- The Washington Times - Friday, November 27, 2009


Obama, GOP differ over solutions

President Obama and a top House Republican acknowledged the economic struggles facing Americans in their holiday messages Thursday, but they offered starkly different recipes for relief.

Both Mr. Obama and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana singled out U.S. service members for special thanks before saying what they think should be done to fix the economy.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Mr. Obama said his administration has cut taxes and extended unemployment benefits and health coverage for millions out of work. He also trumpeted his health care overhaul. But he said more needs to be done, particularly for those without jobs, and talked about his jobs summit next week with business owners, labor leaders and nonprofit officials.

In the Republican message, Mr. Pence said Mr. Obama and the Democrat-led Congress have taken the economy “from bad to worse” with, as he put it, “their failed economic agenda and big-government plans.”

Mr. Pence said, “The way to stimulate this economy and help working families is to let Americans keep more of their hard-earned money, not taking more from their wallets.”


White House slams charges on scholar

The White House on Thursday slammed as “baseless” the new charges levied against Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, jailed in Iran over his suspected role in post-election unrest.

“The United States is deeply concerned about reports of additional charges facing Kian Tajbakhsh,” said President Obama’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs.

Mr. Tajbakhsh was sentenced in October to 15 years in prison for his part in unrest that followed voting in June that saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected.

On Monday, he was handed further charges of “spying for the George Soros foundation,” according to the New York Times, citing a Tajbakhsh family member. The “foundation” refers to Mr. Soros’ Open Society Institute, a pro-democracy group founded by the financier and philanthropist.

“The charges against Mr. Tajbakhsh are baseless, and his original sentence on Oct. 20 was an outrage,” Mr. Gibbs said.

“The Iranian government cannot earn the respect of the international community when it violates universal rights and continues to imprison innocent people,” he added.


New targets may increase bills

With one exception, Americans probably won’t see big changes in their day-to-day lives if President Obama achieves his goal for cutting carbon emissions.

But experts agree that people’s energy bills will go up. They just don’t agree on how much they’ll rise.

The White House climate czar is citing a $173 annual cost for a family of four. But studies done by business groups peg the cost for the average household at $900 to $1,539 a year by 2020.

One consultant said much of the cost will depend on exactly how the climate goals are achieved. He also notes that the White House tends to quote the lower, not the higher end of cost analyses.

The Obama administration wants to commit to cutting carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 to about 17 percent below 2005 levels. The president is also setting a goal of cutting emissions by 83 percent by 2050.

He’s expected to put the proposals on the table at next month’s world climate conference in Copenhagen.


Cold War-era manual reveals ‘magic’

A Cold War-era CIA manual instructing agents in the arts of deception and stage-style trickery is headed for U.S. book shelves.

“The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception,” written in 1953 by stage magician John Mulholland, includes tips for hiding small objects, handing off documents and spiking food and drinks with “knockout” drops, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Espionage historian Keith Melton and Bob Wallace, a former CIA director, uncovered the manual, the BBC reported Thursday. The new release came from the only surviving copy of Mr. Mulholland’s work, they said. The rest were destroyed by the agency in the 1970s.

“Magic and espionage are kindred spirits,” former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin writes in the book’s forward.

“Mulholland’s writing on delivery of pills, potions and powders was just one example of research carried out back then in fields as diverse as brainwashing and paranormal psychology.”


Governor’s lawn toilet papered

DENVER | It wasn’t fresh mountain snow but toilet paper that blanketed the front lawn of the Colorado governor’s mansion Thanksgiving morning.

Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. told KUSA-TV that he and his wife noticed shortly after dawn Thursday that someone had “teepeed” the front lawn.

State officials said it was the first time that happened to the 101-year-old landmark.

Mr. Ritter joked about it, saying that he has teenage children at home and that it was probably a prank. First lady Jeannie Ritter said she would be worried if the house had been egged or damaged, but the toilet paper prank was harmless.

The 1908 Georgian revival home is near the state Capitol in Denver.


State senator to be lieutenant governor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has nominated a Republican state senator to fill California’s recently vacated lieutenant governor seat.

Mr. Schwarzenegger said Sen. Abel Maldonado is the most qualified person for the post, which opened when Democrat John Garamendi was elected to Congress earlier this month. The governor made the announcement Monday evening on “The Jay Leno Show.”

The Assembly and Senate must confirm Mr. Maldonado’s appointment, which would run through 2010.

The 42-year-old Santa Maria lawmaker was one of three Republicans earlier this year to side with Mr. Schwarzenegger and Democrats in supporting a state budget that raised taxes.

Mr. Schwarzenegger said Mr. Maldonado has the courage to reach across the partisan divide.


Project calls Friday ‘Day of Listening’

Instead of rushing to stores the day after Thanksgiving, organizers of an oral history project are urging people to join the National Day of Listening.

The event began last year on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The New York-based StoryCorps project led thousands in interviewing their friends and loved ones about their lives and recording the conversations with home equipment.

The interviews can be uploaded to StoryCorps’ Web site. Some will be broadcast on public radio stations.

Former President George W. Bush joined in last year by sitting down for an interview with his sister, Dorothy Walker Bush Koch.

StoryCorps is one of the biggest national oral history projects. Since 2003, it has collected recordings from more than 50,000 people in all 50 states.


Pantries get more first-timers

CHICAGO | In tough economic times, food pantries nationwide said they’re seeing the greatest demand in years.

They said much of it is coming from first-time visitors. Experts said the reasons are layoffs and reduced wages for millions of Americans. The national unemployment rate is about 10.2 percent.

Federal agencies and national organizations such as the Chicago-based Feeding America have just started tracking first-timers.

But anecdotal evidence and statistics from individual pantries find more and more new faces among the approximately 25 million Americans who rely on food pantries each year.

Pantry workers say many first-timers are confused about what to do. Some people are showing up in suits, carrying brief cases. First-timers admit the experience is fraught with shame and embarrassment.


Government buys land with waterfall

TRUCKEE, Calif. | More than 1,200 acres of scenic meadow land and a spectacular waterfall in California have been purchased by the U.S. Forest Service.

The property in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Truckee is considered valuable for recreation and wildlife.

It was obtained through four separate transactions totaling $3 million. The purchase was financed through private donations and a public fund tapping fees from offshore oil drilling.

One of the main attractions on the land is Webber Falls, which features several terraced pools.

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