Federal board says chemical regulation lax
The Environmental Protection Agency has displayed a lack of urgency in the wake of a deadly Texas fertilizer plant explosion and must regulate potentially explosive chemicals immediately, legislators said Thursday. The Chemical Safety Board, one of several federal agencies investigating the April explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. that killed 15 people, presented its preliminary findings to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. It reported that the decades-old standards used to regulate potentially dangerous fertilizer chemicals are far weaker than those used by other countries. The board has no regulatory authority.
Hobby Lobby can challenge law
A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Hobby Lobby stores have a good case that the federal health care law violates their religious beliefs in ordering them to provide birth control to employees, and that they shouldn't be subject to millions in fines while their claim is considered. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver decided the Oklahoma City arts and crafts chain can proceed with its lawsuit to overturn the birth-control coverage mandate. The judges unanimously sent the case back to a lower court in Oklahoma that had said Hobby Lobby must comply with the requirement or start paying millions in fines next week.
Official: Iraq open to military aid
Iraq is open to greater American military cooperation as U.S. commanders explore ways to boost security assistance to the country, a top Iraqi official said Thursday as a fresh wave of bombings killed 16 people. The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, has recommended that Amercian military commanders look for ways to help improve the military capabilities of Iraq and Lebanon, which both face the risk of spillover from the civil war in Syria.
Holmes to be anchored to floor
Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes will be restrained during his trial by wearing a harness under his clothes that will be anchored to the floor. A judge ruled Thursday that Holmes must be restrained because he's charged with violent crimes. Defense lawyers asked that Holmes not be shackled because it would make him look like a criminal to jurors.
Washington: Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, N.C., and a political ally of President Barack Obama, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on Thursday to be transportation secretary.
Cairo: Egypt's main opposition coalition rejected the president's offer for dialogue on reconciliation Thursday and insisted on early elections, ratcheting up pressure on Mohammed Morsi days ahead of planned mass protests seeking his ouster.