- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Panel recommends 3 color-coded tiers

A special task force recommended Tuesday that if the Obama administration keeps color-coded terrorism alerts, the number of colors and levels of risk should be reduced from five to three.

The recommendations come after a 60-day bipartisan review of the often-ridiculed color-coded terrorism-alert system, put into effect after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The task force suggested the administration use these tiers:

- Yellow or guarded: constant state of vigilance to protect against a terrorist attack.

- Orange or elevated: increased protective measures based on specific threat information regarding a known or suspected terrorist plot.

- Red or high alert: maximum protective measures to protect against an imminent or ongoing terrorist attack.


FDA approves new flu vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration approved the new swine flu vaccine Tuesday, a long-anticipated step as the government works to get vaccinations under way next month.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the vaccine’s approval to Congress and said she hopes to get the first limited supplies distributed early in October.

The bulk of the vaccine will start arriving Oct. 15, and Mrs. Sebelius said it should be available at 90,000 sites across the country.

“We will have enough vaccine available for everyone” eventually, Mrs. Sebelius said, “Everyone who wants it, that is.”

The government has ordered 195 million doses for now but may order more if needed, she said.


Americans oppose bailouts, survey finds

Americans decidedly oppose the government’s efforts to save struggling companies by taking ownership stakes, even if failure of the businesses would cost jobs and harm the economy, a new poll shows.

The Associated Press-National Constitution Center poll found little support for the idea that the government had to save AIG, the world’s largest insurer, mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and No. 1 U.S. carmaker General Motors last year because they were too big to fail.

Just 38 percent of Americans favor government intervention, with 60 percent opposed to keeping a company in business to prevent harm to the economy. The number in favor drops to a third when jobs would be lost, without greater damage to the economy.

Similarly strong views showed up over whether the president should have more power at the expense of Congress and the courts, if doing so would help the economy.


Vote likely soon on Massachusetts seat

BOSTON | Massachusetts legislators could vote as early as this week on changing the state’s Senate succession law so the governor would again have the power to temporarily fill vacancies like the one created last month with the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

The law was changed in 2004 to prevent a Republican governor from appointing a successor in the event that Massachusetts’ other Democratic senator, John Kerry, had won the presidency.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, the most prominent Democrat to declare her candidacy in the special election to fill his seat permanently, said Tuesday she supports the idea, after previously dodging questions on the topic. The switch is noteworthy because her campaign’s finance chairman is Senate President Therese Murray, who has hedged on the change but holds sway over her fellow Democrats in the legislature’s upper chamber.

“I think there are reasons for having two senators [from Massachusetts] in the interim,” Ms. Coakley said. “We’ve heard all the great stories about all the constituent work that Sen. Kennedy did. He has a huge case file.”

Mr. Kennedy suggested a temporary appointee in letters to Ms. Murray, Gov. Deval Patrick and House Speaker Robert DeLeo shortly before he died of brain cancer Aug. 25. Replacing him with a Democrat would again give the party a 60-vote majority - enough to defeat minority filibuster.


Two golf clubs welcome Rice

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has joined two exclusive private golf clubs near Birmingham, Ala.

Miss Rice, a Birmingham native, does not own a home there but says the golf memberships at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Hoover and Shoal Creek in Shelby County are part of an effort to regularly visit her home state and reach out to its residents.

Shoal Creek came under fire for having no black members in 1990 as it prepared to host that year’s PGA Championship golf tournament.

Miss Rice has visited the Birmingham area twice in the past four months. She was in town as recently as last week while researching a book she is writing about her parents. Then, she found time for a round of golf at Shoal Creek with club President Bobby Luckie.


EPA to limit metals in water

For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to limit the quantity of toxic metals that coal-fired power plants can release into waterways.

The agency said Tuesday that equipment designed to reduce pollution in the air has increased harmful contaminants in water discharged by power plants, particularly heavy metals such as selenium, cadmium, mercury and lead. Current regulations do nothing to control metals and are not enough to protect water quality and wildlife, the agency said.

The agency said the new rules will be unveiled in 2012, but EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson is pushing for an earlier target date.

In a preliminary study released last year, the EPA found that only a fraction of the nation’s power plants were using readily available technologies to remove pollutants before they are released into waterways. The water pollution comes from scrubbers that strip gases of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide and coal-ash storage ponds where power plants store the leftovers of burning coal.


Gun owner: I was exercising rights

A man who brought two loaded guns to President Obama’s recent appearance in Minneapolis says he was only trying to make a constitutional point.

Josh Hendrickson of Rogers, Minn., said he wasn’t trying to stir up trouble, but was just exercising his rights under the Second Amendment.

Mr. Hendrickson had one loaded pistol in a holster under his camouflage-colored shirt and another handgun in his pocket.

The 32-year-old Mr. Hendrickson said he showed police outside the Target Center his license to carry a weapon under state law. He said he was questioned by Minneapolis police and a Secret Service agent. Police only confirm they questioned a man outside the rally Saturday.

Mr. Hendrickson said he spent the next seven hours standing with a group of demonstrators outside the rally.


U.S. promises more salmon aid

PORTLAND, Ore. | The Obama administration says it will be more aggressive in protecting declining Pacific Northwest salmon runs and will study breaching some dams as a last resort in a long-awaited management plan.

The administration submitted the plan to a federal judge Tuesday in Portland. Called a “biological opinion,” it will guide hydroelectric dam operations and fish conservation programs in the Columbia Basin for the next decade.

U.S. District Judge James Redden, a 1980 appointee of President Carter, rejected two earlier plans in 2000 and 2004, threatening at one point to take control of dam management.

The new plan would immediately boost mitigation programs to boost salmon survival, expand research and monitoring and set specific biological “triggers” for even stronger measures.

But the Obama administration plan supported an earlier version offered by the Bush administration, even though Judge Redden found portions of that plan inadequate.

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