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Does Obama know what to do with new Facebook page?

President Barack Obama apparently decided to join the 21st Century and today got his very own Facebook account.

What's that you say? Your grandmother has had a Facebook account for years?

Probably. But unlike your grandmother, the leader of the free world has probably been too busy to read postings from friends with cute kitten photos or funny videos of goats and has let the FB imperative slide until now. His first message, according to wire accounts was: 

“Hello, Facebook! I finally got my very own page. I hope you’ll think of this as a place where we can have real conversations about the most important issues facing our country – a place where you can hear directly from me, and share your own thoughts and stories.”

Wait a minute. Real conversations? About important issues?

Does the president actually know what's on Facebook? 

Some counties — but not all — approved for wildfire disaster payments

OLYMPIA – The federal government will reimburse some, but maybe not all, local governments and tribes for a portion of their costs fighting this summer’s record wildfires.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office announced late Tuesday the Obama adminstration has approved part of the state’s request for a major disaster declaration for the wildfires in Central and Eastern Washington. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it will cover 75 percent of cost of fighting the fires and repairing damaged infrastructure in eight counties and for the Colville Confederated Tribes. It has not yet agreed to cover those public assistance costs for four other counties and the Kalispel, Yakama and Spokane tribes.

It is still considering whether to provide individual assistance to families and busineeses that sustained losses. The fires destroyed 146 homes and damaged another 476, with nearly two-thirds uninsured or underinsured, state officials said.

Karina Shagren of the state Military Department, which handlers emergency management, said there’s no estimate yet on the amount of federal reimbursement. But with fire fighting costs alone at more than $100 million, the eventual reimbursement will be in the tens of millions of dollars, she said.

“A dollar figure is going to be tough,” Shagren said. “Sometimes it takes years, even decades, to close out a disaster account.”

Approved for public assistance were Chelan, Ferry, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Whatcom and Yakima counties. Not approved were Asotin, Columbia, Douglas and Garfield counties, although some of those counties and tribes previously may have received federal grants to cover 75 percent of fire costs, Shagren said.

The state could also submit more information on losses for those counties and tribes, which could lead to approval of public assistance aid for them. “Nothing has been denied yet,” she said.

Patty Murray says she’ll support Obama’s Iran deal

At least one of Washington's U.S. senators will support President Barack Obama's nuclear energy deal with Iran when Congress reconvenes next month.

Patty Murray announced her position on the controversial deal in a lengthy statement released Tuesday. The longtime Bothell lawmaker said she met several times with Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the deal, and that she wanted to make sure Iran could not develop a nuclear weapon, that the deal did not rely on the promises of the Middle Eastern country alone and that the U.S. aggressively pursued a diplomatic solution to its issues with Iran.

"Guided by these principles, I will be voting to support the agreement to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. I will vote against the resolution of disapproval, and, if needed, I will vote against overriding President Obama’s veto," Murray said in the statement.

Murray said the deal was not perfect, but was necessary as "the best chance we have at a strong diplomatic solution, (and) it puts us in a stronger position no matter what Iran chooses to do."

You can read Murray's full statement on her position here

The Associated Press reports that Murray is the 29th Democratic senator to announce her support of the Iran deal. That number is significant because 34 Senators would be needed to strike down a resolution negating the Iran deal, which Republican lawmakers have vowed they will pursue when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day. Among those legislators is Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who said she had many problems with the Iran deal at a town hall held earlier this month in Spokane

Sen. Maria Cantwell has so far remained mum on how she'll vote regarding the deal. She told Politico in July, before lawmakers went home for the summer, that she'd likely take her time before announcing a decision.

At least two prominent Democrats have said they can't support the deal with Iran, chief among them Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York. Schumer said in his statement earlier this month, announcing he was a "no" vote on the Iran deal, that he saw "serious weaknesses" in the agreement. 

Federal emergency declared for Washington wildfires

President Barack Obama ordered federal aid to state and local agencies fighting wildfires in Washington that began Aug. 13.

In signing an emergency declaration requested earlier this week by Gov. Jay Inslee, Obama authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief "to save lives and protect prooperty and public health and safety and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe." 

The order covers much of Central and Eastern Washington: Asotin, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Klikcitat, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens and Yakima counties; plus the Colville Confederated, Kalispel, Spokane and Yakama reservations.

The federal government will proved 75 percent of the cost of emergency measures, a statement from the White House said. 
Inslee and members of the state congressional delegation said Thursday in Chelan they would press Obama to make a speedy decision on the emergency declaration. 

The state also expects to file a request for a federal disaster declaration later, which would provide federal aid for some property lost in the wildfires. But that process takes longer, and requires extensive data on losses and the amount of insurance coverage in affected areas.

Last year the state's request for a disaster declaration to aid residents and businesses with some costs of the Carlton Complex fire was denied, although the Small Business Administration did approve some low-interest loans.

Obama signs Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness bill

PUBLIC LANDS — Less than three days after the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill approving the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains area for wilderness designation, President Barack Obama has signed the bill into law, ending a 40-year effort.

Obama signed the Senate's approval of H.R. 1138, the “Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act,” which designates three new wilderness areas (encompassing about 275,665 acres) in Idaho as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System; releases four wilderness study areas so that the land would be managed for multiple-use activities; and provides for several land conveyances in Idaho.

Following are remarks by the President during the signing of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act in the Oval Office at 9:05 a.m. PDT:

     THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, over the last six years, the American people have worked really hard to bounce back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  We got jobs numbers today, showing that America created another 210,000 new jobs.  That makes 65 consecutive months of private sector job growth.  This is the strongest two-year run of private sector job growth that we've seen in the last 15 years.  And it is a testament I think to the incredible ingenuity and resilience and hard work of the American people.

     So, even as we continue to focus on rebuilding our economy, providing more opportunity, one of the things that we've also been trying to focus on is leaving a legacy for the next generation in preserving this incredible beauty, the God-given blessings that we've received — those of us who live here in the United States of America.

     I think everybody here knows that one of the prettiest states that we have with some of the greatest national treasures is the great state of Idaho.  I am very proud to be able to sign this piece of legislation, enacted by the House of Representatives, entitled the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act.  And what this does is it designates three additional wilderness designations in the great state of Idaho. 

This is a remarkable area.  It is used by fishermen, hunters, rafters, people taking hikes.  It is not only beautiful, but it’s also an important economic engine for the state — attracting tourism, creating jobs.  And thanks to the work of a broad-based coalition of folks in Idaho, but spearheaded here in Congress by Congressman Mike Simpson — who was able to receive not a single “no” vote — (laughter) — which does not happen often in the House of Representatives — something that folks have been working on for quite some time is going to be reality.

And so we want to congratulate all of them.  We want to urge the American people to visit these new, incredible wilderness areas, and recognize that not only will this give opportunities to people in Idaho, but it's going to be there for future generations as well.

One last point I want to make — we want to be thinking during the course of this summer about the firefighters who are taking on some really tough fires all across the Western states. As I've noted before, we've seen a consistent escalation of the severity and the length of wildfire season.  And a lot of that is attributable to the fact that climate change is going to be raising temperatures and creating less water, more vulnerability to a lot of forests out there.  

One of the things we're trying to work on with Congress is making sure that we are able to properly fund firefighting efforts, but also that we're engaged in the kind of conservation planning to ensure that we're preventing fires from happening in the first place. 

And so that's a project that, at least in the Western states, you get a lot of bipartisan support for.  Hopefully we'll be able to get that same kind of support here in Washington.

So, again, congratulations to all of you.  Mike, congratulations for the great work you’ve done.

I will now sign this designation.

(The bill is signed.)

There you go.  Good job.  (Applause.) 

Here's a news report on the signing with details on the wilderness areas from the Associated Press:


By KEITH RIDLER/Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — President Barack Obama on Friday signed a wilderness bill protecting 275,000 acres in central Idaho.

Obama signed the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act in the Oval Office with Republican Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho and others behind him.

“This is a remarkable area,” the president said. “It is not only beautiful, but it’s also an important economic engine for the state — attracting tourism, creating jobs.”

The legislation creates three new wilderness areas in the rugged Boulder and White Cloud mountains. They are the 138-square-mile Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness, the 142-square-mile White Clouds Wilderness and the 183-square-mile Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness.

Simpson had been working on wilderness designation for 15 years, trying to balance the interests of ranchers, recreationists and environmental groups. Some groups had been pushing Obama to designate a much larger area a national monument. Simpson and others have said that threat likely played a role in the wilderness bill getting through the U.S. House and Senate.

“The Boulder White Clouds area is now protected, in perpetuity, by the gold standard of preservation designations,” Simpson said in a statement.

U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Julie Thomas with the Sawtooth National Forest said boundary signs for the three wilderness areas could start going up in a month, and that the agency hopes to have maps available this fall.

The Forest Service is responsible for managing all of the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness, and all of the White Clouds Wilderness except for 450 acres, which is being managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Of the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness, the majority is being managed by the Forest Service, with about 37 square miles managed by the BLM.

The agencies have three years to create a joint management plan for the wilderness areas, said Jesse Bender, a BLM spokeswoman based in Idaho Falls. She said the larger of the BLM wilderness portions was already a wilderness study area.

“The management won’t change significantly,” she said. “It’s going to be an evolving process for us.”

Both agencies said they’re still absorbing information and weren’t immediately able to say what initial steps were planned.

“We have a lot to learn about this,” Thomas said. “We have a lot to figure out.”

It’s not clear whether a wilderness designation will increase or decrease the number of visitors to the area. Thomas noted the Sawtooth National Recreation Area already draws 1.5 million visitors annually.

The legislation includes an option allowing grazing permit holders on land within or adjacent to the newly created wilderness areas to voluntarily retire their permits and be eligible for compensation from outside groups.

Custer County, where officials oppose restrictions on public lands, is receiving $5 million under the legislation for a county health clinic and road improvements.

Custer and Blaine counties are also each receiving individual parcels of land for various uses.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell had this statement on the signing:

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today commended President Obama for signing into law a bill that designates three new wilderness areas encompassing about 275,665 acres in Idaho as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System; releases four wilderness study areas so that the land may be managed for multiple-use activities; and provides for several land conveyances in Idaho.

“Idaho’s Boulder White Clouds is a spectacular corner of our country and is absolutely deserving of the recognition and permanent protection it achieves today. I look forward to getting back out to the region in the future to fully appreciate these new wilderness areas.

“Congressman Simpson’s legislation reflects years of meaningful engagement with ranchers, hikers, hunters, tribes and other stakeholders to ensure that the management plan meets the needs of current and future generations. I applaud Congressman Simpson and Senator Risch, whose efforts will benefit generations of Americans to come who will be able to enjoy this stunning area just as we do today.

“There are many bills pending in Congress to recognize special lands and waters across our nation that are deserving of protection, and I am hopeful that Congress will be inspired by what happened with Boulder White Clouds to move pending legislation forward expeditiously.”

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act designates three areas to become part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, including the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness (117,000 acres), White Clouds Wilderness (91,000 acres) and Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness (88,000 acres). These protected areas preserve approximately 276,000 acres of high mountain backcountry with crystal lakes and abundant wildlife.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages more than 24,000 acres of the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness, and 450 acres of the White Clouds Wilderness. The U.S. Forest Service manages the other federal lands within the wilderness areas. The Wilderness Act, signed into law in 1964, established the highest level of conservation protection for federal lands.

Obama explains why Abedini wasn’t a bargaining chip in Iran nuke deal

At President Obama’s press conference today, he was pressed by a reporter, CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett, about why the nuclear deal with Iran didn’t secure the release of four Americans in Iran, three being held in jail, including Idaho Pastor Saeed Abedini, and one missing. Obama said making release of the Americans a condition of the deal would have made it harder for the U.S. to walk away from an unsatisfactory deal, and would have sent a message to Iran in the negotiations that they could gain additional concessions by continuing to hold the Americans.

Asked Garrett, "Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all the fanfare around this deal, to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for in relationship to these four Americans?"

The president paused. "I've got to give you credit, Major, for how you crafted those questions,” he told the reporter. “The notion that I am 'content' as I 'celebrate' with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails?" He paused again. “Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better. I’ve met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody’s content. And our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out.”

“Now if the question is why we did not tie the negotiations to their release, think about the logic that that creates. Suddenly Iran realizes, ‘You know what? Maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals.’ (It) makes it much more difficult for us to walk away, if Iran somehow thinks that a nuclear deal is dependent in some fashion … And by the way, if we had walked away from a nuclear deal, we’d still be pushing them just as hard to get these folks out. That’s why those issues are not connected. But we are working every single day to get them out, and won’t stop until they’re out and rejoined with their families.”

Business Insider Politics has posted the video clip online, with the reporter’s question and the president’s answer; you can watch it here.

Barack-etology: All the president’s picks

President Barack Obama doesn't think much of Gonzaga or Eastern Washington universities' chance on the NCAA tournament. He has the Eagles exiting tonight, and the Zags out at the end of the weekend.

Is this payback for the way Eastern Washington has voted in the last two presidential elections? Or is he just being practical?

Time will tell. To see a larger version of the president's picks, click here.

President Obama to speak in Boise on Wednesday

President Barack Obama is coming to Boise, for the first time since he appeared here as a candidate in 2008; he’ll speak at Boise State University on Wednesday. His remarks are free and open to the public, but limited tickets are required. They’ll be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis today, one ticket per person, starting at 4 p.m. at the Albertson Stadium Athletic Ticket Office at Boise State. On Wednesday, doors will open at the Caven-Williams Sport Complex, 1201 W. Cesar Chavez Lane, at noon; the president is expected to speak in mid-afternoon.

Security is expected to be heavy, and attendees are asked not to bring bags and to limit personal items; no signs or banners will be allowed. The president is expected to speak about themes from his State of the Union address on Tuesday night; he’s planning a similar appearance Thursday at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

Today’s fun video: Obama plays Colbert


President Obama pokes fun at almost everyone, including himself, in a mockup of The Word on The Colbert Report.


Today’s fun video: Schoolhouse Rock! revisited


You may have been subjected in Civics Class to the cartoon "I'm Just a Bill" from Schoolhouse Rock! with its earworm-catchy song. Recently Saturday Night Live revised it to account for President Obama's executive order on immigration.

Today’s fun video: Stewart on the mid-terms


​Originally aired on The Daily Show last week, but with the elections  two months off, it's still good.


Today’s fun video: Aging of a president


Being president ages a person. Or so this video of Barack Obama shows.

Obama signs emergency declaration for fires

President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration this morning that offers federal aid to Central Washington areas hard hit by wildfires.

It authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts in Chelan and Okanogan counties and on the Colville Reservation. Obama had promised action Tuesday in Seattle after receiving a briefing on the fires from Gov. Jay Inslee. 

Full text of the White House announcement can be found inside the blog.


Today’s fun video: What would Reagan do about Ukraine shootdown?


The Daily Show's Jon Stewart skewers talking head news types who compare Barack Obama to Ronald Reagan's response to the Soviet shoot-down of a jetliner without checking the facts. 

Inslee to brief Obama on fires

Gov. Jay Inslee will brief President Obama on the fires in Central Washington as the two drive into Seattle this afternoon.

Obama, Air Force One and the traveling White House press corps are due in to Boeing Field at mid-afternoon, and the president will motorcade into Seattle for a fund-raiser. Inslee will ride in the car with Obama to brief him on the progress of fighting the wildfires, which have torched a record amount of area east of the Cascades.

The president is due to leave Seattle right after the fund-raiser to fly to San Francisco. Seattle drivers are being warned to expect traffic days for Obama's coming and going. 

Inslee, who has made several trips to the east side of the state to check on firefighting efforts, plans to stop at the Camp Murray Emergency Operations Center to thank workers on his way up to Boeing Field, his staff said.

Sunday Spin: Some advice for Obama on this trip to Seattle

President Obama’s campaign apparatus e-mails almost every day asking for money, but perhaps because I never give him any, he never calls to ask for advice. That’s OK. I have some for him anyway, unsolicited.

Don’t pop in and out of Seattle this week like some guy stopping at the ATM for cash on the way to pick up pizza and a video. If you’re intent on coming for a fund-raiser at some Seattle fat-cat’s home – thus making the city’s usually terrible traffic abysmal for everyone not in an escorted motorcade – it ought to be for something more than just the money. This is particularly true if half the state is still either on fire or choking on smoke.

The White House said last week the president will stop in Tuesday on his way to California, where he’s got even more money-makers later in the week. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Obama coming next week. Will WA still be burning?

President Barack Obama is planning a fund-raising visit to Seattle on Tuesday. Quick in and out on the way to more fund-raising in California.

As with previous visits, it's likely to tie up traffic in the Puget Sound during his coming and going to the event, which is at an as-yet-undisclosed residence in Seattle. Motorists already dealing with summer construction season can expect even more delays.

But the fires in Central Washington — which Gov. Jay Inslee labeled a firestorm today — might still be burning by Tuesday, and even if they are under control, there will be plenty of scorched earth and former homes that are not much more than a foundation and a chimney. 

So the question for Obama and all his political planners is this:Do you cancel the Seattle stop out of respect for the disaster? Do you pop in and out of Washington like a person hitting their favorite ATM? Or do you extend the stay to acknowledge the disaster, possibly making a trip to the devastation and talk about the effects of climate change? 

Gov. Jay Inslee said today he hadn't talked to Obama about the fires and his upcoming visit.

Today’s fun video: Obama’s schtick at Correspondent’s Dinner


President Obama takes shots at reporters, news networks and Congress at the White House Correspondents Dinner

Obama in Oso: Reports from the pool

Marine One flies over the site of the March 22 mudslide taking President Obama to Oso. AP PHOTO

President Obama stopped in Washington state on his way to Asia, landing in Everett and traveling to Oso to see the devastation of last month's mudslide and talk to some of the surviving families and the people who responded to the disaster.

As is typical for a presidential visit, the White House sent out a "pool report" from a small group of journalists assigned to travel to the remote locations, to avoid having the entire press horde showing up in some place like Oso. Spin Control provides the relevant pool reports, along with some tweets from Northwest reporters, to keep you updated on the visit.

Obama leaves for Asia

5:20 pm pool report: President Obama exited Marine One with Gov. Jay Inslee and headed for Air Force One. He shook hands with the governor, gave him a brief hug, and headed up the stairs to board the plane. The senior staffers who accompanied him from Washington DC then followed. We are rolling, headed for Tokyo.— Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post.

Arlington departure

5 p.m.: Obama and others left landing field in Arlington, headed for Paine Field in Everett where Air Force One is parked. 

In Oso

4:50 p.m. Pool report: Obama spoke to fire fighters and paramedics at the Oso firehouse, standing under a handmade banner that read "Oso Strong" next to a bright red Snohomish County fire truck. The walls of the firehouse were papered with signs thanking the search and rescue volunteers, including a twenty-foot yellow banner covered with the handprints of elementary school children. 
For several members of the crowd of 75, it was the first time they'd taken a break to do anything besides eat or sleep since the disaster took place. "We've been working together for weeks, but this is the first time I feel we've really come together," said William Quistorf, chief pilot for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, gesturing toward the Navy aviators sitting next to him. "It feels like part of a healing process". . . 

To read more items, a transcript of the president's speech,  or to comment, continue inside the blog: 

Today’s fun video: Obama fills in brackets


In what has become an annual tradition, President Obama filled in  his NCAA brackets for ESPN. The clip picks up when the president is at the Sweet 16 level, so you'll have to look at the ESPN website to realize that he dissed Gonzaga, expecting them to lose to OK State in their first game.

Of course, he had the Zags going pretty far last year, and like many bracketologists in Spokane, was knocked out of the money early.

Now we can expect the annual tradition that follows this annual tradition: Conservative pundits complaining that Obama should be doing something more important with his time than filling out his bracket on ESPN. This year, one can expect those complaints to include the words "Putin" and "Crimea" as well as the old standards like "Benghazi" and "Syria."

Feel free to weigh in on the comments section on whether you think the president should be spending his time doing something else than filling out his bracket on ESPN.

Alternate question: In the interests of gender equity, shouldn't Obama also fill out a bracket for the women's tournament on ESPN?

Click here to weigh in.


Ricin suspect ordered to obtain psychiatric evaluation

A federal judge has ordered a Spokane man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to government officials, including President Barack Obama, receive psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

Matthew Ryan Buquet has been in federal custody since May, when several letters that initially tested positive for the castor bean-derived toxin arrived at the Thomas S. Foley Courthouse in downtown Spokane. The missives, which included the message "We have a bomb placed we are going to kill you! Hezbollah," arrived in envelopes bearing the return address of a downtown Spokane law firm, according to court documents since sealed.

A female employee of the firm reported she began receiving notes and gifts, including a can of Coca-Cola, on her desk. Buquet, a member of the janitorial crew that cleaned the office space leased by the law firm, had been dismissed from previous jobs for similar behavior. The FBI detained Buquet at his apartment shortly after the letters were discovered and interrogated him at a hotel, according to court paperwork. An FBI agent with the investigation said at the time Buquet appeared "gravely disabled," exhibited "bizarre behaviors" and was "delusional," according to court records.

U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty authorized the mental evaluation. Haggerty, an Oregon judge, was assigned to the case after a Spokane judge recused himself because one of the poisoned letters was addressed to a colleague.

Haggerty wrote in his ordered he was "satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe the defendant may not be competent to understand the charges against him and to assist in his defense."

A hearing to argue the findings of the competency hearing is set for May, with a potential jury trial in the case pushed to October. Buquet has been indicted on a criminal charge of possessing a deadly biological agent and two counts of mailing threatening communications. If convicted of the charges, Buquet could spend 20 years to the rest of his life in federal prison.

Spokane Valley City Council takes Tuesday off

Now there's no excuse to miss the State of the Union address, nor the potentially Eastern Washington-centric GOP response.

The Spokane Valley City Council has cancelled its Tuesday evening (Jan. 28) meeting, which otherwise would have been getting under way about the same time President Barack Obama is set to begin addressing the nation.

Following the State of the Union address, the nationally televised Republican response will be given by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane.

Both addresses are set to be carried by all major TV networks. The State of the Union is set to begin at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

The Spokane Valley City Council is scheduled to next meet on Feb. 4.

Today’s fun video: Sign up ‘cause it’s hot


Not the best Obama spoof in the world. But it's got a good beat, and he can dance to it.

Today’s fun video: SNL’s cure for what ails Obama



Saturday Night Live recommends doses of second-term strength anti-depressants for Barack Obama.

(It's from the NBC website, so it starts with a real commercial. Sorry about that.)

In praise of compromise and civility

President Obama speaks at the memorial service for Tom Foley.

WASHINGTON – In a service that contrasted the state of today’s Congress with the House Tom Foley left nearly two decades ago, past and current leaders extolled the former Spokane speaker’s ability to see another person’s point of view, compromise and get things done.

Republicans as well as Democrats praised the late congressman and ambassador, repeating stories he shared or advice he gave about honoring public service. And one leader who acknowledged he didn’t know Foley personally but admired his reputation said it was time to emulate him.

“Now, more than ever, America needs public servants who are willing to place problem-solving ahead of politics,” President Barack Obama said.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Obama to attend Foley service at Capitol

President Barack Obama will be among current and former leaders attending a memorial service for the late Tom Foley, former House speaker and U.S. ambassador, Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol.

The White House announced this morning that Obama will attend the service in Statuary Hall. Former President Bill Clinton, whose first two years in the White House coincided with Foley's last two as speaker, is also scheduled to attend.

Foley, 84, died last Friday of complications from a stroke. He served for 30 years as the representative from Eastern Washington's 5th Congressional District, the last five as speaker of the House.

The Capitol service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday. A Spokane memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. next Friday at St. Aloysius Church on Gonzaga University campus.


McMorris Rodgers part of negotiating team on shutdown

Time Magazine is reporting Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, has been selected by House Speaker John Boehner to negotiate Thursday with President Barack Obama on the partial federal government shutdown.

Obama originally invited all members of the House of Representatives to 1600 W. Pennsylvania Ave. to discuss funding the federal government. Boehner elected to send 18 representatives, including members of House leadership and committee chairs, instead.

A spokeswoman for McMorris Rodgers confirmed on Wednesday afternoon her planned attendance at the meeting.

The full Time listing of attendees:

Boehner (Ohio)
Rep. Eric Cantor (Virginia) 
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (California)
McMorris Rodgers (Washington)
Rep. Greg Walden (Oregon)
Rep. James Lankford (Oklahoma)
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (Kansas)
Rep. Virginia Foxx (North Carolina)
Rep. Steve Southerland (Florida)
Rep. Ann Wagner (Missouri)
Rep. Peter Roskam (Illinois)
Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas)
Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisconsin)
Rep. Dave Camp (Michigan)
Rep. Fred Upton (Michigan)
Rep. Hal Rogers (Kentucky)
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas)
Rep. Buck McKeon (California)

House Democrats are meeting with Obama today. Boehner said Tuesday a phone call with the president yielded "a crack" in the frigid impasse that has kept portions of the federal government on shutdown since Oct. 1, but it wasn't enough to stoke his optimism.

Risch Asking Right Q’s RE: Syria

Some of the best questions (re: Syria), so far, have come from Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho. Serving on the Foreign Relations Committee, Risch Wednesday joined the minority in opposing Obama's request for congressional authorization.Here's what Risch is saying:

  • "I want to hear the analysis of what happens if you do pull the trigger," Risch told Boise's KTVB. "You heard (Obama's) statement that it was going to be a one-shot deal sort of thing is what he described. Well, what happens if (Syrian strongman Bashar Hafez) al-Assad turns around and ups the ante and kills 5,000 people or 10,000 people with the nerve gas, which he has the capability of doing. What do you do then?"
  • This is no Afghanistan. Syria has some of the most sophisticated weaponry Russia can supply. So what happens after the U.S. intervenes? "My biggest fear is escalation and the unknown," Risch said.
  • If not responding to the chemical attack threatens U.S. credibility, what about staging any attack that leaves al-Assad still in power? More here.

Question: Do you appreciate the hard questions that U.S. Sen. Risch is asking re: Syria?

Wallenberg Fam Wants Obama Help

The family of World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg will ask President Barack Obama for help in their quest to find out what happened to the Swedish diplomat who vanished after being arrested by Soviet forces in 1945. Wallenberg's niece, Marie Dupuy, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the family will present a letter to Obama at a memorial ceremony for Wallenberg that the president is set to attend Wednesday in Stockholm. In the letter, Wallenberg's half-sister Nina Lagergren and the widow of his half brother, Matilda von Dardel, suggest U.S. diplomats raise the Wallenberg issue "directly in formal discussions with Russian authorities/Associated Press. More here.

Question: Do you know the connection between Raoul Wallenberg and the city of Coeur d'Alene?

Court to Obama: Follow the law on waste repository

The federal government must resume work on the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada that would store the high-level nuclear waste from Hanford and other sites around the country, a federal appeals court said today.
In what amounts to a judicial smackdown of the Obama administration, the court said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Obama administration can't override Congress, which ordered the repository built in 2002.
Washington state, which is the home to an estimated 56 million gallons of highly toxic nuclear waste from the production of nuclear warheads at Hanford, had joined the lawsuit against the commission. Along with South Carolina and some residents of the Tri-Cities, Washington sought a writ of mandamus, or order from the court for the federal government to follow the law.  Today they got what they wanted …

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