- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2010

FED

Official: Obama wants Yellen as vice chief

President Obama wants to nominate Janet Yellen, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, to take over as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, an administration official said Friday.

Mrs. Yellen, who was a top economic adviser to President Clinton, is considered a dove on monetary policy, meaning she is more worried about high unemployment than rising inflation. She would become the second highest ranking Fed official.

Mr. Obama is also considering filling two other vacancies on the Federal Reserve board with Sarah Raskin, the Maryland commissioner of financial regulation, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Peter Diamond, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the president had yet to make the announcement.

Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn’s decision to step down at the end of June opened a third seat on the seven-member board, giving Mr. Obama a chance to put a bigger imprint on the central bank. His selections would have to be confirmed by the Senate.

DIPLOMACY

Axelrod says Israel insulted U.S.

The White House isn’t relenting in its strong criticism of Israel for plans to build 1,600 new apartments for Jews in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians are seeking as their future capital.

Israel announced the construction plans last week just as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was visiting the region.

President Obama’s chief political adviser said Sunday that the Israelis’ action was both an “affront” and an “insult.” David Axelrod told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the move undermines the fragile effort to bring peace to the troubled region. He says the timing of the announcement was “very destructive.”

Both Mr. Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have condemned the move. But Israel’s government has given no indication it would cancel the project.

TREASURY

Mortgage plan aids about 16 percent

The Obama administration’s mortgage-relief plan has helped only about 16 percent of borrowers who signed up since its launch last year, while hundreds of thousands of homeowners remain in limbo.

The Treasury Department says that as of last month, about 170,000 homeowners had completed the application process and had their loan payments reduced permanently. That compares with nearly 1.1 million homeowners who have enrolled since the plan started.

The program is designed to lower borrowers’ monthly payments by reducing mortgage rates to as low as 2 percent for five years and extending loan terms to as long as 40 years. To complete the process, homeowners need to make three payments and provide proof of their income, plus a letter documenting their financial hardship.

About 90,000 homeowners have dropped out so far.

Homeowners in two California metro areas - Los Angeles and Riverside - have received the most help, with a combined 18,000 homeowners receiving permanent modifications.

But only 3,900 borrowers in Las Vegas had completed the program, a dismal showing in a city hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis.

SUPREME COURT

White House repeats attack on justices

The White House on Sunday defended President Obama’s scathing criticism of a Supreme Court decision that lets unions and corporations spend on political campaigns as they wish.

Senior adviser David Axelrod and press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to retreat from criticism Mr. Obama leveled during his State of the Union address, with six of the nine members of the court sitting a few feet in front of him. The two White House officials defended Mr. Obama’s statement that the ruling was seriously flawed.

“Under the ruling of the Supreme Court, any lobbyist could go in to any legislator and say, ‘If you don’t vote our way on this bill, we’re going to run a million-dollar campaign against you in your district.’ And that is a threat to our democracy,” Mr. Axelrod said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s going to further reduce the voice of the American people, and it’s something we have to push back vigorously on.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said last week that Mr. Obama’s unusually open criticism was “very troubling” and questioned whether justices should attend the annual address.

Mr. Gibbs also repeated his earlier defenses of his boss’s remarks, saying on “Fox News Sunday” that “the Supreme Court has basically ruled that anonymous political contributions can be given.”

JUSTICE

Holder didn’t reveal all papers to Senate

Justice Department officials say that when senators were considering Eric H. Holder Jr.’s nomination to be attorney general last year, he didn’t give them all the legal briefs he had signed from his time in private practice.

Mr. Holder now has told the Senate Judiciary Committee about the lapse in turning over copies of the legal filings.

As part of the confirmation process, Mr. Holder submitted a list of all such legal briefs to the committee. But that list did not include filings in seven cases.

The issue of Mr. Holder’s past legal papers came up after some Republicans asked why lawyers who had previously done legal work for terrorism-suspect detainees now had jobs in the Justice Department.

CONSUMER SAFETY

Infant deaths prompt warning on slings

The government is warning that those chic baby slings that hip moms and dads are sporting these days can be dangerous, even deadly for their little ones.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it has investigated at least 13 deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers and is now advising parents to be cautious when using them for babies younger than four months.

The agency says babies can suffocate when a sling’s fabric presses against the infant’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and suffocating a baby within a minute or two. The other scenario involves slings where the baby is cradled in a curved position, nestling the baby below mom’s chest or near her belly.

That curved position can cause a baby who doesn’t have strong neck control to flop its head forward, chin-to-chest, restricting the infant’s ability to breathe.

The CPSC says the baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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