- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

WHITE HOUSE

Obamas adopt dog, name it Bo

The first family has settled on a first pet - a 6-month-old Portuguese Water Dog that the Obama girls are naming Bo.

The selection was one of the White House's most tightly kept secrets.

President Obama's daughters, 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha, picked a black and white pup, a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Associated Press.

The dog is a gift from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, who owns several of the breed.

“We couldn't be happier to see the joy that Bo is bringing to Malia and Sasha,” Mr. Kennedy said in a statement. “We love our Portuguese Water Dogs and know that the girls - and their parents - will love theirs, too.”

The president and first lady Michelle Obama promised the girls a puppy during the campaign, which prompted a frenzy of reporting and speculation in the last week in Washington. The Obamas said their choice was down to either a Portuguese Water Dog or a Labradoodle because they were considered good pets for children who have allergies, as Malia does.

“In case anybody is wondering, Bo is a boy,” the White House clarified on its Web site.

DRUG WAR

Mexico: U.S. guns, money fueling war

Stopping the flow of money and weapons from the United States into Mexico is critical to dealing with the violent drug cartels creating havoc on the border, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S. said Sunday.

Mexican officials think 90 percent of the weapons seized in their country can be traced to the U.S., Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan said.

“The key issue right now is how can the United States help to shut down those guns and shut down that bulk cash that is providing the drug syndicates in Mexico with the wherewithal to corrupt, to bribe, to kill,” Mr. Sarukhan said on CBS' “Face the Nation.”

Mexican President Felipe Calderon began a national crackdown on organized crime in 2006. Since then, violence among the drug cartels, their rivals and soldiers have led to nearly 9,000 deaths and crime that has spilled across the border into the U.S.

Although Mr. Sarukhan contends that the cartels' use of assault weapons rose dramatically after the U.S. ended its ban on the firearms in 2004, he stopped short of advocating that Congress reinstate the ban.

“What we will say is … by reinstating the ban, that could have a profound impact on the number and the caliber of weapons going down to Mexico,” he said.

The Obama administration said it was taking several steps to provide additional assistance to Mexico in its fight against drug violence, such as providing more federal agents to try to prevent gun smuggling.

OHIO

Stimulus goes for far-off projects

COLUMBUS, Ohio | Ohio wants to spend $57 million in federal stimulus money on highway projects that won't begin for years, an unusual strategy for money that President Obama said should be used to give the economy an immediate job-creating jolt.

Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, and the state's transportation officials passed over some ready-to-go construction projects and steered away about 7 percent of their $774 million share for planning and preliminary studies.

This move infuriated some local leaders who hoped the money would build more new bridges or resurface roads in the cash-strapped state, where unemployment recently hit a 25-year high of 9.4 percent.

“I could have dug the darn thing myself, that's how shovel-ready we were,” said Fostoria Mayor John Davoli, who sought $10 million to build bridges over two railroad crossings and was denied.

The Federal Highway Administration has no other examples of states using stimulus money for planning, although some states haven't completed their project lists and the agency hasn't approved Ohio's request, spokeswoman Nancy Singer said. The agency has to review the projects to ensure they are eligible.

While the overall approach to Mr. Obama's $787 billion stimulus package is to get money to projects that can be started right away, planning is a legitimate use of economic stimulus money, said Jill Zuckman, spokeswoman at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

SAFETY

NRC to stockpile potassium tablets

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission intends to buy 9 million potassium iodide tablets to stockpile in the event of a major nuclear accident.

The NRC said it would distribute the tablets - which, if taken in time, can reduce the risk of thyroid cancers stemming from exposure to radioactive iodine from a nuclear accident - to sites in 34 states that are within 10 miles of the plants.

The agency is requesting bids for supplying the 65 mg tablets, which would be suitable for children.

SURVEY

Republicans willing to pay more

A new survey has found that Republicans are willing to pay way more for government services than Democrats.

On average, Republicans said they would gladly shell out an average of $9,980 per year for all services provided by government, according to a national survey by Harris Interactive, which was commissioned by the Tax Foundation. Democrats said $7,600 was a fair amount.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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