- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008

POLITICS

Specter ready for 2010 race

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said he’s ready for a tough re-election race in 2010, whether it’s against MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews or someone else.

Mr. Specter, 78, a Republican, declined to speculate on whether he would face Mr. Matthews, 62, who reportedly met with Pennsylvania Democratic Party leaders last week about a run. But the Republican moderate said he expected challenges from the left and right as he seeks a sixth term.

“I never look over my shoulder, never look behind. Somebody may be gaining on me. I run with blinders. I’ll be prepared, whoever my opponents are,” Mr. Specter said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and the head of his party’s campaign arm, said he has neither spoken with Mr. Matthews, a native Philadelphian, nor any intermediaries for him about a possible challenge to Mr. Specter.

“We’ll see who decides to run. I haven’t seen any firm announcement by anyone,” Mr. Menendez said on the same program.

There was no immediate response from Mr. Matthews on Sunday to a message left for him through an NBC spokeswoman.

Mr. Matthews’ contract with MSNBC expires in June. He has worked in Democratic politics before, running unsuccessfully for a northeast Philadelphia congressional seat in 1974 and working for former President Jimmy Carter and former House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr.

Mr. Specter made it clear that he would vigorously defend his seat.

“Feeling good,” quipped the Republican, who has survived bouts with a brain tumor and cancer while serving in the Senate. “Top of my game.”

WHITE HOUSE

Fraser fir tree arrives in rain

First lady Laura Bush kicked off the holiday season Sunday by standing out in the rain to receive this year’s White House Christmas tree.

A horse-drawn wagon pulled the 20-foot Fraser fir, which will decorate the Blue Room, up to the White House. Mrs. Bush was waiting under an umbrella.

“It’ll be the great big tree that this year will be decorated with ornaments from all around the United States, decorated by artists from all around the United States,” the first lady said of the tree that will serve as the centerpiece in the White House holiday decor.

Jessie Davis and Russell Estes, owners of River Ridge Tree Farms in Crumpler, N.C., where the tree was grown, joined the first lady, along with their families.

River Ridge also will provide about 25 smaller trees for the White House, including the ones for the offices of the president and vice president, according to the North Carolina Farm Bureau.

Mrs. Bush said this year’s holiday decorating theme would be announced later this week.

FDA

Melamine level set for baby formula

Two months ago, federal food regulators said they were unable to set a safety threshold for the industrial chemical melamine in baby formula. Now, however, they found a way to settle on a standard that allows for higher levels than those found in U.S.-made batches of the product.

Food and Drug Administration officials on Friday set a threshold of 1 part per million of melamine in formula, provided a related chemical is not present. They insisted the formulas are safe.

The development comes days after the Associated Press reported that FDA tests found traces of melamine in the infant formula of one major U.S. manufacturer and cyanuric acid, a chemical relative, in the formula of a second major maker. The contaminated samples, which both measured at levels below the new standard, were analyzed several weeks ago.

The FDA had said in early October it was unable to set a safety contamination level for melamine in infant formula.

SCIENCE

NAS establishes Hollywood exchange

Let’s face it, 50 years after Sputnik, most Americans are still a bit fuzzy on more than a few concepts of science.

And while shows delving into science and myths hold a certain cable audience, there’s a lot of techno-gullibility out there.

Hoping to better educate folks - and burnish the image of science - the National Academy of Sciences made a Hollywood announcement recently of the Science and Entertainment Exchange, a clearinghouse to match writers, directors and producers with leading experts on science and medicine topics before they portray them in television, films and video games.

Director Jerry Zucker and his producer wife, Janet, head up the advisory board, along with academy president Ralph Cicerone.

IMMIGRATION

ICE returns ancient tablets to Iraq

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency recently returned to Iraq’s government the remnants of priceless ancient Cuneiform clay tablets that ICE agents had seized in a 2001 investigation.

The tablets had been held in high-security evidence lockers in the U.S. Custom House, which was located in one of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

Pieces of the ancient relics were salvaged by agents searching the rubble left by the twin towers’ collapse. They were among 1,046 cultural antiquities repatriated by ICE to Iraq in September.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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