- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 28, 2009

WHITE HOUSE

Climate, Afghanistan topics for leaders

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and President Obama will discuss next week issues including Afghanistan and climate change, the White House said Friday.

The two leaders will meet at the White House on Monday, a day before Mr. Obama is to outline a revised war strategy for Afghanistan.

The centerpiece of his plan is expected to be the gradual deployment of about 30,000 more U.S. troops to secure population centers and train Afghan security forces.

Australia, a close U.S. ally, was one of the first countries to commit troops to the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, where it has about 1,500 troops.

Australia has pledged to cut greenhouse emissions by between 5 percent and 25 percent by 2020, and Mr. Rudd’s government has been pushing to pass a sweeping carbon trade program.

WHITE HOUSE

First family gets Christmas tree

The White House is now open for Christmas.

First lady Michelle Obama, along with daughters Malia and Sasha, received the official White House Christmas tree on Friday: an 18 1/2-foot Douglas fir delivered from a farm in Shepherdstown, W.Va., by traditional horse-drawn carriage. Growers Eric and Gloria Sundback presented it to the family.

It’s the fourth time one of the Sundbacks’ trees has been selected for the White House.

The tree is destined for the Blue Room, where scores of volunteers will decorate it. The tree will be the star attraction of Christmas at the White House, seen by thousands of people at holiday parties and on public tours of the executive mansion.

On Thursday, the Obamas will flip a switch to light the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse.

IRAN

Administration endorses IAEA censure of Iran

The White House says a vote by the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s board to censure Iran over its disputed nuclear program shows the “growing international deficit of confidence” in Iran’s intentions.

Iran has refused to immediately halt construction of a newly revealed nuclear facility. It also has ignored U.N. Security Council resolutions urging it to stop enriching uranium that could be used to build a nuclear weapon.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the vote Friday by 25 countries “demonstrates the resolve and unity” of the international community concerning Iran’s program.

Mr. Gibbs warned of growing isolation and consequences, and said time is “running out” for Iran to work toward a diplomatic solution.

CLIMATE

Carbon cutting to 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 says much of the cost will depend on exactly how the climate goals are achieved. He also notes 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.

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