- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Letterman: Sorry for ‘bad’ Palin joke

NEW YORK | David Letterman said his joke about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s daughter was a lousy joke, and he’s sorry.

But the late-night host insisted that what’s got people really riled is the misconception over which Palin daughter the joke was about.

On Monday’s edition of “The Late Show,” Mr. Letterman explained that the risque joke thought by some to have targeted Mrs. Palin’s underage daughter, Willow, was actually referring to 18-year-old daughter Bristol. The name of the daughter wasn’t mentioned in the joke, which was part of Mr. Letterman’s monologue on last Monday’s show.

It was “a coarse joke,” “a bad joke,” Mr. Letterman told viewers. “But I never thought it was [about] anybody other than the older daughter, and before the show, I checked to make sure, in fact, that she is of legal age, 18.”

“The joke, really, in and of itself, can’t be defended,” he said.

Even so, the ongoing outcry, led by Mrs. Palin and her husband, Todd, has centered on Mr. Letterman intending to make a joke about the Palins’ 14-year-old daughter supposedly having sex with a Yankees baseball player.


FAA to propose limits on pilot hours

Obama administration officials said Monday they will propose new limits on how many hours airline pilots can fly in an effort to curb pilot fatigue, an issue safety officials have been urging action on for two decades.

Randy Babbitt, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, said he will propose the new rule in the next several months. A former airline pilot who has been at FAA only a few weeks, Mr. Babbitt said the issue is complicated because a pilot flying fewer hours with more takeoffs and landings will likely experience more fatigue than a pilot on a longer flight with only one takeoff and one landing.


FDA questions ADHD drug study

Federal health regulators are urging parents to keep their children on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall, despite new evidence in a government-backed study that the stimulants can increase the risk of sudden death.

The study, published Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggests a link between use of the stimulant drugs and sudden death in children and adolescents. The drugs already carry warnings about risks of heart attack and stroke in children with underlying heart conditions, but researchers have questioned whether they pose the same risks to children without those problems.

Healthy children taking the medications were six to seven times more likely to die suddenly for unexplained reasons than their peers, according to the study from the National Institute of Mental Health.

The study was partially funded by the Food and Drug Administration, but agency experts said its methods - which relied on interviews with parents years after a child’s death - may have caused errors. The agency urges parents to discuss safety concerns with their doctor, but to keep children on the treatments.

The FDA said it is collecting data for a larger, more in-depth study of the drugs’ risks.


VA expands eligibility for care

The Department of Veterans Affairs has started expanding the number of nondisabled, moderate-income veterans eligible for health care in its system.

It said that with a new regulation that went into effect Monday, nearly 266,000 veterans for the first time can use its medical centers and clinics starting next year.

The eligible veterans are from a category known as “Priority 8.” They were blocked from enrollment in 2003. Under the new regulation, some but not all who fall in this category will now be eligible.

The VA is expanding eligibility by loosening income restrictions. The most someone previously could make a year in this category to become eligible has now been raised from about $29,000 to $32,000. President Obama said while campaigning that he wanted to bring these veterans into the VA’s system.


First lady starts a music series

The White House sounded more like the music wing of a high school than a seat of government Monday - and that’s just the way first lady Michelle Obama likes it.

Mrs. Obama launched a White House music festival that brought 150 students together with musical legends like Wynton Marsalis and Paquito D’Rivera for a workshop on jazz, which the first lady called “America’s greatest artistic gift to the world.”

A jazz ensemble is like a democracy, Mrs. Obama said, and proves that “when we work together, there’s nothing we can’t do.”

The students in the workshop were chosen from some of the nation’s top music schools, including the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts in Washington and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in New Orleans. With instruments in tow, they filed into the ornately decorated White House East Room and State Dining Room to learn from the masters of their craft.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


Kerry asks to use coffers for movie

Sen. John Kerry has made it in politics. Now he wants to be a movie producer.

The Massachusetts Democrat has asked the Senate ethics panel whether he can use $300,000 from his campaign funds to invest in a documentary about injured Iraq war veterans. Mr. Kerry has also sought approval from the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

The former Democratic presidential nominee hopes to be an executive producer for a movie tentatively titled “Keeping the Faith” by White Mountain Films. The senator, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would help line up investors and obtain interview subjects for the film.

Mr. Kerry would not be paid, but he could get up to a 120 percent return on his $300,000 investment, according to a March 16 letter he sent to the FEC. The movie is expected to cost between $3 million and $5 million to make.

“After he gets a decision from Senate ethics and the FEC, he will make his own decision on what to do,” said spokeswoman Jodi Seth on Monday.

Mr. Kerry has $3.5 million in his campaign account and does not face re-election until 2014.


High court refuses ‘Cuban Five’ case

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the case of five Cubans serving prison sentences for spying in the United States, effectively upholding their conviction by a lower court.

The so-called Cuban Five, regarded by Havana as political prisoners, had argued that they did not receive a fair trial in Miami in 2001 because of strong anti-Castro sentiments there.

In turning aside the case, the high court effectively upheld a decision by a federal appeals court in Atlanta in 2006 that reinstated their convictions and sentences and reversed an earlier order for a new trial.

The Cubans were arrested in 1998 and convicted three years later. Three of the Cubans were sentenced to life in prison; the other two were given sentences of between 15 and 19 years in prison.

Havana acknowledged that the five were spies, but said their aim was not to spy on the U.S. government but solely to gather information on “terrorist” plots by Cuban expatriates in Florida, a bastion of anti-Castro fervor.

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