Inside Politics: Boehner draws comparison between Ryan, JFK

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FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, Ill. — House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio is comparing Republican Mitt Romney’s running mate to John F. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who won the White House in 1960.

The Ohio Republican says Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin also is a good-looking, articulate young man. Mr. Boehner said he figures Mr. Ryan will do well boosting interest in the GOP in such places as college campuses.

Mr. Romney introduced Mr. Ryan as his vice presidential pick Saturday. Mr. Boehner called it a “pretty bold” choice.

The House speaker commented Monday while addressing supporters of House candidate Jason Plummer in southwestern Illinois. Mr. Plummer, a Republican, faces Democrat Bill Enyart in Illinois’ 12th Congressional District.

DEFENSE

Panetta: Pakistani military to begin combat operations

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta says the Pakistani military has indicated that it plans to begin combat operations soon in a tribal area near the Afghan border that is a haven for al Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani militants.

Speaking to the Associated Press in his Pentagon office Monday, Mr. Panetta said Pakistan’s military chief gave word of the planned operation in recent conversations with the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.

Mr. Panetta said he did not know when the Pakistani operation would start, but he said he understands it will be in the “near future,” and that the main target will be the Pakistani Taliban, rather than the Haqqani network.

Haqqani leaders fled to Pakistan’s North Waziristan region from their homeland in eastern Afghanistan following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

TRADE

Under pressure, China firm stops selling fake U.S. IDs

A Chinese company that a group of U.S. senators has criticized for selling high-quality counterfeit U.S. driver’s licenses has shut down operations, its website says.

The lawmakers last week wrote to Zhang Yesui, China’s ambassador to the U.S., to urge his government to “take immediate action” against companies that sell fake U.S. identification cards, saying the practice is a serious national security threat. They called out one company — ID Chief — as being among the worst violators.

ID Chief via its website had charged $200 for a U.S. driver’s license and a duplicate copy, which the company fully admitted were fake. But the website has been taken down and replaced with a message that it’s “closed for business” and would stop its “novelty ID service.”

The message added: “We also want you to be smart and only use your novelty ID for buying beer in movies, we do not like criminals and do not think we are bad people, we just try to help the poor student have some fun. Again thank you for your support and understanding.”

The letter’s authors are the four senators from Illinois and Iowa, respectively: Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Richard J. Durbin, and Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Tom Harkin.

FDA

Flu vaccine gets green light for coming season

The Food and Drug Administration says it has approved the new flu vaccine for the season beginning this year.

Each year the FDA works with other federal agencies and global health experts to design a vaccine to protect against the three viral strains most likely to cause the flu. This year’s vaccine has one strain in common with last year’s vaccine, plus two new viral strains.

The vaccine will be manufactured by six companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi and Novartis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 5 to 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year, leading to 200,000 hospitalizations. Flu-related deaths vary each year and can range from 3,000 to 49,000.

The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months receive an annual flu vaccine.

CAMPAIGN

Obama cheers ‘mind-boggling’ Curiosity mission to Mars

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — Hailing NASA’s “mind-boggling” Mars landing of the Curiosity rover, President Obama urged the scientists operating the craft Monday to phone home immediately if they find any extraterrestrials.

“If in fact you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away,” Mr. Obama told controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadenia, Calif. “I’ve got a lot of other things on my plate, but I suspect that that will go to the top of the list. Even if they’re just microbes, it will be pretty exciting.”

AGRICULTURE

Drought-stricken farmers sell goods to government

The Agriculture Department will buy up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish to help drought-stricken farmers and ranchers.

USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack says the purchase for food banks and other federal food nutrition programs will help producers struggling with the high cost of feed.

The announcement comes as President Obama campaigns in Iowa, where he criticized Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan for blocking a farm bill that could help farmers cope with the drought.

Mr. Obama has pledged a wide-ranging response to the worst drought in a quarter-century.

His administration is giving farmers and ranchers access to low-interest emergency loans, opening more federal land for grazing and distributing $30 million to get water to livestock.

CAMPAIGN

Axelrod: Ryan selection evokes memories of Palin

A senior political adviser to President Obama is likening Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate to John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin.

David Axelrod told “CBS This Morning” he recalls “that kind of excitement four years ago” when Mr. McCain presented Mrs. Palin to the country as his choice for vice president. Mr. Axelrod said in Monday’s interview he thinks the selection of Mr. Ryan, who is popular with tea party figures, is “not going to be a plus for Mr. Romney.”

Mr. Axelrod said he likes Mr. Ryan personally, but he also is labeling the Wisconsin Republican “a certifiable right-wing ideologue.”

Mr. Obama’s adviser said Mr. Ryan is “a genial fellow, but his views are quite harsh,” and he said “these Republicans don’t like Medicare.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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