- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 1, 2009

CONNECTICUT

Dodd has cancer, will still run in 2010

Five-term Democratic Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, a central player in President Obama’s health care and financial reform plans, revealed Friday he has early-stage prostate cancer, but said he planned to stay on the job and run for re-election next year.

“I’ll be a little leaner and a little meaner, but I’m running,” Mr. Dodd, 65, told a televised news conference in his home state.

The senator is scheduled to undergo surgery during the Senate’s August recess and said he expects to be back at work after a “brief recuperation” at home.

Mr. Dodd said he feels fine. Even before the news of the cancer, however, he faced a tough race, trailing a leading Republican challenger in the polls and dealing with personal ethical troubles as well.

As acting chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Mr. Dodd is one of the central figures in the administration’s effort to overhaul the nation’s health care system. Mr. Dodd has stepped in to run the committee as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, battles brain cancer.

Mr. Dodd also chairs the Senate Banking Committee, with broad authority of regulatory reform and consumer issues.

TRIAL

Jefferson jury to resume deliberations

A jury has ended its second day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in the corruption trial of a former Louisiana congressman who had $90,000 hidden in his freezer.

Deliberations in the case of William J. Jefferson lasted five hours Friday. The 12-member jury will resume work Monday morning.

Mr. Jefferson, a Democrat who represented parts of New Orleans, is accused of receiving more than $400,000 in bribes and soliciting millions more in exchange for using his influence to broker business deals in Africa.

Mr. Jefferson’s attorneys say he was acting as a private business consultant and his actions did not constitute bribery under federal law.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Disability claims expected to surge

Social Security officials say they expect an even larger spike in new disability claims than they had expected, as aging, injured baby boomers tumble out of the work force and need income.

Officials estimate they’ll receive 3.3 million new disability claims over the next year, up from their previous estimate of 3 million projected just five months ago.

The wave of new applications comes just as officials were making progress in curbing a massive backlog of disability appeals cases, which has plagued the agency for years. Also adding to the problem are recent moves in at least 10 states to furlough hundreds of employees who process initial benefit claims.

Agency officials say the extraordinary increase is driven by the recession and an aging baby-boomer work force reaching their most injury-prone years. Long waits for the agency to process claims and resolve appeals can leave some claimants struggling to make ends meet.

LAURA BUSH

Ex-first lady praises current first lady

GROTON, Conn. | Michelle Obama’s performance as first lady is getting high marks from her predecessor, Laura Bush.

In an interview after a change-of-command ceremony for the USS Texas submarine in Connecticut, Mrs. Bush said Friday she’s watched the current first lady from afar and is impressed.

Mrs. Obama is “doing a great job,” Mrs. Bush said, adding that being first lady is like being a member of a club that very few people get to be part of.

Mrs. Bush says it’s “been great to be back home” in Texas after eight years in the White House, and she is enjoying private life. She said she has been working on a book and is busy helping put together former President George W. Bush’s presidential library.

FARMS

USDA to raise prices to help dairy farmers

The Department of Agriculture is helping struggling dairy farmers by raising the price paid for milk and cheddar cheese through a dairy price support program.

The department estimates the temporary increases, which will be in place until October, will boost dairy farmers’ overall revenue by $243 million.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday that the price increase will provide immediate relief, helping to keep dairy farmers on the farm while they weather what he called “one of the worst dairy crises in decades.”

Many dairy farms around the country have been in danger of closing as milk prices have hit lows and operational costs have skyrocketed. Lawmakers from high-producing dairy states have been pushing the department to temporarily boost the prices.

The price paid by dairy processors to farmers is set by the Department of Agriculture based on commodity markets that rise and fall with global demand. Dairies increased production when demand for U.S. milk exports soared last year, but once the global recession accelerated in the fall, demand dropped and farmers were left with too much milk and too many cows. Wholesale prices crashed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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