- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Lawmaker rips Michael Jackson

A New York congressman who is considering a Senate run posted a YouTube video calling Michael Jackson a “pervert” and questioning the exhaustive media coverage of the pop star’s death.

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, said in the video posted Sunday that society is glorifying a “low-life,” while hardworking teachers, police officers, firefighters and veterans don’t get the credit they deserve.

“This guy was a pervert,” Mr. King said in the video, shot Sunday by a staff member outside an American Legion hall. “He was a child molester. He was a pedophile. And to be giving this much coverage to him, day in and day out, what does it say about us as a country?”

A jury acquitted Mr. Jackson in 2005 of charges that he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor. However, in June 2004 the pop star agreed to pay $25 million to settle an out-of-court civil suit against him by the boy’s family.

In a telephone interview Monday, Mr. King said that Mr. Jackson had “admitted to sleeping with young boys, traveling with young boys. … That’s the definition of pedophilia.”

In a 2003 documentary, Mr. Jackson admitted to letting children sleep with him in his bed at his California home but said it wasn’t sexual.


Cabinet chiefs head to China

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Energy Secretary Steven Chu will travel together to China next week to boost U.S. clean-technology exports, the U.S. Commerce Department said Monday.

“As China confronts climate change, there will be opportunities for American green-technology companies to fill a critical need, creating jobs here and helping to curb pollution in China - a win-win for both counties,” Mr. Locke said in a statement announcing the July 14-17 trip.

China is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases blamed for global climate change, although its per-capita emissions are still far less than the United States. Both countries are major players in U.N. talks aimed at reaching a new climate pact by the end of the year in Copenhagen.

Mr. Locke, a former governor of Washington with close ties to China, told Reuters news agency earlier this year that he hoped to travel to China with Mr. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Both are the first Chinese-Americans to hold their current jobs.

“Clean energy will drive the economy of the future, both in the United States and around the world,” Mr. Chu said.

“Working together, we can accomplish more than acting alone. It’s in our interest and China’s to explore ways to cooperate for our mutual benefit - by promoting renewable energy, encouraging energy efficiency and cutting pollution,” he said.


Woman gets prison for identity theft

A woman who worked with her cousin to steal the identities of 13 unsuspecting Library of Congress employees was sentenced Monday to 2 1/2 years in prison.

Labiska Gibbs admitted that in the spring of 2008, she asked her second cousin, William Sinclair Jr., who worked in the library’s human resource department, to get her the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of library workers from the payroll database.

Gibbs opened several credit accounts in the names of those workers and spent nearly $40,000. Prosecutors said she often bought gift cards that she would sell at a discount.

Gibbs, a 35-year-old mother from the District with a history of identity and other theft, cried as she read a letter to her victims asking for their forgiveness. She said she is now taking medication for bipolar disorder.

U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts told Gibbs she would have to serve the prison sentence and pay back $30,000 to Target and other credit card issuers where she opened the fraudulent accounts.

Sinclair also pleaded guilty for his role and was sentenced in May to three years of probation.


Hospitals try to cut deal on legislation

The nation’s hospitals are near agreement with a key lawmaker and the White House to pick up part of the cost of President Obama’s plan for expanded coverage, officials said Monday.

The precise size of any deal was not available, although several days ago, talks were focused in the range of $150 billion to $155 billion over a decade. These officials said that under the emerging agreement, hospitals would accept lower-than-anticipated payments under Medicare and Medicaid, the federal health care programs for seniors and the poor.

Any agreement involving Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and the White House would give fresh momentum to efforts to write bipartisan legislation on an issue that Mr. Obama has placed atop his list of domestic priorities.

Several officials said no agreement with the hospitals had been sealed, although a formal announcement could come as early as Tuesday at the White House. The officials, who have been closely following the negotiations, spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the confidential nature of the discussions.


Researchers warn of number cracking

For all the concern about identity theft, researchers say there’s a surprisingly easy way for the technology-savvy to figure out the precious nine digits of Americans’ Social Security numbers.

“It’s good that we found it before the bad guys,” Alessandro Acquisti of Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh said of the method for predicting the numbers.

Mr. Acquisti and Ralph Gross report in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they were able to make the predictions using data available in public records as well as information such as birth dates cheerfully provided on social networks such as Facebook.

For people born after 1988 - when the government began issuing numbers at birth - the researchers were able to identify, in a single attempt, the first five Social Security digits for 44 percent of individuals. And they got all nine digits for 8.5 percent of those people in fewer than 1,000 attempts.

For smaller states, their accuracy was considerably higher than in larger ones.

Mr. Acquisti said in a telephone interview that he has sent the findings to the Social Security Administration and other government agencies with a suggestion they adopt a more random system for assigning numbers.


Patrick Kennedy plans to return

Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy said he’s “feeling healthy and strong” and plans to return to Congress on Tuesday after receiving treatment at an undisclosed medical facility.

The Rhode Island Democrat said Monday he was looking forward to returning full time to his congressional duties.

“The support and words of encouragement I have received over the past few weeks certainly help to support my efforts in recovery, which I take seriously every day,” Mr. Kennedy said.

The congressman, who has struggled with depression, alcoholism and addiction for much of his life, checked into the facility last month. The son of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, has called his treatment “a lifelong process.”

The congressman’s office declined to provide any details about the congressman’s health, what he was being treated for or what prompted him to seek treatment.


Panel wants more outdoor funds

Despite mounting debt, a blue-ribbon bipartisan panel says the federal government should increase by tenfold its spending on outdoor recreation and conservation.

At least $3.2 billion a year - up from current funding of about $255 million - is needed to conserve and protect the nation’s outdoor heritage, including parks, wildlife refuges and open space, says the Outdoor Resources Review Group, made up of elected officials and conservationists.

The report calls for a nationwide system of “blueways” and water trails to improve water-related recreation opportunities. The water trails would be established through public-private partnerships among federal, state and local agencies, local groups and private landowners.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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