- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 6, 2010

COLORADO

Colorado governor won’t seek 2nd term

Democratic sources tell Associated Press that Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter won’t run for re-election this fall.

The first-term Democrat was elected in 2006 in a pivotal swing-voting state. He has been widely considered a rising star in the Democratic Party.

Two Democrats with knowledge of Mr. Ritter’s decision disclosed it on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the governor’s political plans.

Potential Democratic candidates include Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff, a former state legislator who is challenging Sen. Michael Bennet for the party’s nomination for a full term. Mr. Bennet was appointed to the seat by Mr. Ritter this year to fill a vacancy created when Ken Salazar stepped down to take a Cabinet post in the Obama administration.

Two Republicans are seeking the GOP nomination: former U.S. Scott McInnis and businessman Dan Maes.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama to tout job-creating efforts

President Obama will travel to Ohio on Jan. 22 to build public support for his jobs agenda.

Mr. Obama will meet with workers, small-business owners and community leaders in Lorain County, near Cleveland. It’s the second stop on the president’s “White House to Main Street” tour. He visited Allentown, Pa., last month.

Mr. Obama has called for a new burst of federal spending, perhaps $150 billion or more, to create jobs and steady the economy. The spending would be focused on infrastructure improvements, tax cuts for small business and retrofitting millions of homes to make them more energy-efficient.

GMAC

Firm expects loss, will sell assets

GMAC Financial Services, the consumer lender now majority owned by the government, said Tuesday it expects to report a loss of about $5 billion in the fourth quarter thanks to deep write-downs on underperforming mortgage loans it plans to sell.

The main driver of the anticipated loss is a $3.8 billion write-down taken as GMAC prepares to sell parts of a troubled mortgage arm that CEO Michael Carpenter called a millstone around the company’s neck.

GMAC received a $3.8 billion federal bailout last week — the third round of aid that now totals $16.3 billion. With the additional funds, the government’s stake in GMAC stands at 56 percent, up from 35 percent. That could go to nearly 80 percent if the government opts to convert more of its stake to common equity.

HEALTH CARE

C-SPAN: Talks should be televised

The C-SPAN television network is calling on congressional leaders to open health care talks to cameras — something President Obama promised as a candidate.

Instead the most critical negotiations on Mr. Obama’s health plan have taken place behind closed doors, as Republicans repeatedly point out. In a Dec. 30 letter to House and Senate leaders released Tuesday, C-SPAN chief executive Brian Lamb asked for negotiations on a compromise bill to be opened up for public viewing, as Democrats work to reconcile differences between legislation passed by the two chambers.

Mr. Obama pledged during a presidential debate in January 2008 that he would be “bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada did not directly respond to the request but said he appreciates C-SPAN’s commitment to ensuring transparency and “will continue to work to ensure that the American people have access to the work of their elected representatives.”

WHITE HOUSE

PETA features first lady in ad

The fur is flying over a new ad campaign by an animal rights group the White House says is using first lady Michelle Obama’s image without her permission.

The president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Ingrid Newkirk, said her organization wouldn’t have sought Mrs. Obama’s consent for the anti-fur ad because it knows that she can’t make such an endorsement.

PETA included the first lady in its Washington ad campaign based on White House confirmation that she does not wear fur.

Mrs. Obama appears in the ad with celebrities Oprah Winfrey, Carrie Underwood and Tyra Banks — three others who have shunned fur. The ads are appearing in Washington’s Metro stations, magazines and PETA’s Web site.

FEMA

U.S. to test emergency alert system in Alaska

The United States will run statewide tests in Alaska on Wednesday of the country’s Emergency Alert System, which uses television and radio to inform the public in the event of a national emergency.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement that the tests, which have been planned since September, would be conducted at 10 a.m.

U.S. airport security has been stepped up since a botched attempt on Christmas Day to blow up a Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam using explosives smuggled on board.

HOUSING MARKET

Contracts down: Is housing headed for double-dip?

The number of people preparing to buy a home fell sharply in November, an unsettling new sign that the housing market may be headed for a “double-dip” downturn over the winter.

The figures Tuesday came after a similarly discouraging report on new home sales, illustrating how heavily the housing market depends right now on government help.

In October, buyers raced to get contracts signed in time to take advantage of a tax credit for first-time homeowners that was set to expire. It has since been extended into spring — and now prospective buyers are taking their time.

The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted index of sales contracts fell 16 percent from October to November, ending nine months of gains. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected only a 2 percent drop.

“This was bound to happen at some point, although not by this much,” wrote Jennifer Lee, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets. She added: “Gulp.”

FDA

Drug approvals mostly flat in 2009

New drugs cleared by the Food and Drug Administration last year kept pace with 2008, suggesting a much-touted push for drug safety has not slowed down approvals.

The FDA’s new leaders did step up early warnings about potential drug safety issues and citations to companies that violate safety regulations.

Drug approvals inched higher to 26 first-of-a-kind prescription medicines last year, from 25 in 2008, according to figures from Washington Analysis, an investment research group. New drugs cleared in 2009 included Novartis’ kidney cancer drug Afinitor and Bausch and Lomb’s pink eye medicine Besivance.

The FDA hasn’t yet tallied its year-end drug approvals but will have the number by Friday. As of Dec. 1, the agency reported 25 new drugs approved.

During 2009, the agency added 31 new or updated “black box” warning labels to drugs already on the market. That was down from 56 boxed warnings in the previous year, when the agency issued several broad warnings that resulted in boxed labels for entire groups of drugs.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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