- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2008

SECURITY

Chertoff warns of new terror tactic

Western-looking terrorists are trying to enter the United States with European passports, and there is “no guarantee” officials will catch them every time, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday.

Mr. Chertoff made his comments on Capitol Hill as the country is entering a potentially vulnerable period with the presidential nominating conventions next month, the election in November and the transition to a new administration in January - all of which may be attractive targets for terrorists.

In his last scheduled appearance before the House Homeland Security Committee, Mr. Chertoff said that the more time and space al Qaeda and its allies have to recruit, train, experiment and plan, the more problems the United States and Europe will face down the road.

“The terrorists are deliberately focusing on people who have legitimate Western European passports, who don’t appear to have records as terrorists,” Mr. Chertoff told lawmakers. “I have a good degree of confidence we can catch people coming in. But I have to tell you … there’s no guarantee. And they are working very hard to slip by us.”

HOUSE

Pelosi calls Bush ‘a total failure’

President Bush has been “a total failure” in everything from the economy to the war to energy policy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

In an interview on CNN, the California Democrat was asked to respond to video of the president criticizing the Democrat-led Congress for heading into the final 26 days of the legislative session without having passed a single government spending bill.

Mrs. Pelosi shot back in unusually personal terms.

“You know, God bless him, bless his heart, president of the United States, a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the economy, on the war, on energy, you name the subject,” Mrs. Pelosi replied. She then tsk-tsked Mr. Bush for “challenging Congress when we are trying to sweep up after his mess over and over and over again.”

White House press secretary Dana Perino responded: “What the president said is a fact: This is the longest a Congress has gone in 20 years without passing a single spending bill, so it’s clear that the speaker is feeling some frustration at their inability to do so.”

POLITICS

Bill Clinton ready to work for Obama

NEW YORK | Former President Bill Clinton said Thursday that he is eager to campaign for Sen. Barack Obama whenever the Illinois Democrat needs him, but has not given any thought to whether he wants to speak at the party convention in Denver.

“I told him that whenever he wanted me to do it, I was ready, and so it’s basically on their timetable,” Mr. Clinton said. “He’s got a lot of things to do between now and the convention, of which this is simply one, so I’ll do whatever I’m asked to do, whenever I can do it.”

Relations between Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama have only just began to thaw since Mr. Obama defeated the former president’s wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, in the bruising Democratic primary that ended last month. Throughout that bare-knuckles race, Mr. Clinton portrayed Mr. Obama as too inexperienced to be president.

NIH

Agency scales back AIDS vaccine trial

Plans for a large-scale trial of a potential AIDS vaccine are being dropped in favor of a smaller, more focused study, the National Institutes of Health said Thursday.

The trial of the vaccine, developed by the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, had been planned to include 2,400 men in the United States in a study called PAVE 100.

However, the agency said it decided that the vaccine did not warrant a trial of this size and scope. Instead, NIAID said, it will plan a smaller, more focused clinical trial designed to see whether the product has a significant effect on the amount of virus in a person’s blood.

If an effect is found, then additional studies or an expansion of the study could be carried out.

NIAID said it acted after reviewing the results of the STEP trial, a study of another vaccine that was halted last fall after reports of an increased number of infections among volunteers taking part in the test.

INQUIRY

Conyers schedules hearing on Bush

Impeachment is out for President Bush, but a House committee chairman said Thursday that he wants to take a look at his “imperial presidency.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. announced that his panel would examine suspected administration wrongdoing, which has included complaints that Mr. Bush misled the United States into the Iraq war in 2003.

“Over the last seven plus years, there have been numerous credible allegations of serious misconduct by officials in the Bush administration,” said Mr. Conyers, Michigan Democrat.

He scheduled a July 25 hearing on “the Imperial Presidency of George W. Bush and possible legal responses.”

STATE DEPARTMENT

Peace talks set, Palestinian says

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to host peace talks in Washington with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on July 30, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Thursday.

Miss Rice met with a Palestinian delegation in Washington on Wednesday and offered to host the three-way meeting among herself, chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurie and his Israeli partner, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Mr. Erekat said.

Miss Rice is mediating efforts to reach a peace agreement this year between the Palestinians and the Israelis, in the waning months of Bush administration.

Mr. Erekat said efforts were also under way for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert next week, but he had no further details.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to confirm the July 30 date for three-way talks but said Miss Rice would continue to work hard on Palestinian statehood negotiations and this included such meetings.

TREASURY

IRS increases criminal probes

The IRS Criminal Investigation Division completed more than 4,200 investigations in the 2007 budget year, with about one-half resulting in conviction for a crime, according to a report issued Thursday.

The Treasury inspector general for tax administration said the criminal division showed improvement in several key areas last year despite a decline in the number of special agents. Those included cases initiated, completed and recommended for prosecution and those concluding in convictions.

The report also noted that investigations referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution stood at an eight-year high, and that for the first time since they began keeping statistics, the division had more investigations awaiting prosecution than open criminal investigations within the division.

WHITE HOUSE

Bush names choice for African Union

President Bush has chosen John Simon, executive vice president of the Overseas Private Investment Corp., as U.S. representative to the African Union, the White House said Thursday.

If Mr. Simon’s nomination is approved by the Senate, he will replace Cindy Lou Courville.

The African Union has been trying to resolve Zimbabwe’s political crisis, urging the negotiation of a power-sharing deal. Mr. Bush has said he was examining more U.S. sanctions related to Zimbabwe after Russia and China blocked a sanctions resolution at the United Nations.

Mr. Simon also has served as senior director for relief, stabilization and development at the White House National Security Council.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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