Obama appoints four to debt panel
President Barack Obama on Friday made his final appointments to a bipartisan commission tasked with reining in the nation's soaring debt, choosing a Republican businessman, a longtime Democratic budget guru, a union chief and the former president of advertising giant Young and Rubicam Brands. The 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is under orders to come up with a proposal to balance the nation's primary budget — outside of interest on the national debt — by 2015. The four appointments are Honeywell International CEO David Cote, former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alice Rivlin, Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern, and Young & Rubicam's Ann Fudge.
Plan to use high-tech detectors is scrapped
The Department of Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office is largely scrapping plans for new high-tech detectors for screening vehicles and cargo, saying they cost too much and do not work as effectively as security officials once maintained. In a letter to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, acting DNDO director William Hagan said officials will possibly use the machines only for secondary screening. Bush administration officials in 2006 committed to spending at least $1.2 billion on the development and deployment of Advanced Spectroscopic Portal machines, saying they would dramatically improve screening of vehicles and cargo containers. They estimated that each machine would cost about $377,000. The Government Accountability Office, Congress's investigative agency, turned up evidence that the machines did not work as well as billed and cost as much as $822,000 each.
Pentagon tweaks social networking policy
The Pentagon said Friday that everyone from troops in the field to the highest brass and civilian leaders will be allowed to Twitter, blog and use Facebook and other social networking sites on the military's nonclassified computer network. The decision comes after a seven-month review in which Defense Department officials weighed the threats and benefits of using such sites.
South Carolina: A Charleston judge has ruled that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's admitted affair with an Argentine woman is grounds for his wife, Jenny, to divorce him. Because the case involves adultery, the divorce will not be final until the judge signs the decree after a waiting period, likely in mid-March. Jenny Sanford said her main goal now is to instill character in her children as she will now raise them as a single mother. "This is the beginning of a new chapter for me and for our children," she said.
Washington: Gail McGovern, the president and CEO of the American Red Cross, has been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer but expects to make a full recovery, she said Friday. McGovern, 58, underwent surgery Feb. 11 in Boston, and doctors say her prognosis is excellent. She was treated for unrelated breast cancer in 2006.
Texas: The Lone Star State last year endured 10 storms that resulted in more insured losses than any other state: $2.46 billion. Colorado was a distant second with $1.32 billion in losses. In 2008, Texas had 11 storms that caused losses of $10.2 billion — $8 billion more than runner-up Louisiana. Most of the damage in Texas was caused by Hurricane Ike, the costliest storm ever in the state.