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Political Scene

- - Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SENATE

Hawaii Democrat won't run in 2012

Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, 86, said Wednesday he won't seek re-election next year, the fifth member of the Senate Democratic Caucus to decide not to face the voters in 2012.

"It was a very difficult decision for me," said Mr. Akaka in a prepared statement.

The four-term senator, who stepped down as chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee in January after four years at the helm, said he will serve out the remainder of his Senate term, which expires in January 2013.

He is the fourth Democrat to announce plans to step down at the end of 2012, joining a list that includes Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Jim Webb of Virginia. The Democrats also lose Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

RNC

Ad links Obama to 'union bosses'

The Republican National Committee is airing a new television ad in Wisconsin blaming President Obama and "union bosses" for standing in the way of economic reform.

The ad seeks to bolster Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as he pushes a measure that would take away most collective-bargaining rights for state employees.

Mr. Walker says the move is needed to cover a $3.6 billion budget deficit. Unions claim it's a political ploy to weaken organized labor.

Mr. Obama has not visited Wisconsin since the protests began. But he has called Mr. Walker's proposal an "assault" on unions and warned governors not to "vilify" public workers.

GAS PRICES

Barbour: Obama cheers higher gas prices

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential presidential contender, accused the Obama administration Wednesday of favoring a run-up in gas prices to prod consumers to buy more fuel-efficient cars.

Mr. Barbour cited 2008 comments from Steven Chu, now President Obama's energy secretary, that a gradual increase in gasoline taxes could coax consumers into dumping their gas-guzzlers and finding homes closer to where they work.

"This administration's policies have been designed to drive up the cost of energy in the name of reducing pollution, in the name of making very expensive alternative fuels more economically competitive," Mr. Barbour said during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce breakfast across the street from the White House.

ECONOMY

Survey: Economy expands across U.S.

The U.S. economy expanded in January and early February in all parts of the country, but businesses are under pressure to raise their prices.

A Federal Reserve survey shows that all 12 of the Fed's regions reported growth at a "modest to moderate pace," though growth in the Chicago region was slower than at the end of last year.

Retail sales picked up in all regions, except for Richmond, Va., and Atlanta. Factory activity rose in all districts except St. Louis.

The survey hints at some inflationary concerns. Costs are rising for manufacturers and retailers in most areas. Manufacturers in many districts said they are increasingly able to pass on those costs to customers. Retailers in some districts said they have or soon will raise prices.

FDA

Agency cracks down on untested cold remedies

The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday it will remove roughly 500 unapproved cold and allergy medications from the market as part of an ongoing crackdown on ineffective prescription drugs.

The FDA requires companies to submit all new prescription drugs for scientific review before they are launched. However, thousands of drugs actually predate the FDA's drug regulations and have escaped scrutiny for decades.

Most of the drugs targeted by the latest action are pills using untested combinations of decongestant and cough-suppressing ingredients. Since most Americans buy their cold medicines over the counter, the prescription medicines cited by the FDA represent a small portion of the market.

The agency said manufacturers who have not registered their products with the agency must halt production and shipments immediately.

NEW YORK

Plea deal reached for ex-governor's aide

NEW YORK | An aide to former Gov. David Paterson has reached a plea deal in a domestic-violence case that touched off an evidence-tampering investigation and helped lead to the governor's political undoing.

David Johnson pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of harassment, admitting he shoved his former girlfriend at her apartment in 2009. He told the judge he knew his behavior was inappropriate and said he deeply regretted his actions. He was sentenced to a conditional discharge, meaning the case will be closed if he stays out of trouble for a year, but he could face jail time if he doesn't.

During the time the case was working through the criminal justice system, Johnson also underwent therapy. Prosecutors considered it sufficient, and he was not ordered to undergo further therapy.

COMMERCE

Partnership would aid Midwest manufacturers

The Obama administration is creating a $4.5 million partnership between the private sector and government to help Midwest manufacturers access high-tech computing to speed up design cycles for future products.

The White House said Wednesday the funding would create a partnership between large corporations, government, universities and manufacturers to develop high-performance software to help manufacturers conduct modeling and simulation of future products. It would help manufacturers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

The program is part of the administration's focus on innovation and competitiveness to boost the economy.

Administration officials said $2 million in funding from the Commerce Department would be matched by $2.5 million from Deere & Co., General Electric Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Proctor & Gamble Co.

POLL

Southerners unhappy with Obama, Congress

ROCK HILL, S.C. | Southerners don't like the way things are going in Washington, with a majority disapproving of President Obama's job performance and two-thirds disapproving of the job Congress does, according to a Winthrop University poll.

The poll released Wednesday also found 64 percent of respondents feel the country is headed in the wrong direction.

The telephone survey of 865 people in 11 Southern states was taken between Feb. 21 and Feb. 27 and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.