Charges filed against Cheney, Gonzales

HOUSTON — The longtime district attorney in Willacy County, Texas, is not retiring from public office quietly after a defeat at the polls this year. Instead he has issued a flurry of indictments against his local political enemies, and then for good measure filed charges against Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. Cheney was charged with "engaging in an organized criminal activity" in connection with the 2001 beating death of an inmate by two fellow inmates at one of the privately run federal detention centers in the county, court officials said. The indictment, brought by the district attorney, Juan Angel Guerra, asserts that Cheney has some culpability in what happened because he had invested in the GEO Corp., which owns and operates the prison. For his part, Gonzales is accused of using his influence to stop an investigation into corruption during the building of another federal jail used by marshals. A lawyer for Cheney, Terrence O'Donnell, called the charge "bizarre." George J. Terwilliger III, a lawyer for Gonzales, said, "This is obviously a bogus charge on its face, as any good prosecutor can recognize."

Race to relax wildlife rules

WASHINGTON — Animals and plants in danger of becoming extinct could lose the protection of government experts who make sure that dams, highways and other projects don't pose a threat, under regulations the Bush administration is set to put in place before President-elect Barack Obama can reverse them. The rules must be published Friday to take effect before Obama is sworn in Jan. 20. Otherwise, he can undo them with the stroke of a pen. The Interior Department has rushed to complete the rules in three months over the objections of lawmakers and environmentalists. The rules eliminate the input of federal wildlife scientists in some endangered species cases, allowing the federal agency in charge of a project to determine whether it is likely to harm endangered wildlife and plants.

Clinton weighing Cabinet post

CHICAGO — Associates of Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband say she's weighing whether to leave the Senate and become secretary of state, believing the job is hers if she wants it. Hoping to ease concerns about possible conflicts of interest, former President Bill Clinton has agreed to publicly disclose the names of all donors who have given more than $250 to his presidential library and foundation.

Herald-Leader wire services