- - Wednesday, April 6, 2011


GOP presidential debate set Oct. 18

LAS VEGAS | A Republican organization is scheduling a debate for GOP presidential candidates Oct. 18 in Las Vegas.

The Western Republican Leadership Conference said Wednesday that cable network CNN will produce the event at The Venetian casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

Former Nevada Republican Rep. Jon Porter chairs the group. He released a statement that party leaders from 16 RNC Western Region states and territories will be meeting for four days at The Venetian.

No Republicans have declared yet to run for president.

Democratic President Obama announced this week he will seek re-election.


States, D.C. vie for high-speed funds

Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak are vying for $2.4 billion in federal aid that became available when Florida’s governor canceled a high-speed rail project in his state, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday.

The deadline for applications for the funds was Monday. The Transportation Department is reviewing 90 applications seeking a total of $10 billion, Mr. LaHood said.

“They know that high-speed rail will deliver tens of thousands of jobs, spur economic development across their communities and create additional options for their citizens as the country’s population grows,” Mr. LaHood said in a statement.

Among the requests was one from Amtrak for $1.3 billion to enhance train service in the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington. The proposal includes a $720 million project to replace the more than 100-year-old movable Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey with a new, high-level fixed bridge.


Lawmaker wants NATO to lead

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who was an early supporter of the White House decision to intervene in Libya, has written a letter to President Obama saying that he must now allow the U.S.’s international partners to show they can step up for duty as international peacekeepers.

Mr. Hunter, a Marine veteran of both the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, said U.S. leadership was the right way to begin action in Libya, but now NATO is capable of handling matters going forward. He is leading the letter effort, which was co-signed by three other members of the House Armed Services Committee.

“The fighting in Libya presents a real opportunity for our international partners to show their strength to the rest of the world and help carry the global security burden on their shoulders, particularly at a time when our nations attention is focused on holding victory in Iraq and winning in Afghanistan,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “It is time for our NATO allies to step up and do their part.”

The lawmakers said the U.S. role must be limited to operations such as surveillance, reconnaissance and aerial refueling, and “should not be expected to have any additional involvement in the NATO-led Libyan operation - a point that needs to be made clear throughout the duration of the campaign.”

The other signers were Reps. Colleen W. Hanabusa, Hawaii Democrat; Steven M. Palazzo, Mississippi Republican; and Michael K. Conaway, Texas Republican.


McCain: Confront candidate issues early

Sen. John McCain, offering advice to those looking to succeed him as the Republican standard bearer in 2012, said the GOP’s field of White House hopefuls should confront whatever albatrosses are hanging around their necks early.

“I think you have to take the issue head on, and put it behind you,” the Arizona Republican said at a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

For former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, that means putting to rest any questions related to the state health care plan he supported and the individual mandate that conservatives generally despise.

“Obviously, he’s going to have to confront the issues of the Massachusetts health care,” Mr. McCain said. “Others may have areas that I don’t even know about, but they have to identify them early and address them early. … One thing you don’t want is it lingering and continuing, story after story.”

Mr. McCain said campaign teams and internal pollsters should get out in front of possible problems by doing opposition research on their candidate to identify and address questions that could derail a campaign.

He also took a thinly veiled shot at President Obama, saying: “Maybe this time, the electorate is interested in someone who has a proven record, rather than rhetoric.”

The 2008 Republican nominee said he would not be a candidate in 2012.


Drug for rare cancer OK’d

Federal health regulators said Wednesday they have approved a new drug from AstraZeneca to treat a rare form of thyroid cancer that can be fatal when it spreads to other parts of the body.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug, called vandetanib, for medullary thyroid cancer that cannot be treated with surgery and is growing or causing symptoms. The disease begins with a cancerous growth in the neck which leads to excessive levels of important hormones secreted by the thyroid gland.

About 44,600 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year, and medullary thyroid cancer accounted for 3 percent to 5 percent of that figure. Nearly all patients can expect to live at least five years after being diagnosed with the disease, but survival decreases dramatically if the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

Symptoms include coughing, difficulty swallowing, swelling of the thyroid gland and changes in a person’s voice.

“Vandetanib’s approval underscores FDA’s commitment to approving treatments for patients with rare and difficult-to- treat diseases,” said Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of the FDA’s cancer drugs division.

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