- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2009


Sanders plans to oppose Bernanke

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is expected to face tough questioning during a reappointment hearing this week, and one senator already says he won’t support another term for the Fed chief.

Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent, in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” said Mr. Bernanke is “part of the problem” facing the U.S. economy.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing Thursday to consider President Obama’s nomination of Mr. Bernanke. The Fed chief was first appointed by President George W. Bush.

Mr. Bernanke has been Fed chief during the worst economic decline since the Depression. He defended his actions in a column published Sunday in The Washington Post, saying the Fed played a major role in “arresting the crisis.”


Huckabee leans against 2012 run

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says that he’s leaning slightly against running for president in 2012, but that it’s far too early to say what he will do.

Mr. Huckabee, in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” said how the 2010 congressional elections turn out will affect his decision. He also will be looking at whether the Republican Party is willing to unite behind him as a candidate.

Another consideration, Mr. Huckabee said, is the status of his weekly TV show on Fox News.

Given those factors, Mr. Huckabee said mounting another presidential bid is “less likely rather than more likely” at the moment.


Security agency faces budget cuts

For the first time since it was created in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security looks likely to have what one official described as a “declining budget” when the Obama administration presents its 2011 federal spending plan in February.

However, at least one DHS agency - the Transportation Security Administration - has had $1 billion of economic stimulus funds heaped upon it, about half of which it will be available to use next year.

With some portion of that money, TSA intends to buy desks and chairs for the airport offices of federal security officers, furniture for airport-screener break rooms and stools at checkpoints for the screeners to sit on, according to Government Security News, a security-industry online newsletter.


Park Service looks to ‘bioprospecting’

CHEYENNE, Wyo. | A soon-to-be-implemented policy for scientists who are permitted to conduct research in national parks will give the National Park Service a share of any profits from their work.

The policy is expected to go into effect early next year following more than a decade of concern and a lawsuit over “bioprospecting” in Yellowstone National Park. Bioprospecting - a hybrid of the words “biodiversity” and “prospecting” - is the search for organisms that promise scientific breakthroughs in medicine and chemistry.

“This is about the public, which owns places like Yellowstone, getting some kind of benefit if someone has a commercial product based on research which started in the park,” said Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash.

The new “benefits-sharing” policy doesn’t specify what percentage of profits the National Park Service should receive in every case. But a document released last Monday outlining the policy offers a rough estimate of the potential benefit to the park system - between $635,000 and $3.9 million a year, eventually.


Bill would hush TV commercials

The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, which would require TV advertisers to adopt technology that modulates commercial sound levels to be close to those of the programs, made it out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this past week and is now bound for the House floor.

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, California Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill, said it has been heartily embraced by fellow lawmakers, Democrat and Republican.

“In my 17 years in the House of Representatives, I’ve never carried a bill which has been received with so much enthusiasm,” Ms. Eshoo said. “Only the ‘Do Not Call List’ has even come close.”

Current policy of the Federal Communications Commission is to recommend that consumers mute the commercials if they find them irritating.

“This legislation gives the control of sound back to consumers, where it belongs,” Ms. Eshoo said.

A companion Senate bill is being shepherded by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat.


Big firms coming to jobs summit

Executives from Google, AT&T;, Disney, FedEx and other prominent companies will attend a jobs summit on Thursday at the White House, a White House spokeswoman said Sunday.

The forum is meant to help devise ways to combat double-digit unemployment.


Study to focus on female veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs is embarking on what will be the most comprehensive study of female veterans of the Vietnam War to gauge the effect of their service on their long-term mental and physical health.

The $5.6 million study, beginning this month and to last more than four years, will use a mail survey, telephone interview and a review of the medical records of about 10,000 women.

VA doctors will study female veterans who had direct exposure to traumatic events as well as those who served outside Vietnam and were more removed from the worst of the war. In all, about 250,000 female vets served in the military during the war, and about 7,000 were in or near Vietnam, the VA says.


Stamp sale aids Postal Museum

A wealthy investor has sold two of his prized stamp collections to help pay for an expansion of the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.

William H. Gross sold the collections last week at an auction in New York. The collections included stamps from the Confederacy and British colonies in North America. They fetched $3.2 million.

The proceeds go toward Mr. Gross’ $8 million pledge to the museum. He has also donated some of the rarest known stamps from his personal collection.

Mr. Gross is the founder of Pacific Investment Management Co., based in Newport Beach, Calif.

The museum’s expansion from a basement space near Washington’s Union Station is scheduled to open in late 2012. A gallery will be named in Mr. Gross’ honor.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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