- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

HOMELAND SECURITY

Napolitano shuns word ‘terrorism’

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano avoids mentioning terrorism or 9/11 in remarks prepared for her first congressional testimony since taking office, signaling a sharp change in tone from her predecessors.

Miss Napolitano is the first homeland security secretary to drop the term “terror” and “vulnerability” from remarks prepared for delivery to the House Homeland Security Committee, according to a copy obtained by the Associated Press.

Tom Ridge, who headed the agency when it was launched in 2003, mentioned terrorism 11 times in his prepared statement at his debut before the oversight committee in 2003. And in 2005, Michael Chertoff, the second secretary, mentioned terrorism seven times, according to an AP analysis of the prepared testimonies.

Miss Napolitano’s prepared remarks also show her using the word “attacks” less than her predecessors. She is the first secretary to use a Capitol Hill debut to talk about hurricanes and disasters, a sign of the department’s evolving mission after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

FRAUD PROBE

Biden family tied to Sanford fund

Two members of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s family own the company that oversees an investment fund linked to Texas financier R. Allen Stanford.

Mr. Stanford is accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of engaging in an $8 billion fraud.

On Tuesday, the attorney for a son of the vice president, Hunter Biden, and for one of the vice president’s brothers, James, said that the business arrangements began in June 2007 and ended one week ago.

A fund of hedge funds controlled by the Bidens was marketed by companies controlled by Mr. Stanford. Stanford-related companies also invested $2.7 million from individual investors under the arrangement.

The Bidens’ lawyer, Marc LoPresti, said the $2.7 million has been set aside and made available to the receiver of Mr. Stanford’s enterprises.

Mr. LoPresti also said that “it’s entirely accurate” that no member of the Biden family has had any contact with anyone from the Stanford company.

CONGRESS

Musicians demand radio payments

Sheryl Crow, will.i.am, Herbie Hancock and other entertainers on Tuesday urged Congress to force radio stations to pay performers when their music is broadcast.

Satellite radio, Internet radio and cable-TV music channels already pay fees to performers and musicians, along with songwriter royalties. AM and FM radio stations do not pay performers’ royalties, just songwriters.

“People deserve to be paid when somebody else uses their property,” Mr. Hancock said.

He and the other musicians, including Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle, appeared at a news conference on Capitol Hill on behalf of the musicFIRST Coalition. The group is pushing legislation that would require radio stations to pay musicians royalties similar to those paid to songwriters.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which opposes the measure, said a fee would put thousands of radio jobs at risk. The association also argues that stations drive listeners to buy music and concert tickets.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Obama underlines Japan friendship

President Obama told Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso on Tuesday that the United States wants to strengthen ties with Japan, a country Mr. Obama described as the cornerstone of U.S. security policy in East Asia and a major economic partner.

Mr. Aso, who is struggling to stay in power, was the first foreign leader to visit the Obama White House, and the president called the prestigious invitation “a testimony to the strong partnership between the United States and Japan.”

“The friendship between the United States and Japan is extraordinarily important to our country,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “We think that we have an opportunity to work together, not only on issues related to the Pacific Rim, but throughout the world.”

The Japanese leader, sitting next to Mr. Obama in the Oval Office before their private meeting, said the world’s top two economies “will have to work together hand in hand” to solve the “very critical, vital issue of the world.”

IRAQ

Combat troops’ pullout timeline set

President Obama plans to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by August 2010, administration officials said Tuesday, ending the war three months later than he had promised.

The withdrawal plan - an announcement could come as early as this week - calls for leaving a large contingent of troops behind, between 30,000 and 50,000 troops, to advise and train Iraqi security forces and to protect U.S. interests.

Mr. Obama during his campaign for the presidency pledged to withdraw troops 16 months after taking office. That schedule, based on removing roughly one brigade a month, was predicated on commanders determining that it would not endanger U.S. troops left behind or Iraq’s fragile security.

The contingent remaining will include intelligence and surveillance specialists and their equipment, including unmanned aircraft, according to two administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not been made public.

The complete withdrawal of American forces will take place by December 2011, the period by which the United States agreed with Iraq to remove all troops.

JOINT SESSION

Congress to hear British leader

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will address the U.S. Congress on March 4 in a speech that is expected to touch on international terrorism, environmental problems and the troubled global economy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday.

The speech to the joint session of the House and Senate would be the first for Mr. Brown, whose Labor Party is facing political difficulties at home.

“We look forward to hearing the prime minister’s views on how we can continue to work together to protect our citizens from threats of global scope, to better protect our planet from climate change and to strengthen the world economy for workers on both sides of the Atlantic,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

At home, Mr. Brown’s government is battling an economic recession, and he is embroiled in a controversy over plans to sell a stake in the state-owned Royal Mail postal service.

Other British prime ministers who have addressed the U.S. Congress include Winston Churchill, Clement Atlee, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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