- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SENATE

Byrd in hospital after fall at home

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the longest-serving senator in history, was admitted to a Washington-area hospital Tuesday after a fall at his home in Northern Virginia.

The 91-year-old West Virginia Democrat was taken to the hospital after blood tests showed that his white-blood cell count was high, raising the possibility of an early-stage infection.

“His doctors have determined that Byrd should remain in the hospital for antibiotic treatment and observation,” Mr. Byrd’s office said a statement.

Mr. Byrd was taken to the hospital after a minor fall at his home, spokesman Jesse Jacobs said. He suffered no broken bones or bruises.

Mr. Byrd has been in frail health in recent years and was hospitalized in May and June with dangerous infections. He returned to the Senate in July to vote, and earlier this month gave his first floor speech in months, where he talked about the death of his longtime colleague Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

ACORN

Ex-attorney general to conduct probe

The community activist group ACORN has selected a former Massachusetts attorney general to investigate its housing program after employees were caught on video giving advice to a couple posing as a prostitute and pimp.

ACORN announced Tuesday thatL. Scott Harshbarger, a Democrat, will conduct its internal investigation.

ACORN said last week that it was suspending the admission of new clients into its housing program pending the outcome of its investigation.

Video shot by the couple in Brooklyn, N.Y., appears to show ACORN employees advising the pair to lie about the source of their income or to launder the money to get housing assistance. The Brooklyn video and footage shot by the couple in other cities, including the District and Baltimore, has been running on the Internet and television news programs for days.

IMMIGRATION

Agency unveils new Web site

The Obama administration launched a new Web site on Tuesday that officials hope will make citizenship and other immigration services more accessible.

The new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Web site was unveiled Tuesday at an event with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, as well as White House and Homeland Security staff.

Miss Napolitano said the Web site gets 230,000 visits a day; therefore, she said, it’s important that it be easy to use and that it provides “the kind of information that people seek.”

The site was revised in 90 days using in-house resources, officials said. USCIS officials could not immediately provide a total cost for the revisions. Parts of the service, including its Spanish-language sections, were still under construction.

USCIS is responsible for processing millions of applications for citizenship, immigration to the U.S. and legal residency as well as claims for asylum and refugee status.

MINNESOTA

Pawlenty forms PAC; possible ‘12 step

ST. PAUL | Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, is preparing to launch a national fundraising committee, yet another signal that he is positioning himself for a possible 2012 presidential run.

Pawlenty political adviser Alex Conant said the Freedom First committee will be formalized in the next few weeks. He said it’s a logical next step for the governor, who has been giving speeches and campaigning for Republicans across the country.

Web site addresses for the political action committee were registered last week.

Mr. Pawlenty has sidestepped questions about what he’ll do after his term ends next year, and told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune newspaper that the committee is simply to help other federal candidates. But forming such a leadership committee is a typical step for people who aspire to higher office.

It will allow him to build a fundraising network and goodwill among Republicans.

RACISM

Clinton parts with Carter on statement

Former President Bill Clinton says he doesn’t think racism is a principal factor in resistance to President Obama’s plan for overhauling health care.

Interviewed Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Mr. Clinton said “there’s no question” racism exists in some outbursts in recent months. But he also said he thinks “if [the president] were not an African-American, all of the people who were against him on health care would still be against him. They were against me, too.”

Mr. Cinton said that “I sympathize with” former President Jimmy Carter’s feeling that racism accounts for the strenuous opposition to Mr. Obama, but said “that’s not what’s driving” Mr. Obama’s critics. Mr. Clinton said: “What’s driving them is they don’t want health care.”

FDA

Ban on flavored cigarettes takes effect

RICHMOND | The new federal ban on flavored cigarettes has taken effect.

The ban is one of the first visible effects of a new law giving the Food and Drug Administration wide-ranging authority to regulate the tobacco industry. It includes cigarettes with candy, fruit and clove flavors.

Officials say flavored cigarettes are a gateway to smoking for young people. Studies cited by the FDA have shown that 17-year-old smokers are three times as likely to use flavored cigarettes as smokers older than 25.

The FDA sent a letter to the industry last week discussing the ban and its plans for enforcement.

In June, President Obama signed the law that allows the FDA to regulate tobacco, though it can’t ban nicotine or tobacco outright.

VETERANS AFFAIRS

Suicide prevention programs implemented

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it has stepped up its suicide-prevention efforts.

The agency’s inspector general took a look at 24 facilities and found that they generally met new requirements such as appointing suicide-prevention coordinators to track high-risk veterans. It did say the coordinators and medical providers could do a better job of communicating with each other.

The VA estimates that there are as many as 6,400 suicides annually among veterans.

New policies were implemented after growing concern about the number of suicides among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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