- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2010

WHITE HOUSE

Obama cracks down on tax cheats

President Obama is ordering a crackdown on federal contractors who don’t pay their taxes.

He signed an executive order Wednesday telling federal agency chiefs to take steps to bar those companies from receiving new government contracts. Mr. Obama also directed the Internal Revenue Service to review contractor filings to ensure that the companies are not lying about the taxes they’ve paid.

“It is simply wrong for companies to take taxpayer dollars and not be taxpayers themselves,” Mr. Obama said in his prepared remarks. “We need to insist on the same sense of responsibility in Washington that so many of you strive to uphold in your own lives, in your own families and in your own businesses.”

A White House fact sheet said the move is part of the president’s effort to restructure government contracting to root out waste and abuse.

GAY MARRIAGE

McCain wife, daughter endorse campaign

Cindy McCain, the wife of 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, and their daughter Meghan have posed for photos endorsing pro-gay-marriage forces in California.

Mrs. McCain appears with silver duct tape across her mouth and “NOH8” written on one cheek in a photo posted Wednesday to the Web site of NOH8, a gay rights group challenging Proposition 8. The ballot measure passed by California voters in 2008 bans same-sex marriage.

Meghan McCain, who has been outspoken in her support for gay rights, also has endorsed NOH8. She appears with silver duct tape across her mouth and “NOH8” on a cheek in a photo on her Twitter site.

Mrs. McCain contacted NOH8 and offered to pose for the photo endorsement, the Web site said.

Mr. McCain’s office said in a statement that the senator from Arizona respects the views of members of his family but remains opposed to gay marriage.

ELECTION

Palin to campaign for McCain

Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who was John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate in 2008, will campaign for the re-election of the senator from Arizona, Mr. McCain said Wednesday.

There has been plenty of sniping between the Palin and McCain camps after they lost the election to Democrat Barack Obama, but Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin have remained on friendly terms.

“I’m looking forward to getting back on the campaign trail with my former running mate, and I know my fellow Arizonans will welcome her as well,” Mr. McCain said. “Sarah energized our nation and remains a leading voice in the Republican Party.”

Mr. McCain has no announced challenger for the Republican nomination, but conservative radio talk show host J.D. Hayworth has talked of challenging the Vietnam War hero.

Mrs. Palin is now a star of the Republican Party and a big draw on the fundraising circuit. She is a Fox News contributor.

HAITI

Faster tax breaks for donors OK’d

Taxpayers who make donations for Haitian earthquake victims would be able to write off this charitable deduction when they file their 2009 taxes this spring, under a bill passed by the House on Wednesday.

Under current law, donors would have to wait until they file their 2010 returns next year to take the deductions. But the newly advanced bill would allow donations made by the end of February to be deducted from 2009 returns.

The bill passed on a voice vote with no opposition. Quick Senate action is expected. A similar law was enacted in 2005 for donations to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami that happened in December 2004.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Thurmond’s son runs for Congress

CHARLESTON | The son of late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond is seeking an open congressional seat.

Republican Paul Thurmond, 34, issued a statement Wednesday saying he is seeking South Carolina’s 1st District congressional seat along the coast. Mr. Thurmond said last week that he was forming an exploratory committee.

Rep. Henry E. Brown Jr., the incumbent Republican, is not seeking re-election. Mr. Brown will have served a decade in Washington when his term ends.

FIRST LADY

Michelle Obama surprises tourists

White House tourists got a surprise Wednesday.

None other than first lady Michelle Obama showed up as their greeter to mark the end of President Obama’s first year as president.

Mrs. Obama brought the family dog, Bo, to the Blue Room. She spent 45 minutes greeting and hugging many of the 400 guests as they filed in.

The Obamas began his presidency with a promise to open the White House to more visitors.

The White House recorded more than 614,000 visitors in the first year. That figure includes tourists, participants in the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn, and the spring and fall garden tours.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Group gives Obama mixed review

President Obama has stressed the challenge of restoring America’s credibility on human rights in his first year in office, but the results are mixed so far, a leading research and advocacy group said Wednesday.

In an annual report on conditions in more than 90 countries, Human Rights Watch said Mr. Obama has improved U.S. presidential rhetoric. But Kenneth Roth, executive director of the independent group, said Mr. Obama “has a long way to go to transfer that rhetoric into policy impact.”

While Mr. Obama insisted that the CIA abide by military rules in questioning terrorism suspects, he has refused to investigate or prosecute the people who ordered torture or provided the legal justification for it, the 612-page report said.

The president also pledged to close the Navy-run detention center for terrorist suspects at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but he refuses to repudiate the use of military commissions and long-term detention without charge or trial, the group said.

TSA

Nominee withdraws, cites political agenda

President Obama’s choice to lead the Transportation Security Administration withdrew his name Wednesday, a setback to an administration trying to explain how a man could attempt to blow up a commercial airliner on Christmas Day.

Erroll Southers said he was pulling out because his nomination had become a lightning rod for those with a political agenda. Mr. Obama had tapped Mr. Southers, a former FBI agent, to lead the TSA in September, but his confirmation has been blocked by Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, who says he was worried that Mr. Southers would allow TSA employees to have collective bargaining rights.

In an e-mail to friends and colleagues, Mr. Southers said, “It is unfortunate that we are residing in such contentious political times, that exceptional, ‘apolitical’ candidates have to seriously consider their willingness to participate in public service.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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