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News Briefs

Virginia Governor Rescinds European Heritage Month


Virginia Gov. James Gilmore declared May “European American Heritage and History Month,” then rescinded the proclamation Thursday after learning that it had been requested by a white supremacist group headed by former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.

Administration officials blamed the blunder on staffers who didn’t recognize the name of the group, the National Organization for European American Rights, or its Virginia president, Ron Doggett, a well-known state activist who says whites and blacks should live separately. Gilmore’s signature on the proclamation, aides said, was made by an electronic pen, not by the governor himself.

“David Duke’s group masquerades as an advocacy group for diversity but preaches white supremacy and a dogma of exclusion and hatred,” Gilmore (R) said in a statement issued hastily Thursday morning. “My aims and goals as governor of Virginia are 180 degrees from theirs. A simple mistake was made.”

Gilmore struggled for a year over another contentious proclamation, declaring April “Confederate History Month.” Under pressure from the NAACP and others, Gilmore scrapped that proclamation in favor of one that denounces slavery as the cause of the Civil War and recognizes its black and white combatants.

Bush Sends Fast-Track Trade Plan to Skeptical Congress


President Bush sent his long-awaited trade plan to Congress Thursday, asking lawmakers to grant him broad latitude in negotiating free-trade agreements, which he contends are the key to global prosperity. The proposals got a tepid reception in Congress, where Democrats and some Republicans expressed doubt about Bush’s ability to win approval of the trade package.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Bush said his trade proposals reflect his “strong commitment to open markets around the world for the benefit of American workers, farmers, and businesses.” He urged lawmakers to grant him “trade promotion” authority, known previously as “fast track” authority, which would allow him to negotiate trade deals without subjecting them to amendments.

Democrats said they will not support such authority unless Republicans agree to their demands that any new trade agreements include ironclad protections for workers and the environment. Bush’s trade plan acknowledges the importance of such goals but offers few specifics on how he would achieve them.

While Republicans are generally supportive, some are leery of trade deals of any stripe. One senior Republican aide said Bush will have a “very difficult” time rounding up the votes to pass the package.