Saturday, May 16, 2009


Sampling ruled out for 2010

President Obama’s pick to lead the Census Bureau on Friday ruled out the use of statistical sampling in the 2010 head count, seeking to allay Republican concerns that he might be swayed to put politics over science.

Robert M. Groves, a veteran survey researcher from the University of Michigan, also testified during his confirmation hearing that he remains worried about fixing a persistent undercount of hard-to-reach populations, typically minorities living in dense urban areas who tend to vote for Democrats.

He told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the success of the 2010 census will hinge on an aggressive outreach campaign, but did not say whether he would push for a government halt to immigration raids - as the Census Bureau successfully did in 2000.

“This is an area of great concern,” Mr. Groves said, suggesting a media campaign that might utilize government leaders and even Mr. Obama to encourage people to respond. “Groups cannot believe the participation in the census will harm them.”

Mr. Groves, 60, faces a relatively smooth confirmation partly because of the Democrats’ strong majority in the Senate.


$2.4 billion set for clean coal

Energy Secretary Steven Chu says he will provide $2.4 billion from the economic-stimulus package to speed up development of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-burning power plants and factories.

Mr. Chu told a meeting of the National Coal Council on Friday that it is essential that ways are found to capture carbon dioxide from coal-burning power plants and industrial sources. Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the leading greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.

Mr. Chu said coal will remain an essential energy source. He said that even if coal plants in the United States were shut down, as some environmentalists want, China and India will not turn their back on coal.


Bloomberg campaign sets spending record

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has spent a record $18.6 million of his own cash on his campaign for a third term, nearly double what he had spent by this point in the race four years ago.

Finance reports prepared by the campaign and released Friday show the billionaire independent - who is the richest man in New York City - has poured about half of his total so far into television, print and radio ads.

By this time in 2005, Mr. Bloomberg had spent $9.8 million and had not begun advertising. In the early months of his campaign that year, most of his money went toward polling and building an extensive voter database.

This year, the mayor began advertising on television in April. His ads, which are popping up all over the airwaves, focus mostly on the economy.

The field of Democratic challengers shrank after the mayor changed the city’s term-limits law last year so that he could run again.

One would-be Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, said he is rethinking his plans, while the leading Democratic candidate, William Thompson Jr., is fighting growing rumors that he will pull out of the race.


After jet scare, city warns of drill

Authorities have warned people about a huge emergency response drill set for New York City’s World Trade Center on Sunday, seeking to avoid panic like one caused by an unannounced flyover by a U.S. presidential plane.

More than 800 emergency responders - mostly police and firefighters - will practice responding to a simulated explosion on a commuter train in the tunnel below the Hudson River that separates New York from New Jersey.

The drill was scheduled to run from 6 to 11:30 a.m. at the transit hub, which is surrounded by construction sites for skyscrapers and a memorial for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

On April 27, a plane used by President Obama, trailed by a fighter jet, flew low over the Statue of Liberty near the World Trade Center site, creating panic among New Yorkers who lived through Sept. 11.

But it turned out the flight, which was not announced to the public, had been staged for a photo shoot.


Town primps for first lady

The sleepy California town of Merced was buzzing with excitement Friday as it prepared to welcome first lady Michelle Obama for a graduation address to students at a local college.

Mrs. Obama will address graduates at the University of California-Merced on Saturday, capping an ambitious grass-roots campaign waged by students seeking to persuade the first lady to be their commencement speaker.

Students at the college - which only opened in 2005 - wooed Mrs. Obama after mounting a “Dear Michelle” campaign on the Internet via sites such as YouTube and Facebook. About 250 letters were faxed to Mrs. Obama, while more than 900 hand-written Valentine’s Day cards were sent in February.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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