Obama and students space out at the White House

‘Don’t let anybody tell you that there is knowledge that is beyond your reach,’ the president tells 150 middle-schoolers at a special astronomy night.

By Alexander C. Hart
October 8, 2009
Reporting from Washington

In a brief diversion from terrestrial concerns, President Obama turned his eyes to the cosmos Wednesday night as he hosted 150 middle-school students for an evening of stargazing and science at the White House.

With moon rocks, meteorites and 20 telescopes on the South Lawn as backdrop, Obama told the crowd:

“As long as we’ve been around, we’ve been trying to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Don’t let anybody tell you that there is knowledge that is beyond your reach.”

Alluding to an event earlier in the day, when he presented the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, Obama asked: “Which one of you is going to come back here to claim your prize? Are you going to find a new star or a cure for a new disease?”

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Transportation Secretary LaHood says cellphones and driving don’t mix

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that he plans federal action to combat texting and other sources of distracted driving, which he calls a ‘menace to society.’

By Alexander C. Hart
September 30, 2009
Reporting from Washington

In 2008, Linda Doyle was killed at an Oklahoma intersection when another driver — who was using a cellphone — ran a red light and struck her car.

On Monday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told more than 200 people participating in a meeting on the dangers of distracted driving that he intended to take federal action to combat this “menace to society.”

“Every single time you take your eyes off the road or talk on the phone while you’re driving, even for just a few seconds, you put your life in danger, and you put others in danger too,” LaHood said. “This kind of behavior is irresponsible, and the consequences are devastating.”

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Islamic prayers at the Capitol

Thousands of Muslims gather for ‘A Day of Islamic Unity’ meant to show the ‘peace, beauty’ of their religion. Some conservatives and Christians objected to the event.

By Alexander C. Hart
September 26, 2009
Reporting from Washington

Thousands of Muslims, prostrating themselves in prayer, gathered just feet from the Capitol on Friday for “A Day of Islamic Unity,” an event intended to showcase what organizers called the “peace, beauty and solidarity” of Islam.

Hassen Abdellah, a lawyer and president of the Dar-ul-Islam Mosque in Elizabeth, N.J., said he was inspired to organize the event by President Obama’s attempt to reach out to Muslims in his inaugural address.

“We should also extend our hand,” Abdellah said.

The turnout fell far short of the 50,000 predicted, but the crowd was energetic as participants rolled out variegated prayer mats and plastic tarps in front of the Capitol, where Obama’s inauguration was held in January.

“We can show the world that not all Muslims hate America,” said Habib Beyah, who came from New Jersey with his son to participate. “Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Muslims are extremists.”

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TARP funds are unlikely to be fully repaid, program’s watchdog says

It’s ‘extremely unlikely’ that taxpayers will see a full return on their
investment, Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the Troubled
Asset Relief Program, tells the Senate Banking Committee.

By Alexander C. Hart
September 25, 2009
Reporting from Washington

The Treasury is unlikely to get back the full amount of money lent under the Troubled Asset Relief Program despite a recent spate of repayments from large banks, warned the program’s watchdog.

The program “played a significant role” in rescuing the financial system from a meltdown, Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for TARP, testified before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday. But it was “extremely unlikely that the taxpayer will see a full return on its TARP investment,” according to his prepared testimony.

Losing some money was almost inevitable, said William Goetzmann, a finance professor at the Yale School of Management. “The intent of TARP investment was not that it was a great investment for the U.S. taxpayer,” Goetzmann said. “The intent was to save the U.S. financial system, and that was going to cost some money.”

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