- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2009

MINORITIES

Surgeon general decries numbers

ATLANTA | The new U.S. surgeon general on Thursday called for stepped-up efforts in increasing the number of minority physicians.

In what was one of her first speeches to a large crowd since she was sworn in Nov. 3, Dr. Regina Benjamin noted that the proportion of U.S. physicians who are minorities is 6 percent - the same proportion as a century ago.

“There’s something wrong with that,” said Dr. Benjamin, speaking at a conference on health disparities at a hotel in downtown Atlanta.

By contrast, minorities account for about 34 percent of the U.S. population, according to 2008 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In a 27-minute speech, Dr. Benjamin told health leaders in the audience to encourage young minorities to pursue careers in medicine or other ambitions.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Holder’s deputy decides to leave

The No. 2 official at the Justice Department announced Thursday he is leaving the job after less than a year.

David Ogden, a prominent Washington lawyer, is headed back to his former firm, WilmerHale.

As the deputy to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Mr. Ogden oversaw a crackdown on Mexican drug cartels and coordinated various law enforcement agencies that work under the Justice Department.

Mr. Ogden plans to continue in the position until Feb. 5, and no successor has been named for the position, which is a presidential appointment that must be confirmed by Congress.

Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration who works at WilmerHale and knows many of the lawyers now running the Justice Department, said Mr. Ogden made important contributions, beginning with his work on the Obama transition team.

“I think the decision reflects differences between Eric and David on what the deputy should do, and that happens,” said Ms. Gorelick. “It’s clear they had different views on what the deputy’s office should do, and Eric should have a deputy who does it the way he wants it.”

CRIME

Envoy to Mexico defends aid pace

McALLEN, Texas | The U.S. ambassador to Mexico said Thursday that programs to provide more than $1.1 billion in equipment and training to help Mexico fight organized crime are on track.

Ambassador Carlos Pascual’s comments followed the release Thursday of a government report showing only about $24 million of the aid had been spent by the end of September. Congress appropriated the first $400 million for Mexico as part of the Merida Initiative in June 2008.

Mr. Pascual said expenditures had increased several times since the report was completed and noted that five new helicopters would be delivered to Mexico in a matter of weeks.

“The snapshot showed where we were and the snapshot is very different today, it’s going to be radically different in two weeks,” Mr. Pascual said.

“In any program there is a necessary lead time for obtaining the resources, for executing the contracts, for producing the necessary equipment, for training the people on their use, and that’s what we’ve been doing now,” Mr. Pascual said. “And what you’ll see over the course of the next year and a half is a radical change in the pace of the implementation.”

SOUTH DAKOTA

IRS auctions off Indian tribe’s land

PIERRE, S.D. | The Internal Revenue Service has auctioned off a large swath of disputed land owned by a South Dakota Indian tribe to help pay off more than $3 million in back taxes, penalties and interest.

IRS spokeswoman Carrie Resch says the 7,100 acres of Crow Creek Sioux tribal land sold for almost $2.6 million Thursday. She did not say who bought it.

The tribe filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Pierre seeking to block the sale. Judge Roberto A. Lange declined their request but said he would schedule a trial to hear the tribe’s arguments.

The tribe contends that the IRS can’t seize the land without congressional approval, and because the land is owned by a corporation set up under tribal laws, which is not responsible for paying the tribe’s delinquent tax bill.

WHITE HOUSE

U.S. presses Iran on missing man

The White House renewed appeals Thursday for Tehran to shed light on a former FBI agent who disappeared 1,000 days ago while visiting an Iranian resort island in the Gulf.

“The United States calls on the government of the Islamic republic of Iran to assist in providing any information on [Robert] Levinson’s whereabouts and in ensuring his prompt and safe return to his family,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

The statement said U.S. National Security Adviser James L. Jones had visited Mr. Levinson’s family on Thursday to reassure them that his case remained a priority for the United States.

Christine Levinson says her husband, who retired from the FBI a decade ago, had traveled to Kish Island to investigate cigarette counterfeiting in the region. He went missing on March 9, 2007. She traveled to Iran in December 2007 to find out what happened.

SENATE

World War I vet endorses memorial

Ninety years after surviving World War I and 60 years after enduring a Japanese prisoner of war camp, Frank Woodruff Buckles on Thursday emerged unscathed from a Senate hearing.

The only living American-born veteran of World War I, now 108, was on Capitol Hill to lend his support for legislation, named in his honor, to dedicate a World War I memorial on the national Mall.

“An excellent idea,” Mr. Buckles, who uses a wheelchair, told a panel of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Before the hearing, Mr. Buckles, wearing a ribbon commemorating his service, was greeted and shook hands with a procession of senators, including subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall, Colorado Democrat, and his home-state senator, Democrat John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, followed by a group of high school students serving as Senate pages.

Mr. Buckles, born in 1901, talked his way into the Army at age 16. He drove ambulances and motorcycles and helped return prisoners of war to Germany after the armistice. He was working as a civilian for an American shipping company when he was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942 and spent three years in a prison camp.

His daughter Susannah Buckles Flanagan, who lives with him on a farm in Charles Town, W.Va., said her father now has difficulty hearing but still enjoys reading and exercise every day.

HEALTH

CDC warns of fake flu e-mails

ATLANTA | Health officials are warning the public about fake e-mails inviting people to sign up for swine flu vaccine registrations.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials this week put out an advisory about the e-mails, which call for adults to create a personal H1N1 (swine flu) vaccination profile on the cdc.gov Web site.

CDC officials say the e-mails appear to be spam messages designed by hackers to spread a computer virus.

The CDC does not have such a vaccination program.

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