- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Picnic for Congress features state ‘tastes’

Members of Congress lined up near a fire pit on the South Lawn on Tuesday to eat Northwest-style salmon while others chomped down on Midwest-style hot dogs.

It was all part of the White House’s annual congressional picnic, and this year the event featured foods from regions across the country for a “Tastes of the States” theme.

President Obama, standing next to first lady Michelle Obama, thanked lawmakers for their “incredible devotion to the country, regardless of party.”

Every member of Congress and their families are invited to the event.

Mr. Obama said the nation has endured a tough few years and “that’s meant that Congress has had to do more on a whole range of issues.” The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico means more pressure to work together and with the administration to deal with the crisis, he said.

Under blues skies, members of Congress milled about the South Lawn and joined their families at picnic tables scattered across the backyard of the White House.


Patience wears thin on pilot-fatigue rules

Lawmakers are demanding that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood fulfill a promise he made last year, after an airline crash that killed 50 people, to write new rules aimed at preventing pilot fatigue.

The top Democratic and Republican members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its aviation subcommittee sent Mr. LaHood a letter Wednesday asking why new rules haven’t been proposed and urging quick action.

Administration officials said last summer that they would propose new rules before the end of 2009. That deadline has been pushed back repeatedly. A proposal is now anticipated in September.

Lawmakers said rules on how many hours airlines can require pilots to work haven’t been overhauled in 60 years.


Ban on gay blood donors debated

A Food and Drug Administration panel will make a recommendation about changing blood-donor rules for gay men after a two-day hearing in Rockville, Md., this week.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and other senators have asked the FDA to end the lifelong ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men since 1977. Such a ban is “antiquated” and unnecessary, the senators argue.

Gay rights groups, the American Red Cross and other blood bank groups support a less stringent deferral period for gay men. Groups representing hemophiliacs and plasma users support the FDA’s permanent deferral.

At its session Thursday, members of the FDA Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability will hear scientific rationale for the permanent ban and updates about donor policies in other countries.

At the Friday session, advocacy groups will be given a chance to speak. The advisory committee is expected to end the day with a recommendation for the FDA.

Gay men have been banned from donating blood since 1985, after thousands of hemophiliacs, such as Ryan White, died of HIV/AIDS contracted from blood transfusions.


Farmworker safety cited in pesticide ban

The Environmental Protection Agency said it is ending use of the pesticide endosulfan in the United States.

The chemical is used on some fruits and vegetables as well as cotton. The federal agency said Wednesday that endosulfan can cause nerve damage in farm workers and is also a hazard to wildlife.

Endosulfan is not approved for home use and is not considered a threat to consumers.

The use of endosulfan was limited starting in 2002. The EPA said further study indicates that it can still be a danger for agricultural workers. The agency is working with the manufacturer to phase out production.

One of several groups that sued to get the chemical banned, Earthjustice, said it welcomes the action.


Committee approves auto safety upgrades

A Senate committee Wednesday approved a bill that would require automakers to meet new safety standards, impose stiff penalties for companies that fail to quickly report defects and double funding for the government agency overseeing car safety.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s plan is part of a move by lawmakers to tighten the nation’s auto safety laws after Toyota’s massive recalls.

“This is a critical public safety bill that will affect the lives of millions of Americans on the road,” said committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat.

Congress hopes to approve the safety legislation by the July Fourth holiday recess. It represents the most significant reforms to auto safety rules since the Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. tire recalls of a decade ago.

A House committee approved similar legislation last month.

The Senate plan would require automakers to meet new standards related to brake override systems, vehicle black boxes and auto electronics in the aftermath of Toyota Motor Corp.’s recall of more than 8 million vehicles around the globe.


Surprise candidate faces obscenity felony

COLUMBIA | South Carolina’s surprise Democratic nominee to challenge Sen. Jim DeMint is facing a pending felony charge.

Court records show that Alvin Greene, 32, was arrested in November and charged with showing obscene Internet photos to a University of South Carolina student. The felony charge carries up to five years in prison.

Mr. Greene said he had no comment when asked about the charge Wednesday and hung up on a reporter.

The unemployed veteran posted bail after his arrest. He has yet to enter a plea or be indicted.

Records indicate that Mr. Greene showed photos to a woman and talked about going to her room at a university dorm.

On Tuesday, Mr. Greene stunned state Democratic Party leaders by winning the nomination. He raised no money and put up no campaign website. He beat former four-term state lawmaker Vic Rawl, 64, who had raised about $186,000.

Mr. DeMint, a conservative Republican and “tea party” darling pursuing a second term, has marshaled a $3.5 million war chest already to face the bare-pockets Democratic underdog.

Political analysts don’t give Mr. Greene a chance. Few expected Mr. Rawl would have fared better.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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