'Thank you' money for Iran hostages --- 34 years late


They were held prisoner for 444 days in Iran and forgotten after a quick hero’s return following President Reagan’s first Inauguration in 1980. Now, just shy of the 34th anniversary of their capture by Islamist militants on November 4, 1979, the American diplomatic hostages and their families are closer than ever to receiving compensation for their ordeal.

“They are feeling very positive that this is going to happen,” said Tom Lankford, the attorney for the original 52 hostages, 14 of whom have died. “They would truly feel totally abandoned if it didn’t.”

Their bid for compensation has been ignored for years. But new attention to the hostages from the hit movie “Argo” and the support of new Secretary of State John Kerry, a diplomat’s son, has provided momentum in Congress to finally give the hostages and their families payments of the sort given to terrorism victims today, such as the people killed or injured in the Boston Marathon bombing.

For the first time, the Senate has moved on a bill to provide about $2.35 million to each hostage family. A similar House bill is poised for committee passage. Both still have to go before each chamber.

The main hangup has been finding a way to cover the payments. No administration wanted taxpayers to pay and let Iran off the hook. So Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., came up with a scheme to raise the money by putting a 30 percent surcharge on fines levied on companies illegally doing business with Iran.



Is President Obama caving in to Big Oil and giving up his goal for more and greener fuel?

That's what the ethanol industry has charged in an urgent letter to the White House now that a draft Environmental Protection Agency proposal to significantly cut production of ethanol-mixed fuels for cars and trucks has been leaked.

“We are extremely troubled by early reports suggesting that instead of staying on course and pushing the oil industry,” said the letter from 25 chemical and biotech firms and organizations, the administration plans to “reward the oil companies for refusing to comply with the program.”

Biotech industry officials said if Obama cuts demands for ethanol-mixed gas it would be a sign he’s abandoning his climate goals.

“It is a sign of a nation willing to cede its leadership role in moving toward low carbon transportation fuels, unwilling to stay on track with its statutory responsibilities when faced with opposition from incumbent industries,” said the letter provided to Secrets.



A leading figure in the conservative and evangelical world, Jerry Falwell Jr., is pushing Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to officially jump into the 2016 race.

Falwell, who took charge of Virginia's fast-growing Liberty University after his father died six years ago, introduced the Kentucky conservative with praise during an event for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli.

“The more I have learned about Rand Paul, and especially after meeting him this morning, the more I thought to myself, ‘I sure hope he runs for president,’ ” Falwell said.



Oops. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Under Obamacare, even President Obama’s family would see a shocking jump in insurance costs in some state insurance exchanges. In Wisconsin, for instance, he would potentially see his total premium and out of pocket costs soar 48 percent.

Secrets teamed with Mike Farrell, an insurance broker in southeast Wisconsin, to work up an Obamacare bill and found that the president would face the same kind of rate shock that Middle Americans are complaining about if he chose to leave the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program for his namesake plan.

We found that Obama currently pays about $1,392 a month for the best plan, or a total of $16,707. Add to that the out of pocket expenses in that plan of $5,000, and the final total in a worst case scenario is $21,707. After his federal subsidy he pays about $444 a month.

In Wisconsin’s Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative his monthly premium would be $1,625 a month, or $19,500 a year, with out-of-pocket expenses of $12,700, for a grand total of $32,200.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at

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