- - Thursday, March 1, 2012


Obama apology won’t end Afghan violence

A White House spokesman said that President Obama wasn’t suggesting his apology to Afghanistan for Koran burnings would end the violence there, after two more U.S. service members were killed Thursday.

“Nobody has suggested that violence has ended in Afghanistan in general or in reaction to the unfortunate incident involving the inadvertent, unintentional burning of religious materials,” presidential press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with Mr. Obama on Air Force One.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama told ABC News that his apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai had “calmed things down” after a week of anti-America protests in that country. Less than a day later, the International Security Assistance Force announced that two more U.S. soldiers had been killed, bringing the total of ISAF personnel killed to six in the past two weeks.

Conservatives have criticized the president for apologizing for the Koran burnings while not asking for an apology for the killings of U.S. troops.

The latest U.S. troops to fall victim to the violence were in the southern part of the country Thursday when two men, one of whom may have been an Afghan soldier, opened fire. Officials said two of the three gunmen were killed.

On Feb. 25, two other U.S. military advisers were killed at the Afghan Interior Ministry. Earlier that week, an Afghan soldier fatally shot two U.S. troops during a protest.

Republican presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and others have criticized Mr. Obama for offering what they said was a needless apology.

The burned copies of the Koran were found in a garbage pit on a U.S. air base near Kabul. In a letter to Mr. Karzai, Mr. Obama called the burnings “inadvertent” and said those responsible would be held accountable.


Judge sets April trial in Edwards case

GREENSBORO — The delayed campaign-finance trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards is now scheduled to begin in April.

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles ruled Thursday in Greensboro that jury selection will begin April 12, with the presentation of evidence to start April 23. Judge Eagles expects the trial to last about six weeks.

Mr. Edwards has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of using campaign money to cover up an affair during his unsuccessful 2008 presidential candidacy.

Judge Eagles also heard arguments over whether expected testimony by former Edwards aide Andrew Young and others should be admissible. Judge Eagles said she would make a decision on those issues during the trial.



Clinton: Bailout most important Obama move

Former President Bill Clinton says the auto-industry bailout was the single most important decision by President Obama — even bigger than pushing his health care overhaul through Congress.

Mr. Clinton made the remark Thursday to more than 1,000 members of the United Auto Workers at an annual conference in Washington.

The former president also criticizes Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who has said the government should not have used taxpayer money to rescue General Motors and Chrysler.

Mr. Clinton says Mr. Romney’s father would be “turning over in his grave.” The elder Romney was chief executive at American Motors and a former governor of Michigan.

Mr. Obama himself vigorously defended the bailout when he addressed the autoworkers two days ago.


Lawmakers OK bridge to link Minnesota, Wisconsin

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation on building a new St. Croix River bridge to connect Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The House voted 339 to 80 in favor of legislation that exempts the proposed $700 million bridge at Stillwater, Minn., from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Senate approved the legislation in January. It now heads to President Obama.

The vote caps approximately 30 years of squabbles and legislative maneuvering over the span that will link the states with a four-lane highway.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement that it represented good, bipartisan work.

“This legislation was a top federal priority for my administration and is a great example of bipartisanship teamwork that will create thousands of jobs,” Mr. Walker said. “The construction of this safer, better bridge will bring a welcome economic boost to the region.”

Thursday’s vote capped a frantic push to pass the legislation after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton warned the bill’s House sponsor, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, that he would redirect state funding if a vote wasn’t held by March 15. The Senate passed the exemption unanimously in January.


Koch lawsuit aims at Cato takeover

Billionaire brothers and political donors Charles and David Koch are pursuing a lawsuit in their native Kansas about the ownership of a libertarian-leaning think tank based in Washington.

The Koch brothers also are longtime shareholders in the Cato Institute, a research organization that promotes free-market, small-government policies. Their lawsuit seeks a court ruling that would leave the institute with only one other shareholder, its president and chief executive officer, Ed Crane, who also is a defendant.

The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in Johnson County District Court, centers on the 25 percent ownership interest in the Cato Institute previously held by William Niskanen, who retired as chairman in 2008 and died in October. The Koch brothers contend that under shareholders’ agreements in 1977 and 1985, his wife can’t retain the shares and control his ownership interest but must give the shares back to the institute.

“We support Cato and its work,” Charles Koch said in a statement. “We are not acting in a partisan manner … all we seek is adherence to the shareholders’ agreement.”

Mr. Crane said in a statement that while Charles Koch and entities he’s controlled have provided financial support, he’s had “no significant influence” over the institute’s management, direction or work.

“We view Mr. Koch’s actions as an attempt at a hostile takeover, and intend to fight it vehemently in order to continue as an independent research organization,” he said.


Bernanke cites problems of lengthy unemployment

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is reiterating his concern that chronic long-term unemployment threatens to reduce the nation’s supply of skilled workers.

In a second day of congressional testimony, Mr. Bernanke noted that the economic recovery has been slower than normal. But he said he doubts that the Great Recession permanently reduced the economy’s growth potential.

Mr. Bernanke said he worries that more than 40 percent of America’s unemployed — 5.5 million people — have been out of work for more than six months. He said that if the problem persists, more of the long-term unemployed will lose job skills and struggle to regain them.

Mr. Bernanke was speaking to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on the second day of his semi-annual economic report to Congress.


Governor accidentally calls his No. 2 a ‘sex star’

DENVER — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s flattering comments about Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia turned into a bit of a flub.

While introducing him at a childhood literacy event in Denver Wednesday, the governor mistakenly referred to Mr. Garcia as a “rising sex star.”

Mr. Hickenlooper routinely introduces Mr. Garcia as a “rising star” and a “rock star” at public events. The Democrat immediately caught his slip that was caught by KOA radio and reported Thursday by the Denver Post.

According to the tape, Mr. Hickenlooper said, “Now I get to introduce that rising sex star … symbol. I mean, symbol — not star.”

After some awkward laughter, he panned that it might go down as one of his most difficult press conferences.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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