- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 17, 2009

BAILOUT

Auto suppliers’ cash request denied

The Obama administration has turned down a request by auto suppliers for up to $10 billion in additional federal aid to help the parts companies deal with the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler.

The Treasury Department said in a statement Tuesday that an existing $5 billion support program for auto parts suppliers was playing an important role in stabilizing the nation’s auto supply base. “No changes have been made to funding,” but will continue to monitor the situation, the department said.

Suppliers have lobbied for $8 billion to $10 billion in loan guarantees to help them raise money to buy raw materials and pay employees as Chrysler and GM resume production.

Supplier trade groups met with members of the Obama administration’s auto task force and lawmakers last week.

Task force officials told industry leaders they already provided plenty of support but didn’t see the need for further action, said Neil De Koker, president and chief executive officer of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association.

LAWSUIT

White House said to hide names

A watchdog group seeking greater transparency in government on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration for failing to disclose a list of high-powered business executives who visited the White House.

In the lawsuit, the nonprofit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington accused the Obama White House of adopting the same lack of transparency of which the George W. Bush administration was frequently accused.

At issue is a list of executives from the coal industry who have been to the White House and to the official residence of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. since Mr. Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

The filing was made “because President Obama has been a proponent of clean coal, and we wanted to know to what extent these people had an influence on the formulation of the administration energy policy,” said Anne Weismann, the group’s chief counsel.

Climate

White House gives warming warning

Harmful effects from global warming are already here and getting worse, the Obama administration warned Tuesday in its first comprehensive climate report, using the strongest language on climate change to come out of the White House.

Global warming is already responsible for more heavy downpours, the rise of temperatures and sea levels, rapidly retreating glaciers and altered river flows, according to the document released by the White House science adviser and other top officials.

“There are in some cases already serious consequences,” said Anthony Janetos of the University of Maryland, a co-author of the report. “This is not a theoretical thing that will happen 50 years from now. Things are happening now.”

The White House document - a climate status report required periodically by Congress - contains no new research.

HOUSE

Fire-prone pines worry the West

Officials from Rocky Mountain states urged Congress on Tuesday help them avert a potential catastrophe this summer as they grapple with millions of acres of beetle-ravaged pines that are prone to fire.

Local government officials and forestry experts told the House Natural Resources Committee at a hearing Tuesday that small towns, ski resorts, water supplies and electricity transmission lines surrounded by dead or dying forests are at risk for wildfires.

“In spite of the state’s best efforts, resources are limited and it is incumbent upon the federal government to act more aggressively to suppress and prevent fires,” two Colorado lawmakers said in joint testimony.

State Sen. Dan Gibbs and state Rep. Christine Scanlan also said they want the federal government to help create a market for wood products - including wood pellets that can be burned to create energy - made from the dead trees.

HHS

Schools may get flu vaccine first

Schoolchildren may be first in line for swine flu vaccine this fall - and might even be able to get the shot at school.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is taking that possible scenario to school superintendents across the country, urging them to spend the summer planning what to do if the government decides it needs their buildings for mass vaccinations.

“If you think about vaccinating kids, schools are the logical place,” Mrs. Sebelius told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

No decision has been made on whether and how to vaccinate millions of Americans against the new flu strain, which the World Health Organization last week formally dubbed a pandemic, meaning it now is circulating the globe unchecked.

STATE DEPARTMENT

U.S. lists more human traffickers

The Obama administration Tuesday expanded the U.S. watch list of countries suspected of not doing enough to combat human trafficking, putting more than four dozen nations on notice they might face sanctions unless their records improve.

The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the first released since President Obama took office, placed 52 countries and territories - mainly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East - on the watch list. That number is a 30 percent jump from the 40 countries on the list in 2008.

Several nations were removed from the list, but new countries cited for human trafficking problems include Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Iraq, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Senegal and the United Arab Emirates.

The report also placed the Netherlands’ Antilles, a self-governing Dutch territory in the Caribbean, on the watch list.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

SENATE

FCC nominee stresses broadband

The Federal Communications Commission will focus on national broadband service and consumer issues under the Obama administration, the FCC chairman-designate told lawmakers Tuesday.

“As the media landscape changes dramatically, the need has never been greater for an FCC that sees the world from the perspective of consumers and families,” Julius Genachowski, a technology industry executive and law school friend of President Obama, told a Senate commerce committee hearing.

The committee is expected to approve his nomination later this week, sending it to the full Senate for a vote.

Mr. Genachowski told the committee that he would focus on implementing a national broadband service plan, promoting more consumer choices in telecommunications and making the agency’s work more transparent to outsiders.

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