- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2009

DIPLOMACY

Bush spokesman criticizes Cuba

The White House was characteristically dismissive of the 50th anniversary of Cuba’s revolution, saying Wednesday the island was still suffering.

“The Castro brothers have not treated their people particularly well,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said when asked to comment on Thursday’s anniversary.

The Jan. 1, 1959 revolution overthrew U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, brought Fidel Castro to power and ushered in a deep chill in U.S. relations with the island as Mr. Castro built a Soviet-backed communist tyranny at the height of the Cold War.

“Many political dissidents are in jail. The economy is suffering and not free,” Mr. Johndroe told reporters in Crawford, Texas, where President Bush is on holiday. “The United States will continue to try to seek the freedom of the people of Cuba and support them.”

JUSTICE

Mexico extradites 10 drug suspects

Mexico sent 10 suspected drug traffickers, including a former official of Mexico’s national attorney general’s office, to the United States on Wednesday.

The extraditions bring to a record 95 the number of suspects sent from Mexico to the United States in 2008, up from the 2007 total of 83, the U.S. Justice Department said.

A department announcement described the 10 suspects as major drug brokers or members of top drug cartels. They were flown to Houston to face U.S. indictments on charges such as racketeering and drug distribution.

Most of the suspects will make an initial court appearance in Houston on Monday, department spokesman Ian McCaleb said.

“Today’s extraditions demonstrate that the cartels cannot operate with impunity, and that Mexico and the United States will work together ceaselessly to defeat them,” U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said in the announcement.

NOAA

Whale sighting surprises experts

U.S. government researchers have spotted 44 right whales in the Gulf of Maine this week, perhaps evidence of a new breeding ground for the endangered species.

The aerial survey may help in coordinating efforts to protect the whales, hunted nearly into extinction in the past two centuries, the researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

“We’re excited because seeing 44 right whales together in the Gulf of Maine is a record for the winter months, when daily observations of three or five animals are much more common,” said Tim Cole, who heads the team at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

“Right whales are baleen whales, and in the winter spend a lot of time diving for food deep in the water column. Seeing so many of them at the surface when we are flying over an area is a bit of luck.”

Many female North Atlantic right whales head south to Florida and Georgia to give birth in the winter, NOAA said in a statement. But scientists know little about where other right whales go in winter.

Only 325 of the giant mammals are known to survive.

PRESIDENT-ELECT

Princeton economist picked for panel

President-elect Barack Obama is expected to name Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton University labor economist, to the Council of Economic Advisers, an aide with the Obama transition office said Wednesday.

Mr. Obama is expected to draw on Ms. Rouse’s expertise in the economic benefits of education investments as he puts together a stimulus package to boost the slumping economy, the aide told Reuters news service.

Ms. Rouse has studied the benefits of community college attendance, according to a biography on Princeton’s Web site.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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