Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Nationals Park will feature all the patriotic trappings one would expect on opening day for the national pastime in its capital city. Everything, that is, except for the president of the United States.
Indeed, both the White House and the Washington Nationals say President Obama is skipping the Major League Baseball season opener, despite the standing invitation for the first fan to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Uniformed personnel representing all five service branches will fill in for their commander in chief, part of a tribute by the team to the U.S. military and their families before the game Thursday against the Atlanta Braves.
Former President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch when baseball returned to Washington in 2005, and again when the team opened its new stadium in 2008. The former Texas Rangers owner attended his fair share of ballgames across the country during his two terms, including Game 3 of the 2001 World Series in New York weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Obama was overseas for opening day in his first year as president, so Vice President Joe Biden did the honors at Baltimore's Camden Yards in 2009. The president did pitch in at that year's All-Star Game in St. Louis after being handed the ball by Hall of Famer Stan Musial, who this year was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In 2010, Obama made his National Park debut, helping Major League Baseball mark the 100th anniversary of a U.S. president participating in opening day. The first was William Howard Taft, when the hometown team was the Senators.
Obama's delivery that day was not quite on target, though, and he also rankled some Nats fans by donning a Chicago White Sox cap after taking the field.
Obama has plenty keeping him away from the ballpark, of course. And he also appears to be smarting from criticism he faced for filling out his NCAA brackets on ESPN.
"A lot of folks focused on the fact that I filled out my bracket. Obviously I hadn't been spending that much time studying it since I don't have anybody in the Final Four," he told ABC's Diane Sawyer on Tuesday.
Posted by DL at 9:49 PM
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The president told Pittsburgh television station KDKA that all energy sources have their downsides but that the U.S. — which gets 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear power — needs to look at the full array of them.
The president said facilities in the U.S. are closely monitored and built to withstand earthquakes, even though nothing’s failsafe. Proponents of nuclear power fear their efforts to win over the public to the safety of their industry have been dealt a tremendous blow by the disaster in Japan.
“I think it is very important to make sure that we are doing everything we can to insure the safety and effectiveness of the nuclear facilities that we have,” the president said in a second TV interview Tuesday, with KOAT in Albuquerque, N.M.
“We’ve got to budget for it. I’ve already instructed our nuclear regulatory agency to make sure that we take lessons learned from what’s happening in Japan and that we are constantly upgrading how we approach our nuclear safety in this country,” he said.
The president said he’s been assured that any radiation release from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant along Japan’s northeastern coast would dissipate before reaching the U.S.
In Japan the crisis was spiraling as a fire broke out at a reactor a day after the plant emitted a burst of radiation. The government ordered people living within 20 miles of the plant to seal themselves indoors to avoid exposure.
At the White House Tuesday, spokesman Jay Carney said that unlike some other countries the U.S. was not recommending that American citizens leave Tokyo over radiation concerns. Carney said that U.S. officials have determined Americans in Japan should follow the same guidance Japan is giving to its own citizens.
Nonetheless, Austria said it is moving its embassy from Tokyo to Osaka and France recommended that its citizens leave the Japanese capital.
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo has told Americans to avoid traveling to Japan.
Meanwhile more U.S. military crews were exposed to radiation Tuesday as the Pentagon ramped up relief flights over the reeling country.
The Defense Department said the Navy started giving anti-radiation pills to some of those exposed, and Americans on two military bases south of Tokyo were advised to stay indoors as much as possible.
With more aid for victims on the way, the U.S. Navy said it was redirecting three ships to work in the Sea of Japan on the country’s west coast rather than risk the hazards of radiation and the debris field in the waters off the east coast.
Sensitive air monitoring equipment on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington detected low levels of radioactivity from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant as the carrier sat pier-side at Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. 7th Fleet, said Tuesday.
Davis said that while there was no danger to the public from the radiation levels, the commander recommended as a precaution that military personnel and their families at the two bases, Yokosuka and Naval Air Facility Atsugi, limit their outdoor activities and seal ventilation systems.
The Navy said Monday that radiation was detected by another carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, and that 17 helicopter crew members had to be decontaminated after returning from search and rescue duty. The Navy said more crews were exposed to very low levels of radiation Tuesday and had to be decontaminated.
Potassium iodide pills were given to a small number of those crew members as a precaution, said Col. Dave Lapan, a Defense Department spokesman.
A three-ship amphibious group, including the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Essex, was directed to position itself in the Sea of Japan and was to arrive Thursday for other relief duties.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu said his department has assembled a team of 34 people and sent 7,200 pounds of equipment to Japan to help monitor and assess the situation with the nuclear reactors.
Posted by DL at 8:40 PM