- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2009


Obama set to alter stem-cell policy

Expect an executive order soon from President Obama on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

That’s the word from White House adviser David Axelrod, who was asked about it on “Fox News Sunday.”

Under former President George W. Bush, federal money for research on human embryonic stems cells was limited to those stem cell lines that were created before Aug. 9, 2001.

Federal rules do not restrict embryonic stem-cell research using state or private funds.

Mr. Obama made it clear during the campaign he would overturn Mr. Bush’s directive.


U.S. to plan racism session

The Obama administration said late Saturday that it would participate in planning for a U.N. conference on racism despite concerns the meeting will be used by Arab nations and others to criticize Israel.

The U.S. will decide later whether to participate in the conference.

The State Department said it would send diplomats this week to participate in preparatory meetings for the World Conference Against Racism, which is set to be held in Geneva in April. Some countries, including Israel, have already decided to boycott the event.

During the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. and Israel walked out the first U.N. conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 over efforts to pass a resolution comparing Zionism - the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state - to racism.

Those efforts failed, but there are signs that the resolution may be reintroduced at the “Durban 2” meeting in Geneva, and Israel has been actively lobbying the United States and European countries to stay away from this year’s meeting.


Judge drops contempt charges

A federal judge dropped contempt charges Saturday against a Justice Department attorney after concluding he was not responsible for the government’s failure to deliver documents to former Sen. Ted Stevens’ legal team.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan issued the order releasing Kevin Driscoll, the newest member of the Justice Department’s prosecution team in the case. It came one day after Judge Sullivan angrily held Mr. Driscoll and three of his colleagues in contempt, calling it “outrageous” that government attorneys would ignore his Jan. 30 deadline for turning over documents.

“Mr. Driscoll did not sign the relevant pleadings, has not filed an appearance in this case, and appears to have been brought in by his supervisors only recently” for the limited purpose of addressing a separate issue, Judge Sullivan said.

Still being held in contempt are William Welch, chief of the public integrity section, his principal deputy Brenda Morris and Patty Merkamp Stemler, chief of the Justice Department’s appellate section.

Last month, Judge Sullivan ordered the Justice Department to provide the agency’s internal communications regarding a whistleblower complaint brought by an FBI agent involved in the investigation into the former Alaska senator. The agent, Chad Joy, objected to Justice Department tactics during the trial, including failure to turn over evidence and an “inappropriate relationship” between the lead agent on the case and the prosecution’s star witness.


McCain: Obama left out Republicans

Sen. John McCain said President Obama failed to include Republicans in writing the big economic stimulus bill.

The Arizona Republican, in an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the $787 billion measure will create “generational theft” - huge federal deficits for years to come.

Mr. McCain, who lost the presidential race to Mr. Obama, said the president is backtracking on promises of bipartisanship. He called it a bad beginning to Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Mr. McCain acknowledged that Republicans excluded Democrats when the Republicans held power on Capitol Hill. But he said Mr. Obama had promised to work differently.


License plate salutes Obama

CHICAGO | Barack Obama license plates are now available to Illinois residents who can’t get enough of the new U.S. president, state officials say.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White on Friday unveiled an “Illinois Salutes Barack Obama” temporary license plate, which he said can be purchased for $50 and be used for 60 days beginning Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Mr. White said the proceeds from the Obama license plate, which feature the president smiling, will benefit Illinois libraries.


Gibbs: Basketball helps Obama

Barack Obama’s press secretary, in an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said there are very few days he doesn’t see the commander in chief either handling or dribbling a basketball at some point.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said playing ball helps Mr. Obama get exercise and relieve stress. Mr. Gibbs said when Mr. Obama plays, he can think about something different - even if only for a short time.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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