- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009


Bill targets loan subsidies

President Obama’s plan to dramatically increase college student aid took its first step Wednesday on what could be a rocky path through Congress.

A key lawmaker proposed a bill to boost Pell Grant scholarships for low-income students by linking them to inflation for the first time since the program began.

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller’s legislation would pay for the expansion by eliminating a massive program of subsidies for private college loans - an idea that is opposed by lenders and their many supporters on Capitol Hill.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the government should spend education dollars on students and not on private lenders.

“There is tremendous need, given the tough, tough economy, for families to send their children to college,” Mr. Duncan said during a Wednesday conference call with Mr. Miller, California Democrat. “And we believe we need to invest in them and not in banks.”

Under the bill, subsidized loans would be replaced by the government’s existing direct loan program.


DEA looks again at Jackson drug

Federal authorities are considering making the potent anesthetic propofol - one of the drugs found in Michael Jackson’s home - a controlled substance, which would put new limits on its distribution.

The Drug Enforcement Administration was petitioned two years ago to make propofol a scheduled drug under the Controlled Substances Act. That designation is used to impose restrictions on distributing and prescribing certain drugs prone to abuse and addiction.

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne confirmed Wednesday that the agency is considering adding propofol to the list of controlled substances. The brand-name version of propofol is called Diprivan. A nurse who provided nutritional therapy for Mr. Jackson, Cherilynn Lee, has said he asked her for Diprivan to treat insomnia. Propofol is not recommended for such use and Miss Lee said she refused the star’s request.

Until Mr. Jackson’s death, the main concern about propofol was its potential for abuse by medical staff, because it is usually administered intravenously in hospitals to patients who need to be unconscious for surgery or other procedures.


Attack victims lobby for sharks

Some unlikely “lobbyists” are trolling Capitol Hill to protect an animal that they’d rather not run into again.

Nearly a dozen shark-attack victims - many of them badly scarred or missing limbs - pressed Congress on Wednesday to strengthen laws protecting sharks from overfishing and “finning,” in which fins are sliced from sharks for their meat and the rest of the fish are left for dead.

The growing market for fin meat, a popular soup delicacy in Asia, is viewed as a driving force behind overfishing that is threatening many shark species around the world.

The lobbying blitz was organized by the Pew Environment Group to pass a bill bolstering shark conservation, including by more strongly enforcing anti-finning laws.


Gillibrand outraises Democratic rival

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand raised nearly $1 million more than her likely Democratic primary challenger in the recent fundraising quarter.

The New York Democrat says she has raised more than $1.5 million and has more than $3.2 million in cash. New York Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney’s campaign says she has raised $577,000 and has about $1.7 million to spend.

The fundraising quarter ended June 30. Two days later, an adviser to Mrs. Maloney said she would enter the race, but she has not formally announced. Mrs. Maloney will get a fundraising boost Monday, when former President Bill Clinton appears at a fundraiser for her.

No Republicans have entered the race.

Mrs. Gillibrand was appointed to the seat after Hillary Rodham Clinton became secretary of state.


Combat troops can keep smoking

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. The Pentagon reassured troops Wednesday that it won’t ban tobacco products in war zones.

Defense officials hadn’t actually planned to eliminate smoking - at least for now. But fear of a ban arose among some troops after the Defense Department received a study recommending the military move toward becoming tobacco-free - perhaps in about 20 years.

Press secretary Geoff Morrell pointedly told a Pentagon news conference that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is not planning to prohibit the use of cigarettes, chewing tobacco or other tobacco products by troops in combat.

Mr. Gates will review the new study to see whether there are some things than can be done to work toward the goal of having a smoke-free force some day, Mr. Morrell said.


Agency considers new age-bias rules

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is considering new rules to protect older workers from job discrimination after a spate of recent Supreme Court decisions made it harder to prove age bias in the workplace.

The action comes as age discrimination complaints to the agency, which enforces federal employment discrimination laws, rose 29 percent last year, more than any other type of bias claim.

Legal experts at a commission hearing on Wednesday complained that recent high court rulings have “decimated” the effect of age discrimination laws.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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