- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 8, 2010


Basketball stars play with Obama

A star-studded team of professional basketball players joined President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a game for U.S. troops and young people Sunday.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Duncan shot hoops with the basketball stars, who included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and hall-of-famers Bill Russell and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Kobe Bryant attended, but did not play.

Mr. Obama’s birthday celebrity game also included retired NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning, Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups of the Denver Nuggets and Maya Moore of the Connecticut Huskies, among others.

The stellar team on the court at Fort McNair military base gym in Washington entertained wounded soldiers and participants of a White House mentoring program aimed at motivating teenagers to aspire to great achievements.


Obama touts new health law’s benefits

President Obama says Medicare will exist for many more years, thanks to new legislation that helped put the health care program for America’s seniors on stronger financial footing.

Seniors already are benefiting from that new health care law, said Mr. Obama, noting that many have received $250 rebates to help buy medicine, for example.

Mr. Obama said the law and efforts by his administration to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse both in Medicare and across government generally are making the program stronger and cutting health care costs for seniors.

Medicare isn’t just a program,” Mr. Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet message. “It’s a commitment to America’s seniors - that after working your whole life, you’ve earned the security of quality health care you can afford.”

“As long as I am president, that’s a commitment this country is going to keep,” he said.

An annual report this week from the trustees who oversee Medicare, including the Treasury and health and human services secretaries, said the program will stay afloat for a dozen years longer than previously projected, due to the sweeping health care overhaul Mr. Obama signed in March.

But the added solvency also depends on cuts that ultimately may not be carried out.


House coming back to vote on jobs bill

A week into their summer break, members of the House are about to return to Capitol Hill to take up a $26 billion jobs bill.

The House is being called back into session on Tuesday to vote on the package that supporters say will save the jobs of as many as 145,000 teachers.

Dave Ebersbach’s job as a math teacher in Toledo, Ohio, was recently cut.

He says the gains the students at his high poverty school made are at risk.

Republicans charge the measure is a giveaway to public employee unions while nothing is being done to help workers in the private sector.

The bill was sent to the House by the Senate after tweaks to gain the support of two moderate Republicans to end a GOP filibuster. It’s significantly less generous than both a version enacted last year and one passed months ago that stalled amid increasing deficit worries.


Medicare’s PIs let cases get cold

Those private sleuths hired by Medicare to investigate fraud don’t seem to be that interested in hot pursuit.

It’s taking them an average of six months to refer cases of fraud to law enforcement. By that time, many cases go cold, making it difficult to catch the perpetrators, much less recover money for taxpayers.

A recent inspector general report found that out of $835 million in questionable Medicare payments identified by private contractors in 2007, the government was only able to recover some $55 million, or about 7 percent.

President Obama has set a high priority on battling health care fraud and waste. The savings would help pay for the new health law covering millions of people now uninsured.


Allen gives BP mixed grade

The U.S. government’s point man overseeing BP’s response to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico gives the company high marks for its engineering response, but low marks in dealing with people.

Speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen says he isn’t sure any oil company could have done more to cap the spill once it happened.

But Mr. Allen says BP was too big of a company to immediately deal with the problems the spill caused individuals along the coast.

Crews are getting ready to resume drilling on a relief well to seal the leak permanently.

Last week, BP hinted it might not use the relief well. But Mr. Allen told CBS’ “Face the Nation” he spoke directly to incoming CEO Bob Dudley and told him that it must be used.


Obama selects veteran investigator as watchdog

President Obama has nominated a veteran investigator to be the next CIA inspector general, a crucial position that has remained vacant for more than a year.

David B. Buckley, currently a senior manager for Deloitte Consulting, will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before he can fill the watchdog post charged with unearthing abuses inside the spy agency.

The nomination comes after months of congressional frustration with the White House about not putting forth a candidate for the job. Several candidates had previously been mentioned but none made the cut.

Because the CIA’s activities are mostly conducted in secrecy, the position is one of the most important at the agency. The government’s inspectors general are charged with rooting out corruption, fraud and other abuses.

“It’s great to see that the administration has finally nominated someone to serve as permanent IG at CIA, but it shouldn’t have taken this long,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight. “Given the recent history of abuse and misconduct, the CIA is clearly in need of independent and aggressive oversight. We hope Buckley is up to the task.”

John Helgerson, the agency’s previous inspector, stepped down in March 2009. His former deputy, Patricia A. Lewis, has run the office since then.

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