- The Washington Times - Monday, October 19, 2009


Gates seeks to buck up allies

The Pentagon’s chief is undertaking the tricky task of convincing allies to remain committed to the war in Afghanistan even as the Obama administration continues to debate whether to send more troops there to fight.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was set to leave Sunday on a weeklong mission to Japan, Korea and Slovakia - in part to ask NATO partners and Asian allies for continued contributions to a war now in its ninth year.

Mr. Gates himself is undecided - at least publicly - on whether to order more forces to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan as his top commander there has requested or to focus more narrowly on al Qaeda terrorists thought to be hiding in neighboring Pakistan.

While asking others for help amid the U.S. indecision, Mr. Gates is seeking more than just military aid.

“A lot of the very valuable contributions in Afghanistan are on the development and the training, with the police and other aspects of civil life,” a senior defense official at the Pentagon told the Associated Press last week on the condition of anonymity to discuss Mr. Gates’ travels more candidly.


Sotomayor says even clothes picked

NEW HAVEN, Conn. | Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor says her nomination process was so tightly scripted, even her clothes were chosen for her.

Justice Sotomayor made the comments when she appeared at her 30th Yale Law School reunion on Saturday.

The New Haven Register reports that Justice Sotomayor spoke to 1,800 alumni, students and faculty, describing her recent grueling nomination process.

State Sen. Ed Meyer was among those in attendance. He said Justice Sotomayor became teary at times but kept the crowd laughing. He said she talked about shopping for clothes to wear to her acceptance ceremony. Government officials, however, told her to bring five suits, and they recommended which one she should wear.

Justice Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court, attended a luncheon, coffee reception and a 30th reunion dinner with about 50 guests.


U.S. denies role in Iran suicide bomb

The United States on Sunday condemned a suicide bombing that struck Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, and denied any involvement in the attack.

“We condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives,” State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement.

“Reports of alleged U.S. involvement are completely false,” he added.

The U.S. reaction followed Sunday’s attack in which a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Revolutionary Guard meeting in southeastern Iran on Sunday, killing at least 30 people, including top commanders and tribal leaders.

The attack took place in the city of Pisheen near the border with Pakistan in restive Sistan-Baluchestan province, which hosts a substantial Sunni population, local news agencies said.

Iran’s parliament speaker accused the United States of having had a hand in the attack, while the Guards accused Western powers of complicity.


U.S. applauds Chad-Sudan talks

The United States on Sunday welcomed the weekend talks between Chad and Sudan, and expressed hope for normalized relations between the two African neighbors after months of fierce cross-border battles.

The delegation from Sudan traveled to the Chadian capital of N’Djamena to meet with Chadian President Idriss Deby and Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat.

“We hope that this meeting and the projected follow-on visit of a Chadian delegation led by Minister Faki to Khartoum [in Sudan] will facilitate the normalization of their bilateral relations and contribute to peace and stability in the region,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement Sunday.

“To this end, we encourage Sudan and Chad to take meaningful and concrete steps to cease support for rebels operating on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border.”

The militaries of Chad and Sudan have clashed after each country accused the other of harboring and giving support to rebel groups.


Airlines told to clean up water

Nearly six years after environmental inspectors found e-coli contamination in the water systems of commercial airliners, the federal government has come up with final rules designed to make onboard drinking water safer.

The Environmental Protection Agency this past week ordered the airlines to routinely disinfect, flush and test water in galleys and lavatories on U.S. planes. The airlines have two years to come into compliance. Foreign airlines are not included in the rule.

In 2004, EPA tested water from galley and lavatory faucets and found 327 planes had contaminated water. The agency directed all carriers to make sure their water was clean, but only now have come out with final regulations that carry some punch.

The estimated cost to the airlines is $7 million.


Motorcycle deaths spur federal study

An increase in the number of motorcyclists dying on American roads has spurred the Federal Highway Administration to order a sweeping study to find out why.

The four-year project, to be conducted with Oklahoma State University, will examine factors that may have contributed to a 150 percent increase in motorcycle fatalities - from 2,100 to 5,300 a year - between 1997 and 2008. Last year, motorcycle deaths made up 14 percent of all roadway fatalities.

Each crash will be dissected by analysts in a hunt for patterns, although experts say the growing toll is not a result of more motorcycles on the road. Road configurations, environmental conditions and rider skill levels will be examined.

The last time a large study of motorcycle crashes was conducted was in 1981, and the conclusions were that alcohol and lack of training and helmets were largely to blame.


Congress recycles paper for Record

The Congressional Record is now being printed on 100-percent recycled paper.

Every day, the Government Printing Office publishes 4,130 copies of the digest, which transcribes every word uttered on the floors of Congress, as well as additional remarks submitted by lawmakers but not spoken.

During a press conference to announce the ecological accomplishment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Congressional Record played an important role in her home when she was growing up as the daughter of a Democratic congressman from Maryland.

Mrs. Pelosi said it was her mother’s job to tend the stacks of Records so her husband could find the one he needed fast when he was working at home. Her mother stored them under her brothers’ beds where, the speaker said, they served the vital, if ancillary, purpose of keeping their beds from collapsing when they jumped on them.

“It was not only our library, but a way to have the beds be more sound,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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