- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

AIRLINE SAFETY

Probe faults poor oversight for fire

American Airlines failed to catch repeated errors by mechanics before a September 2007 flight that made an emergency landing after one of its engines caught fire during departure.

The 143 people onboard weren't injured, but the incident could have become catastrophic because of additional mistakes by the flight crew, members of the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.

The four-member board recommended changes in pilot training programs to take into account simultaneous emergencies.

The findings come as American faces heightened scrutiny by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The agency recently assigned a special team of 17 inspectors to examine American's aircraft maintenance and other operations. The special audit is expected to take about three months.

The NTSB's hearing Tuesday was held to examine the Sept. 28, 2007, incident in which American Flight 1400's left engine caught fire during a departure climb from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

The MD-82, a midsized airliner, returned to the airport, but fire had damaged the aircraft's hydraulic system to the extent that the plane's rudder wasn't functioning and the nose landing gear failed to extend during an initial landing attempt. A second attempt was successful.

While there were no injuries, the plane was extensively damaged.

PENTAGON

Cyberattacks a costly matter

The Pentagon spent more than $100 million in the past six months responding to and repairing damage from cyberattacks and other computer-network problems, military leaders said Tuesday.

Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, who heads U.S. Strategic Command, said the military is only beginning to track the costs, which are triggered by constant daily attacks on military networks ranging from the Pentagon to bases across the country.

“The important thing is that we recognize that we are under assault from the least sophisticated - what I would say the bored teenager - all the way up to the sophisticated nation-state, with some pretty criminal elements sandwiched in-between,” said Gen. Chilton, adding that the motivations include everything from vandalism to espionage. “This is indeed our big challenge, as we think about how to defend it.”

Army Brig. Gen. John Davis, deputy commander for network operations, said the money was spent on manpower, computer technology and contractors hired to clean up after both external probes and internal mistakes. Strategic Command is responsible for protecting and monitoring the military's information grid, as well as coordinating any offensive cyberwarfare on behalf of the United States.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama says election gave many new hope

President Obama says he thinks that his election gave Americans a greater sense of confidence that change was possible at home and a fresh opportunity to burnish the U.S. image around the world.

Mr. Obama, while in Turkey, was asked at a roundtable discussion with Turkish college students Tuesday to say how he felt his historical election as president lifted the spirits of Americans. The president said he thought that “what people felt good about was, it affirmed the sense that America is still a land of opportunity.”

Mr. Obama also said he is a minority and that “my name is very unusual for the United States.”

The president said he believes people “saw my election as proof, as testimony, that although we are imperfect, our society has continued to improve.”

Mr. Obama added that he thinks “people were encouraged that someone like me, who has a background of living overseas, who has Muslims in his family, you know, might be able to help build bridges with other parts of the world.”

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Senator wants federal voter law enforced

A key Senate chairman on Tuesday urged Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to sue any states that aren't helping needy citizens to register to vote.

Federal laws call for state agencies to try to register people to vote when they are distributing aid, such as food stamps and unemployment benefits.

“With the new leadership at the Justice Department, we hope states will be made to meet their obligations,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “If that means taking certain states to court, so be it.”

It's not clear which states, if any, are failing to comply.

A senior Justice Department official last year acknowledged that the agency was surveying as many as 18 states on compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993; the official refused to say which states or why they were chosen.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The act, also called the motor voter law, took effect in 1995. It requires states to offer people a chance to register to vote at all offices that provide public assistance. It was intended to update voter rolls by registering more people and removing those no longer eligible.

At a Rules Committee hearing last month, testimony indicated that some state agencies outside the control of a state election official were not complying with the law, Mr. Schumer wrote to Mr. Holder.

STATE BUDGETS

Retooling lotteries may bring windfall

Facing serious budget shortfalls, states could rake in an additional $14 billion if they tweak their lottery programs, according to an industry report released Tuesday.

The study, which looked at 20 state lottery programs, said sales could be boosted significantly if the lotteries tried to engage a new generation of players as well as increase the size of prize payouts.

The most frequent lottery players are 35 years and older, said the report by the California-based consulting firm Frost and Sullivan. Women play less than men, and 18-to-24-year-olds have the lowest participation, it said.

Georgia, which was highlighted as a state with a successful lottery program, increased its scratch games and the prize payouts, said Margaret DeFrancisco, president and CEO of the Georgia Lottery Corp. With that revenue, she said, the lottery has helped fund education scholarship and pre-kindergarten programs that have benefited 2 million families in Georgia.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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