World and Nation

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Romney unveils plan for energy independence

HOBBS, N.M. — Mitt Romney unveiled an energy plan Thursday that he said would make North America energy independent by 2020, at what would be the end of his second term as president.

His plan would allow states more control over the development of energy resources on federal lands within their borders, as well as aggressively expand offshore oil and gas drilling — including along the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas — as part of a broader effort to reach energy independence.

“This is not some pie-in-the-sky kind of thing,” Romney said, speaking at trucking facility here. “This is a real, achievable objective.”

Using a bar chart behind him to explain his plan, Romney said the first bar represented how much oil North America currently produces — about 15 million barrels per day — which means that the nation still imports about one-third of the energy it uses.

The second bar, he said, represented the 2 million barrels a day the country produces from offshore drilling. Other bars were devoted to tight oil — oil produced from fracking technology; natural gas liquids; biofuels; the oil sands of Canada; and Mexico. His plan, he explained, would take advantage of these other resources, and thus help boost energy production in North America.

—Ashley Parker, The New York Times

FCC approves Verizon’s plan to buy cable firms’ spectrum

Verizon Wireless on Thursday won Federal Communications Commission approval to move forward with its $3.9 billion purchase of airwaves from the country’s largest cable providers.

An FCC panel voted 5-0 to allow Verizon Wireless to expand its wireless data networks by tapping into the mostly unused airwaves of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications. The Justice Department approved the agreement last week, but advised that certain consumer-friendly adjustments should be made.

In addition to the spectrum, which Verizon Wireless said it would use in its new fourth-generation Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) wireless network, the partnership enables the cable companies to market Verizon services and in some cases sell their own services inside Verizon stores. Comcast, for instance, has dispatched its sales force to Verizon Wireless stores in 21 markets.

“This purchase represents a milestone in the industry, and we appreciate the FCC’s diligent work to review and approve the transaction,” Dan Mead, president and chief executive of Verizon Wireless, said in a statement.

—Amy Chozick, The New York Times

Shoe scanners fail tests at US airports

WASHINGTON — After spending millions of dollars testing four different scanning devices that would allow airline passengers to keep their shoes on at security checkpoints, the U.S. government has decided for now that travelers must continue to remove their footwear, by far the leading source of frustration and delays at the airport.

The Transportation Security Administration said it had rejected all four devices because they failed to adequately detect explosives and metal weapons during tests at various airports. One of the scanners is now used in airports in 18 countries.

Last September, Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Homeland Security Department raised hopes when she said that research and development on scanning machines was progressing and that air travelers would eventually be able to keep their shoes on.

But nearly a year later, the TSA, which is overseen by Homeland Security, said it was not any closer to finding a solution. Lisa Farbstein, an agency spokeswoman, would not address why it had rejected the devices.

“But overall, the machines we tested didn’t detect all the materials we were looking for,” she said.

Over the years, the government has tried to streamline airport security and cut down on long lines and complaints. Elderly passengers and children may go through security screenings without taking off any clothing. And a prescreening program at 20 airports allows approved passengers to keep on their shoes, belt or jackets and does not require laptops and toiletries to be removed from carry-on baggage.

The growing use of full-body scanners also allows travelers to go through security lines faster, the government said.

—Ron Nixon, The New York Times

Tobacco companies broke law, judge rules

NEW YORK — A federal judge ruled last week that two tobacco wholesalers illegally skirted paying millions of dollars in taxes by selling truckloads of untaxed cigarettes to retailers on an American Indian reservation on Long Island, which then resold them in the city at cut-rate prices.

The judgment, which could cost the wholesalers up to $15 million in penalties, was the latest victory in a battle that the city and state have waged for years to collect taxes on cigarettes sold by Indian-owned businesses to non-Indians.

The city has argued that the availability of cheaper cigarettes is a public health concern because taxes were in part a way to discourage smoking. Cigarette tax stamps are $43.50 per carton in New York; thus, a pack of cigarettes — about $12 to $14 — includes $4.35 in taxes.

Federal law prohibits wholesalers from selling large quantities of cigarettes without paying state or local taxes on the goods. Wholesalers selling to Indian retailers are exempt from paying the tax if the cigarettes are resold only to other Indians.

In 2006, the city sued three wholesalers — which buy the cigarettes from the manufacturer and resell them to retailers — for violating the law.

—Mosi Secret, The New York Times