Hearings Possible on

Texas Redistricting Plan

The Senate Judiciary Committee tentatively plans to conduct hearings next year on the Justice Department's handling of a 2003 proposal to redraw U.S. House districts in Texas, the panel's chairman said yesterday.

Recently disclosed memos show that senior Justice officials overruled a unanimous staff recommendation, which had concluded the Texas plan would violate the Voting Rights Act by diluting the electoral power of blacks and Hispanics. The redistricting plan, ultimately approved by the Texas legislature, was strongly backed by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).

"I've got it on a prospective agenda" for oversight matters to be addressed in 2006, Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) told Washington Post reporters and editors.

Specter also said he plans to soon introduce legislation that would shield journalists from being compelled to reveal confidential sources in cases that do not involve national security. "I think it has a fair chance of getting done," he said.

Favoritism Is Alleged

In Oil-for-Food Inquiry

An investigator who quit a U.N.-established inquiry into the Iraq oil-for-food scandal charged that the inquiry favored U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, according to a congressional report.

Robert Parton said the panel, led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker, used a "more stringent standard of proof" to evaluate evidence against Annan and gave him preferential treatment. The Volcker panel issued a sharp denial. There was no comment from Annan's office.

Parton, a lawyer and former FBI agent, quit the inquiry in April.

His allegations arose in a 60-page survey by the U.S. House Committee on International Relations. The panel found that the now-defunct $64 billion oil-for-food program was mismanaged and corrupt because of a "failure of leadership" at the world body.

NASA Seeks Firms to

Fly Space Cargo, Crew

With the space shuttles due to retire, NASA is looking for private companies interested in taking over the potentially lucrative business of flying cargo and crew to the international space station.

The U.S. space agency issued a solicitation for proposals Tuesday from firms interested in handling delivery services now provided by the three shuttles, which are due to stop flying by 2010.

House Passes Pact for

U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade

The House voted 327 to 95 to make the small Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain one of the few Middle Eastern countries with a free-trade relationship with the United States.

-- From Staff Reports

and News Services