- The Washington Times - Friday, May 29, 2009


Squelch photos, U.S. urges court

The Obama administration asked a federal appeals court Thursday to halt the release of disturbing images of detainee abuse, saying the photos could incite violence in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The court papers filed in New York cite two partially secret statements from two top U.S. generals, David H. Petraeus and Raymond T. Odierno.

Such arguments failed to sway the court in the past. In the new filings, Gen. Petraeus, who oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, said the images could also lead to more violence in Pakistan because it deals with Taliban attacks.

The filings underscore just how worried U.S. officials are about the increasing violence in Pakistan. While past arguments about the photos referred generally to the Middle East, Gen. Petraeus’ statement spends several pages discussing Pakistan’s recent struggles against terrorism.

The administration planned to release the photos until President Obama reversed the decision this month, saying their release would endanger U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Vilsack puts hold on forest roads

The Obama administration is calling for a one-year moratorium on road-building and development on about 50 million acres of remote national forests.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a directive Thursday reinstating for one year most of a Clinton-era ban against new road construction and development in national forests. The 2001 rule banned road building and logging in more than 58 million acres of remote national forests, mostly in the West.

Conflicting court decisions issued since then have left the rule’s legal status in doubt.

Mr. Vilsack said his interim directive will provide clarity that should help protect national forests until the Obama administration develops a long-term roadless policy. The directive gives Mr. Vilsack sole decision-making authority over all proposed forest management or road construction projects in designated roadless areas in all states except Idaho.

Idaho was one of two states that developed its own roadless rule under a Bush administration policy giving states more control over whether and how to block road-building in remote forests. More than 9 million acres of roadless national forests in Idaho will remain under state control, Mr. Vilsack said.

Colorado was the only other state to write its own roadless plan. The state has been working with the Forest Service to clarify language and hoped to complete work in the next few months on a plan to protect more than 4 million acres of roadless national forests. But Mr. Vilsack’s directive overturns the state’s efforts, officials said.


Obama to visit war wounded

President Obama will visit wounded soldiers at the German medical facility that became the focus of a campaign controversy last summer when he scrapped a planned trip there.

The White House announced Mr. Obama will visit Landstuhl Regional Medical Facility near Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, making the trip that was called off during the European blitz he took in July as a presidential candidate.

He will stop by the facility, the largest center outside of the U.S. for those wounded in Afghanistan, Iraq and other deployed posts in Europe and Africa, June 5, near the end of his trip abroad next week.

Republicans criticized Mr. Obama last summer for evolving explanations of why he did not visit the facility at the end of his nine-day world tour, which included a speech in Berlin.

Mr. Obama said it had not been intended as a slight and his aides said the Defense Department had said the stop would be considered a campaign event.

Rather than trigger “a concern that maybe our visit was going to be perceived as political,” Mr. Obama said he phoned some of the troops instead.

He spent some of his time in Germany working out at a gym, a fact noted in an ad from Republican Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign portraying the reversal as a snub of the U.S. military.


Dodd features Obama in TV ad

Embattled Sen. Christopher J. Dodd hopes to get a boost from President Obama as he airs the first TV ad in his 2010 re-election bid.

The 30-second spot set to air statewide in Connecticut on Friday features Mr. Obama praising the Democrat for his work crafting the new credit card reform bill that the president signed into law last week. Mr. Dodd chairs the Senate Banking Committee.

“I want to give a special shout-out to Chris Dodd, who has been a relentless fighter to get this done,” Mr. Obama says. The president’s comments were made at a Rose Garden signing ceremony for the bill last week.

Mr. Dodd’s campaign is spending more than $100,000 for a week of air time. Mr. Dodd has $1.4 million in campaign cash and is expected to maintain a fundraising advantage over his rivals.

He faces the toughest re-election fight of his five terms in the Senate. A Quinnipiac University poll released this week showed Mr. Dodd trailing former Republican congressman Rob Simmons 45 percent to 39 percent. Mr. Dodd is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election next year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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