- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009

IMMIGRATION

Audit: Border fence to cost $6.5 billion

It will cost taxpayers $6.5 billion over the next 20 years to maintain the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a government audit.

But as the Obama administration realizes the long-term costs of the border fence, it does not have a way to evaluate whether this investment has helped control illegal entries into the country, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday.

The $6.5 billion price tag is in addition to the $2.4 billion that’s been spent to build more than 600 miles of fence segments along the Southwest border. As of May 14, there have been 3,363 breaches in the fence, which cost about $1,300 each to repair, GAO found.

The fence is a Bush administration initiative that has faced several delays and cost increases.

The technology portion of the government’s plan to secure the border continues to be delayed, GAO said.

Until the entire technology piece is complete, it is impossible for Border Patrol to know if the security measures are working, GAO said.

MEDIA

Media shield bill hits a setback

A bill to give journalists a limited right to protect confidential sources from disclosure was sidetracked Thursday, after senators from both parties said the current version could damage national security.

The bill, supported by more than 70 journalism organizations including the Associated Press, would only apply to federal courts and leave intact state protections for journalists and their sources.

The failure of the Senate Judiciary Committee to act was a disappointment to Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, who expressed hope last week that the committee would approve the legislation this week.

Republicans have argued for some time that the bill was tilted toward reporters and against the intelligence community, but intelligence committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said she also thinks a balance has not been struck.

SURGERY

Cheney hospitalized for elective surgery

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is having elective back surgery at George Washington University Hospital.

Cheney spokeswoman Lucy Tutwiler said the surgery Thursday is to deal with lumbar spinal stenosis, a common cause of lower back pain in older adults.

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal - the passage for the spinal cord - which in turn puts pressure on nerves, causing pain. Surgery is done to widen the passage and ease that pressure, typically by removing a bit of the vertebra.

Dr. Anthony Caputy, chairman of the hospital’s neurosurgery department, is performing the operation.

Mr. Cheney, 68, has had four heart attacks.

VACCINE

U.S. to share some flu vaccine

President Obama said the United States will share 10 percent of its swine flu vaccine supply with other nations to help fight the deadly virus’ global spread.

The White House on Thursday announced that flu vaccines to counter the virus known among scientists as H1N1 would be available through the World Health Organization. The U.S. is working with Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom to share vaccines.

Susan E. Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that the announcement “is one that has real relevance to the work of the United Nations and to our shared interest in promoting and sustaining global health.”

“As the World Health Organization has reported, the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus has continued to spread globally since April, causing outbreaks around the world. The speed and the scale of our global response will help minimize the overall impact of the pandemic 2009 H1N1 influenza and ensure our collective and common security in our increasingly interdependent world,” Ms. Rice said.

VETERANS

Photos of fallen soldiers sought

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is beginning an effort to gather photographs of each of the more than 58,000 men and women listed on the memorial wall in Washington.

Organizers announced Thursday that they plan to showcase the pictures at the memorial’s planned education center. The group also is beginning a campaign to raise $85 million to build the visitor center underground near the memorial.

A group spokeswoman said they’re starting the photo-gathering effort with submissions from family and friends, and may later ask for the military’s help finding photos. No time frame has been set for finishing the project.

The effort is being promoted in FedEx Office stores across the country, which will provide free scanning services to those submitting pictures.

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