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Republicans block oil reserve release

House Republicans on Thursday scuttled a bill that Democrats hoped would help lower gasoline prices by forcing the Energy Department to release 70 million barrels of oil – about a three-day supply – from the national stockpile.

Democrats promised that the action would have produced immediate relief at the pump, as was the case with similar releases in 1991, 2000 and 2005. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve now holds about 700 million barrels.

Despite winning a clear 268-157 majority, the measure still lost. Democratic leaders had brought the proposal up for debate under rules requiring a two-thirds vote to pass. But passing the bill by just a majority would have meant allowing Republicans to force a vote on new offshore drilling leases.


Regulators adopt pollution rules

California regulators adopted the world’s toughest pollution rules for ocean-going vessels Thursday, vowing to improve the health of coastal residents and opening a new front in a long battle with the international shipping industry.

The rules, which take effect in 2009, would require ships within 24 nautical miles of California shores to burn low-sulfur diesel instead of the tar-like sludge known as bunker fuel.

International negotiators have struggled for decades to ratchet down pollution from ocean-going vessels, but have been stymied by opposition from shipping conglomerates.

Federal legislation to control vessel emissions in U.S. ports, sponsored by California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, has been opposed by the Bush administration, which favors deferring to future international regulations.


Illegal drug kills more than 1,000

More than 1,000 people died over two years from an illegal version of the painkiller fentanyl, the government reported Thursday in its first national tally of those deaths.

The spike of overdoses seems to have ended, health officials said, pointing to law enforcement’s shutdown of a fentanyl operation in Mexico in 2006.

The wave of fentanyl overdoses first came to light in Chicago in 2005, and by 2006 more clusters were identified in Philadelphia, Detroit and other cities. Hundreds of deaths from the drug were gradually reported, often episodically in local newspapers. Thursday’s report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the toll at 1,013 deaths from early April 2005 through late March 2007.

From wire reports


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Administration seeks to expand immigrant family detention

UPDATED: 9:33 p.m.

The Trump administration is calling for the expanded use of family detention for immigrant parents and children who are stopped along the U.S.-Mexico border, a move decried by advocates as a cruel and ineffective attempt to deter families from coming to the United States.