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Inside the Beltway

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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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BIRTHER PERSISTENCE

Guess Donald Trump deserves a last laugh of sorts. The birther thing is not quite over yet.

"President Obama's release of his long-form birth certificate appears to have significantly reduced skepticism about his place of birth, but by no means completely. All political groups are more likely after the release than they were before it to say Mr. Obama was definitely or probably born in the U.S. Still, 13 percent of all Americans and nearly 1 in 4 Republicans continue to say he was definitely or probably born in another country. And 1 in 5 Americans still say they don't know enough to say one way or the other," says Gallup analyst Lymari Morales.

The pollster plumbed public sentiment May 5 to 8 to find that 47 percent say Mr. Obama was "definitely" born here, 18 percent say "probably" born here, 8 percent say "probably born in another country." Five percent still insist the president was "definitely" born elsewhere. Among Republicans, 49 percent says he was born here, 23 percent disagree; 81 percent of Democrats say Mr. Obama was born in the U.S., 5 percent say he was not.

GINGRICH VS EVERYBODY

A righteous chunk of the Republican Party is mighty vexed at Newt Gingrich's recent analysis of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's Medicare plan. The presidential hopeful dismissing it as "right-wing social engineering," prompting the Wisconsin congressman to counter, "With allies like that, who needs the Left?" Meanwhile, talk-radio host Bill Bennett deems the comment "an unforgivable mistake" that could seriously affect Mr. Gingrich's chances in the 2012 White House derby.

But he's a game candidate. Mr. Gingrich - touring Mason City, Iowa, at the moment - takes on the critics Tuesday. He'll appear at 8:05 a.m. ET on Mr. Bennett's "Morning in America" show, heard nationally on 230 stations. Check for local outlets at www.bennettmornings.com, under "show resources."

BECK AND CALL

"I believe I've been asked to stand in Jerusalem," says Fox News host Glenn Beck, on announcing he's organizing a "Restoring Courage" rally in Israel, modeled after his patriotic "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial nine months ago.

"Things in Israel are going to get bad. It's only a matter of time. They are going to attack the center of our faith, our common faith, and that is Jerusalem. And it wont be with bullets or bombs," Mr. Beck says. "It will be with a two-state solution that cuts off Jerusalem, the old city, to the rest of the world. It is time to return inside the walls that surround Jerusalem and stand with people of all faiths."

THE DEBT DEPT.

Americans for Tax Reform are offering seven handy-dandy actions that the Obama administration can take instead of raising the $14.3 trillion federal debt limit. They are:

Swap out the debt, the nonpartisan coalition says. The government sits on big investments in various funds, and can exchange liabilities from debt that "counts against the limit to debt that doesnt." Then get out of the bailout business, redeem TARP assets in full and lease government lands for energy production. Then sell public lands and reform federal property management.

And one more thing. End the spending spree, the tax group counsels. "Congress must use the debt limit debate to refocus on the governments overspending problem, and make meaningful institutional reforms to establish fiscal restraint."

SIDING WITH HUNTSMAN

Possible presidential contender Jon Huntsman has won over Mike Campbell, onetime South Carolina chairman for Mike Huckabee's White House run in 2008, and son of former South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell.

"In the quest to replace Barack Obama, we must quickly look to the future," the younger Mr. Campbell says. After meeting Mr. Huntsman, he's sold.

"I was extremely impressed. As governor of Utah, he demonstrated he is the type of problem-solver our country needs. He's a proven conservative who cut taxes, grew jobs, passed free-market health care reform, and signed strong pro-life legislation," Mr. Campbell adds.

TAMING PTSD

Returning soldiers reluctant to seek psychological therapy for combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder have an alternative. The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies at Los Angeles has developed war game-style, virtual reality applications to treat it. The researchers found that 80 percent of those who completed treatment showed "clinically meaningful reductions" in PTSD-related anxiety and depression.

"The current generation of young military personnel, having grown up with digital gaming technology, may actually be more attracted to and comfortable with participation in virtual reality exposure therapy," say the researchers, who modeled the applications based on descriptions of soldiers returning from "the war environment."

The study, in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, deemed the results "encouraging."

POLL DU JOUR

• 75 percent of Americans say college is "no longer affordable" for most people, 57 percent of U.S. college presidents agree.

• 64 percent of the presidents say President Obama's goal to have the highest share of college-educated young people in the world by 2020 is not "likely."

• 60 percent say higher education is going in the "right direction,' 38 percent disagree.

• 59 percent rate the value of higher education as "good" or excellent" compared to its cost.

• 57 percent of Americans overall rate the value of higher education as "fair" or poor" compared to cost.

• 51 percent of the presidents say the U.S. system is "one of the best in the world," 19 percent say it is the best in the world.

Source: A Pew Research Poll of 2,142 adults conducted March 15 to 29 and 1,055 college and university presidents conducted March 15 to 24; the results were released Monday.

Whys, wherefores, whatevers to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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