Around the Nation

Around the Nation

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Senate May Convene One Minnesotan Short

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The U.S. Senate race in Minnesota will not be decided this year, officials announced Tuesday, and there is a good chance the new Congress will be sworn in before a winner is announced.

The state Canvassing Board scheduled a Jan. 5 meeting, and its chairman said the panel's work could spill into Jan. 6 -- the day the next Congress convenes.

Democratic challenger Al Franken holds a slim lead over Republican Sen. Norm Coleman with an increasingly small number of ballots yet to be scrutinized. Franken finished the day up 47 votes, according to a preliminary report by the secretary of state's office. An earlier report by the office had placed the margin at 48 votes, but the canvassing board made one correction, costing Franken a vote.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said there is no way the board will certify a winner this year. Counties have until Dec. 31 to forward uncounted absentee ballots to the board for possible inclusion. Ritchie's office and the campaigns could agree to extend that deadline a few days.

Bush Salutes Troops In Radio Address

Heading into his final Christmas in office, President Bush says that the nation should remember that the holidays are a time to thank the men and women of the military for their sacrifice.

"Regardless of where they are, our men and women in uniform and the families who support them remind us of a clear lesson: Defending freedom is a full-time job," the president said in his Saturday radio address, released in advance of Christmas by the White House.

"Our enemies do not take holidays," Bush said. "So the members of our armed forces stand ready to protect our freedom at any hour. For their service, they have the thanks of a grateful nation -- this Christmas and always."

Lawsuit Claims Firing Over 'Merry Christmas'

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- A Christian woman says she was fired from her job because she greeted callers with "Merry Christmas," but the vacation rental company that dismissed her says the woman is just a disgruntled employee.

Tonia Thomas, 35, filed a federal complaint that accuses the company of religious discrimination. The Panama City, Fla., woman said she refused to say "Happy holidays" and was fired, even after offering to use the company's non-holiday greeting.

"I hold my core Christian values to a high standard, and I absolutely refuse to give in on the basis of values. All I wanted was to be able to say 'Merry Christmas' or to acknowledge no holidays," she said. "As a Christian, I don't recognize any other holidays."

Thomas said she is Baptist.

"We are a Christian company, and we celebrate Christmas," said Andy Phillips, the president of Counts-Oakes Resort Properties. Phillips said that Thomas is "a disgruntled employee" presenting a one-sided version of what happened when she was fired Dec. 10.

Texas Says Sect Abused Girls

SAN ANTONIO -- A dozen girls were sexually abused at a polygamist group's ranch targeted in a high-profile raid this spring, according to Texas child welfare officials, who also said that parents neglected more than 250 other children living there by doing nothing to protect them from becoming future victims. The Department of Family and Protective Services concluded there was evidence that 12 girls, ages 12 to 15, were "spiritually" married to adult men in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which runs the Yearning for Zion Ranch in West Texas. Seven of the girls had one or more children, the agency said. Its findings, although shared with law enforcement, are separate from ongoing criminal cases. FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop disputed the findings, saying the department "has made many allegations that it's never been able to back up."

Mining Firm to Pay $4.2 Million

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Massey Energy subsidiary has agreed to pay $4.2 million in civil and criminal penalties and plead guilty to federal charges stemming from a fire that killed two miners at a coal mine in southern West Virginia in January 2006, the Mine Safety and Health Administration said. U.S. Attorney Charles Miller did not rule out the possibility that individuals might also be charged with violating federal mine safety laws. MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said the $1.7 million civil penalty was the agency's highest to date against a coal company. The $2.5 million criminal penalty was the second-highest.

Army Stops Using Wound Agent

Until more testing can be done, Army medics are being told to stop using a new product just sent to the war front to help control bleeding among wounded troops. Officials were in the process of distributing about 17,000 packets of WoundStat, granules that are poured into wounds when special bandages, tourniquets or other efforts won't work. But a recent study showed that, if used directly on injured blood vessels, the granules may lead to harmful blood clots, officials said. The maker of WoundStat, TraumaCure of Bethesda, had no comment.

-- From News Services

© 2008 The Washington Post Company