- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

WHITE HOUSE

Obama, astronaut to discuss NASA

President Obama is set Tuesday to meet veteran shuttle astronaut Charles Bolden, the White House said amid speculation that he will name Mr. Bolden as NASA’s first black chief.

“The visit with Mr. Bolden will be [Tuesday] morning,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Monday.

A meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. Bolden planned for Monday was put off after talks between the president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ran late, Mr. Gibbs said.



Maj. Gen. Bolden, a retired Marine pilot who saw service in Vietnam, flew on the first of four space flights in 1986 as a pilot on board the shuttle Columbia.

The 62-year-old aviation consultant is reportedly Mr. Obama’s pick to become administrator of NASA, a post that has remained vacant since the president took office in January.

HAITI

Clinton to be named envoy to Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti | Former President Bill Clinton will be named special U.N. envoy to this impoverished Caribbean nation that has been mired in political and social turmoil for decades, his spokesman said Monday.

An official announcement is expected from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday, Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna told the Associated Press.

Mr. Clinton is popular among many of Haiti’s poor because as president in 1994, he used the threat of military force to oust a dictatorship in the Caribbean nation.

U.S. Army troops and Marines then quickly arrived to pave the way for the return of elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been ousted in a coup.

Because of his marriage to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, State Department lawyers must approve and review some of Mr. Clinton’s international activities under an agreement between the U.S. Senate and Clinton Foundation.

Officials said the State Department is aware of the appointment but could not say whether its lawyers have signed off on it.

PENTAGON

Bible quotes out on briefings

The Pentagon said Monday that it no longer includes a Bible quote on the cover page of daily intelligence briefings that it sends to the White House as was practice during the Bush administration.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said he did not know how long the Worldwide Intelligence Update cover sheets quoted from the Bible. Air Force Maj. Gen. Glen Shaffer, who was responsible for including them, retired in August 2003, according to his biography.

For a period in 2003, at least, the daily reports prepared for President George W. Bush carried quotes from the books of Psalms and Ephesians and the epistles of Peter. At the time, the reports focused largely on the war in Iraq.

The biblical quotes apparently aimed to support Mr. Bush at a time when soldiers’ deaths in Iraq were on the rise, according to the June issue of GQ magazine. But they offended at least one Muslim analyst at the Pentagon and worried other employees that the passages were inappropriate.

CONGRESS

Nader urges hearings on autos

NEW YORK | Ralph Nader is calling on Congress to hold hearings into dealership and factory closures at automakers Chrysler LLC and General Motors Corp.

The consumer activist and former presidential candidate sent a letter Monday to Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, and Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, saying Congress should take a more active role overseeing the automakers’ restructuring before “irreversible measures” are taken.

The restructuring has so far been led by the autos task force, a group of advisers appointed by President Obama.

Chrysler told 800 dealerships last week that it will terminate their franchise agreements. GM told 1,100 dealerships that it will not renew their contracts next year. The automakers are also laying off workers, closing factories and cutting models.

DEMOCRATS

Fundraiser ‘clever,’ prosecutor says

NEW YORK | A longtime Democratic fundraiser thought he could get away with breaking campaign contribution laws by using actresses and other political neophytes as straw donors, a prosecutor said Monday in closing statements at his corruption trial.

“He thought he covered his tracks,” Katherine Lemire told a jury in federal court in Manhattan.

In a case that became an embarrassment to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other marquee Democrats, prosecutors accused Norman Hsu of persuading clients of his fraudulent investment business to make thousands of dollars in donations so he could bypass rules limiting the amount any single individual or group can donate. It’s alleged that once they donated, he would reimburse them.

Defense attorney Alan Seidler suggested Mr. Hsu was framed by “greedy” investors who cut nonprosecution deals with the government. He argued that his client’s decision to plead guilty to separate securities fraud charges before the trial gave him credibility.

The jury is deliberating the case.

HOUSE

Ex-staffer pleads guilty to theft

A former executive assistant to Rep. Loretta Sanchez, California Democrat, has pleaded guilty to stealing from office funds.

Caroline Valdez, 27, admitted in federal court Monday that she used Ms. Sanchez’s House credit card to buy airline tickets for herself and a family member and get pizza and groceries delivered.

Valdez of Arlington also admitted that she forged Ms. Sanchez’s signature to get $6,000 in bonus salary and inflated the cost of taxicab fare that she actually paid to get greater reimbursement.

Valdez said her theft totaled more than $5,000 during the two years she worked for the congresswoman. She faces up to six months in prison.

ILLINOIS

Blagojevich’s wife mulls reality TV

CHICAGO | An attorney says the wife of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich is considering reality TV after her indicted husband was barred from traveling to Costa Rica to be on a show.

Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said Monday that NBC has offered Patti Blagojevich a spot on “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here,” but she hasn’t reached a deal.

NBC spokesman Gary Mednick says the network has no comment. Mr. Sorosky said he has “no idea” whether Mrs. Blagojevich will agree to be on the show.

A federal judge has barred the former governor from leaving the country to do the show pending his political corruption trial in Chicago.

SUPREME COURT

Counties lose anti-pot case

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a move by two Californian counties to bar patients from using marijuana for medical purposes.

The top court refused to hear a case brought by San Diego and San Bernardino counties that argued the federal law outlawing marijuana should override California state law that permits the use, cultivation and possession of the drug for medical purposes.

Twelve other states have similar laws.

The California law, adopted by referendum in 1996, allows chronically ill patients with a medical prescription to use marijuana as a painkiller, providing they are properly registered.

But San Diego and San Bernardino have refused to issue such cards, and an association seeking to promote marijuana use began legal action against them at the end of 2005.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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