- - Thursday, February 10, 2011

MICHIGAN

Obama touts wireless for all

MARQUETTE | Saying tomorrow’s economy can’t thrive on yesterday’s infrastructure, President Obama on Thursday promoted his five-year plan to lure new industries and jobs to the U.S. by expanding high-speed wireless to 98 percent of the country.

“It’s just like that movie, ‘Field of Dreams’: If we build it, they will come,” Mr. Obama said in this snowy, Upper Michigan university town, where many small businesses owe their success to high-speed Internet access.

“For our families and businesses, high-speed wireless is the next train station, the next off-ramp, Mr. Obama said. “It’s how we’ll spark new innovation, new investments and new jobs,” he said at Northern Michigan University, a wired campus where the students telecommute.

Mr. Obama’s goal is lofty, considering that such technology is only now being built in major cities by AT&T, Verizon and other companies. It also will cost billions of dollars that Republicans are unlikely to want to spend.

HOUSE

TSA head says firings an option

The head of the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday he would be willing to fire any federal airport screeners who strike or otherwise violate the agency’s new collective-bargaining rules.

TSA chief John Pistole told House lawmakers he would consider doing what President Reagan did in 1981, when he fired 11,000 air-traffic controllers for an illegal strike.

Mr. Pistole’s remarks at a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing came in response to questions from Republicans, who remain skeptical of his decision last week to grant limited union rights to more than 40,000 screeners.

“I won’t allow anything to happen that will adversely affect security,” Mr. Pistole said.

Legislation creating the TSA in 2001 excluded its employees from regulations that give other federal workers the right to union protections. But the law gives the administrator the option of allowing collective bargaining.

CONGRESS

Ethics watchdog targets sleepovers

Saying Capitol Hill “is not a frat house,” a Washington watchdog group is asking the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether lawmakers who sleep in their offices are breaking congressional rules and getting an unfair tax break by making personal use of public facilities.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington - or CREW - says getting a free place to sleep is a taxable benefit that lawmakers should be reporting to the IRS. The group says House rules prohibit using taxpayer resources for anything but official purposes.

CREW cited media reports that more than 30 lawmakers are currently sleeping in their offices. The practice is nothing new. Lawmakers have for years slept on Capitol Hill to avoid paying expensive Washington rents and to show constituents they’re frugal.

IOWA

Redistricting plan faces new test

DES MOINES | In most states, redistricting is a bare-knuckles, once-a-decade fight, in which incumbents use the process to try to solidify their re-election chances and parties scramble for an advantage.

Things are different in Iowa, which uses a panel of two geographers and a lawyer to redraw the maps.

But this year, the state is losing a congressional seat as a result of the latest U.S. census numbers. Bruce Cain, a University of California at Berkley political science professor, says that could set off a partisan redistricting battle in the state with the nation’s most nonpartisan system.

Iowa isn’t the only state that has taken the process out of the hands of lawmakers. In Arizona and California, for example, there is a separate commission that does the work, but those members are appointed by lawmakers.

CALIFORNIA

Post office unveils Reagan stamp

SIMI VALLEY | Now you can have Ronald Reagan forever, courtesy of the post office.

The U.S. Postal Service has put the former president on a “forever stamp,” which costs 44 cents now and can be used at any time in the future.

The late president would have turned 100 this past Sunday. The stamp honoring Reagan’s centennial went on sale Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

The stamp shows Reagan at his Santa Barbara-area ranch.

It’s the third Ronald Reagan stamp. The first was released after his death in 2004. It was later reissued.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama to name Kenya ambassador

President Obama says he will nominate his special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, to become the U.S. ambassador to Kenya.

Mr. Obama appointed the retired Air Force major to his current post in March 2009. His elevation to the rank of ambassador requires Senate confirmation.

Mr. Obama said this week that the U.S. will formally recognize an independent southern Sudan later this year. His announcement came after the country’s election officials reported that more than 98 percent of the ballots cast in a Jan. 9 referendum favored breaking away from the north.

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