- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009


Holder eyes changes after Stevens case

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday he plans changes in response to accusations of prosecutorial misconduct in the case of former Sen. Ted Stevens.

Mr. Holder said he's taking “a hard look at a variety of things in the department,” including new training and resources, as a result of problems with the high-profile congressional corruption case. He said he soon will publicly announce his assessment.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Tuesday accepted Mr. Holder's request to throw out Mr. Stevens' conviction and dismiss all charges against the 85-year-old Alaska Republican because the government repeatedly failed to provide evidence to his defense team.

Mr. Stevens, who had served 40 years in the Senate, lost his seat a few days after a jury found him guilty of corruption charges last fall.

Judge Sullivan said he had never seen such mishandling of a case by prosecutors. He opened an investigation into whether the Justice Department attorneys broke the law by withholding evidence, and he encouraged Mr. Holder to increase training for new and experienced prosecutors.


Egg roll 'greenest' in nation's history

The White House is going green for Monday's Easter Egg Roll.

In advance of the traditional event, the White House released its design for the Souvenir Easter Egg, calling it the “greenest” in the nation's history.

The egg, which will be given to the thousands of families attending the festivities Monday, uses 31 percent less paperboard than the 2008 designs, the White House said.

It also said the egg “eliminates the need for the paper shred/filler, features an egg-shaped dye cut instead of a cellophane window and uses renewable, vegetable oil-based inks.”

It can be found online at Nationalparks.org/WhiteHouse EasterEgg or at Whitehouse .gov/eastereggroll, and can be purchased through the White House Historical Association or at the Visitor Center, 1450 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

There are plenty of other changes this year to the egg roll, a tradition dating back 130 years.

The White House distributed the free tickets online for the first time and also saved tickets for gay and lesbian parents. They also set aside a large block of tickets for military families, 2,000 tickets for D.C. public school students and a batch for administration employees and their children, and reporters' children.

They expect at least 30,000 attendees.


Obama's back, still no puppy

He told Jay Leno the puppy he promised his daughters would be in place when he got back from a NATO summit in Europe. But President Obama has been back at the White House since Wednesday.

So Mr. President … where's the patter of little puppy feet?

What we know so far, based on what Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, have said is that the choice is down to either a Portuguese Water Dog or a Labradoodle. Mrs. Obama also has said the dog is coming this month.

Monday is the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn, and 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha have no school that day.

The president cracked jokes about the promised puppy when Mr. Leno sought details of its whereabouts.

“This is Washington. That was a campaign promise,” Mr. Obama said when he appeared on Mr. Leno's talk show last month, as the audience roared with laughter. “No, I'm teasing. The dog will be there shortly.”

The Obamas promised the girls a dog if he were elected, and the first pet's arrival has been eagerly awaited not only by the first daughters, but by dog lovers across the country and around the world.

Mr. Obama was even asked about the puppy during a Q-and-A forum he held last week in Strasbourg, France.

“It should be there soon,” he replied.


$2 billion available for child care

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. says states will share $2 billion in federal stimulus money to pay for child care programs for working families.

Another $300 million is being made available to help less fortunate people get needed vaccines.

The vice president said Thursday that the $2 billion for the Child Care and Development Fund will help states pay for child care for needy parents who are working, looking for work, or are getting job training or furthering their education.

President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus bill into law in February.

Mr. Obama said at the time that the package of increased federal spending and tax cuts would create jobs and help turn around the economy.


Obama told to press Cuba on rights

President Obama should insist that Cuba release all political detainees before the United States moves to relax trade and travel restrictions with that country, two U.S. lawmakers said Thursday.

With Mr. Obama and Congress reviewing the decades-old U.S. policy of isolating communist Cuba, the Republican lawmakers urged them not to forget human rights on the island 90 miles from U.S. shores.

Republican Reps. Frank R. Wolf and Christopher H. Smith criticized some of their fellow lawmakers who made a recent visit to Cuba, saying they failed to publicly focus on human rights.

Mr. Wolf of Virginia and New Jersey's Mr. Smith, both members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, urged Mr. Obama to read a 2008 State Department report that said Cuba had at least 205 political prisoners. It also said that as many 5,000 Cuban citizens were detained for “dangerousness,” but had not been charged with any crime.

“This administration ought to be very careful. They ought not to lift sanctions until the prisoners are out,” Mr. Wolf told a news conference.

Mr. Obama's staff has said he will announce shortly a lifting of restrictions on family travel and remittances between the U.S. and Cuba. In Congress, there is growing bipartisan support for reforming the U.S. policy of isolating Havana, which began soon after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.


Seedlings planted in new garden

First lady Michelle Obama and students from a local public elementary school are planting the first fruits and vegetables in the new White House garden.

They helped break ground for the plot on the South Lawn last month.

Spinach, salad greens, herbs and berries are among the crops being planted.

The fifth-graders from Bancroft Elementary tend to a similar garden at school. They will return to the White House for the harvest and to help cook some of the produce in the White House kitchen.

Some of the crops also will be served at the White House and donated to a local soup kitchen.

Mrs. Obama said her family has discussed planting such a garden since they moved to the White House in January.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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