- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2008

TSA

Laptops may stay in ‘friendly’ bags

There’s a new option for people annoyed at having to take their laptops out of their bags at airport security. The Transportation Security Administration will now allow travelers to leave their computers inside “checkpoint friendly” cases.

The new rules, announced Tuesday and set to take effect Aug. 16, are intended to help streamline the X-ray inspection lines.

TSA said it reached out to bag manufacturers this year to design laptop cases that would provide a clear, unobstructed image of the computer as it passed through an X-ray machine. The agency said the new bags will be available for purchase this month.

To qualify as “checkpoint friendly,” a bag must have a designated laptop-only section that unfolds to lie flat on the X-ray machine belt and contains no metal snaps, zippers or buckles and no pockets.

Among the manufacturers selling TSA-approved laptop bags are Mobile Edge, Skooba Design and Targus Inc.

CAMPAIGN

Candidates spend on Olympic ads

NEW YORK | Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s campaign has purchased $6 million in TV advertising time during the Olympic Games from NBC Universal, a source familiar with the deal said Tuesday, topping an earlier purchase by Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama.

Mr. McCain’s last-minute commercial buy covers advertising on both the NBC network and cable channels such as USA, MSNBC and CNBC, all of which will carry parts of the Summer Games. Coverage of the Olympics begins Friday with the Opening Ceremony.

Last month, Mr. Obama bought $5 million worth of commercial time from NBC Universal, a source said, believed at the time to be an unprecedented political media buy for the Olympics.

NBC Universal, which reportedly has sold 30-second spots to various corporate advertisers for about $750,000 a piece, has nearly reached its target of just over $1 billion in commercial sales. It is not clear how much Mr. McCain’s campaign paid for its spots.

A division of General Electric Co., NBC Universal is planning to carry a record 3,600 hours of Olympic coverage across its broadcast, cable TV and online outlets. Live Web streaming of events will account for about 2,200 hours of the coverage.

Both NBC and Mr. McCain’s campaign declined to comment.

POLITICS

Cheney not definite for GOP convention

Will he or won’t he? Vice President Dick Cheney is one of the nation’s most prominent Republicans, but there are doubts about whether he will attend the Republican Party’s convention.

Mr. Cheney’s press secretary Megan Mitchell left the question open on Tuesday, saying his schedule has not been set for September. Delegates are to meet in St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 1-4.

It would be highly unusual for a sitting vice president to skip his party’s nominating convention. For the last 32 years the vice president has been either renominated for that job or nominated for president.

Mr. Cheney has low approval ratings and is widely regarded as a secretive, behind-the-scenes power broker. But his approach plays well to conservatives. The White House has to calculate whether Mr. Cheney would help or hurt Sen. John McCain’s campaign for the presidency.

President Bush will deliver a speech on the first night of the convention and then leave, turning over the spotlight to Mr. McCain.

Democrats are working hard to link Mr. McCain to Mr. Cheney, mindful of his unpopularity with the general public and his villain-like status among their party’s rank and file. On Tuesday, Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama linked the nation’s energy problems to Mr. Cheney and contended that Mr. McCain was following “the Cheney playbook.”

The Democratic National Committee rolled out a new Web site on Tuesday called “The Next Cheney.” It assails Mr. McCain’s potential vice presidential picks and links each to Mr. Cheney.

Mr. McCain is quoted on the page as saying to Mr. Cheney in 2001, “With a little more luck, I might have been able to ask you to be my vice president.”

TOWN HALLS

Mystery man prompts pledge

BEREA, Ohio | A man who wore press credentials and took photographs from a platform interrupted Sen. Barack Obama’s town-hall meeting Tuesday by shouting complaints that the Democratic presidential candidate had not called for the audience to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mr. Obama invited the heckler to lead the audience in the pledge, and he did.

Attendees at the gathering in the gymnasium at Baldwin Wallace College in this Cleveland suburb rose to their feet and recited the pledge. “Thank you, sir, appreciate it,” Mr. Obama told the man.

The man, who carried a large, professional-style telephoto lens, was among the photographers and videographers on the main press platform at one end of the gym. He wore what appeared to be the regular daily news media credentials the campaign issues local news media members who cover the Illinois senator at a single event.

Campaign officials said that they did not know who the man was, and no effort was made to remove him. He continued taking photographs throughout Mr. Obama’s appearance.

Speaking with reporters afterward, the man identified himself as “John Q. Public” and declined to say which news organization, if any, he represented.

HEALTH

FDA OKs six influenza vaccines

U.S. health regulators have approved six versions of the influenza vaccine to help combat the virus during the 2008-2009 flu season later this year.

The vaccines include GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s Fluarix and FluLaval; Novartis AG’sFluvirin; Sanofi Aventis SA’s Fluzone and CSL Ltd.’s Afluria, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

The FDA also cleared the FluMist nasal spray flu vaccine made by AstraZeneca PLC unit MedImmune.

Each vaccine contains the same three strains of the influenza virus, which experts choose every year after weighing which ones are most likely to break out. Experts include two strains from Type A, an H1N1 and an H3N2 version, and one for Type B.

Outbreaks of the influenza virus can start as early as October and last through May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Earlier this year, the FDA chose to update the vaccine with three new strains rather than only one or two as it usually does.

Vaccines for the 2007-2008 flu season appeared largely ineffective in part because different strains than expected began circulating, experts have said. Still, a record 140 million doses were provided, the CDC has said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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