- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2009

WHITE HOUSE

‘Preliminary’ talks held on gay troops

The Obama administration is holding “preliminary discussions” about changing the military’s prohibition against openly gay service members, White House National Security Adviser James L. Jones said Sunday.

President Obama pledged during the presidential campaign to change the policy. But the issue has been on the back burner as the White House tackles other issues, such as the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Jones, a retired Marine Corps four-star general, said he does not know if the policy, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” will be overturned and indicated a cautious approach.

“We have a lot on our plate right now. It has to be teed up at the right time … to do this the right way,” Mr. Jones said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Asked whether the policy will be overturned, Mr. Jones said, “I don’t know. … The president has said that he is in favor of that. We’ll just wait. We’ll have to wait and see.”

The current policy does not allow the military to ask service members about their sexual orientation, but allows the military to expel people who make it known that they are gay.

POLITICS

Golf analyst apologizes for joke

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. | CBS Sports golf analyst David Feherty apologized Sunday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a morbid joke that went bad in a Dallas magazine.

Mr. Feherty, one of the most popular golf analysts for his sharp wit and self-deprecating humor, was among five Dallas residents who wrote for “D Magazine” on former President George W. Bush moving to Dallas.

“From my own experience visiting the troops in the Middle East, I can tell you this, though,” Mr. Feherty wrote toward the end of his column. “Despite how the conflict has been portrayed by our glorious media, if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden, there’s a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death.”

Mr. Feherty, a former Ryder Cup player who grew up in Northern Ireland, has gone to Iraq over Thanksgiving the past two years to visit with U.S. troops, and he created a foundation to help wounded soldiers.

“This passage was a metaphor meant to describe how American troops felt about our 43rd president,” Mr. Feherty said in a statement. “In retrospect, it was inappropriate and unacceptable, and has clearly insulted Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid, and for that, I apologize. As for our troops, they know I will continue to do as much as I can for them both at home and abroad.”

FLAG BURNING

Amendment faces an uphill battle

This year’s battle over flag burning formally began this past week on Capitol Hill, with the introduction of resolutions in support of a constitutional amendment to ban the desecration of Old Glory. But the perennial measure’s chances this term look worse than they have in the previous six Congresses.

In past sessions, the House usually gave the matter a resounding victory, only to see the Senate kill it. Last time, it failed in the Senate by one vote - the closest it’s come to success.

Amendment supporters acknowledge it’s not a good sign when the president is on record against the amendment - which Barack Obama opposed in 2006 when he was an Illinois senator - and the Senate’s ranks are substantially less hospitable to the cause now than they have been in the past.

But supporters say they are undaunted, and vow to push for votes in the months ahead.

BUSINESS

Survey finds much cybercrime

The latest figures from the Justice Department show that 67 percent of more than 7,800 U.S. businesses surveyed said they had detected at least one cybercrime perpetrated against them.

The department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found that computer viruses were the most prevalent method of attack on the companies in 2005, the most recent year with complete data available. Most victimized were telecommunications and computer-system-design firms, and durable-goods manufacturers.

However, just 15 percent of victimized companies reported the cybercrimes to authorities. Fearful of harming their firms’ reputation, most businesses see no benefit in calling the police. That means no one knows the real extent of the problem nationwide or its likely enormous cost.

VOTING RECORDS

Senators seek Web site change

The Senate’s method of publishing its votes is old-fashioned and anything but transparent, and a bipartisan coalition of senators says it’s time to modernize.

As it stands now, you basically have to create your own computer database of thousands of votes to analyze or compare voting records. But post the votes on the Senate’s Web site in the data format XML, and it’s a quick and easy task.

The House has done this for about five years, with no apparent problem. The House also posts its members’ campaign-finance reports online - something the Senate still won’t do, either.

Cynics say the Senate’s current voting system is calculated to let the lawmakers put their own spin on their records.

Seven Democratic and Republican senators have asked the Senate Rules Committee to order the change to XML records, which, they note, would not cost much to do.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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