WASHINGTON IN BRIEF

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Administration Fights Currency for the Blind

The Bush administration asked a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling that could require a redesign of the nation's currency, arguing that visually impaired people are not denied "meaningful access" to money because they can use credit cards instead of paper bills.

Justice Department lawyers also noted the existence of portable reading devices that the blind can use to determine the denomination of paper money.

The appeal seeks to overturn a ruling last month by U.S. District Judge James Robertson, who ordered the Treasury Department to create ways for the blind to recognize different denominations.

In his ruling, Robertson said that, of 180 countries issuing paper currency, only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations.

Senate Ethics Panel Clears Reid in Probe

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) did not break ethics rules in accepting free ringside seats at boxing matches, the Senate ethics committee has concluded.

Reid attended three Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 without paying, using credentials provided by the state Athletic Commission. Reid was supporting legislation during this period to create a federal agency to oversee boxing, something the commission opposed. The legislation passed the Senate but died in the House.

Reid defended attending the matches, saying it helped him understand boxing regulations, but he acknowledged that it did not look right and said that he would not do it again.

Unapproved Drugs With Quinine Pulled

U.S. regulators ordered companies to stop selling unapproved drugs containing quinine, which can have serious side effects.

More than a half-dozen companies make and sell the drugs, most commonly prescribed to treat leg cramps, although only one is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, to treat malaria. Just 0.5 percent of the estimated 4 million annual prescriptions for quinine are for malaria, the FDA said.

Quinine can cause abnormal heartbeats, internal bleeding or blood clots, the FDA said. The drug can also have serious interactions with other medicines.

NTSB Urges Adoption Of Runway Standards

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration adopt standards to better ensure that pilots take off from the correct runway to avoid crashes like the one that killed 49 people in August.

In a letter to the FAA, NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker wrote that pilots should be required to "cross-check and verify that they are positioned on the right runway" before takeoff. No such requirements exist, Rosenker wrote.

He added that such a measure would "directly address the circumstances" of the Aug. 27 crash of a Delta Connection plane at an airport in Lexington, Ky. The regional jet's pilots tried to take off from the wrong runway, which was too short, and were unable to get the plane aloft before it crashed in a fireball. Of the 50 people aboard, only the co-pilot survived.

Jefferson Is Denied Ways and Means Seat

House Democrats decided that Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) will not return to the Ways and Means Committee until a federal corruption investigation involving him is completed.

Jefferson has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.

For the Record

ยท The Pentagon announced that the Navy and Air Force met their recruiting goals in November, while the Army and Marine Corps exceeded theirs.

-- From Staff Reports and News Services


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