Isnin, 10 Januari 2011

The Malaysian Insider :: World

The Malaysian Insider :: World

US House leader DeLay gets 3-year prison term

Posted: 10 Jan 2011 05:51 PM PST

Former House Majority leader US Representative Tom Delay walks out of the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill on the day his resignation takes effect in Washington on June 9, 2006. — Reuters pic

AUSTIN, Jan 11 — Former US House of Representatives Republican Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday after a jury found him guilty of money laundering and conspiracy.

Senior Judge Pat Priest sentenced DeLay, 63, to a five-year sentence for money laundering and three years for conspiracy for a scheme to illegally funnel money to Republican Texas candidates in 2002.

The judge allowed DeLay to serve 10 years probation in lieu of the five-year term, but ordered him to serve the three-year term with no probation.

"Judge, I can't be remorseful for something I don't think I did," DeLay said at the hearing before Priest handed down the sentence. "I fought the fight, ran the race and kept the faith."

Due to a potentially lengthy appeals process, it could be years before DeLay serves time, prosecutor Gary Cobb said.

DeLay, dubbed "The Hammer" for his hard-driving style, was found guilty on November 24 of conspiring to illegally funnel US$190,000 (RM583,000) in corporate campaign donations to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in the 2002 elections.

Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's attorney, said he plans to appeal the conviction and the sentence. "This will not stand," DeGuerin told reporters as he left the courtroom.

As his wife and daughter cried openly, DeLay was led out of the courtroom by deputies, but he is expected to remain free after posting bond.

Prosecutors said DeLay's sentence was appropriate.

"Corporate contributions are illegal in Texas, and you can't give them to candidates directly and you can't give them to candidates indirectly," Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said.

A former owner of a pest control company, DeLay was elected to the House of Representatives in 1984 and rose eventually to the No. 2 position in the chamber behind the speaker. He earned a reputation as a master vote-counter and prolific fundraiser.

In 1994, DeLay was part of "Republican Revolution" that won control of the House for the first time in 40 years. He then won the job of House majority whip, making him the chamber's third-ranking Republican, and became the party leader in 2005.

He resigned from the House in 2006 amid links with Jack Abramoff, a former Republican lobbyist snared in a federal investigation of influence peddling on Capitol Hill. Two of DeLay's ex-aides pleaded guilty to corruption. Delay denied any wrongdoing. — Reuters



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Biden on surprise Afghan trip for talks with Karzai

Posted: 10 Jan 2011 05:29 PM PST

US Vice president Joe Biden (centre), US ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry (right) and General David Petraeus, commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, talk to the media at the US embassy in Kabul on January 10, 2011. — Reuters pic

KABUL, Jan 11 — US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Afghanistan yesterday on a surprise trip to assess a shift in security operations to Afghan forces before a gradual US troop withdrawal starts in July.

Biden, whose trip was not announced in advance for security reasons, is due to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai for talks today.

Violence is at its worst in the near-decade-long war against a Taliban-led insurgency, with the insurgency spreading from traditional strongholds in the south and east into once-peaceful areas in the north and west.

"The visit comes at an important time. This is a pivot point in our policy," a senior administration official travelling with Biden told reports on board Air Force Two.

"We moved from a surge last year to the transition to Afghan lead that we'll be starting this year and concluding in 2014. So what he (Biden) wants to do in the first instance is to assess the progress we're making towards transition."

Nato leaders agreed in November to Karzai's request to end combat operations and hand security responsibilities to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

With the US public growing weary of a conflict that costs taxpayers some US$113 billion (RM346.9 billion) a year, US President Barack Obama has promised to begin withdrawing US troops from July.

Critics, including some Republicans in the US Congress, say the Democratic president's target is too ambitious, stressing that setting a deadline only emboldens the insurgents.

Upon landing at Kabul's airport, Biden flew in a helicopter to the US Embassy for 1 hour and 45 minutes of talks with General David Petraeus, chief of US forces in Afghanistan and US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.


Today, Biden was to meet US troops and civilians, and tour an Afghan National Army Training Centre. He is due to have lunch with Karzai and other officials and meet Karzai privately.

The trip is Biden's first time in Afghanistan as vice president. He was last in the country in January 2009.

Obama visited Afghanistan last month. He was scheduled to talk with Karzai, but the face-to-face meeting was cancelled because bad weather prevented their travel.

A review by Obama last month found US and Nato forces were making headway against the Taliban and al Qaeda, but serious challenges remained. It said the Taliban's momentum had been arrested in much of Afghanistan and reversed in some areas.

The review also said the United States was on track to begin the gradual withdrawal of its troops — numbering about 97,000 in a total foreign force of some 150,000 — in July. The pace and scope of the drawdown remains unclear.

"We're not here to govern Afghanistan, we're not here to nation build, we're not here to secure Afghanistan for the Afghans. Those are responsibilities that belong to the Afghans," the senior administration official said.

"The only purpose of our mission now is to help put the Afghans in a position where they can fully assume the responsibilities of governing the country and securing the country," the official said.

He would not discuss what message Biden might intend to deliver to Karzai, or whether corruption charges were on the vice president's agenda.

The United States is temporarily sending 1,400 more Marines to Afghanistan in an effort to preserve fragile security gains, but overall US troop levels will not surpass previously announced limits, the Pentagon said last week. — Reuters


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