- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

HEALTH

GOP offers seniors Medicare ‘rights’

Republicans are targeting older Americans worried about President Obama’s health overhaul plans with a “seniors’ health care bill of rights.”

The six principles outlined Monday by the Republican National Committee include protecting Medicare, prohibiting rationing of health care based on age and making sure government doesn’t get between seniors and their doctors.

The Obama administration has insisted repeatedly that it doesn’t want to shrink Medicare benefits, ration care or reduce the role of doctors. But polls have shown that Americans, and older Americans in particular, still have significant concerns about Democratic health care proposals.

“Under the Democrats’ plan, senior citizens will pay a steeper price and will have their treatment options reduced or rationed,” RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post outlining the “bill of rights.”

POLITICS

Baldwin won’t run against Lieberman

HARTFORD, Conn. | A spokesman for Alec Baldwin said the actor has no plans to challenge Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman in the 2012 election.

Matthew Hiltzik said Monday that Mr. Baldwin does not plan to move to Connecticut or to run against the independent. He said Mr. Baldwin doesn’t want to see Mr. Lieberman leave the Senate because there are so few moderate Republicans in the Senate.

It’s a reversal from Mr. Baldwin’s comments published last week in Playboy magazine, in which the “30 Rock” star mulls a Senate campaign and says he had “no use” for Mr. Lieberman.

Mr. Lieberman, who was asked about the issue Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said he respects Mr. Baldwin as an actor, but dared him to “make my day” with a Senate challenge.

The TV series “30 Rock” airs on NBC.

TRANSPORTATION

U.S. to announce rail subsidies soon

The federal government will begin announcing subsidies for high-speed rail projects, part of the economic stimulus package, in late September, a U.S. official said Monday.

“We expect the first grant announcements will be made in late September, early October,” said Mark Paustenbach, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation.

The department announced in mid-July that it had been swamped with proposals from state and local governments seeking financing for high-speed rail systems.

Candidates had until midnight Monday to submit their grant bids.

According to the department, the first round of grant applications, which closed in July, generated 278 requests for a combined total of $102 billion, nearly eight times the budgeted funds.

SCHOOLS

Falling light poles prompt warning

The government’s safety agency is telling school officials and facility managers to inspect outdoor stadium light poles made by Whitco Co. LP because the poles can crack and fall, putting bystanders at risk.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on Monday said it knew of nine incidents in which poles installed from about 2000 through 2006 fell, including one pole that went through the roof of a school gymnasium. On two occasions, a pole fell onto outdoor bleachers.

CPSC said it is not aware of any injuries. It is investigating the poles.

The commission said most incidents occurred in Texas, but the poles have been installed in other states.

The agency says the Fort Worth, Texas, company is no longer in business.

SENATE

Feingold urges Afghan timetable

The United States should craft a “flexible timetable” for its withdrawal from Afghanistan even though President Obama may be considering plans to ramp up U.S. forces there, Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, said Monday.

“It is time we ought to start discussing a flexible timetable, when people in America and Afghanistan and around the world can see where we intend and when we intend to bring our troops out,” Mr. Feingold said.

“I think showing the people there and here that we have a sense about when it’s time to leave is going to be one of the best things we can do to succeed in Afghanistan. People in that country have to take ownership of it; everybody says that,” he added.

Mr. Feingold, who was the first U.S. senator to call for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, was speaking to a newspaper in his home state of Wisconsin amid a growing debate about troop levels in Afghanistan.

“We have to be dead serious about security. We have to maintain the ability to go after al Qaeda within Afghanistan. It doesn’t mean we give that up,” he told the Appleton Post-Crescent.

HEALTH

FDA probes weight-loss drugs

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating reports of liver damage in patients taking Alli, the only nonprescription weight-loss drug approved by the agency.

Regulators said Monday they have received more than 30 reports of liver damage in patients taking Alli and Xenical, the prescription version of the drug. The reports, submitted between 1999 and October 2008, included 27 hospitalized patients, and six who suffered liver failure.

Alli and Xenical are both marketed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline PLC, though Xenical is manufactured by the Swiss company Roche.

The FDA said it has not established a direct relationship between the weight-loss treatments and liver injury, and advised patients to continue using the drugs as directed.

“Consumers should consult their health care professional if they are experiencing symptoms,” the agency said on its Web site. Signs of liver damage include fatigue, fever, nausea and vomiting.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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