- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2008


GOP fails to oust Palin investigator

ANCHORAGE, Alaska | A Republican effort failed Monday to unseat the Alaska state senator overseeing the ethics investigation into whether Gov. Sarah Palin abused her power when she dismissed the state’s public safety commissioner.

Democratic Sen. Hollis French was accused of manipulating the probe for political effect on national and state elections. Republican Rep. John Coghill last week asked the Alaska Legislature’s Legislative Council, the body that appointed Mr. French to oversee the investigation, to discuss replacing Mr. French.

Mr. Coghill said he thought the investigation was lacking in fairness, neutrality and due process after Mr. French was quoted in media reports that the probe’s results were going to be an “October surprise” that is “likely to be damaging to the administration.”

On Monday, Democratic Sen. Kim Elton, the head of the Legislative Council, turned down his request. Mr. French’s decisions to date have been appropriate, bipartisan and unchallenged, Mr. Elton wrote to Mr. Coghill. And the comments Mr. French made were “corrected in a very public way in the media,” Mr. Elton wrote.


Bush, Cheney praise Palin

There’s nothing stopping Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin from serving well in the White House, according to the men who now hold the nation’s highest offices.

“She’s had executive experience, and that’s what it takes to be a capable person in here in Washington, D.C., in the executive branch,” President Bush said in an interview to air Tuesday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends.”

John McCain made an inspired pick,” Mr. Bush added. The former two-term Texas governor came to Washington without experience in national office - the path Mrs. Palin is trying to follow.

Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney told reporters in Rome on Monday that he “loved” Mrs. Palin’s speech to the Republican National Convention, which he watched “with great interest.” Mr. Cheney laughed when he recounted her line about the difference between hockey moms and pit bulls being a coat of lipstick.

“I thought her appearance at the convention was superb,” Mr. Cheney said.


Prosecutors cite gifts to Stevens

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens didn’t report getting gifts of a $3,200 stained glass window and a $2,695 massage chair from his friends, and described a $1,000 sled dog as a $250 gift, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Mr. Stevens, the Senate’s longest-serving Republican, goes to trial later this month. He is accused of lying on his Senate forms about hundreds of thousands of dollars in home renovations and other gifts he received from VECO Corp., an influential oil-services contractor.

Two VECO executives have pleaded guilty and admitted they bribed Alaska lawmakers, using gifts, jobs and cash to curry favor with allies and undermine their enemies.

In court filings Monday, the Justice Department said Mr. Stevens did not report gifts from personal friends in 2001. It cited the $2,695 massage chair that ended up in Mr. Stevens’ Washington residence as well as a “$3,200 hand-designed, hand-constructed stained glass window, built to specifications provided by the defendant and his spouse.”


Agency to keep eye on elections

The Justice Department pledged Monday to send election monitors across the country to help ensure access to the polls in November, even while acknowledging its limited power to enforce election laws.

Civil rights groups fear that an unprecedented minority voter turnout due to Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama might be countered by efforts to intimidate or otherwise block people who seek to cast their ballots.

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and other Justice officials met about 35 representatives from voter access watchdogs, hoping to assure them that having a smooth Nov. 4 election is a priority.

“The Justice Department has a limited but extremely important role to play in ensuring elections are fair and just,” acting Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker told reporters after the closed-door meeting.


Close contest for cutest candidate

Who’s cuter: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama or his Republican opponent, John McCain, 25 years his senior?

A new computer program says Mr. McCain wins by a hair in a single matchup, but Mr. Obama’s the cutie when multiple photos are used.

The product of a University of Nebraska Medical Center researcher, the program quantifies physical attractiveness using 29 facial measurements. It tabulates characteristics such as distance between the eyes and length of the ears and nose and issues a score of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most attractive.

In a single matchup, 72-year-old Mr. McCain edged out 47-year-old Mr. Obama - 7.27 to 7.24. But an average of 20 head-to-head comparisons using multiple photos put Mr. Obama firmly in the lead: He scored 7.0 to Mr. McCain’s 6.5.

“It’s only based on geometry - that’s it,” said Kendra Schmid, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the Omaha school. “We didn’t include age or eye color or things that obviously go into attractiveness.”

A study detailing her program appeared in the August issue of the journal Pattern Recognition.


Group sues Cheney over fate of papers

A watchdog group sued Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday, seeking a court order that he comply with the Presidential Records Act.

The group that sued is concerned that Mr. Cheney will argue that his records are not subject to the post-Watergate law aimed at safeguarding White House records for eventual release to the public.

The lawsuit by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government stems from Mr. Cheney’s position that his office is not part of the executive branch of government, because under the Constitution he serves as president of the Senate.

The lawsuit details Bush administration actions that raise questions about whether the White House will turn over records created by Mr. Cheney and his staff to the National Archives in January. That is what the Presidential Records Act requires.

President Bush issued an order in 2001 saying that the Presidential Records Act applies to the “executive records” of the vice president.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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