Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Tragedy in Alaska

ted_stevensThere were three big stories competing for our attention in Washington today. The first was the tragic death of former Senator Ted Stevens in a small plane crash in his home state of Alaska. Stevens, the longest serving Republican senator ever, was on a fishing trip with Sean O’Keefe, the North American chief of European aerospace giant and Airbus maker EADS, who was among the survivors.

Dominating eyeballs in the financial markets was the Federal Reserve’s surprise decision to move back in the direction of what it calls “quantitative easing.” The Fed will use cash from maturing mortgage bonds it holds to buy more government debt. So for now, there is no more talk of an “exit strategy” from the extraordinary monetary stimulus the central bank delivered during the financial crisis. It is a significant policy shift for the Fed, and a sign it does not view the recent slowing in the economy as simply a soft patch.

The third is our exclusive Reuters/IPSOS poll from Ohio, which showed Republican Rob Portman holding a narrow lead over Democrat Lee Fisher in a race marked by, guess what, concerns over the economy and unemployment. Interesting nuggets in the survey too about who voters blame for the economic mess. Bankers and Wall Street were identified by 93 percent of voters as mostly or partially to blame for the economic downturn, while Bush’s administration was blamed by 86 percent. Obama, though, did not get off scot-free, with 69 percent of voters also holding his administration at fault.

 

Here are our top stories from today…

 

Fed takes fresh steps to support fragile recovery

The Federal Reserve took fresh steps to lower borrowing costs amid a softening economic recovery, announcing it would use proceeds from its maturing mortgage bonds to buy more government debt. The decision to reinvest proceeds from the more than $1.3 trillion in mortgage-related debt the Fed holds, an effort to keep market-set borrowing costs down, represents a significant policy shift.

For the full story by Pedro da Costa and Mark Felsenthal, click here.

Republican Rob Portman leads Senate race in Ohio

Ohio Republican Rob Portman holds a narrow lead over Democrat Lee Fisher in a Senate race marked by voter worries about a stumbling economy and high unemployment, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. Portman, director of the Office of Budget and Management and the Trade Representative under former President George W. Bush, leads Fisher 43 percent to 36 percent among likely voters less than three months before the Nov. 2 election for the open Senate seat.

Sarah Palin, the Bard of Wasilla

USA/PALINWashington’s Emma Ashburn had some thoughts today on Sarah Palin’s latest literary stylings:

Sarah Palin: former Alaska governor, ex-vice presidential candidate, bard.

The media-savvy Republican introduced a new term over the weekend, using the word “refudiate” on her Twitter feed at SarahPalinUSA when she opined on plans to build a mosque at the site of the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan. Later, she suggested she wasn’t doing anything William Shakespeare hadn’t done.

Her first tweet on Sunday read:

* Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate

from Environment Forum:

Oil-soaked sand along Gulf Coast raises memories of Exxon Valdez

Oil on BeachA handful of oily sand grabbed from a Louisiana wetland brought back some strong memories for Earl Kingik. As a traditional hunter and whaler in Alaska's Arctic, it reminded him of the Exxon Valdez spill. As he and other tribal leaders toured the U.S. Gulf Coast for signs of the BP oil spill, they worried that what's happening now in Louisiana could happen if offshore drilling proceeds off the Alaskan coast.

"There's no way to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic," said Kingik, an Inupiat tribal member from Point Hope, Alaska. Compared to Louisiana, where the waters are relatively calm and cleanup equipment and experts are nearby, the Arctic Ocean is a hostile place for oil and gas exploration. The Arctic leaders made their pilgrimage to the Gulf Coast as part of a campaign to block planned exploratory drilling by Shell Oil  in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

4 looking out windows"What I saw was devastating out there," Martha Falk, the tribal council treasurer of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope in Alaska, said after the Gulf Coast tour by seaplane, boat and on foot. If the same thing occurred off Alaska, she said, "We would have to wait days and days and days for (cleanup) equipment to reach our area."

from Environment Forum:

Gulf of Mexico oil spill prompts worries about Arctic drilling

RUSSIAWith the spotlight shining on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and on the executives sizzling in the hot seat on Capitol Hill, environmental advocates are looking north.

They're worried that Shell Oil will start drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska before the U.S. government reports on BP's Deepwater Horizon drill rig disaster. And the environmental groups are not comforted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's reassurances that no new drilling will take place until the government report is completed by May 28.

"The May 28 report deadline still leaves ample time should the Department of the Interior choose to allow this ill-advised drilling to move forward in extreme Arctic conditions, where spill response faces additional challenges of sea ice, seas of up to 20 feet, darkness and a virtual lack of infrastructure from which to stage a response," the environmental groups -- Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society -- said in a statement.

Palin shops reality show as RNC fear campaign stalks Obama

USA-ELECTION/

Sarah Palin may be about to add another high-profile credential to her resume by taking TV viewers moose hunting in Alaska.

She can already boast about being a mayor, a governor, a vice presidential nominee, a bestselling author — she’s also writing a new book about American virtues and strengths — a TV political pundit and a Big Name campaigner for candidates in the 2010 congressional elections.

Now she wants to be a reality show TV star, too.

One of the most visible Republican figures on the White House wannabe stage, Palin is teaming up with TV producer Mark Burnett to shop a proposal for a reality show based on her family and their life in picturesque Alaska to at least three major broadcast networks.

Palin’s Exxon Valdez account draws guffaws

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Sarah Palin’s new memoir, “Going Rogue,” already has been strongly criticized by John McCain’s aides for her account as a vice presidential candidate on the ticket with him in their unsuccessful 2008 race for the White House.

Now, add Alaskan experts who were involved in the case over the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster saying her account over her role in the litigation is distorted for a number of reasons.

EXXON OIL SPILLIn the book, Palin claims to have helped the fishermen, Alaska Natives and other individuals suing Exxon over spill damages prevail in their legal case.

In the words of a football coach, philosopher, father…

At the start of  Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue,” before the words begin, there’s a map: “The View from the Top of the World.”******It shows Alaska closer to the center of the top of the world than Washington, D.C. — deliberate perhaps?******Then wandering through the book, the quotes at the start of each chapter caught our eye. USA/******There’s the famous words from college football coach Lou Holtz: “I don’t believe that God put us on earth to be ordinary.”******Greek philosopher Aristotle: “Criticism is something we can avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, being nothing.”******That is followed by chapters that feature wise words from basketball coach John Wooden, Christian pastor Charles Swindoll, humor columnist Dave Barry and American author Mark Twain.******The lead in for Chapter 6 is a quote from Palin’s father, Chuck Heath Sr.: “Sarah’s not retreating; she’s reloading!”******What do these quotes say about Palin?******Click here for more Reuters political coverage******Photo credit: Reuters/Mike Segar (Rodin sculpture “The Thinker” outside Philosophy Department of Columbia University)

Attorney General warns prosecutors after Stevens debacle

(UPDATE: clarifies first two paragraphs about Holder talking to prosecutors)

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had some pointed words for prosecutors on Wednesday after the fumbling of the corruption case against former Republican Senator Ted Stevens that the government ultimately had to drop because evidence was withheld from the defense team.

JUSTICEHe warned government lawyers at a conference that the case had threatened to undermine the Justice Department’s credibility for providing defendants all the material against them as required by law.

“Our adversarial system for criminal trials can only result in justice if the discovery process is conducted by the government fairly, ethically, and according to the rule of law,” Holder said at a National Black Prosecutors Association luncheon in Memphis.

Palin Strikes Back

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is firing back in a war of words with the the environmental group, Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, over the group’s new national ad campaign which attacks her for promoting aerial hunting.

Actress, Ashley Judd, narrates the group’s You Tube video which takes direct aim at Palin and the controversial practice of  shooting wolves and other animals from low-flying planes or helicopters.

Palin, the failed Republican vice presidential nominee, blasts the ad campaign as attacks by an “extreme fringe group.” She accuses the group of misrepresenting Alaska’s wildlife management programs, which  aim to protect vulnerable wildlife from predators.

Palin open to idea of Senate run

WASHINGTON – In yet another television interview, former Republican vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin revealed on Wednesday that while she was focused on her job as Alaska’s governor she was open to the idea of a Senate bid.

While at first saying it was “not necessarily” the kind of post she would like some day, she was open to the idea.

“I’m not going to close any doors that perhaps would be in front of me and would allow me to put to good use executive experience and a world view that I think is good for our nation,” she said in an interview with CNN’s “Larry King Live.” “I’m not going to close any door there in terms of opportunity that may be there in the future.”