaining the seat may be former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, but he is considered unlikely to run. Martinez, a former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development, may be best known for his sponsorship of a Senate bill authorizing federal intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman at the center of a bitter right-to-die controversy.