- - Monday, April 18, 2011


General cleared of wrongdoing

A Pentagon inquiry into a Rolling Stone magazine profile of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal that led to his dismissal as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has cleared him of wrongdoing.

The probe’s results released Monday also called into question the accuracy of the magazine’s report in June, which quoted anonymously people around Gen. McChrystal making disparaging remarks about members of President Obama’s national security team, including Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

At the time he dismissed Gen. McChrystal, Mr. Obama said the general had fallen short of “the standard that should be set by a commanding general.” The Defense Department inspector general’s report, however, concluded that available evidence did not support the conclusion that Gen. McChrystal had violated any applicable legal or ethics standard.

Last week, the White House tapped Gen. McChrystal to head a new advisory board to support military families, an initiative led by first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of the vice president. The selection of Gen. McChrystal was announced April 12, four days after the inspector general’s report was finished.

The report’s conclusions were first reported Monday by the New York Times, which obtained it under a Freedom of Information Act request. The Pentagon subsequently posted the report on its website.


Obamas paid $453,770 in taxes

President Obama and his wife, Michelle, reported income of $1.728 million for last year, much of it from the sale of the president’s prepresidency books. They paid federal taxes totaling $453,770 after receiving a $12,334 refund.

The Obamas paid their taxes at lowered Bush-era rates, even as he campaigns to end them for households with adjusted gross incomes above $250,000 - a category into which the first family clearly fits.

Joining the flocks of Americans filing their taxes near the end of the federal filing period, the Obamas made withholding and other payments to the Internal Revenue Service last year totaling $466,104. That was an overpayment, so they got their refund. The president and first lady reported donating $245,075 - about 14.2 percent of their adjusted gross income - to 36 charities.

The largest single gift was a contribution of $131,075 to the Fisher House Foundation, a charity that offers a scholarship fund for children of soldiers who die or are disabled.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his wife, Jill, reported more modest earnings, a combined adjusted gross income of $379,178, on which they paid $86,626 in federal taxes for 2010. The Bidens’ withholding and earlier payments came to just $79,446, so they had a tax bill of $7,180 to settle.


Rusher, former publisher of National Review, dies

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | William A. Rusher, a conservative strategist for more than 50 years who helped engineer Barry Goldwater’s nomination as the Republican candidate for president in 1964, has died, officials confirmed Monday. He was 87.

Mr. Rusher died Saturday in a nursing facility in San Francisco after a long illness. His death was confirmed by Richard Vetterli, a spokesman for the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office.

His influence was felt on decades of U.S. politics, from the 1961 stirrings of the “draft Goldwater” effort to opposing Richard Nixon’s overtures to China in the 1970s to advising Ronald Reagan’s administration in the 1980s.

Mr. Rusher also helped shape the public debate through syndicated columns in newspapers across the country. He spent 31 years as publisher of National Review, the magazine founded by William F. Buckley Jr. that was a postwar cornerstone of anti-communism and American conservative thought.


House GOP targets food aid programs

House Republicans resurrected a 1990s-era fight over food stamps in their budget approved last week, arguing that any serious attempt to cut spending must include an overhaul of government programs that help needy families pay for food.

Congress has started cutting some food programs, including reducing the Women, Infants and Children Program by $500 million as part of a deal on this year’s budget. And last year, more than $2 billion in future funding for food stamps was redirected to other programs.

On Friday, the House approved a Republican proposal to overhaul the $65 billion food stamp program - known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP - by replacing it with capped block grants to states, which would pay for the aid but make it contingent on work or job training. That proposal was included in a 2012 budget plan put forward by Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican.


Obama extends Passover greetings

The White House says President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed cooperation on counterterrorism, the Middle East peace process and violence in the Gaza Strip during a telephone conversation Monday.

Mr. Obama also extended best wishes to Mr. Netanyahu before the start of Passover. The weeklong holiday begins Monday night with a traditional seder meal and marks the biblical story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.

Mr. Obama also was hosting a seder at the White House for the third straight year.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Mr. Netanyahu expressed appreciation for U.S. funding for a military weapons system that has intercepted several rockets aimed at Israeli communities.


Longtime lawmaker Volkmer dies at 80

HANNIBAL | Harold L. Volkmer, a 10-term Democratic congressman from northeast Missouri, has died. He was 80.

The James O’Donnell Funeral Home in Hannibal, says Mr. Volkmer died Saturday after several bouts of pneumonia.

Mr. Volkmer served in the Missouri Legislature before being elected to Congress in 1976. He served on several House committees, including Judiciary and Agriculture, and chaired the Agriculture subcommittee on small farms and forests.

Sen. Thomas Eagleton nicknamed Mr. Volkmer “The Roadrunner” for his tirelessness.

Mr. Volkmer’s wife, Shirley, died in 1995, and in 1996, he lost his re-election bid to Republican Kenny Hulshof.

Mr. Volkmer married Dian Poole Sprenger in 1997 and she survives, along with three children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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