- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2008

ENERGY

26 elder statesmen urge quick action

A bipartisan group of 26 elder statesmen is sending an open letter to both presidential candidates and every member of Congress saying the country faces “a long-term energy crisis” that threatens the security and prosperity of future generations if swift action isn’t taken.

The group includes Henry Kissinger, Colin L. Powell and six other former secretaries of state or defense, former senators of both parties and a half dozen former senior White House advisers and other Cabinet officers for both Republican and Democratic former presidents.

“We must re-examine outdated and entrenched positions,” the group says in the letter to be sent Wednesday to the campaigns of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama and to his Republican rival Sen. John McCain, as well as members of Congress and all 50 governors.

A copy of the letter was provided Tuesday to the Associated Press.

POLITICS

Ventura decides against Senate run

MINNEAPOLIS | Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura halted his political comeback before it began, using a national TV platform to announce that he won’t launch a third-party bid for the U.S. Senate “at this moment.”

In his appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live” on Monday, the former pro wrestler called it an “agonizing decision” and said he thought he could have defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat challenger Al Franken, the former “Saturday Night Live” personality.

But Mr. Ventura went on to catalog a familiar list of grievances, saying he didn’t want to subject his family to what they feared would be attacks in the media if he runs, “because nothing is off-limits today in the world of politics.”

HOUSE

Official cites error in plutonium spill

Use of radioactive materials has been suspended and worker training is being reassessed following a plutonium spill at the Boulder, Colo., laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the agency’s deputy director told a congressional subcommittee Tuesday.

“Based on the information available at this time, this incident was preventable,” James M. Turner told the House Science and Technology’s subcommittee on technology and innovation.

Mr. Turner said medical experts report that no significant health effects are likely for the people involved.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered the Boulder laboratory to stop using radioactive materials until it can show its procedures are safe, and that order remains in effect.

SENATE

Biden, Lugar plan Pakistan message

Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Richard G. Lugar said Tuesday they will push bipartisan legislation this year that would triple humanitarian spending in Pakistan but threaten to cut military aid unless Islamabad does more to fight terrorists.

At a news conference, the two leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said they worked closely with the State Department and USAID to draft the bill and think it would be signed by President Bush.

If the measure passes by year’s end as the senators hope, it would send a sharp message to Pakistan that the U.S. is frustrated by continued terrorist activities along its Afghan border.

“While our bill envisions sustained cooperation with Pakistan for the long haul, it is not a blank check,” said Mr. Lugar of Indiana, the committee’s top Republican. Mr. Biden, a Democrat, represents Delaware.

POLL

Public boos Bush, Congress

Jarred by stubborn economic woes and long-lasting wars abroad, a soured public has given President Bush and Congress record low approval ratings in the Associated Press-Ipsos poll. The survey, released Tuesday, also set a new floor for the number of people saying the country is heading in the right direction.

Just 16 percent said the country is moving the right way, a virtual tie with the 17 percent who said so last month.

In addition, 28 percent said they approve of the job Mr. Bush is doing, tying his low in the AP-Ipsos survey set in April.

Congress fared even worse: a new AP-Ipsos low of 18 percent said they were happy with Congress’ work, down 5 percentage points from last month.

NHTSA Agency chief to leave in August

President Bush’s top highway safety chief is resigning after leading the administration’s efforts on auto safety and vehicle fuel economy standards for two years, officials said Tuesday.

Nicole Nason, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters and colleagues Tuesday that she plans to leave the agency in August, transportation officials said.

Ms. Nason, who has led NHTSA since May 2006, promoted advanced safety technology and helped shape a proposal to increase gas mileage rules in response to an energy law requiring new cars and trucks to reach a fleetwide average of at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

POLITICS

Sanford concedes fumbling question

COLUMBIA, S.C. | South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford on Tuesday said he knows he bumbled a Sunday talk show interview during which he was asked about the differences between President Bush and fellow Republican Sen. John McCain.

Mr. Sanford stammered when asked to respond to an Obama ad saying Mr. McCain is the “McSame-as-Bush” and to lay out the economic differences between Mr. McCain and Mr. Bush.

Mr. Sanford’s response was transcribed by CNN as: “Yes. I mean, for instance, take, you know - take, for instance, the issue of - I’m drawing a blank, and I hate it when I do that, particularly on television.” Eventually, he pointed to the North American Free Trade Agreement, but CNN’s “Late Edition” host Wolf Blitzer reminded Mr. Sanford that Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain shared support for the trade deal.

Bloggers and political pundits seized on the episode as proof that a key McCain ally could not put down the criticism that Mr. McCain’s election would amount to a “third Bush term.”

“I am an imperfect messenger of ideas,” Mr. Sanford told reporters Tuesday. “In other words, God gave me the gift of conviction.”

He noted news program guests have a couple of seconds to come up with an answer.

“You try to think as quickly as you can,” Mr. Sanford said. “Sometimes your brain works well, sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s being human.”

COURTS

Lobbyist charged in Weldon case

A Pennsylvania-based lobbyist was charged Tuesday with destroying evidence related to an FBI investigation into former Rep. Curt Weldon.

Prosecutors said in court filings that Cecilia Grimes threw travel receipts and other material that mentioned Mr. Weldon in the trash after she received grand jury subpoenas for those and other documents. FBI agents retrieved the documents from garbage cans outside Miss Grimes’ house. Authorities said she also threw out her BlackBerry at a fast-food restaurant to keep the FBI from retrieving her e-mail.

Mr. Weldon, a former Republican lawmaker who represented a suburban Philadelphia district for 20 years, is not named in the court papers but is identified by his service as vice chairman of both the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees. The government’s filing Tuesday is known as a criminal information and is typically part of a plea deal. A plea agreement hearing has been scheduled for July 25 in U.S. District Court in Washington.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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