Tuesday, February 3, 2009


McCain drops hold on Lynn appointment

Sen. John McCain will no longer hold up the nomination of William Lynn, whose appointment to become deputy defense secretary ran counter to President Obama‘s rule against “revolving door” lobbyists.

Mr. McCain’s decision, announced by a spokeswoman Monday, removes a major roadblock for Mr. Lynn’s appointment. A Senate vote on Mr. Lynn’s nomination had been put on hold pending inquiry by Mr. McCain, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan wrote in an e-mail that the senator will allow the nomination to proceed after having received from Mr. Lynn more specifics on his lobbying work for Raytheon Co., a top military contractor that attracted more than $18 billion in government business in 2007.

She declined to say whether Mr. McCain planned to vote for Mr. Lynn.

“Mr. Lynn addressed Senator McCain’s concerns adequately” and Mr. McCain “intends to move forward with the nomination process,” Miss Buchanan wrote.


U.S. penalizes firms in 3 nations

The Obama administration said Monday that it has imposed sanctions on companies in North Korea, China and Iran for violating U.S. law aimed at stopping the spread of missiles and other weapons technology.

The penalties were the first of their kind from the new administration and signaled a willingness to continue the Bush administration’s tough stance on weapons proliferation.

The sanctions, while largely symbolic, come at a sensitive time in two key U.S. diplomatic efforts. The U.S. relies on Chinese leverage in international negotiations to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. The Obama administration also needs the help of China, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, to deter Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon.


Donors fined for illegal contributions

Seven Republican contributors have agreed to pay civil fines for making illegal contributions to former President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, the Federal Election Commission said Monday.

The fines are part of a wider political scandal involving Ohio fundraiser Tom Noe, who in 2006 pleaded guilty to federal charges that he illegally funneled about $45,000 to the Bush campaign.

Noe gave $45,400 directly or indirectly to 24 friends and associates who, in turn, donated money to the Bush campaign using their own names. That allowed Noe to avoid the $2,000 federal limit on individual contributions.

All of the checks were written in the days leading up to a 2003 fundraiser at a downtown Columbus, Ohio, hotel.

Noe served nearly two years in federal prison on the fundraising charge. He is now serving an 18-year sentence for a separate conviction for stealing from an Ohio investment fund.

The FEC assessed civil penalties against seven of the donors, and took no action against 17 others. The seven are: Joseph F. Restivo $25,000; Donna Owens $9,000; Samuel S. Thurber $9,000; Margaret L. Thurber $9,000; Sally A. Perz $7,000; Howard D. Talbott $5,000; and Betty K. Schultz $1,500.


Admiral: Afghanistan unlike Vietnam

The top U.S. military officer cautioned Monday against comparing the Pentagon’s renewed focus on Afghanistan to the Vietnam War, citing terrorism and a non-occupation strategy as “dramatic differences” between the two conflicts.

“Afghanistan is much more complex,” said Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He added: “I certainly recognize - and having been in Vietnam myself - that there are those who make comparisons. I would be pretty careful about that, though, for lots of reasons.”

Adm. Mullen’s comments came as the Pentagon prepares to deploy an additional 15,000 Army and Marine troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer in the Obama administration’s military campaign to shut down the Taliban and al Qaeda.


Mrs. Obama hails proposed stimulus

First lady Michelle Obama on Monday made a pitch for the president’s economic stimulus plan, in her first public remarks about the measure being debated in the U.S. Senate.

Mrs. Obama told about 350 employees at the Department of Education that President Obama’s nearly $900 billion stimulus package would “prevent teacher layoffs and education cuts in hard-hit states.”

Mrs. Obama said her husband’s plan would invest in the creation of good jobs through the modernizing of 10,000 schools.

“We need to keep teachers in the classrooms throughout this time,” Mrs. Obama said.

The workers applauded when she said the plan would make college more affordable for millions of students by increasing Pell grants and offering tuition tax credits. She said the plan would preserve early childhood education programs and expand them for low-income and disabled students.


Funny moment at Clinton ceremony

Yes, that was Chevy Chase, the former “Saturday Night Live” funnyman, in the crowd at Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ceremonial swearing-in Monday at the State Department.

Mr. Chase brought a touch of Hollywood star power to a gathering of Washington’s power elite, including Henry Kissinger and three other former secretaries of state, as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. administered the oath of office.

In her remarks, Mrs. Clinton thanked Mr. Biden and President Obama for choosing her as the nation’s top diplomat, saying she had assumed her new responsibilities “at a real hinge-of-history time.”

In a slightly awkward moment, Mrs. Clinton thanked her husband, Bill, who stood behind her and beside daughter Chelsea.

“I am so grateful to him for a lifetime of,” she said, pausing as if searching for the right words - “all kinds of experiences.” At that, the crowd erupted briefly in laughter.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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