- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009

TRANSITION

Sunstein to head oversight office

President-elect Barack Obama has tapped legal scholar Cass Sunstein as his administration’s regulatory czar, a Democratic source said Friday.

Mr. Obama hired the law professor, who has very little government experience, to run the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the administration’s central approver of rules over environmental policy, workplace safety issues and federal health care policies.

All major agencies’ rules will pass across Mr. Sunstein’s desk, making his office the main mover for the Obama administration’s expected reversals of executive orders issued by President Bush, who leaves office Tuesday.

Obama aides and advisers have their eyes on Mr. Bush’s policies on embryonic stem-cell research and abortion, but advisers have combed Mr. Bush’s record and found more than 200 rules that they would like to see reversed.

FDA

Salmonella probe hits 30 companies

The government is expanding its investigation of peanut products in a salmonella outbreak, which has sickened hundreds and killed at least six, consumer groups briefed on the matter said Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration is notifying about 30 companies that bought peanut butter or peanut paste from a Georgia facility to test their products, said representatives of Consumers Union and Food & Water Watch.

Companies across the country also are being asked to consider halting sales, said the consumer representatives, who took part in a conference call with federal officials Friday. The concern about peanut paste is significant because it is used in dozens of products, from baked goods to cooking sauces. State and federal investigation first focused on bulk containers of peanut butter sold to institutions, such as nursing homes, and not found on supermarket shelves.

“Now, it turns out it’s not just institutions,” said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union.

The investigation is focusing on a processing facility in Blakely, Ga., owned by Peanut Corp. of America.

INAUGURATION

Open house details released to public

The official Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Friday that Barack Obama will open the White House to supporters Wednesday, the day after he is sworn in.

In an e-mail, the committee said those “among the first” to sign up at www.pic2009.org/ dayone “could” get a chance to be there.

“President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect [Joseph R.] Biden [Jr.] have committed to running one of the most open and accessible presidential administrations in our nation’s history,” the e-mail reads. “And that begins on Day One, when we open the doors of the White House to you. On Wednesday, January 21st, we will be hosting an Open House reception at the White House for hundreds of special guests. If you are among the first to sign up today, you and a friend could be there.”

SENATE

Biden’s successor takes oath of office

Edward Kaufman, a Delaware Democrat who for decades has been a political adviser to Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., was sworn in Friday to fill the Senate seat Mr. Biden relinquished to become vice president.

Mr. Kaufman, 69, has made it clear that his emergence into the public spotlight will be brief and that he does not plan to stay in the Senate past 2010.

Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, who appointed Mr. Kaufman to the seat, joined Mr. Biden’s wife, Jill, in watching the swearing-in from the visitors’ gallery. Mr. Biden formally resigned Thursday after 36 years in the Senate. Mr. Kaufman served on Mr. Biden’s Senate staff from 1973 to 1994, including 19 years as chief of staff.

“It was like getting married,” Mr. Kaufman said in a telephone interview after the swearing-in. “You can anticipate it, but when you walk down the aisle, it’s a totally different feel. That’s the way this was. It was special.”

SURVEY

Public expectations lofty for Obama

NEW YORK | Americans believe Barack Obama is on track to succeed and are optimistic he can help revive the struggling economy, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

Public expectations for his performance in office far exceed those for any president in a generation.

On the eve of his inauguration Tuesday, the poll found that 65 percent of those surveyed believe Mr. Obama will be an “above average” president or better, including 28 percent who think he will be “outstanding.”

According to previous preinauguration polls, 47 percent believed George W. Bush would be an “above average” or “outstanding” president when he entered his first term, 56 percent thought Bill Clinton would be “above average” or better, and 38 percent thought George H.W. Bush would be “above average” or better.

Seventy-one percent of those polled said the economy will likely improve during the first year of the Obama presidency; 65 percent said unemployment will go down; 72 percent said the stock market would be on the rise; and 63 percent said their personal economic situation would improve.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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