- The Washington Times - Monday, February 1, 2010

SUPER BOWL

Bomb threat spurs Super Bowl security

Sports and government officials say the multimillion-dollar security operations for the Super Bowl and Olympics have been adjusted to account for breaches such as the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day.

The NFL’s vice president for security, Milt Ahlerich, tells the Associated Press that “improvised explosive devices” are the biggest concern as the FBI, police and others prepare for next Sunday’s championship game between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.

Mr. Ahlerich says five to 10 bomb threats are received during each NFL season but amount to nothing.

Recent lapses at the White House and in air travel are leading to increased screening efforts outside the Super Bowl and other upcoming sports events, including the Vancouver Olympic Games and soccer’s World Cup. Entertainment awards shows also are seeing changes.

GREENHOUSE GASES

Feds told to cut own emissions 28 percent

President Obama says the federal government will reduce its own greenhouse-gas emissions by 28 percent in the next decade - an ambitious goal that exceeds targets for the country as a whole.

As the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy, Mr. Obama said, the government spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone. He says achieving the new pollution goal would cut federal energy use by the equivalent of 205 million barrels of oil, the same as taking 17 million cars off the road for one year.

Mr. Obama’s announcement Friday comes a day after the United States pledged to cut the nation’s emissions of heat-trapping gases by 17 percent by 2020. The commitment to the U.N. climate body must be approved by Congress, which is not guaranteed.

HEALTH INSURANCE

New rules set mental health parity

Many Americans will get broader coverage for mental illness and substance-abuse treatment under rules issued Friday by the Obama administration.

Health plans offered by employers with more than 50 workers will be required to treat mental health benefits the same way they handle coverage for physical ailments. That means no separate annual deductibles for mental health treatment. And co-payments for visiting a psychiatrist or social worker can’t be more than the charge for going to the family doctor or a medical specialist.

“Health plans will be under an obligation to provide the same level of coverage for treatment of mental illness as they do for cancer, diabetes and heart disease,” said Andrew Sperling of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The rules, which take effect July 1, provide a blueprint for employers to carry out a law passed by Congress in 2008 with broad bipartisan support.

The legislation aims to remove financial barriers to treatment for people with mental health problems. About 140 million Americans in more than 450,000 employer plans will benefit from improved coverage.

The law also prohibits health plans from setting limits on number of visits or hospital days for mental health problems that are different from any such limitations on treatment for medical problems. Mr. Sperling said the rules issued Friday clarify that other kinds of treatment limits in health plans, such as case reviews and lists of preferred drugs, may not be used to discriminate against people with mental illness.

The Congressional Budget Office concluded the law would raise costs only slightly, less than half of 1 percent, for employers.

CALIFORNIA

Whitman disavows ‘proud racist’

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | Republican gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman is severing ties with an elected official who described himself as a “proud racist.”

The Whitman campaign issued a statement Saturday disavowing Santa Clarita Council member Bob Kellar. The statement comes one day after state Democrats called on the former eBay chief executive to distance herself from Mr. Kellar.

During a recent “tea party”-style rally in Southern California, Mr. Kellar blamed illegal immigrants for harming the economy. His videotaped remarks were posted on YouTube and caused an uproar.

Whitman campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei says Mr. Kellar’s comments are unacceptable. She says Mr. Kellar has voluntarily ended his involvement with the campaign.

Mr. Kellar has said he has no regrets over the remark.

CONVENTION

Salt Lake a finalist for 2012 GOP site

SALT LAKE CITY | Salt Lake City has been selected as one of four finalists to host the 2012 Republican National Convention.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Salt Lake bid committee was notified of the decision in an e-mail late Friday.

Committee Chairman Jeff Hartley says the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake showed the city can successfully host such a large gathering.

Salt Lake will play host to a Republican National Committee team in the spring that will review the site. The RNC is expected to make a final pick by early May.

A GOP committee met in Hawaii on Friday to narrow the field to four cities. It was not immediately known what other cities were selected as finalists. Salt Lake was among about a dozen cities invited to bid.

HOUSE

Bachmann starts year with $1 million

Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, says she started the year with $1 million in the bank for her re-election campaign in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District.

That puts her well ahead of the two Democrats competing to challenge her.

State Sen. Tarryl Clark and physician Maureen Reed each started the year with campaign bank balances slightly less than $390,000.

Mrs. Bachmann says she raised $591,000 in the final three months of 2009, bringing her fundraising total since her last election to $1.5 million.

The incumbent is seeking a third term in a district of suburbs surrounding the northern half of the Twin Cities and smaller cities and rural areas stretching west past St. Cloud.

MINNESOTA

Pawlenty’s PAC rakes in $1.3 million

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s first lap on the national fundraising circuit drew nearly $1.3 million in contributions, leaving his new political action committee a healthy stockpile to spread around in this year’s elections.

A Pawlenty adviser said Friday that papers his federal Freedom First PAC intends to file with regulators by a weekend deadline show most of that money remained in the bank heading into a crucial 2010 election year. Mr. Pawlenty, a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, is using the money to help candidates in competitive races around the country.

Mr. Pawlenty’s filing shows he spent almost $400,000 during the three-month period that ended Dec. 31, making contributions to Republican candidates such as Scott Brown for his recent successful Senate campaign in Massachusetts, Rob Portman for his November Senate bid in Ohio and others.

The PAC took in donations from 2,750 contributors. The maximum donation is $5,000.

The leadership PACs often are tools used by politicians building toward runs for higher office. Mr. Pawlenty, who isn’t seeking a third term as governor, launched his PAC in October.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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