- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Afghan troop surge possible, Gates says

Up to three more combat brigades could be available to go to Afghanistan beginning next spring, in answer to repeated calls from commanders for more troops, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday.

Mr. Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that more forces can’t be committed now without extending combat tours or changing troop deployments. But, in response to prodding from the committee’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, Mr. Gates said they probably could go in the spring and summer of 2009. Each brigade has about 3,500 troops.

Mr. Levin objected to a statement in Mr. Gates’ prepared testimony that said it now may be “possible” to do militarily what must be done in Afghanistan - which has been a secondary priority to the Iraq war for years.

In response, Mr. Gates offered the likely troop buildup next spring, but cautioned that the next president will have to weigh how large a U.S. force should be sent to Afghanistan, given that the population does not readily welcome foreign forces there.


Justice to tweak terror case rules

The Justice Department, in a nod to concerns that Americans could be investigated in terrorism cases without evidence of wrongdoing, said Tuesday that it will tweak still-tentative rules governing FBI national security cases before they are issued.

The changes represent a small but first victory for skeptical lawmakers and civil liberties groups that want the Justice Department to delay the rules until a new president is elected.

Not all of the planned changes were outlined during a Senate intelligence committee hearing, but Assistant Attorney General Elisebeth Cook said they would include limits on the length and kinds of investigative activities used in monitoring demonstrations and civil disorders.

“We do anticipate making changes in response to the comments we have received,” she said. Justice Department and FBI lawyers have been briefing lawmakers and interest groups on the rules for the past six weeks.


Obama not winning over Clinton backers

Sen. Barack Obama’s support from backers of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is stuck smack where it was in June, a poll showed Tuesday, a stunning lack of progress that is weakening him with fellow Democrats in the close presidential race, the Associated Press reports.

An Associated Press-Yahoo News poll shows that among adults who backed his rival, Mrs. Clinton, during their bitter primary campaign, 58 percent now support Mr. Obama. That is the same percentage who said so in June, when Mrs. Clinton ended her bid and urged her backers to line up behind the Democratic senator from Illinois.

The poll shows that while Mr. Obama has gained ground among Mrs. Clinton’s supporters - 69 percent view him favorably now, up nine percentage points from June - this has yet to translate into more of their support.

In part, this is because their positive views of Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain have also improved during this period. The share of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters saying they’ll vote for Mr. McCain edged up from 21 percent to 28 percent, with the number of undecided staying constant, according to the survey, conducted by Knowledge Networks.


In gaffe, Biden says FDR led in crash

Vice-presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. says today’s leaders should take a lesson from the history books and follow fellow Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to a financial crisis.

“When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened,’” Barack Obama’s running mate recently told “The CBS Evening News.”

Except, Republican Herbert Hoover was in office when the stock market crashed in October 1929. Moreover, television was then still in the experimental stage, and neither Hoover nor FDR went on it.

FDR was elected three years later when voters denied Hoover a second term. The Democratic challenger appealed to the “forgotten man” by promising a “new deal” to solve the Depression era.

Democrats usually like to remind the public that a Republican was president during the 1929 stock market crash. During the 2004 presidential election, Sen. John Kerry’s campaign repeatedly cited Hoover as the last president before George W. Bush to oversee a loss of jobs during his time in office.


Moore releases free documentary

LOS ANGELES | Filmmaker Michael Moore released his latest documentary for free on the Internet, Tuesday, marking a first for the maverick director who aims to encourage young people to vote - preferably for Democrats - in November’s presidential election.

“Slacker Uprising,” a feature-length film documenting Mr. Moore’s tour of swing states during the 2004 presidential election year, was made available for a free download instead of being released in movie theaters.

The maker of the 2004 film “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which ridiculed the Bush administration, said the gesture was “entirely as a gift to my fans.”

“The only return any of us are hoping for is the largest turnout of young voters at the polls in November,” Mr. Moore said.

“Slacker Uprising” chronicles the director’s efforts to get young people on either side of the political spectrum to vote and, he said, is also a “tribute to the young voters who are going to save this country from four more years of Republican rule.”


Agency chief to leave Oct. 31

Conrad C. Lautenbacher is resigning as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, he announced Tuesday.

Mr. Lautenbacher, who for nearly seven years has led the agency that forecasts weather and climate, studies the oceans and operates marine fisheries, will leave office Oct. 31.

He did not announce his future plans. On his departure, his deputy administrator, William J. Brennan, will become acting administrator.

Mr. Lautenbacher, a retired Navy vice admiral, was active in the creation of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the second-largest area in the world dedicated to marine preservation, in the Hawaiian Archipelago.


Digital-TV test draws ire of 1,828

Even if all goes smoothly, February’s digital-television shift is likely to generate hundreds of thousands of complaints from television viewers around the country.

A major problem during a test run in Wilmington, N.C., was the inability of over-the-air viewers to receive new digital signals, according to figures collected after the test.

Commercial broadcasters in the North Carolina city volunteered to cease analog programming on Sept. 8, well before the rest of the nation. Of the 1,828 people who complained to the Federal Communications Commission in the first five days, slightly more than half were unable to tune in one or more channels.

All full-power television stations must turn off their analog signals by Feb. 17. Viewers who receive programming through an antenna and do not own newer-model digital TV sets by the time of the changeover must buy a converter box. The government is providing two $40 coupons per household to help defray the cost.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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