- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2008


TV-converter subsidy running into trouble

U.S. consumers who wait too long to request government coupons to subsidize converter-box purchases for the digital television transition in February may come up empty-handed, a regulator has warned.

Because of a last-minute rush of coupon requests, demand may exceed supply in the coming month, said the Department of Commerce official overseeing the subsidy program. Congress ordered the switch to digital signals, effective Feb. 17, 2009, to free up public airwaves for other uses such as for police and fire departments.

The government program doling out $40 coupons to subsidize the converter boxes is likely to reach the $1.34 billion limit of its budgetary authority in the first week of January, said Meredith Attwell Baker, acting assistant secretary for communications and information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

“Once the obligation ceiling is reached, the program will hold coupon requests until funds from unredeemed coupons become available,” said Mrs. Baker in the Dec. 24 letter to Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees telecommunications.

“NTIA realizes that this would likely result in consumer confusion,” she added. If the high demand continues at its current rate of more than 1.5 million requests per week, the agency could run out of coupons in late January.


Hopeful defends sending parody CD

Chip Saltsman, a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, defended sending a music CD to RNC members that includes several liberal-lampooning parody songs, including one called “Barack the Magic Negro.”

The Hill newspaper reported Friday that Mr. Saltsman sent members a Christmas note saying he would “look forward to working together in the New Year” and “please enjoy the enclosed CD by my friend Paul Shanklin of the Rush Limbaugh Show.”

The 41-track disc, called “We Hate the USA,” includes such Limbaugh-program parody songs as “John Edwards’ Poverty Tour,” “Wright Place, Wrong Pastor,” “Love Client #9,” “Ivory and Ebony” and “The Star-Spanglish Banner.”

The Obama-titled song first appeared on Mr. Limbaugh’s show in March 2007 and ridiculed a Los Angeles Times column of the same title by David Ehrenstein, who is openly gay and frequently contemptuous of Republicans. The Ehrenstein column called the Obama candidacy a mere balm to whites who feel guilty about America’s past treatment of blacks.

In the song, Mr. Shanklin sings to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon” in an imitation of the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Mr. Saltsman said he did nothing more than forward a joke that is more at Mr. Ehrenstein’s expense than Mr. Obama’s.

“I think most people recognize political satire when they see it,” Mr. Saltsman told CNN on Friday. “I think RNC members understand that.”


Poll finds Obama is most-admired

President-elect Barack Obama has replaced President Bush as the most admired man in America, according to a poll published Friday in the USA Today newspaper.

Mr. Obama was picked as first or second choice by 32 percent of the 1,008 people surveyed, with Mr. Bush falling to a distant second at 5 percent after seven years as the country’s most-admired man. It was the first time a president-elect has topped the poll since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952.

The Gallup poll was conducted over telephone between Dec. 12 and 14, and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The newspaper reported that the only score that was higher in the history of the survey was Mr. Bush’s 39 percent in 2001, just a few months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Among men, Sen. John McCain - Mr. Obama’s defeated Republican rival for the presidency - ranked third, and three others tied for fourth place: Pope Benedict XVI, the Rev. Billy Graham and former President Bill Clinton.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton led the list of most-admired women at 20 percent - a spot she’s held for 13 of the past 16 years. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who catapulted into the limelight after Mr. McCain named her Republican vice-presidential candidate, was second at 11 percent. Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey placed third, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was fourth, and future first lady Michelle Obama fifth.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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