- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 23, 2009


Military puts hold on ending gay ban

The Pentagon wants more time before the ban on gays serving openly in the military is reversed.

A senior military official says that while President Obama has been clear that he wants to repeal the ban, there is no specific timeline to do it. The official said that leaves room the military wants to use to make sure the eventual change goes well.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Pentagon has not begun formal planning for the repeal. The official said there is a concern the repeal could set off a polarizing debate. And that, the official said, runs the risk of placing an overstretched fighting force in the middle of a divisive policy fight.

Still, the official said the military expects the ban eventually will be repealed.


$1 billion set aside for swine flu vaccine

The government is setting aside $1 billion to pursue a vaccine against the new swine flu.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the funds on Friday, a sort of down payment should broader vaccine production eventually be deemed necessary.

“The actions we are taking today will help us be prepared if a vaccine is needed,” Mrs. Sebelius said.

The funds will be used to conduct studies this summer of whether initial pilot doses of the vaccine work and are safe - and to place initial orders with manufacturers for two vaccine ingredients for what HHS is calling a pre-pandemic stockpile.

HHS officials said the goal is for the stockpile to allow quick production of enough shots to cover 20 million people, health care workers and people particularly vulnerable to influenza complications, if needed. It also would set up infrastructure to produce more as necessary.

The government hopes to deliver the first so-called seed stock of the new flu virus - the first step in brewing a vaccine - to manufacturers next week. World health authorities will later decide whether to call for full-scale vaccine production.


Parks disarmed until February

The Interior Department says a new law allowing loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges will not take effect until next year.

President Obama signed the gun law Friday as part of a measure creating new rules for the credit card industry. But the Interior Department said that because the credit card law won’t take effect until nine months after it is signed, the gun measure also will be delayed.

Spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said the Interior Department will follow Congress’s directive and put the new firearms law into effect in late February.

Until then, rules adopted under the Reagan administration will remain in place. The rules severely restrict guns in the national parks, generally requiring that guns be locked or stored.


Obama not ‘shy’ about issues debate

The top White House spokesman says President Obama doesn’t have any particular problem with former Vice President Dick Cheney speaking out on counterterrorism policy or any other issues.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked Friday if Mr. Obama resented Mr. Cheney making a speech at almost the same time as his wide-ranging defense of the decision to close down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo.

Mr. Gibbs said he didn’t know what the protocol was for former vice presidents speaking often and loudly in public shortly after leaving office, although he noted that former President George W. Bush has decided to mostly remain out of sight.

Mr. Gibbs said he believes Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney “have taken different tacks since leaving office about what they’re going to do and what they’re going to say.” He said Mr. Obama won’t “shy away” from any debate on the issue.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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