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Other News: House Approves Spending Bill

February 25, 2009 at 6:10 PM EDT

JIM LEHRER: The House today approved a huge spending bill for the current fiscal year. It would fund a dozen cabinet departments through the end of September. The bill totaled $410 billion, with major increases for domestic programs. That’s on top of more than $300 billion of new spending included in the economic stimulus package. The measure now goes to the Senate.

The government will miss its own deadline for screening all cargo entering the country. The new secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, confirmed that at a House hearing. Congress had set a timetable for checking freight for radiological and nuclear material. Napolitano said it’s not feasible.

JANET NAPOLITANO, secretary of Homeland Security: My initial view is that the 2012 deadline is not going to work and we’re going to have to work on what we do beyond that. To do 100 percent scanning requires, for example, agreements with many, many countries. There are lots of issues with that.

JIM LEHRER: A leading obstacle to total screening is training U.S. workers to man scanning gear in more than 700 foreign ports.

A religious group in Utah has lost its bid to place its own marker in a Salt Lake City public park. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the city had the right to refuse a monument with the group’s teachings. The park already has a marker with the Ten Commandments on it.

Also today, the state of Hawaii asked the court to let it sell more than 1 million acres of land. That’s despite ownership claims by native Hawaiians. The outcome could set a precedent for other native populations.

Federal agents have arrested more than 750 members of a Mexican drug cartel in sweeps around the U.S. Attorney General Holder announced the raids in 120 cities. They were the culmination of an investigation that’s lasted nearly two years.

ERIC HOLDER, attorney general: It’s clear that, with this operation as successful as it is, as large as it is, the problem that we face is one that will continue. It doesn’t in any way, however, decrease the importance of what we are announcing today. This is an ongoing effort.

JIM LEHRER: Drug enforcement officials also seized more than $59 million in drugs, cash and weaponry during the crackdown.

Human rights was the subject of the day at the State Department, and there were sharp words for China. In an annual report, the department said, “The government of China’s human rights record remained poor, and worsened in some areas.” Last week, Secretary of State Clinton said human rights concerns should not interfere with winning China’s cooperation on climate change and economic recovery.

State Department officials also voiced fresh concerns about nuclear actions in Iran. The Iranians announced engineers carried out a test run on a Russian-built nuclear plant. They said it could be generating electrical power by year’s end.

At a second site, Iran claimed a dramatic increase in its capacity to enrich uranium. The U.S. has warned both sites could generate material for nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such plans.

Glaciers at the bottom of the world are melting faster than anyone thought; that finding from scientists in 60 countries was released by a research committee based in Britain. The group cited satellite imagery and ground-station data. It said huge ice formations across Western Antarctica are sliding into the sea 40 percent to 80 percent faster than previous findings suggested.