Friday, September 4, 2009


Protester bites off reform foe’s finger

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. | A clash between opponents and supporters of health care reform ended with one man biting off another man’s finger, authorities in California said.

Ventura County sheriff’s Capt. Frank O’Hanlon said about 100 people demonstrating in favor of health care reforms rallied Wednesday night on a street corner. One protester walked across the street to confront about 25 counterdemonstrators.

Capt. O’Hanlon said the man got into an argument and fistfight, during which he bit off the left pinky of a 65-year-old man who opposed health care reform.

A hospital spokeswoman said the top joint of the man’s pinky was bitten off, including the entire fingernail. It was not reattached.

She said he had Medicare.

Capt. O’Hanlon said the attacker fled but authorities have a good description.


Food stamp usage breaks record

More Americans than ever before received food stamps in June, the Department of Agriculture said Thursday, with more than 35 million Americans receiving assistance.

The numbers are 22 percent higher than in June 2008. The number of Americans receiving food stamps rose by more than 700,000 people compared with May.

The USDA administers the food stamp program, which was renamed in October as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, through its Food and Nutrition Service. The program helps to cover grocery costs for poor Americans.

The average recipient of food stamps in June received more than $133 in assistance. The average household received more than $293. Overall, the USDA distributed more than $4.6 billion in food stamps in June. They went to 35,122,123 recipients.


Treasury bows to rival watchdog

The Treasury Department has decided not to challenge the independence of the government watchdog agency that Congress created to oversee spending of the $700 billion rescue package for the financial sector.

The confrontation between Treasury and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, SIGTARP, had prompted congressional complaints that the Obama administration was seeking to restrain the work of inspector general Neil Barofsky.

This week, Mr. Barofsky declared in a letter to lawmakers that Treasury had, in effect, acknowledged that he is not subject to Treasury’s supervision.

“We applaud Treasury’s decision to bring to a close this needless distraction,” Mr. Barofsky wrote.

Mr. Barofsky, a former prosecutor, has been aggressive in his oversight and has clashed at times with Treasury officials over his demands for internal documents. He has criticized Treasury for not seeking more information from banks that have received rescue funds and conducted his own bank survey to prove that the data could be obtained.


Rules allow visits to Cuba kin

Americans with “close relatives” in Cuba can visit the island as long and often as they would like under new rules lifting some travel and telecommunications restrictions, the U.S. Treasury said Thursday.

The rules, effective immediately, fleshed out an announcement by President Obama in April to ease the U.S. trade embargo enforced on Cuba after Fidel Castro’s leftist revolution half a century ago.

But the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said Americans could spend only $179 per day on visits to family members in Cuba, including aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins.

That is the same amount as the U.S. State Department’s per diem rate for official visits, and it will change when the State Department rate changes.

The new OFAC rules also allow Cuban Americans to send unlimited amounts of money to family members in Cuba, and permit U.S. banks to set up exchange arrangements with Cuban financial institutions.


Carville, Matalin to head committee

NEW ORLEANS | Husband-and-wife political consultants James Carville and Mary Matalin, who live in New Orleans, will co-chair the host committee for the 2013 Super Bowl, which will be played in the Louisiana Superdome.

Led by the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, the Super Bowl Host Committee will be composed of leaders from the hospitality, tourism, and economic development industries in New Orleans and Louisiana.

NFL owners voted in May to hold the 47th Super Bowl in New Orleans.


Fish farming in sea wins OK

NEW ORLEANS | President Obama’s administration has approved a plan to farm fish in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declined to oppose the plans despite objections from fishermen and environmentalists.

They are concerned that growing fish in large cages or pens in the open waters will lead to pollution and threaten wild marine stocks. Proponents say offshore aquaculture is a safe way to produce high-quality seafood for American consumers.

At the same time, the agency said it would develop a national policy for “sustainable marine aquaculture” in the next few months.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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