- - Sunday, January 29, 2012

FLORIDA

Gingrich wants study of in vitro clinics

LUTZ — Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich has proposed a commission to study the management of in vitro fertilization clinics, where infertile couples seek treatment to allow pregnancy and large numbers of leftover embryos are discarded or stored.

Mr. Gingrich said in vitro fertilization is the creation of life, and serious study is needed of the rules covering it.

The former House speaker made his comments to reporters outside the Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, where he attended Sunday services.

Mr. Gingrich said he opposes the use of leftover embryos for stem cell research, which advocates think may lead to treatments or cures for a variety of diseases.

The fertilization procedure involves creating an embryo outside a woman’s body, then implanting it inside the womb. Excess embryos are thought to number in the hundreds of thousands.

JUSTICE

Procedures change after Fast and Furious

The Justice Department is tightening procedures for responding to information requests from Congress in the aftermath of a troubled arms trafficking investigation.

In Operation Fast and Furious, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed hundreds of weapons to flow across the border into Mexico.

The Justice Department told three congressional committees in a letter Friday night that it has improved coordination between agents and their managers in carrying out arms trafficking investigations.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected to face questions about the changes when he testifies Thursday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That committee has been investigating the department’s mistakes in the probe since early last year.

PENTAGON

Weapons for future include relics of past

The lineup of weapons that the Pentagon has picked to fit President Obama’s forward-looking defense strategy features relics of the past.

There’s the Air Force’s venerable B-52 bomber. The current model entered service shortly before Mr. Obama was born.

There’s the even older U-2 spy plane. It began flying in 1955 and burst into the spotlight in May 1960 when Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union.

When Mr. Obama announced his defense strategy early this month, he said that after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. will “get rid of outdated Cold War-era systems.”

But when details of the Pentagon’s 2013 budget were announced days ago, it was clear that some prominent Cold War-era “systems” will remain.

EDUCATION

College officials wary of cost-control plan

Public university presidents facing ever-increasing state budget cuts are raising concerns about President Obama’s plan to force colleges and universities to contain tuition prices or face losing federal dollars.

Illinois State University President Al Bowman said that deficits in many public schools can’t be overcome easily with simple modifications. Mr. Bowman said he is happy to hear Mr. Obama call for state-level support of public universities but, given the decreases in state aid, tying federal support to tuition is a product of “fuzzy math.”

Mr. Obama spelled out his proposal Friday at the University of Michigan.

SENATE

Lawmakers ready bill to stop insider deals

A poll indicates that a majority of Americans favor dumping every member of Congress. Now, the Senate is trying to restore a measure of trust by passing legislation to ban insider trading by lawmakers.

Insider trading laws apply to all Americans. But CBS’ “60 Minutes” reported in November that members of the House and Senate get a free pass and that some lawmakers legally used knowledge from their official work to make money in the market.

A procedural vote in the Senate on Monday would allow the bill to pass later in the week.

MAINE

Paul says he has no plans to quit

GORHAM — Ron Paul said the Republican presidential race has “a ways to go” and he doesn’t intend to get out or get behind another candidate anytime soon.

The congressman from Texas was campaigning over the weekend in Maine, which holds caucuses beginning Saturday. He spoke to an overflow crowd at the University of Southern Maine and held an outdoor rally outside the famed L.L. Bean store in Freeport. He picked up the endorsement of Linda Bean, the granddaughter of the Bean company founder and a prominent Republican activist in the state.

Mr. Paul told reporters that it didn’t make sense for him to campaign in Florida, which holds its primary Tuesday and awards all its 50 delegates to the winner. Polling indicates that Mitt Romney is leading the field there.

“Some other campaigns have many, many millions of dollars to run a campaign,” Mr. Paul said. “We maximize the delegates the way we’re doing it.”

Mr. Paul planned to campaign next week in other caucus states, including Nevada, which also holds its caucuses on Saturday, and Colorado and Minnesota, which hold caucuses Feb. 7.

Mr. Paul dismissed suggestions that he would back any of his GOP rivals.

“I think that’s premature. We have a ways to go,” said Mr. Paul, adding that he was glad they were speaking favorably about some of his libertarian-leaning views.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama pokes fun at exclusive dinner

President Obama told some jokes and poked a little fun at himself as he addressed the Alfalfa Club dinner, an exclusive annual black-tie get-together of some of the capital’s movers and shakers.

The club’s sole mission is to put on a steak-and-lobster feast while giving high-powered politicians and business leaders an opportunity to rub elbows and share some laughs. Saturday night’s dinner was, as in years past, off limits to reporters.

“It is great to be here tonight, because I have about 45 more minutes on the State of the Union that I’d like to deliver tonight,” the president told the gathering, according to excerpts released by the White House.

Among those attending were current and former senators, including John Kerry of Massachusetts and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont. Former President George H.W. Bush and his son Jeb, a former governor of Florida, were also on the guest list.

“You’ve heard it from the pundits: ‘Obama is cloistered in the White House.’ ‘He’s aloof.’ ‘He’s in the bubble.’ ‘He’s not connecting,’ ” the president said. “And that’s why one of my big goals this year was to get out and be among everyday, ordinary Americans — like the men and women of the Alfalfa Club.”

He made his appearance at the dinner at the end of a high-profile week for the president, beginning with his address to a joint session of Congress and ending with a three-day tour of five states that included an exchange of words with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

According to club history, the club is named after the alfalfa because the plant extends its roots far for a drink.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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