- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2008

POLITICS

Byrd slams president in book

The nation’s longest-serving U.S. senator tells candidates John McCain and Barack Obama that to be the great president America needs they need to be what George W. Bush was not.

Be humble, honest and contemplative, Sen. Robert C. Byrd writes in his latest book, “Letter to a New President: Commonsense Lessons for Our Next Leader.”

Seek dissenting opinions. Reject the politics of fear. Admit and learn from your mistakes, the West Virginia Democrat advises.

Mr. Byrd, 90, has long been a critic of the president, and his latest book offers a scathing assessment of Mr. Bush: a “son of privilege and dynasty who had defined himself as the president of only that fraction of the country which shared his world view.”

But with Mr. Bush’s departure comes opportunity, says the senator who has served under 11 presidents, including his favorite, Harry S. Truman. The book, released June 28 with little fanfare, is intended to be read by Mr. Bush’s successor on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

Mr. Byrd hopes to hand-deliver a copy to Mr. Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, spokesman Jesse Jacobs said.

“Senator Byrd doesn’t believe Senator McCain is going to be the next president,” Mr. Jacobs adds. “But if Senator McCain is interested in receiving a copy of the book, we’d be happy to get him a copy.”

CAMPAIGN

Obama, McCain pick Ol’ Blue Eyes

Barack Obama and John McCain agree on Frank Sinatra.

The two presidential candidates offered widely different top 10 favorite songs to Blender magazine but shared the same appreciation for Ol’ Blue Eyes. Mr. Obama chose “You’d Be So Easy to Love,” while Mr. McCain liked “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

In the September issue, on sale nationwide Tuesday, the candidates delivered their list.

Mr. McCain prefers ABBA’s disco classic “Dancing Queen.” Mr. Obama favors the hip-hop jam “Ready or Not” by the Fugees.

Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat, chose Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” as his No. 2 pick after the Fugees. Songs “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter” and Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” rounded out his leading five.

Other artists on Mr. Obama’s list were Kanye West, U2 and Aretha Franklin. The contender also gave a nod to will.i.am and his Internet sensation, “Yes We Can,” which was written for Mr. Obama.

ABBA made Mr. McCain’s list twice. “Take A Chance On Me” came in third among the Arizona Republican’s picks. Rocker Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” ranked second. Country singer Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December” and Dooley Wilson’s “As Time Goes By” were in his top five.

Mr. McCain also selected songs from the Beach Boys, Louis Armstrong, Neil Diamond and The Platters.

NASA

Panel questions spaceship’s safety

NASA is not properly emphasizing safety in its design of a new spaceship and its return-to-the-moon program faces money, morale and leadership problems, an agency safety panel found Monday.

The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel cited “surprising anxiety among NASA employees” about the Constellation moon program and said the project “lacks clear direction.” Its 143-page annual report specifically faulted the agency’s design of the Orion crew capsule for not putting safety features first.

Officials in charge of the program, defending the design safety at a news conference, wouldn’t say whether astronauts are among the worried employees. Astronauts would have to fly in the Orion crew capsule, with a first launch planned by 2015.

Past NASA spaceships were built with enough backup safety systems “to ensure safety and reliability,” from the start, the report said. But it said that because of weight problems with the Orion design, NASA has used a different approach, one “without all safeguards included” from the beginning. In the Orion project, any added safety feature would have to “earn its way in” to the design by justifying that the increased safety was worth the extra cost and weight.

MUSEUMS

Group: Reveal records on artifacts

Museums should make ownership history records publicly available for all ancient art and archaeological artifacts in their collections and rigorously research new acquisitions, according to guidelines released Monday by the American Association of Museums.

The final guidelines took two years to develop and are designed to suppress the market for looted archaeological treasures. Beyond strict adherence to U.S. and international law, museums should establish their own clear collections policies and require documentation that new artifacts have not been illegally exported from their countries of origin.

“The American people rely on museums to preserve and interpret the world’s cultural heritage,” AAM President Ford W. Bell said of the newly approved guidelines. “In recent years, however, the public has come to expect that museums, through their collecting activities, do not contribute to the illicit trade in cultural property.”

Many museums already are in compliance with the guidelines, said Mr. Bell, whose Washington-based association includes 3,000 institutional members.

HHS

Failed care givers escape U.S. notice

In violation of federal law, states routinely fail to notify federal authorities when they’ve kicked health care providers out of their Medicaid programs for incompetence, fraud and other reasons, government investigators have found.

The lack of notice makes it easier for barred providers to set up shop in other states and to continue getting payments from federal health programs.

The inspector general for the Health and Human Services Department maintains the list of health care providers prohibited from getting any federal health reimbursements. Last year, the Inspector General’s office added 3,308 people and organizations to that database, but probably could have added many more, according to a survey that investigators recently conducted.

Investigators surveyed the states to find out how often their Medicaid programs sanction a provider in a way that would in the vast majority of cases merit a spot in the IG’s exclusion database. An astounding 61 percent of the 4,319 sanctions imposed by state Medicaid agencies in 2004 and 2005 could not be found in the federal database.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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