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Inside Politics: Reid goes green at Vegas resort

- - Tuesday, August 7, 2012

LAS VEGAS — The politics of renewable energy is heading the agenda in battleground Nevada, where Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is hosting a fifth annual green-energy conference at a Las Vegas Strip resort.

Mr. Reid and Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar opened the Tuesday event touting the start of a 12-square-mile wind-energy farm in Nevada's White Pine County.

Pattern Energy's Spring Valley project is the first major wind farm in Nevada.

Ending the conference will be an afternoon address by Bill Clinton, a "fireside chat" involving the former president and his former White House chief of staff, John Podesta, and a closing speech by Mr. Reid.

Clean wind, solar and geothermal energy, and the failure of some projects are key issues in the campaigns of President Obama and Republican hopeful Mitt Romney.

FED

Bernanke: Education costs should be wise investment

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke says students need to be careful when investing in their education.

Mr. Bernanke says taking on debt to pay for college can be an important way of increasing one's earning potential. But higher education can also become a financial burden if it doesn't lead to a good job, he warns.

"You've got to make smart investments," Mr. Bernanke said during a town-hall-style meeting at the Fed with teachers from around the country.

Student-loan debt has steadily increased since the Great Recession and totaled more than $900 billion in March, according the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Mr. Bernanke urged students to do their homework before taking out loans. They should know what kind of jobs and salaries they can expect to acquire with their degrees.

The unemployment rate for college graduates was 4.1 percent in July. That's well below the national rate of 8.3 percent and the rate of 8.7 percent for those with only a high school diploma.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama holds private fundraiser at W Hotel

President Obama held a private fundraiser at a hotel near the White House on Tuesday to bolster his re-election effort.

The Obama campaign says the fundraiser at the W Hotel was with about 20 supporters paying $40,000 a person to attend. The campaign said the president was also giving a campaign update to 25 supporters before the fundraiser.

The money will benefit the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee of the Obama campaign, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties. Both events were closed to reporters.

Mr. Obama has trailed Republican candidate Mitt Romney in fundraising during the past three months.

STATE DEPARTMENT

Court says employee dismissed due to age

A divided appeals court panel has ruled that the State Department improperly dismissed a former employee solely because he turned 65.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled 2-1 Tuesday that former employee John R. Miller was protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The court rejected the State Department's claim that the law's age-discrimination protections didn't apply in Mr. Miller's case. State argued for an exemption because Mr. Miller was hired in France under a contract that followed the French practice of mandating retirement at 65.

The appeals court decision reverses a lower court that had accepted the department's argument and dismissed the case.

Mr. Miller is a U.S. citizen who worked in the U.S. Embassy in Paris as a safety inspector. He was dismissed in 2007.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama announces $30M more in drought assistance

President Obama is directing the Agriculture Department to authorize an additional $30 million to help crop and livestock producers in drought-stricken areas of the U.S. The spending does not require congressional approval, and the money already has been allocated to the department.

Mr. Obama held a meeting on the government's drought response at the White House on Tuesday. He announced a series of additional steps to assist people and businesses hit by the drought, including a Transportation Department program to help commercial truck drivers deliver supplies to affected areas.

Mr. Obama also called on Congress to pass a farm bill languishing on Capitol Hill. He says passing the five-year, $500 billion farm bill would give farmers much-needed certainty.

Officials say the drought is the worst in the U.S. in 25 years.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Yogurt, soda offers few clues into veep pick

WOLFEBORO — Even Mitt Romney's shopping cart turns into a clue when trying to solve the political world's biggest mystery.

The Republican presidential candidate stopped by a supermarket near his New Hampshire vacation home Monday to buy cases of water, Wild Cherry Pepsi and Greek yogurt.

Mr. Romney told reporters he had some guests. When asked whether the visitors might include potential running mates, Mr. Romney just laughed.

The former Massachusetts governor repeatedly has shrugged off questions about his vice presidential selection. But as the clock winds down before this month's Republican National Convention, political observers are grasping at the slightest hint — even what's in his grocery bags.

People instantly began speculating on Twitter — half-jokingly — about the yogurt and soda preferences of those on the shortlist of potential running mates.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama camp planning shoot-around fundraiser

President Obama is joining with NBA legend Michael Jordan and an array of basketball stars to raise money for his re-election campaign.

The Obama campaign is planning a fundraising "shoot-around" and dinner in New York on Aug. 22 featuring several NBA stars, including Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics, John Wall of the Washington Wizards and others.

Mr. Jordan and NBA Commissioner David Stern are co-hosting a $20,000-per-person fundraising dinner with Mr. Obama later in the day. A similar "Obama Classic" basketball event planned for last December was postponed after team owners and players reached a labor deal following a lockout.

Mr. Obama's campaign plans to raffle off the chance for grass-roots supporters to attend the events.

STATE DEPARTMENT

Clinton pledges stronger counterterrorism for Egypt

The U.S. is vowing to improve counterterrorism cooperation with Egypt after 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed by suspected Islamist militants.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed her condolences in a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Hesham Kandil. She voiced support for the Egyptian government's efforts to strengthen security.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Mrs. Clinton stressed that "violent extremism poses a threat to Egyptians, Egypt's neighbors and Americans alike," and that Mrs. Clinton committed to strengthening U.S. counterterrorism efforts with Egypt.

The attack near Egypt's borders with Israel and Gaza highlighted the deteriorating security since last year's revolution.

Mrs. Clinton said the U.S. is steadfastly committed to Israel's security.

She said people in the region would be reassured when Egypt's new Islamist government establishes working relations with its neighbors.

From wire dispatches and staff reports