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HOUSE

Bill to help sick 9/11 responders advances

A House panel has approved a $5.1 billion program to provide health care for more of the 9/11 first responders and others sickened by toxins emanating from the ruins of the World Trade Center.

The Energy and Commerce Committee voted 33-12 for the bill Tuesday.

New York City would contribute 10 percent of the cost of the program, which would run for 10 years. It would expand current city 9/11 health programs to cover an additional 25,000 responders and 25,000 survivors.

The legislation, which now moves to the full House, is named for James Zadroga, a New York City Police Department detective who died at age 34 in 2006 from respiratory disease contracted during rescue operations at ground zero.

The measure, sponsored by New York Democrat Carolyn B. Maloney, also reopens the federal victim compensation fund that closed at the end of 2003.

ALASKA

AP: Palin aides worked to sell deal

JUNEAU | Sarah Palin's administration paid close attention two years ago to how the public perceived her plans to bring a massive natural-gas pipeline to Alaska, with one aide worrying the then-governor would face criticism of grandstanding for traveling out of state at a critical time for the plan's prospects.

The correspondence is contained in more than 2,000 pages of e-mails between Palin's office and others surrounding the pipeline process. The e-mails were released to the Associated Press under a public records request.

A pipeline to carry natural gas from Alaska's North Slope to market has long been a dream of Alaskans and was a priority of the former governor's.

But there were sharp divisions over how best to realize it.

LOUISIANA

Activist pleads guilty in Landrieu caper

NEW ORLEANS | Four conservative activists accused of trying to tamper with the phones in Sen. Mary L. Landrieu's office have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses.

The most prominent activist, James O'Keefe, was sentenced to three years' probation, 100 hours of community service and fined $1,500. The 25-year-old is known for wearing a pimp costume in a video that embarrassed the liberal activist group ACORN.

Magistrate Daniel Knowles III sentenced the three others to two years' probation, 75 hours of community service and fined them $1,500.

The FBI has said Mr. O'Keefe used his cell phone to try to capture video of two men who posed as telephone repairmen and asked to see the phones. The fourth was said to have waited outside in a car with a listening device.

TREASURY

$6.2 billion made from Citigroup sales

The Treasury Department says it has raised $6.2 billion from the sale of 1.5 billion shares of Citigroup stock it received as part of the government's rescue of the bank.

The sales took place over the past month and represented 19.5 percent of the government's holdings of Citigroup common stock.

Treasury has said it hopes to sell all of its Citigroup stock in coming months. The sales are the government's latest move to recoup the costs of the $700 billion financial bailout.

FDA

Liver damage warning placed on diet pills

Federal health officials are warning consumers that the weight-loss pills alli and Xenical may cause severe liver damage in rare cases.

The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday it has added a warning about the risk to the label of the drug alli, which is sold over-the-counter by GlaxoSmith Kline. The prescription version, Xenical, is manufactured and marketed by Roche.

The FDA identified 13 instances of liver damage associated with the drugs. A causal effect between the drugs and the problem has not been established.

The FDA urged doctors and patients to watch for signs of liver injury, including itching, yellow eyes and skin, and loss of appetite.

Glaxo said in a statement it is "committed to ensuring that consumers and physicians understand the safety profile" of alli. More than 10 million people worldwide have used alli since it was launched, according to Glaxo.

Roche said the "safety profile of Xenical is based on more than 10 years of clinical experience, and more than 36 million patients worldwide have received Xenical."

The FDA first approved Xenical in 1999 and alli in 2007.

VICE PRESIDENT

Biden jokes about 'Blumenthal mistake'

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has joked about avoiding a "Blumenthal mistake," a reference to the Connecticut attorney general's frequent misstatements about serving in Vietnam.

Mr. Biden met with veterans visiting his official residence on Tuesday night and tried to joke about Mr. Blumenthal's gaffe, for which he apologized last week. The Democratic attorney general is seeking the Senate seat.

Mr. Biden said: "I didn't serve in Vietnam. I don't want to make a Blumenthal mistake here. Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him."

He later added: "I have a bad habit of saying exactly what I think."

Mr. Blumenthal is looking to succeed Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, a Democrat who is retiring. Republicans have been consistent in their criticism and will likely nominate World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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