Nation Briefs

Prostitution scandal raises questions

WASHINGTON – The Secret Service prostitution scandal escalated Tuesday with the disclosure that at least 20 women had been in hotel rooms with U.S. agents and military personnel just before President Barack Obama arrived for a summit with Latin American leaders. The head of the Secret Service said he had referred the matter to an independent government investigator.

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, shuttling between briefings for lawmakers on Capitol Hill, was peppered with questions about whether the women had access to sensitive information that could have jeopardized Obama’s security.

Sullivan said the 11 Secret Service agents and 10 military personnel under investigation were telling different stories about who the women were. Sullivan has dispatched more investigators to Columbia to interview the women, said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

King said it appeared the agency actually had “really lucked out.” If the women were working for a terrorist organization or other anti-American group, King said, they could have had access to information about the president’s whereabouts or security protocols while in the agents’ rooms.

Obama wants to target oil market manipulation

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama pushed Congress on Tuesday to give oil market regulators more muscle to deter price manipulation by speculators, the latest White House response to determined Republican attacks on administration energy policies amid high gas prices at the pump.

Obama wants Congress to strengthen federal supervision of oil markets, increase penalties for market manipulation and empower regulators to increase the amount of money energy traders are required to put behind their transactions.

“We can’t afford a situation where some speculators can reap millions while millions of American families get the short end of the stick,” Obama said at the White House.

The plan is more likely to draw sharp election-year distinctions with Republicans than have an immediate effect on prices at the pump. The measures seek to boost spending for Wall Street enforcement at a time when congressional Republicans are seeking to limit the reach of federal financial regulations.

Associated Press