- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2009

STATE VISIT

Singh emphasizes Afghan commitment

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday started a high-profile state visit to the United States with a call for President Obama to stay committed to Afghanistan and to pressure Pakistan.

The Indian leader arrived at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington to kick off the first full-fledged state visit of Mr. Obama’s presidency, which will culminate in a swank black-tie dinner at the White House on Tuesday.

Although a host of issues are on the table, experts say Mr. Obama’s main intention was to demonstrate his commitment to the world’s largest democracy after an early focus on working with its neighbors China and Pakistan.

But Mr. Singh made clear he would not shy away from offering advice on the top foreign issue for Mr. Obama - Afghanistan. Mr. Obama is wrapping up weeks of deliberation on whether to reinforce the 68,000 U.S. troops who will be in Afghanistan by year-end.

“It is very important that both the U.S. and the global community stay engaged in Afghanistan,” Mr. Singh said in an interview with The Washington Post and Newsweek, warning of civil war if U.S. forces withdrew.

Mr. Singh also called for the Obama administration to pressure Pakistan to rein in Islamic extremists, saying that India’s historic rival has not done enough against militants blamed for last year’s assault on Mumbai.

“We have been the victims of Pakistan-aided, -abetted and -inspired terrorism for nearly 25 years. We would like the United States to use all its influence with Pakistan to desist from that path,” Mr. Singh said in the interview.

RHODE ISLAND

Governor scoffs at stimulus plan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. | The administration of Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri has left unspent for months $20 million meant to insulate poor people’s homes against the winter chill and put unemployed people to work during one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression.

The Republican governor denounces President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan as ineffective in creating jobs even though the state isn’t spending all the money it’s been given. Half the funding had arrived by July, but state officials say it will only start flowing this week to agencies ready to spend it.

Unemployed worker Christopher Harrell says he’s in class studying how to make homes more energy efficient after getting laid off from a previous job.

Companies such as Greenwich Insulation Inc. say they’re resisting hiring more workers until the stimulus money starts flowing.

NORTH CAROLINA

Palin dines with Billy Graham

ASHEVILLE, N.C. | Sarah Palin arrived for Sunday dinner with the Rev. Billy Graham a day before a planned stop on her book tour in eastern North Carolina.

The former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee flew into Asheville and then went to Billy Graham’s mountaintop home in Montreat for dinner, said Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for Mr. Graham’s son, Franklin.

Franklin Graham invited Mrs. Palin.

“He just saw that she was going to be in the area and he said to come by,” Mr. Blume told The Charlotte Observer.

The elder Graham has never met Mrs. Palin, who is scheduled to stop at Fort Bragg on Monday to promote her memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life.”

BREAST CANCER

Ignore guidelines, ex-NIH chief says

The former director of the National Institutes of Health is advising women to ignore new guidelines that delay the start of routine mammogram testing for breast cancer.

Dr. Bernadine Healy, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” said the directive would save money but not lives.

The recommendation, released last week by an independent panel, suggests that women not routinely undergo mammograms until age 50. Longtime guidelines have said women should have regular mammogram screening after age 40.

Dr. Healy says that if the new guidelines are followed, more women will die of breast cancer.

The independent panel, the Preventive Services Task Force, says its recommendations are based on accurate and up-to-date information.

BACKPACKING

Grand Canyon alters permit system

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. | Getting one of the roughly 11,500 permits granted each year to backpack overnight in the Grand Canyon has become so competitive and “unfair” that managers at the national park have decided to change the system.

Currently, those who want the coveted permits either show up in person or try their luck with mail or fax machines on the day the permits become available.

Those who go in person line up at the backcountry office starting early in the morning. Those who try to fax often are in for hours of constantly redialing because of the demand.

October and May are the most popular months for those seeking permits to camp most places below the rim, with nearly one of every two people denied.

National Park Service administrators at the Grand Canyon have decided the system is unfair because it favors those who live near the massive gorge or have the time and resources to fly there just to get a permit.

The agency is proposing to end the current system in February, making everyone in the world compete for advanced reservations by fax and mail only. Eventually the park also plans to move to an online reservation system.

Also, the Park Service is not allowing any more people to establish commercial backpacking businesses until the agency sorts out a larger plan for the backcountry.

“We’re trying to provide better equity between locals and international visitors,” said Barclay Trimble, a deputy superintendent.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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