- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Senate moves on air-traffic upgrade

A bill that would modernize the nation’s antiquated air-traffic control system, a major source of delays and safety concerns, edged closer to Senate passage Monday.

The $34.5 billion bill to fund the Federal Aviation Administration through Sept. 30, 2011, would speed up deployment of the “NextGen” program to replace the current air-traffic system, which is based on World War II-era radar technology, with one based on GPS technology. The bill requires the FAA to have key elements of the system in place at the nation’s busiest airports as soon as 2014, although a full transition for all aircraft isn’t anticipated until around 2020.

The new system is projected to cost the FAA as much as $22 billion through 2025. Airlines would have to spend about $20 billion more to install equipment in their planes.


Texan made ‘baby-killer’ remark

Texas Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer acknowledged Monday he was the lawmaker who shouted out “It’s a baby-killer” when Rep. Bart Stupak, the pro-life Michigan Democrat whose vote was crucial to passage of the health care bill, was speaking about it on the House floor Sunday evening.

The third-term congressman said he apologized to Mr. Stupak. He said that while he remains “heartbroken” over passage of the bill, “I deeply regret that my actions were mistakenly interpreted as a direct reference” to Mr. Stupak.

Mr. Neugebauer said his outcry was in reference to an agreement reached between President Obama and anti-abortion Democrats led by Mr. Stupak that helped clinch passage of the bill.


Former Bush aide eyes Senate run

Dan Senor, a Republican and former George W. Bush administration foreign-policy adviser, is preparing to challenge Democratic incumbent freshman Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the Senate race in New York, a source close to him said Monday.

“All of the steps necessary to assemble a campaign are under way,” said the source, adding, “There is not an imminent announcement.”

Mr. Senor, a Republican strategist and former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority that governed Iraq after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, is a partner at Rosemont Solebury Capital Management. He is married to CNN television host Campbell Brown.

Mrs. Gillibrand was appointed to her Senate seat last year by New York Gov. David A. Paterson to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Specter regains some Senate clout

HARRISBURG, Pa. | Sen. Arlen Specter is getting back some of the seniority he lost when he switched from Republican to Democrat last year.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Mr. Specter has jumped over six other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The newspaper said Mr. Specter worked through the Senate’s Democratic leadership to regain some of his seniority.

Mr. Specter entered the Senate in 1981 and is one of the most senior senators. But when he switched parties, his new Democratic colleagues voted him to be the most junior Democrat. He is in a tight race for a sixth term this year.


EPA to tighten drinking-water rules

The Environmental Protection Agency is tightening drinking-water standards to impose stricter limits on four contaminants that can cause cancer.

In a speech Monday, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said the agency is developing stricter regulations for four chemical compounds: tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene (TCE), acrylamide and epichlorohydrin.

Mrs. Jackson said the EPA will issue new rules on TCE and tetrachloroethylene within the next year. Rules for the other two compounds will follow.

EPA’s current approach to drinking-water protection is focused on detailed assessments of individual contaminants and can take many years, Mrs. Jackson said, resulting only in “slow progress.”


Doctors warned on rotavirus vaccine

U.S. health officials urged pediatricians Monday to temporarily stop using one of two vaccines against a leading cause of diarrhea in babies, after discovering that doses of GlaxoSmithKline’s Rotarix were contaminated with bits of an apparently benign pig virus.

Glaxo’s vaccine has been used in millions of children worldwide, including 1 million in the U.S., with no signs of safety problems, and the pig virus isn’t known to cause any kind of illness in people or animals, said Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

But vaccines are supposed to be sterile, and because there is a competing vaccine against diarrhea-causing rotavirus that has tested clean - Merck’s RotaTeq - the FDA decided to err on the side of caution.

Rotavirus causes severe diarrhea and is a leading child-killer in developing countries. In the U.S., with better health care, about 55,000 children a year were hospitalized for rotavirus infections, and several dozen died each year before vaccination began, with Merck’s vaccine in 2006 and Glaxo’s in 2008.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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