- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

NORTH CAROLINA

Grand jury hears Edwards’ mistress

RALEIGH, N.C. | The one-time mistress of former Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, arrived at a federal courthouse in Raleigh where a grand jury was meeting Thursday - an appearance that comes as federal investigators examine the two-time presidential candidate’s finances.

Rielle Hunter, holding a young child, walked into the building through a back entrance.

Mr. Edwards, a senator from 1998 until his vice presidential bid in 2004, acknowledged in May that federal investigators are looking into whether he illegally used campaign funds to pay off his mistress, a charge he denies.

Mr. Edwards adamantly denied during his confessional interview with ABC News last summer that he had fathered a child with Miss Hunter, and he welcomed a paternity test. His wife, Elizabeth, has said while promoting her book that she doesn’t know whether her husband is the father.

Former Edwards aide Andrew Young, who made a similar appearance while the grand jury was sitting last month, has claimed to be the child’s father.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama touts pick to be Japan envoy

President Obama said his nominee for ambassador to Japan will be able to communicate directly with him on U.S.-Japan issues.

Mr. Obama said Thursday he placed great thought into choosing lawyer and campaign fundraiser John Roos to oversee what Mr. Obama called a crucial diplomatic relationship.

Mr. Obama’s endorsement could ease concerns in Japan that arose from the nomination of Mr. Roos, who was relatively unknown outside of legal and fundraising circles. Several previous ambassadors to Tokyo have been high-profile officials.

Mr. Obama called Mr. Roos a close friend who “will be able to advise me directly.” He praised Mr. Roos’ “superb judgment” and “outstanding intellect.”

The Senate is expected to vote this week on Mr. Roos’ confirmation.

EDUCATION

Schools to get flu-closing advice

The government is giving schools new guidance to follow when swine flu strikes, in hopes of preventing the panic and confusion that prompted hundreds of school closures last spring.

Swine flu is expected to return after school starts this fall. Unlike regular seasonal flu, this virus has not died out during the hot and humid summer months and so far has infected more than 1 million Americans.

Federal officials plan to issue new guidelines for school closings Friday. The decision to close actually rests with local school officials, but those officials are looking to the federal government for advice about the new flu strain that has caused a global epidemic, or pandemic.

“The judgment will always have to be made at the local level,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday during a forum with administration officials that was broadcast online.

“What we want to do is empower the local governments … to make the right decision,” he said.

PHARMACEUTICALS

Clinton cuts deal on HIV drugs

NEW YORK | Agreements between former President Bill Clinton’s foundation and two drug companies will lower prices on medications for patients with drug-resistant HIV in the developing world.

One agreement, with Mylan Inc., lowers the annual price of four antiretroviral drugs that are used as a second line of treatment when patients develop a resistance to the first drugs they are treated with. The other agreement, with Pfizer Inc., reduces the cost of a medication that can be used in conjunction with the drugs in patients who have tuberculosis.

The agreements would help drugs “reach hundreds of thousands more people and save hundreds of thousands of more lives. This is a very big deal,” Mr. Clinton said Thursday in announcing the deal.

IMMIGRATION

New detention policy pleases, irks

The Obama administration’s plan to stop holding immigrant families at a former central Texas prison was cheered Thursday by the immigrants’ supporters and some in Congress as a needed change in inhumane and sometimes deadly detentions.

Supporters of tougher immigration enforcement, however, questioned whether the administration was returning to policies that allow immigrants to disappear. And even those who liked the changes said the government needs to go further and write detention standards into law.

John Morton, Immigration and Customs Enforcement director, told reporters Thursday that detentions of families at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, which has held 400 people, would end immediately.

Some families would go to a facility in Pennsylvania, but it has only 85 beds and Mr. Morton said other alternatives would be considered. These could include community homes, often run by nonprofit or religious groups, where the immigrants can come and go, but federal officials can still keep track of them.

COURTS

Jury convicts ex-NASA official

A former top NASA official was found guilty Thursday of breaking ethics laws by helping a consulting client get nearly $10 million of the space agency’s funds.

A jury found Courtney Stadd, of Bethesda, illegally benefited a private client while on the agency’s payroll and lied to ethics officials. He faces up to 15 years in prison at sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 6.

Stadd was NASA’s chief of staff and White House liaison from 2001 to 2003, when he left to start a consulting business - Capital Solutions - that specialized in advising aerospace clients. But he came back for two months in 2005 as the interim No. 3 official at the request of President George W. Bush’s newly installed administrator, Mike Griffin, who wanted to reorganize the agency that was still reeling over the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster.

During that time, he steered $12 million in agency funds for earth science research to the state of Mississippi. One of his clients, Mississippi State University, ended up with $9.6 million.

HOUSE

Visit to Israel to focus on terror

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Thursday she will visit Israel next week in a show of support for the U.S. ally against “violent extremists.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida will meet with top Israeli government officials, including President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, her office said.

“The United States and Israel must continue to work together to forge even closer ties as we face the mutual threats posed by violent extremists and the regimes which support them,” she said in a statement, which listed no meetings with any Palestinian officials.

She plans to visit the Western Wall and the southern Israeli city of Sderot, which has borne the brunt of rocket fire from Palestinian Islamist fighters in nearby Gaza.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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