Tuesday, August 19, 2008

ANTHRAX

Daschle has doubts about FBI suspect

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, one of the targets of the 2001 anthrax attacks, said Monday that FBI evidence against Army scientist Bruce Ivins is “persuasive,” but he is not completely convinced that the investigation focused on the right person.

In an interview, Mr. Daschle praised the investigation and said his two-hour FBI briefing last week was “complete and persuasive.” Still, he said, there are some open questions. He said the evidence should be scientifically reviewed.

His remarks came the same day that the FBI told reporters that scientists early on had, but destroyed, the unique strain of anthrax used in the deadly attacks that years later would lead them to Mr. Ivins, who committed suicide three weeks ago.



FBI Assistant Director Vahid Majidi said the initial anthrax sample that Mr. Ivins took from his Army lab in February 2002 and gave investigators did not meet court-ordered conditions for its preparation and collection.

Mr. Majidi said the sample kept at the FBI lab was destroyed because the bureau thought it might not have been allowed as evidence at trial.

FDA

Regulators target diabetes drug

Federal regulators are working on a stronger label for a widely used diabetes drug marketed by Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co. as deaths continue to be reported despite earlier government warnings.

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it has received six additional reports of patients developing a dangerous form of pancreatitis while taking Byetta. Two of the patients died and four were recovering.

Regulators stressed that patients should stop taking Byetta immediately if they develop signs of acute pancreatitis, a swelling of the pancreas that can cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. The FDA warned that it is very difficult to distinguish acute pancreatitis from less dangerous forms of the condition.

The FDA announcement updated an October alert about 30 reports of Byetta patients developing pancreas problems. At that time, Byetta’s makers agreed to add information about the reports to the drug’s label.

The FDA made clear Monday that it is seeking a stronger, more prominent warning about the risks.

POLITICS

Obama ally to leave Illinois state Senate

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. | Emil Jones, who helped Barack Obama reach the U.S. Senate and has been Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s staunchest ally, said Monday that he will not seek re-election in November and plans to retire at the end of his term.

The 72-year-old president of the Illinois Senate thanked colleagues and constituents in a statement released by his office, but the 35-year veteran of the General Assembly didn’t say why he was retiring.

Mr. Jones told Crain’s Chicago Business that he wanted to spend more time with his family. He declined to comment when reached by the Associated Press.

Mr. Jones’ decision leaves a power vacuum in a state marked by discord among its Democratic leaders and means that the unpopular Mr. Blagojevich is losing one of his most important political allies. His decision already has set off a scramble among Senate Democrats to replace him.

Mr. Jones, who is black, had a big hand in Mr. Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate win by introducing the then-little-known state senator to the right people and letting him handle some important legislation to help raise his political profile.

SURVEY

Democrats can outdrink Republicans

A U.S. survey of Washington bartenders concluded that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to still be standing at closing time.

Of the 100 D.C. servers polled by a trio of spirits companies, 53 percent said the Democrats were more likely to be the last ones left compared with 45 percent who gave the nod to Republican revelers.

The parties were pretty much evenly split when it came who was more likely to roll in first to kick off happy hour.

Other findings included Democrats having better pickup lines than their conservative colleagues, but the Republicans were far more likely to take drinks straight up compared with Democrats, who were more likely to order something pink and frothy.

Although the survey wasn’t strictly scientific, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune found it worthy enough to publish Monday with next month’s Republican National Convention on the horizon.

CONVENTION

N.Y. governor vows delegates for Obama

NEW YORK | New York’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention will vote to nominate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois for president, not Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Gov. David Paterson said Monday.

“Believe me, the New York delegation will be all casting our ballots, as far as I know, on the roll call for Senator Barack Obama,” Mr. Paterson said during an interview on WNYC radio. “I don’t believe Senator Hillary Clinton is asking anyone to vote for her.”

Mr. Obama, 47, who won enough delegate votes to claim the nomination June 3, agreed to allow Mrs. Clinton, 60, to have her name placed in nomination. She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will speak to the convention on different nights.

Mr. Paterson holds no power over the way other members of the delegation vote, said June O’Neill, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party. Neither does the delegation’s chairman, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“It’s not the party’s business to tell the delegates how to cast their votes,” Miss O’Neill said. “We believe that the delegates will follow her directive to support Senator Obama for president, but it hasn’t been decided how everything is going to happen.”

SHOOTING

Clintons mourn party leader

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. | Former President Bill Clinton and others remembered the slain chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party on Monday for his strength of character and the unity he brought to Democrats in the past two political seasons.

Mr. Clinton, in brief remarks at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, asked the hundreds of mourners to remember the times Bill Gwatney touched their lives.

“Somehow, we have to understand we can only keep him alive if the love we felt for him and the love he felt for us is somehow manifest in our lives,” Mr. Clinton said. “Make a list of what you were grateful for in Bill Gwatney’s life.

“He was a better golfer than I was. I am not grateful for that,” said Mr. Clinton, whose wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, also attended the service. “But he seemed to genuinely like it if I hit a good shot, which is a sign of grace.”

Mr. Gwatney, 48, was shot at the state Democratic headquarters on Wednesday by Timothy Dale Johnson, 50, of Searcy. Police fatally shot Johnson after a 30-mile car chase when Johnson raised his gun and pointed it at his pursuers.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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