political notebook

Biden to oversee administration's nuclear nonproliferation effort

Kal Penn had a recurring role on Fox's TV show ''House.'' Kal Penn had a recurring role on Fox's TV show ''House.''
April 8, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Vice President Joseph Biden has been put in charge of the administration's nuclear nonproliferation agenda, including President Obama's goal of securing vulnerable nuclear material around the world over the next four years, and efforts to persuade Congress to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which would ban new nuclear explosions.

"As a measure of the president's continuing commitment to this vital nonproliferation agenda, he has asked for Vice President Joe Biden's help to lead the administration's nonproliferation efforts," James Steinberg, the deputy secretary of state, told a packed luncheon of diplomats and nonproliferation specialists Monday at a conference sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank.

Speaking a day after Obama gave a major speech in Prague that committed the United States to working toward a nuclear-weapons-free world, Steinberg sketched out additional details about how the Obama administration intends to tackle this ambitious - some say impossible - goal.

Steinberg said Biden will shepherd the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty through Congress and push other countries to follow the US example by ratifying it. The administration would also work to remove obstacles that have blocked negotiations for more than a decade on a treaty that would prevent the further production of bomb-making fuel.

He said the administration would also work to make more rigorous, intrusive UN inspections of nuclear facilities mandatory. He also said the Obama administration intended to beef up Bush administration efforts to stop nuclear terrorism, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, a largely ad hoc team of countries that interdicted ships believed to be smuggling dual-use nuclear materials. The administration would also work with Russia to negotiate a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by the time the current agreement expires in December, he said.

Steinberg suggested that current efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear material in the former Soviet Union will be expanded to cover the entire world.

"More needs to be done on an urgent basis" to lock down nuclear materials around the world that terrorists might be able to get their hands on, he said. "The job must be completed."

Steinberg suggested that the State Department's arms control bureaucracy might increase, while the multibillion-dollar budgets of Los Alamos National Laboratory and other nuclear labs could shrink.


White House hires actor as Hollywood liaison
WASHINGTON - The White House has hired actor Kal Penn as a liaison between President Barack Obama's administration and Hollywood.

White House spokesman Shin Inouye said yesterday that the actor who had a recurring role on Fox's TV show "House" and has starred in several movies would join the staff as an associate director in the Office of Public Liaison. His role will be to connect Obama with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, as well as arts and entertainment groups.

Penn starred as Kumar in the movie "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay."

Penn was an Obama supporter during the campaign. The White House says a start date for Penn has not been set.

The hire was first reported by Entertainment Weekly.


Gays invited to take part in annual Easter Egg Roll
WASHINGTON - The White House is allocating tickets for the upcoming Easter Egg Roll to gay and lesbian parents as part of the Obama administration's outreach to diverse communities.

Families say the gesture shows that the new administration values them as equal to other families. And for many, being included in the annual tradition - dating to 1878 - renews hope that they will have more support in their quest for equal rights in matters such as marriage and adoption than under the previous administration.

White House officials said that tickets for Monday's Easter Egg Roll event were distributed to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organizations, but did not specify how many or to which ones. Representatives from Family Equality Council, Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other groups confirmed they were invited and encouraged to have their members participate.

"The Obama administration actually reached out to us as an organization, and said we want gay families there, and they are an important part of the American family fabric," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Boston-based Family Equality Council, which is helping spearhead the effort to organize families to attend.

Chrisler said yesterday she expects more than 100 gay and lesbian-headed families to take part in the egg roll.

It's not the first time gay and lesbian-headed families will participate.

In 2006 during the Bush administration, more than 100 gay parents attended the egg roll in part to make the statement that they should be welcome. Some conservatives accused gays and lesbians of trying to "crash" the event and turn it into forum for ideological politicking.

This year already feels different, said Colleen Gillespie of Brooklyn.

"We feel so welcomed and embraced, and that in a very real way, I think we can just go as a family and enjoy it," said the 42-year-old assistant professor at New York University's school of medicine, who is attending with her wife and their daughters.