- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Fall deadline set for drilling study

ANCHORAGE | Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday that government scientists have until Oct. 1 to determine what research gaps remain in determining the effects of offshore oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean.

Mr. Salazar said Tuesday that the U.S. Geological Survey will examine research already done on the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. Then they’ll decide what still needs to be studied to better determine the environmental effects of drilling and challenges from the climate change that has stressed the ecology of Alaska’s coastal waters.

At the same time, the government’s Minerals Management Service plans to run its own environmental studies and hold public meetings on potential lease sales for Arctic offshore development under the five-year leasing plan that’s set to begin in 2012.


After cuts, Obama plans NASA boost

President Obama will outline a revamped space policy Thursday that will use $6 billion in new funding over five years to create 2,500 new jobs in Florida with the ultimate goal of going to Mars.

Mr. Obama has been facing criticism from some members of the far-flung U.S. space community after NASA officials announced plans in March to kill the Constellation program that had been designed to launch astronauts into orbit and return Americans to the moon.

The Constellation program, developed under the George W. Bush administration, was aimed at returning astronauts to the moon in the 2020s to clear the way for a Mars mission.

White House officials said Tuesday that Mr. Obama wants NASA to begin work on building a new heavy-lift rocket sooner than envisioned under the canceled Constellation program, with a commitment to decide in 2015 on the specific rocket that will take astronauts deeper into space.


Gates slams video of Iraqi killings

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Tuesday criticized the anonymous online posting of a video showing two journalists in Iraq getting gunned down by U.S. troops in 2007 as irresponsible and presenting a “soda straw” view of war.

Mr. Gates also defended U.S. rules of engagement in Afghanistan, saying that that the military takes extreme caution in avoiding civilian casualties but that some deaths are unavoidable.

“Let’s also face the reality that we are in a war and our adversaries … use civilians. They purposely put civilians in harm’s way,” Mr. Gates said.

The Pentagon chief spoke to reporters en route to South America, where he planned to meet with leaders from Peru and Colombia. Mr. Gates’ trip is seen as an effort to shore up U.S. support in a region where Iran is trying to expand its influence, and where Russia and China are making commercial inroads.


Massa aide files harassment complaint

A male aide to former Democratic Rep. Eric Massa has filed a sexual harassment complaint contending that the 50-year-old New York lawmaker regularly groped him, propositioned him and made lewd remarks to him and other staffers.

“There was grabbing people in private areas,” said Debra Katz, the staffer’s attorney. “The congressman routinely made gestures implying that he wanted oral sex, and made crude propositions requesting oral sex from his employees.”

Ms. Katz said Tuesday the complaint was filed March 23 on behalf of the staffer, whom she refused to identify, citing confidentiality reasons. The Washington Post first reported the complaint.

Repeated telephone calls to Mr. Massa’s home in Corning, N.Y., on Tuesday were not answered. Mr. Massa resigned last month under a sexual harassment cloud, and the House ethics committee is investigating how Democratic leaders handled the allegations.


Obama will attend president’s funeral

President Obama will travel to Poland to attend funeral services for that country’s president, who was killed in a plane crash last week, the White House has announced.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said Mr. Obama will leave Saturday night for Krakow, Poland, for funeral services on Sunday.

President Lech Kaczynski and his wife will be buried after a state funeral at Krakow’s Wawel Cathedral. They were among the dozens of people killed last Saturday when their plane crashed in dense fog in western Russia.


Lawmakers revive push on vouchers

TALLAHASSEE | A constitutional proposal designed to protect religious school vouchers and other state-funded faith-based programs from legal attack is being revived by the Florida legislature two years after the state Supreme Court took a similar measure off the ballot.

House and Senate committees Tuesday approved identical versions of the proposed state constitutional amendment on straight party-line votes - Republicans in favor and Democrats against. One more committee hearing is set in each chamber before floor votes can be taken.

The proposal would repeal a ban on taxpayer financial aid to churches, sects and other religious institutions similar to provisions in most state constitutions across the nation. It would go a step further, though, by adding a new provision prohibiting any other kind of ban on individuals, organizations or other entities “participating in any public program because of religion.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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