July 31, 2009

By United Press International
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Vice President Joe Biden (L) have a beer with Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr., (LC) and Sgt. James Crowley (RC) in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on July 30, 2009. Last week Crowley arrested Gates in Gates' home. UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Vice President Joe Biden (L) have a beer with Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr., (LC) and Sgt. James Crowley (RC) in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on July 30, 2009. Last week Crowley arrested Gates in Gates' home. UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo

Backyard beer:

U.S. President Barack Obama said he is hopeful his "beer summit" on race will result in a "positive lesson from this episode."


Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. Joe Crowley gathered Thursday outside the White House to smooth over differences.

Crowley arrested Gates July 16 and the professor was charged with disorderly conduct (the charges were dropped) after an incident at Gates' home. Crowley responded to a 911 call about a possible break-in at the residence. Gates had returned from a trip and had trouble opening a jammed door.

After Crowley determined Gates was the home's owner, Gates allegedly became disruptive and Crowley took the professor into custody. Gates claimed the arrest was race-based.

Obama became involved during his July 22 news conference in which he said Cambridge police acted "stupidly" in arresting his friend Gates.


To smooth over those problems, Obama invited the principals to the White House to talk over the issue.

Afterward Obama described the session as a "friendly, thoughtful conversation." The Boston Globe reported that Crowley said: "Two gentlemen agreed to disagree. This was a positive step in moving forward." Gates, on his Web site, said, "It is incumbent upon Sergeant Crowley and me to utilize the great opportunity that fate has given us to foster greater sympathy among the American public for the daily perils of policing on the one hand, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling on the other hand."

A CNN crawl on Thursday called the meeting "Red, Light and Blue" since Gates opted for Red Stripe, Obama for Bud Light and Crowley Blue Moon. Biden went with a low-alcohol Buckler Beer.

Clunkers program 'incredibly popular':

The U.S. government's "Cash for Clunkers" scheme to get people into new car salesrooms is so successful it has run through its first $1 billion.

The White House on Thursday shot down congressional rumors the program had been suspended because consumers had traded in enough older vehicles to earn rebates equaling the funds earmarked for "Cash for Clunkers."

The Car Allowance Rebate System program offered $3,500-$4,500 to people who took an older, less fuel-efficient vehicle to a dealer and bought a new car or light truck. The incentive is believed behind about 200,000 new vehicles purchases since it went into effect in July 1.


The White House issued a statement stating: "We are working tonight to assess the situation facing what is obviously an incredibly popular program. Auto dealers and consumers should have confidence that all valid CARS transactions that have taken place to date will be honored."

The program was to have run through Nov. 1 or until the $1 billion ran out.

Protests in Iran:

Protesters gathered at the grave of the woman whose death marked the demonstrations in the aftermath of Iran's June presidential elections.

Neda Agha Soltan was killed during protests after officials declared that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been re-elected president. Demonstrations by those disputing that result were met with violent reaction by officials.

That recurred Thursday, 40 days after Soltan was killed, when police used teargas and batons to break up crowds of people meeting at her grave. Mir Hossein Mousavi, who finished second to Ahmadinejad in the voting, had tried to join the mourners but was kept from the gathering by authorities.

Afghan civilian toll:

More than 1,000 civilians have died this year in fighting between coalition forces and militants in Afghanistan, the United Nations said.

The high toll on civilians has been a point of concern and led to strong complaints by Afghan leaders. U.S. military commanders changed tactics, relying less on airstrikes, which tend to be more indiscriminate, when suspected Taliban members are located.


The change in strategy is likely to call for an increase in the number of coalition troops in the theater. The Washington Post said U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal was "inclined" to ask for more U.S. personnel for the fighting. The newspaper said that request may receive a chilly reception from the White House.

There is concern that the civilian causality rate will increase as fighting escalates ahead of next month's elections in Afghanistan. The country is to vote Aug. 20 for presidential and provincial council posts. Incumbent President Hamid Karzai is seen as the front-runner.

The Taliban this week said it would stage attacks to disrupt the voting.

Shuttle set to return:

Space shuttle Endeavour was scheduled to conclude its 16-day session with touch down in Florida.

The mission included five spacewalks while the craft was docked to the International Space Station. Astronauts worked primarily on the Japanese Kibo laboratory section of the ISS.

Endeavour is returning Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata to Earth after 4 1/2 months in orbit. In the last month Wakata has worn the same pair of underwear called J-wear that is to keep odors at a minimum. Scientists will check the clothing to see how well it delivered on that promise. Wakata joked Thursday his crewmates hadn't complained, so perhaps the underwear achieved its purpose.


Shuttle Discovery is scheduled for an Aug. 18 launch. That craft's seven-member crew will deliver 33,000 pounds of equipment, including the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill -- the COLBERT treadmill named for Comedy Center show host Stephan Colbert.

The shuttle program is slated to end next year.

Happy birthday, Harry Potter:

Today is the birthday of literary phenomenon Harry Potter. If he were a real person, he would be 29.

Author J.K. Rowling set Harry's date of birth as July 31, 1980 -- her own birthday is July 31, 1965. She made Harry's 11th birthday as the day he learns he is a wizard and is headed for Hogwarts School of f Witchcraft and Wizardry.

That set off a series of seven books that have sold more than 400 million volumes and six films that have generated more than $5.1 billion in ticket sales. The sixth film was released two weeks ago and has more than $600 million in revenues. The film version of the ultimate book of the series is being broken into two parts due in 2010 and 2011.

Perhaps the only similarly marked fictitious character birthday is the Jan. 12, 1997, date that Arthur C. Clarke wrote the HAL 9000 computer at the center of "2001: A Space Odyssey" became operational. HAL, of course, was, of course, placed on a spacecraft called Discovery.