- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Obama team urges carbon dioxide cut

Saying global warming poses unprecedented threats to Americans’ way of life, four of President Obama’s top environmental and energy officials urged the Senate on Tuesday to pass legislation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The heads of the Energy Department, Agriculture Department, Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency told a Senate panel it should pass a bill similar to one the House narrowly cleared late last month. That legislation would impose the first limits on greenhouse gases, eventually leading to an 80 percent reduction by midcentury by putting a price on each ton of gases that some scientists link to climate change.

“We will not fully unleash the potential of the clean-energy economy unless this committee, and the Senate, put an upper limit on the emissions of heat-trapping gases that are damaging our environment,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in prepared testimony.


Biden announces food overseer post

The Obama administration on Tuesday ordered tougher steps to curb salmonella and E. coli contamination of U.S. food and created a post of deputy food commissioner to coordinate safety in the wake of a major salmonella outbreak.

The administration, concerned by delays in identifying the source of the salmonella contamination that sickened more than 700 people in 46 states this year, also moved to revamp the tracing system to identify origins of foodborne illnesses.

“The food-safety system in our country needs a significant update,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in announcing the new measures. “American families have enough to worry about these days just about putting food on the table, let alone whether the food … is going to be safe for their kids.”

The actions were based on recommendations from a food-safety working group created by President Obama in March after a salmonella outbreak in peanut products forced the largest food recall in U.S. history.


IRS halts fines for tax shelters

The IRS has temporarily stopped collecting penalties from some small businesses that have been hit with big fines for not disclosing the use of questionable tax shelters.

The fines, which can reach $300,000 a year, were an unintended consequence of a 2004 law aimed at big corporations that use the shelters to avoid taxes. Lawmakers asked the Internal Revenue Service last month to suspend collections while they work to change the law.

The IRS agreed to suspend collections through September on cases in which businesses gained less than $200,000 a year from the tax shelters, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a letter to lawmakers released Tuesday.

Mr. Shulman said the penalties, in some cases, “are way out of line with penalties for other, similar cases of noncompliance.”

“Many of the transactions now under examination involve tax benefits that are minor when compared to the statutory penalty amounts,” Mr. Shulman said in the letter.


Democrats scoff at Sanford rebuke

COLUMBIA, S.C. | South Carolina Democratic leaders on Tuesday criticized a state Republican vote to publicly reprimand Gov. Mark Sanford rather than ask him to resign, calling it a meaningless move that provided him cover to stay in office.

The state Republican Party’s executive committee voted late Monday to censure Mr. Sanford for failing to live by Republican principles and for breaking the public’s trust. The final vote came on the fourth round of a behind-closed-doors teleconference, after nearly four hours of discussion, with 22 members calling for censure, 10 for Mr. Sanford’s resignation and nine supporting him.

The resolution’s wording did not specify how Mr. Sanford fell “below the standards expected of Republican elected officials.”

The vote came nearly two weeks after Mr. Sanford returned from a mysterious disappearance and admitted in a tearful, rambling news conference he had been in Argentina with his mistress.

“I’m unclear what they censured him for,” said state Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler. “They probably did the most protective thing they could have done, other than vote to support him.”


Probe of college bowl series sought

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah is calling on the Justice Department to investigate college football’s Bowl Championship Series for what he views as violations of antitrust laws.

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee with antitrust oversight, Mr. Hatch made the comment Tuesday after conducting a hearing. He said that it is clear to him that the Bowl Championship Series is in violation of antitrust laws.

Under the Bowl Championship Series, some conferences get automatic bids to participate, while others don’t. The automatic-bid conferences also get far more of the revenue than the other conferences.

Mr. Hatch and other critics of the Bowl Championship Series view that as anti-competitive behavior. Defenders say it simply recognizes the teams people want to watch.


FDA rejects ban on painkillers

The government is letting the painkillers Darvocet, Darvon and their generic cousins stay on the market, but ordered stronger warnings against deadly overdoses on Tuesday.

The Food and Drug Administration’s decision puts the United States in contrast to Britain - which banned the drugs several years ago, citing a trail of suicides and accidental overdoses - and Europe’s drug regulators, which just recommended that European Union countries do the same.

Known generically as propoxyphene, the 50-year-old prescription drug is widely used in the U.S. even though doctors consider it a weak pain reliever. The consumer watchdog group Public Citizen petitioned the FDA to ban it here, too, saying the small benefit didn’t justify a risk that was adding up to several hundred deaths a year. In January, the FDA’s scientific advisers narrowly agreed.

But the FDA overruled its advisers Tuesday, at least for now. It ordered that a stern boxed warning be placed on the drug’s label and that patients soon start receiving a special pamphlet with every bottle that stresses the risk of taking too much.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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