- The Washington Times - Monday, February 22, 2010


Toyota celebrated avoiding recall

Toyota officials claimed they saved the company $100 million by successfully negotiating with the government on a limited recall of floor mats in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles, according to new documents shared with congressional investigators.

Toyota, in an internal presentation in July 2009 at its Washington office, said it saved $100 million or more by negotiating an “equipment recall” of floor mats involving 55,000 Toyota Camry and Lexus ES350 vehicles in September 2007.

The savings are listed under the title, “Wins for Toyota - Safety Group.” The document cites millions of dollars in other savings by delaying safety regulations, avoiding defect investigations and slowing down other industry requirements.

The documents could set off alarms in Congress over whether Toyota put profits ahead of customer safety and pushed regulators to narrow the scope of recalls. Two House committees are holding hearings this week on the Japanese automaker’s recall of 8.5 million vehicles in recent months to deal with safety problems involving gas pedals, floor mats and brakes.

The documents were turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and obtained by the Associated Press on Sunday. The presentation was first reported by the Detroit News.


Government ‘tweaks’ policy for funding

The federal government broadened the definition of a human embryonic stem cell Friday, helping qualify several corporate and academic experiments for federal funding.

Dr. Lana Skirboll, director of the Office of Science Policy of the National Institutes of Health, called the change technical and said it would be posted in the Federal Register for comment.

Human embryonic stem cells are the body’s master cells, taken from very early stage embryos when they are just a ball of cells.

The current definition describes them as cells taken from the inner layer of a blastocyst - a days-old hollow ball of cells. Dr. Skirboll said the new definition will include earlier stage embryos.


Domestic radicalism equated to foreign

Americans who turn to terrorism and plot against the U.S. are now as big a concern as international terrorists, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday.

The government is just starting to confront this reality and does not have a good handle on how to prevent someone from becoming a violent extremist, she said.

In the past year, Ms. Napolitano said, she has witnessed a movement from international extremism to domestic extremism - cases in which Americans radicalized and decided to plot attacks against the country.

“What really is it that draws a young person being raised in the United States to want to go and be at a camp in Yemen and then come back to the United States with the idea of committing harm within the United States?” Ms. Napolitano asked without citing specific cases. “Where in that person’s formulation is there an opportunity to break that cycle?”

Ms. Napolitano spoke to Democratic governors in Washington for their annual conference. She was in a wheelchair Sunday because she broke her ankle playing tennis a few weeks ago, a Homeland Security Department official said.


Sestak: White House offered job to not run

PHILADELPHIA | Rep. Joe Sestak says the White House offered him a federal job in an effort to persuade him not to mount a Democratic primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Sestak said Thursday at a taping of the Comcast Network’s “Larry Kane: Voice of Reason” show that he was offered a high-ranking job but turned it down.

Spokesman Jonathon Dworkin said Friday that Mr. Sestak stands by his comments. He declined to provide details about the job offer.

The White House told the Associated Press on Friday that it had no immediate comment on Mr. Sestak’s comments. Mr. Sestak is a retired Navy admiral and has attacked Mr. Specter’s votes for GOP positions and questioned his loyalty to the Democratic Party.

Mr. Specter defected in April from the Republican Party, which he said had become too conservative for him to win another term.


Rep. Ellsworth to run for Bayh Senate seat

Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth said Friday he will run for Evan Bayh’s Indiana Senate seat.

Mr. Ellsworth made the announcement in his hometown of Evansville. The two-term congressman stated only that it was his “intention to run for the Senate of the United States,” without elaborating, before he walked into a town hall meeting.

Mr. Ellsworth emerged as a leading Democratic choice after Mr. Bayh’s surprise announcement Monday. The 51-year-old former lawman is considered an attractive candidate because he won by big margins in both his campaigns in his largely rural congressional district in southwestern Indiana after eight years as sheriff of the district’s largest county.

Former Democratic Indiana House Speaker John Gregg said Mr. Ellsworth would be the party’s best candidate.

“Aside from being electable, he’s really not been in Congress long enough to be termed an insider,” Mr. Gregg said. “He’s actually a conservative Democrat, which makes him a moderate, which is what most Hoosiers are moderate to conservative. He is a hard worker, he is sincere and he listens.”

Mr. Ellsworth has positioned himself as a fiscal conservative and an opponent of abortion rights. Republicans have criticized his votes in favor of the banking system bailout and last year’s stimulus package backed by President Obama.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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