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Eric Holder (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Contempt

And other news briefs

Issue: "2012 Books Issue," July 14, 2012

A House committee voted June 20 to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to a botched federal gunrunning operation that led to the death of a federal agent. Holder, the first attorney general to face a contempt vote since 1998, awaited a late June vote in the full House relating to Operation Fast and Furious.

President Obama's use of executive privilege to withhold the documents requested by a House committee-his first-puts him in the middle of a controversy from which he had remained detached. Obama, when a U.S. senator in 2007, criticized Bush for using executive privilege over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. Obama cited then "a tendency on the part of this administration to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there's something a little shaky that's taking place."

In March 2011, Obama said he wasn't informed about the operation that distributed more than 2,000 guns to a Mexican drug-trafficking network for the purpose of tracking them. The guns later turned up at numerous violent crime scenes, including one that killed a U.S. border agent.

Wild wildfire season

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With wildfires growing in central Colorado, the phone recording at Glen Eyrie, a popular retreat center operated by The Navigators, announced last week the conference center was closed until further notice. Authorities evacuated it and surrounding sites and residences, including popular outdoor venues like Garden of the Gods, as the Waldo Canyon Fire gained strength.

The fire that began June 23 by June 26 had consumed over 5,000 acres. C-130s from nearby Peterson Air Force Base battled the blazes, along with hundreds of firefighters, but the weather provided little help: Daytime temperatures soared into the upper 90s and winds gusted at 30 mph. With residential sections of Colorado Springs and surrounding areas evacuated, the fire had consumed structures and resulted in at least one death by mid-week, but persistent smoke caused health problems and authorities were cautious: "This is still a very dangerous situation, still unpredictable. It has a mind of its own," El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said of the fire.

Across Colorado and Utah wildfires have forced over 35,000 residents to evacuate. Extremely dry conditions follow a mild winter with little snowfall, leaving Rocky Mountain ridges with scant moisture protection heading into a normally dry summer season.

Naming terrorists

The State Department designated three members of Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorist group, including Abubakar Shekau, the group's most visible leader, as global terrorists under U.S. law. The group has been responsible for killing more than 1,000 in the last 18 months, U.S. officials said in a statement, but the United States has designated Boko Haram itself a terrorist group. Critics have said the Obama administration has been slow to act against Boko Haram, which has stepped up attacks on Christian churches in recent months.

Many churches closed in central and northern Nigeria on June 24, after Boko Haram threatened major attacks. A June bombing in Kaduna state resulted in 92 deaths, along with back-to-back bombings in Bauchi and Jos that left scores dead.

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