AP News in Brief
Obama to meet with congressional leaders as economic stimulus advances in House
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional leaders and President Barack Obama are having a hard time finding common ground on an economic recovery plan as Republican resistance to the stimulus package emerges in the House.
The president and top Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate planned to meet Friday to discuss the status of the spending and tax cutting legislation that Obama has demanded to confront an ever weakening economy.
The stimulus legislation, priced at about $825 billion and likely to grow, advanced in House committees this week. Republicans, who are in the minority, were unable to make inroads with their proposals.
The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday approved $275 billion in tax cuts on a party-line vote of 24-13. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, also working on the bill, cleared $2.8 billion to expand broadband communications service. And on Wednesday night,the House Appropriations Committee approved a $358 billion spending measure on a 35-22 party-line vote.
Democratic leaders have promised the measure will be ready for Obama’s signature by mid-February.
Aide: NY Gov. Paterson picks US Rep. Gillibrand to be next US senator, filling Clinton’s seat
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. David Paterson has picked Democratic U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill New York’s vacant U.S. Senate seat, an aide to the governor said early Friday, a day after Caroline Kennedy abruptly withdrew from consideration.
Gillibrand, a second-term lawmaker from upstate New York, will be named to fill the seat vacated when Hillary Rodham Clinton resigned to become secretary of state in the Obama administration, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because an announcement hadn’t been made. An announcement was scheduled for later Friday.
Gillibrand’s office didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
She was considered one of the top contenders in Paterson’s selection process, along with Kennedy and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Paterson’s appointment lasts until 2010, when a special election will be held to fill the final two years of Clinton’s term.
Spinal cord injury study approved; will be first human trial of embryonic stem cell therapy
NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S. biotech company says it plans to start this summer the world’s first study of a treatment based on human embryonic stem cells — a long-awaited project aimed at spinal cord injury.
The company gained federal permission this week to inject eight to 10 patients with cells derived from embryonic cells, said Dr. Thomas Okarma, president and CEO of Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif.
The patients will be paraplegics, who can use their arms but can’t walk. They will receive a single injection within two weeks of their injury.
The study is aimed at testing the safety of the procedure, but doctors will also look for signs of improvement like return of sensation or movement in the legs, Okarma said.
Whatever its outcome, the study will mark a new chapter in the contentious history of embryonic stem cell research in the United States — a field where debate spilled out of the laboratory long ago and into national politics.
Setting his foreign policy course, Obama seeks new way in Afghanistan and peace in Mideast
WASHINGTON (AP) — Taking on two of his toughest foreign policy challenges, President Barack Obama pledged to find a new course in Afghanistan and to help Israel achieve a broad peace with the Arab world.
On his second full day in office, Obama on Thursday also sought to reverse one of the most contentious policies of the Bush administration by signing an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorist suspects while leaving undecided how to dispose of unresolved war crimes cases there.
The new commander in chief visited the State Department to underscore a major theme of his young administration: that diplomacy will play a more central role in American foreign policy — not just in seeking peace in the Middle East but also in defending the United States against global terrorist threats.
He struck a tone designed to contrast with that of his predecessor, saying a new approach is overdue.
Obama offered no new formula for success in the struggle against Islamic extremists in Afghanistan, nor did he commit to a specific increase in U.S. troop strength there. ———
Security tape shows near entirety of Flight 1549’s splashdown, rescue in Hudson River
NEW YORK (AP) — A newly released security camera tape shows the emergency ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in all its stunning drama — from seconds after the jetliner splashed into the frigid water until well after the last of the 155 passengers and crew members were rescued.
The tape, made available to news media on Thursday by the Consolidated Edison utility, runs 47 minutes and 5 seconds — by far the longest video account of what Gov. David Paterson termed “a miracle on the Hudson.”
It also provides the most precise continuous record of when rescuers arrived and what happened when they did. At points in the tape, a dozen watercraft of different kinds can be seen clustered around the drifting plane.
Flight 1549, bound for Charlotte, N.C., had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport on Jan. 15 when it collided with a flock of birds, disabling both its engines. The pilot, Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, of Danville, Calif., guided the crippled Airbus A320 to a splashdown in what experts have called a heroic feat of flying. All aboard survived.
The Con Ed tape, which company spokesman Chris Olert said was recorded by a security camera at a steam plant on Manhattan’s west side, begins with the plane hitting the river and skidding to a halt in a spray of water and steam at 3:25 p.m.
Prosecutor: Ky. high school coach charged in player’s death should have known heat stroke risk
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A high school football coach should have realized a player could collapse from heat stroke in the broiling weather during practice, a prosecutor said in announcing reckless homicide charges in a youth’s death.
A grand jury indicted David Jason Stinson on Thursday in the death of Max Gilpin, 15, a sophomore offensive lineman at Louisville’s Pleasure Ridge Park High School. It was Stinson’s first year as head coach when the player collapsed and had trouble breathing.
Heat exposure deaths happen occasionally in football from the sandlot to the pros, the most famous example being Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer in 2001. Lawsuits have been filed in many of those cases, but no evidence can be found that a coach has ever been charged in the deaths.
The heat index, used to measure how hot it feels based on temperature and humidity, reached 94 degrees during the Aug. 20 practice. Gilpin’s temperature reached 107 degrees at the hospital, authorities said. He died three days later.
No autopsy was performed, but the coroner’s office said it appeared Gilpin died of complications from heat stroke.
Investigators: VA budget plan still flawed, fails to fully account for long-term health care
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two years after a politically embarrassing $1 billion shortfall that imperiled veterans health care, the Veterans Affairs Department is still lowballing budget estimates to Congress to keep its spending down, government investigators say.
The report by the Government Accountability Office, set to be released Friday, highlights the Bush administration’s problems in planning for the treatment of veterans that President Barack Obama has pledged to fix. It found the VA’s long-term budget plan for the rehabilitation of veterans in nursing homes, hospices and community centers to be flawed, failing to account for tens of thousands of patients and understating costs by millions of dollars.
In its strategic plan covering 2007 to 2013, the VA inflated the number of veterans it would treat at hospices and community centers based on a questionably low budget, the investigators concluded. At the same time, they said, the VA didn’t account for roughly 25,000 — or nearly three-quarters — of its patients who receive treatment at nursing homes operated by the VA and state governments each year.
“VA’s use, without explanation, of cost assumptions and a workload projection that appear unrealistic raises questions about both the reliability of VA’s spending estimates and the extent to which VA is closing previously identified gaps in noninstitutional long-term care services,” according to the 34-page draft report obtained by The Associated Press.
The VA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Classical music performance for Obama inauguration was pre-taped because of the cold weather
WASHINGTON (AP) — The classical music played for millions of people watching President Barack Obama’s inauguration was not the live performance it appeared to be.
Unless you were one of the fortunate few sitting within earshot of the celebrated performers, what you heard was a recording made two days earlier.
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriella Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill made the decision a day before Tuesday’s inauguration to use a previously recorded audio tape for the broadcast of the ceremonies.
Carole Florman, a spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said the weather was too cold for the instruments to stay in tune.
“They were very insistent on playing live until it became clear that it would be too cold,” said Florman in a telephone interview Thursday night.
Tribune Co. accepts bid by billionaire Tom Ricketts to purchase Chicago Cubs
CHICAGO (AP) — A billionaire family of Chicago Cubs fans — including one who first met his wife in the bleachers at Wrigley Field — is set to purchase the team and ballpark from Tribune Co.
The sale would include Wrigley Field and a 25 percent interest in a regional sports network, said Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for group head Tom Ricketts. Culloton said the deal was worth about $900 million.
“My family and I are Cubs fans,” Ricketts said in a statement Thursday night. “We share the goal of Cubs fans everywhere to win a World Series and build the consistent championship tradition that the fans deserve.”
The family, whose bid was picked from among three finalists, also said in the statement that it’s looking forward to working with the Tribune and Major League Baseball to close the transaction promptly. Tribune Co. spokesman Gary Weitman declined comment.
The selection of Tom Ricketts, a member of the founding family of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., and chief executive of InCapital LLC, was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times’ Web site.