Senate ethics panel issues scathing report of Ensign

Former Sen. John Ensign of Nevada broke federal law, made false statements to the Federal Election Commission and obstructed a Senate Ethics Committee’s investigation into his conduct, the panel said Thursday in a scathing report that sent the matter to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.

The former Republican lawmaker “created a web of deceit that entangled and compromised numerous people,” the committee said, adding that it had assembled enough evidence to warrant possible expulsion had Ensign not resigned.

Ensign quit May 3, one day before he was to have testified under oath about an affair with the wife of a top aide, the aide’s subsequent lobbying of Ensign’s office, and a payment from Ensign’s parents to the one-time aide’s family.

The committee asked the FEC to conduct its own investigation, concluding that Ensign made false statements to the agency about the payment to the former aide’s family.

The Senate committee hired former federal prosecutor Carol Elder Bruce to complete its investigation and relied on her findings in making the referrals to the Justice Department and FEC.


Romney defends Massachusetts health care law he backed

Mitt Romney says last year’s Democratic-passed health care law is a federal government takeover of health delivery. But he says his somewhat similar Massachusetts law was right for his state.

The likely Republican presidential candidate on Thursday defended the law enacted in 2006 when he was Massachusetts governor. Both the state and federal laws require people to obtain health insurance.

Romney said his program was a state solution to a state problem. He said the Obama-backed law is a power-grab by the federal government to impose a one-size-fits-all plan on all 50 states.

Many conservatives say Romney should distance himself from the Massachusetts law’s mandated insurance coverage.


Unabomber’s personal items to be auctioned

Personal effects of Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, will be auctioned off online later this month with the proceeds going to his victims, the U.S. Marshals Service said Thursday.

Kaczynski was behind a mail bombing spree that spanned nearly 20 years until his arrest in 1996, killing three people and injuring 23 others. The bombings, he said, were designed to attract attention to the erosion of human freedom brought on by modern technology.

The irony of the online auction was not lost on the marshals service. “We will use the technology that Kaczynski railed against in his various manifestos to sell artifacts of his life,” said U.S. Marshal Albert Najera.

Among the items to be auctioned are personal documents, including driver’s licenses, birth certificates, deeds, checks, academic transcripts and photos.

The items also include sunglasses similar to the pair featured in an infamous sketch of the hooded Unabomber suspect.

The auction will begin May 18 and continue through June 2. The online catalog can be viewed at www.gsaauctions.gov beginning May 18.


Court convicts Demjanjuk in Nazi death camp murders

A German court convicted retired U.S. autoworker John Demjanjuk on Thursday of taking part in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews as a Nazi death camp guard, breaking legal ground that could pave the way for the prosecution of many low-level cogs in Hitler’s machinery of destruction.

The 91-year-old Demjanjuk was sentenced to five years in prison on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder – one each for the number of people killed at the Sobibor death camp during the six months in 1943 when he was convicted of standing guard there.

But Demjanjuk will spend no immediate time behind bars. Presiding Judge Ralph Alt ordered him released from custody pending his appeal – a process that could take at least a year.


Province capital orders microchips to control dogs

Guangzhou, capital of China’s most populous province, has ordered dog owners to have microchips implanted in their pets by the end of July as part of efforts to control the number of canines in the city.

The chips will contain information including the name and address of the dog’s owner, its health condition and vaccination history, according to a statement by the government of Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province. The chips will serve as a dog’s legal identity card, it said.

Guangzhou introduced a “one-dog per family” policy in July 2009 and at the same time lowered the cost of registering a dog to 500 yuan for the first year from 10,000 yuan ($1,540). Owners pay 300 yuan for every subsequent year, according to the city’s rules. Since the change, Guangzhou has issued 40,000 dog licenses, the China Daily reported Thursday.

— From news service reports