- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2008

FCC

Comcast to lose Internet complaint

U.S. communications regulators later this week are expected to uphold a complaint accusing Comcast Corp. of unreasonably restricting Internet users who share movies and other material, a source familiar with the case said on Monday.

The Federal Communications Commission will take formal action by Friday against Comcast for violating the FCC’s open-Internet principles by improperly blocking peer-to-peer traffic on its network, the source said.

The commission is expected to take up the issue at its next public meeting Friday. However, the source said a majority of the agency’s five commissioners already have voted in favor of a proposal by FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin to uphold the complaint.

“I continue to believe that it is imperative that all consumers have unfettered access to the Internet,” Mr. Martin said in a statement on Monday. “I am pleased that a majority has agreed that the commission both has the authority to and in fact will stop broadband service providers when they block or interfere with subscribers’ access.”

FDA

Advisory warns of lobster ‘liver’

The government warned consumers Monday not to eat the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of lobsters, saying it may be contaminated with a toxin.

It’s still OK to eat the white lobster meat found in the claws and tails of the undersea delicacy, but the green stuff that most diners already avoid should definitely be discarded this year, said the Food and Drug Administration. Known also as tomalley, the substance acts as the liver and pancreas of the lobster.

A red tide - or algae bloom - ranging from Northern New England to Canada this year has contaminated fishing grounds with high levels of toxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. The federal warning follows similar advisories from public health authorities in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Canada.

The warning applies to American lobster, also known as Maine lobster, which is harvested in Atlantic waters from Canada to South Carolina.

AIR FORCE

Logistics chief quits, blames Gates

The Air Force’s logistics chief resigned Monday, saying the recent leadership shake-up by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has hurt his ability to do his job.

In a sharply worded memo obtained by the Associated Press, William Anderson said the changes limit his ability to take care of the airmen and their families with the vigor they deserve.

“I can no longer draw on a critical mass of leadership within the Pentagon who share your vision for the support necessary to lean forward to aggressively support these American heroes,” Mr. Anderson said in a memo to President Bush.

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley accepted Mr. Anderson’s resignation and said it will take effect Aug. 15. He said Mr. Anderson is “enormously talented, very experienced, and has superb strategic vision.”

Last month, Mr. Gates sacked the Air Force secretary and the chief of staff. He blamed them for failing to fully address a series of nuclear-related mishaps. His decisions were triggered largely by the conclusions of an internal report on the mistaken shipment to Taiwan of four electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads.

PENTAGON

U.S. plans sale of planes to Iraq

The Pentagon has proposed selling to Iraq six Lockheed Martin Corp C-130J cargo aircraft and related equipment and services valued at up to $1.5 billion.

Along with the six “Super Hercules” aircraft, the Iraqi government has requested 24 engines built by Rolls-Royce Group PLC, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a notice to Congress dated Friday and made public Monday.

The Iraqi air force plans to use the C-130J to support its troops and for humanitarian relief operations, the congressional notification said. The estimated cost is $1.5 billion, the notice said.

“Purchase of new transport aircraft will provide Iraq with the ability to operate seamlessly with U.S., NATO and coalition forces engaged in all types of operations and missions,” it said.

SECURITY

Specialists urge shake-up in system

In a report aimed at the next president, security specialists are proposing a vast overhaul of the U.S. security system, declaring it problem-plagued.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press, said frequent feuding and jurisdictional disputes among Cabinet secretaries and other agency heads force the president to spend too much time settling internal fights.

Time and money are wasted on duplicative and inefficient actions, slowing down government responses to crises, the report said.

The president and his top advisers focus on day-to-day crisis management rather than long-term planning, “allowing problems to escape presidential attention until they worsen and reach the crisis level,” said the report, to be issued later in the week.

The study, mandated by Congress, was undertaken by the Project on National Security Reform. The research was conducted by more than 300 national security experts from think tanks, universities, federal agencies, law firms and corporations.

GAO

Medicare drug plan sees complaints fall

Complaints about the Medicare drug benefit have dropped considerably since the summer of 2006, but ongoing challenges still pose problems for participants, particularly in getting complaints addressed promptly.

Investigators from the Government Accountability Office, at the request of congressional Democrats, tracked nearly 630,000 complaints filed with the federal government during an 18-month period ending Oct. 31. More than 25 million people are enrolled in Medicare drug plans or in drug plans that offer comprehensive Medicare benefits.

By the end of the review period, the monthly complaint rate had dropped about 74 percent from peak levels - to 1.5 complaints per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries. Also, the time needed to resolve the complaints dropped from 33 days to nine days.

Still, auditors had concerns that many of the most critical complaints - those filed when beneficiaries were at risk of exhausting their medications - were not resolved promptly.

SAFETY

Plant owner hits OSHA on dust peril

The head of a sugar company blamed for a Georgia refinery explosion that killed 13 workers in February sought to shift fault back to the government Monday by calling federal guidance on industrial dust accidents “woefully inadequate.”

Siding with Democrats who are pushing new safety regulations, he said the manufacturing industry needs clear new standards for addressing the hazard - a move that the Bush administration and industry groups generally have opposed.

“I think the facts will show there was a poor understanding of the hazards of combustible dust throughout the industry, as well as within OSHA itself,” John Sheptor, CEO of Texas-based Imperial Sugar, said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press in advance of a Senate hearing on the issue Tuesday. “They have ignored combustible dust.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration last week proposed nearly $9 million in fines against Imperial over what it called willful and egregious violations that allowed sugar dust to accumulate to dangerous levels at two plants.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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