- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MEMOIR

Reid: Obama said he had ‘gift’

Everyone knows President Obama can deliver a great speech, including the president himself, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says.

The paperback version of Mr. Reid’s book, “The Good Fight,” is coming out May 5 with an epilogue called “The Obama Era.” Mr. Reid said he was impressed when Mr. Obama, then a freshman senator from Illinois, delivered a speech about President George W. Bush’s war policy.

The Nevada Democrat writes: ” ‘That speech was phenomenal, Barack,’ I told him. And I will never forget his response. Without the barest hint of braggadocio or conceit, and with what I would describe as deep humility, he said quietly: ‘I have a gift, Harry.’ ”

A copy of the book’s 15-page epilogue was provided to the Associated Press.

MEDIA

Fox rejects Obama request

NEW YORK | The Fox network is sticking with its regular schedule over President Obama this week.

The network is turning down the president’s request to show his prime-time news conference Wednesday. The news conference marks Mr. Obama’s 100th day in office. Instead of the president, Fox viewers will see an episode of the Tim Roth drama “Lie to Me.”

It’s the first time a broadcast network has refused Mr. Obama’s request. This will be the third prime-time news conference in Mr. Obama’s presidency. ABC, CBS and NBC are airing it.

GAO

Federal pay gap falls to 11 cents

The difference between average annual salary for men and women in the federal work force declined from 19 cents to 11 cents on the dollar between 1998 and 2007, according to a draft report from the Government Accountability Office.

The draft, obtained by the Associated Press, was set for release Tuesday at a hearing of the Congress’ Joint Economic Committee.

All but 7 cents of the gap can be accounted for by differences in measurable factors, such as differences in education levels and the type of jobs men and women had, the report said. The gap narrowed the more men and women shared characteristics, including the jobs held, levels of experience and education.

The GAO said factors such as work experience outside government and discrimination may account for some or all of the remaining gap.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, said the report shows the need for federal legislation to address the remaining pay gap.

INTERIOR

U.S. challenges mine-stream rule

The Obama administration is taking steps to reverse a last-minute Bush-era rule that allows mountaintop mining waste to be dumped near streams.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday that the administration will ask a federal court to abandon the rule that made it easier for coal mining companies to dump waste near streams. If the court agrees, the Obama administration could start drafting a new regulation that better protects waterways and communities sooner than if it sought to rewrite the measure itself.

Mr. Salazar said the rule, finalized with a little more than a month before President George W. Bush left office, was bad policy. Two lawsuits pending in federal court sought to block or overturn the rule. The Obama administration’s decision puts the federal government in the rare position of opposing a position it previously took in federal court.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it was cracking down on mountaintop removal by taking a closer look at 150 to 200 permits.

STATE DEPARTMENT

U.S., Cuba envoys hold talks

A senior U.S. diplomat met Monday with Cuba’s top Washington representative, but a State Department spokesman cautioned that the session did not signal a renewed U.S. push to improve relations.

Spokesman Robert A. Wood said Thomas A. Shannon Jr., the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, met in an undisclosed location with the head of the Cuban interests section, Jorge Bolanos.

Mr. Wood told reporters ahead of the session that the two men, who also met April 13, would discuss a range of issues related to President Obama’s decision April 14 to lift a ban on Americans visiting relatives in Cuba and easing restrictions on money transfers to relatives there.

The administration has said it wants Cuba to reciprocate with moves such as releasing political prisoners.

“We have concerns about Cuban policies. We’ll be raising them,” Mr. Wood said, referring to Monday’s meeting. “I’m sure that there will be a discussion of the president’s steps that he announced recently. But beyond that, I don’t have much of an agenda.”

ECONOMICS

U.S., China talk about global trade

Top U.S. and Chinese trade officials Monday discussed the importance of working together to restore global economic growth by boosting trade and avoiding protectionism, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said.

“Particularly during the current difficult global economic circumstance, both the United States and China have a tremendous stake in maintaining a vibrant, open, international trading system to revive and sustain economic growth,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said after meeting with Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming.

“With the size and importance of our bilateral trade flows, we also have a shared interest in ensuring our bilateral trade relationship is fair, sustainable and mutually beneficial.”

Mr. Kirk said he looked forward to working with Mr. Chen to finish the long-running Doha round of world trade talks and to tackle bilateral trade disputes through the U.S.-China Joint Committee on Commerce and Trade.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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