- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bush, pope to focus on Middle East peace

Pope Benedict XVI will meet President Bush for talks on promoting religious liberty and advancing Middle East peace when he makes his first trip to the U.S. as pontiff, the White House said yesterday.

Benedict, who is visiting Washington and New York in April, will meet with Mr. Bush on April 16, the day after his arrival on a six-day trip that includes meetings with U.S. Catholic and other religious leaders as well as a speech at the United Nations.

Mr. Bush and Benedict, who will be the first pontiff to visit the White House since 1979, will discuss “their common commitment to the importance of faith and reason in reaching shared goals,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Sugar dust blamed as last body found

PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. — An explosion at a sugar refinery that killed nine persons was caused by a cloud of sugar dust that ignited beneath the plant’s silos, investigators said yesterday.

Crews recovered the body of the last worker reported missing from a debris-littered break room late Thursday, bringing the death toll to nine, Port Wentworth Fire Chief Greg Long said. Eight workers died in the blast and another died of burns at a hospital.

Investigators traced the Feb. 7 explosion to a basement area beneath the Imperial Sugar plant’s storage silos, where refined sugar was loaded onto conveyor belts and transported to the packaging area. The area was equipped with large fans to suck dust particles out of the air, but investigators still found enough sugar dust to fuel the blast, said Phil Durham of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

GAO chief resigns, citing ‘limitations’

The head of the audit and investigative arm of Congress announced his resignation yesterday, citing “real limitations” on what he could do.

David Walker, 51, said he was making an early departure from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to head a new public interest foundation — the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which would “educate and activate” Americans while supporting “sensible policy solutions” on issues.

“As comptroller general of the United States and head of the GAO, there are real limitations on what I can do and say in connection with key public policy issues, especially issues that directly relate to GAO’s client — the Congress,” Mr. Walker said.

Mr. Walker last year issued an unusually downbeat assessment of the country’s future in a report that drew parallels with the end of the Roman Empire. He had warned that the U.S. government was on a “burning platform” of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic health care underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments.

Band leader miffed at politicized song

CONCORD, N.H. — The chief songwriter and founder of the band Boston has more than a feeling that he’s being ripped off by Mike Huckabee.

In a letter to the Republican presidential candidate, Tom Scholz complains that Mr. Huckabee, a Republican, is using his 1970s hit song “More Than a Feeling” without his permission.

A former member of the band, Barry Goudreau, has appeared with the former Arkansas governor at campaign events, and they have played the song with Mr. Huckabee’s band, Capitol Offense.

“Boston has never endorsed a political candidate, and with all due respect, would not start by endorsing a candidate who is the polar opposite of most everything Boston stands for,” wrote Mr. Scholz, adding that he is supporting Democratic Sen. Barack Obama. “In other words, I think I’ve been ripped off, dude!”

Fred Bramante, who was chairman of Mr. Huckabee’s New Hampshire campaign, called the complaint “ridiculous.” He said he attended dozens of rallies and never heard the candidate play “More Than a Feeling,” other than when Mr. Goudreau campaigned with him.

48 persons accused of alien smuggling

PHOENIX — Forty-eight persons accused of taking part in an alien trafficking ring have been indicted on human smuggling and money laundering charges, according to authorities.

The group brought in as much as $130,000 a week moving people from Naco, Mexico, to its center of operations in Phoenix and then to destinations across the United States, Phoenix police Lt. Vince Piano said Thursday.

Lt. Piano said the ring was believed to be one of the biggest operating in Arizona, the busiest illegal-entry point into the country.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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