- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009


Bin Laden location unknown for ‘years’

The manhunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden continues more than eight years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But just where is the world’s No. 1 fugitive hiding?

Don’t know, U.S. officials said on Sunday’s talk shows. And that’s been so for “years.”

“When was the last time we had any good intelligence on where he was?” host George Stephanopoulos asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I think it’s been years,” replied Mr. Gates, prompting the host to ask, “Years?”

“I think so,” the Pentagon chief replied.

White House National Security Adviser James L. Jones said bin Laden hopscotches along the mountainous Afghanistan and Pakistan border region.

“The best estimate is that he is somewhere in North Waziristan, sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side of the border,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mr. Jones, a retired general, added that the region is a “very, very rough, mountainous area” that is mostly ungoverned.

Said Mr. Gates: “We don’t know for a fact where Osama bin Laden is. If we did, we’d go get him.”

When NBC’s “Meet the Press” host David Gregory asked Sen. John McCain of Arizona where was bin Laden, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee responded: “Look, I know as much as you do, OK?”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that, although capturing or killing bin Laden remains a prime U.S. objective, it’s not essential for winning the war on global terror.

“You can make enormous progress absent that,” she said on NBC.


Timber program morphs into pork

RESERVE, N.M. | A federal program that began as a safety net for Pacific Northwest logging communities hard-hit by battles over the spotted owl in the 1990s has morphed into a sprawling entitlement - one that ships vast amounts of money to states with little or no historic connection to timber, an analysis by the Associated Press shows.

Nicknamed “county payments,” the timber program was supposed to assist counties shortchanged when national forests limited logging to protect the northern spotted owl and other endangered species.

Since becoming law in 2000, the program has distributed more than $3 billion to 700 counties in 41 states with national forests and helped fund everything from schools to libraries to jails.

The federal largess initially focused on a handful of Western states, with Oregon alone receiving nearly $2 billion.

Spending of that magnitude, though, sparked a new timber war - this one among politicians eager to get their hands on some of the logging money.

A four-year renewal of the law, passed last year, authorizes an additional $1.6 billion for the program through 2011 and shifts substantial sums to states where the spotted owl never flew.


Low turnout likely for Mass. primary

BOSTON | Election officials in Massachusetts aren’t expecting much of a turnout for Tuesday’s primary, in which voters will be choosing candidates for an election next month to fill the Senate seat that was held by Edward M. Kennedy.

The state’s top election official points out that it’s December, during the holiday season, and that there’s a chance of snow. So, it’s not a time when people are likely to vote in large numbers. And there are no other races on the ballot.

So, the four Democrats and two Republicans are doing what they can to get their supporters to go to the polls, with a last-minute get-out-the-vote drive.

State Attorney General Martha Coakley is leading in most polls among the Democrats, as she tries to become the first woman elected from Massachusetts to the U.S. Senate. She’s drawn support from female lawmakers and activists.

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