Senate to Delay

Vote on Stem Cells

Legislation to expand federally funded embryonic stem cell research will not come to a vote in the Senate until early next year, one of the sponsors, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), said yesterday.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) "has agreed to make this a priority item at the beginning of the next session of Congress, where all facets of the issue may be explored," Specter told the chamber.

He said he had decided against attaching the legislation to a bill to fund the Labor and Health and Human Services departments.

In May, the House defied President Bush's veto threat and easily approved bipartisan legislation to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, but not by enough votes to override a threatened veto.

Since then, backers of the legislation, which would basically lift the limits Bush imposed on stem cell research in August 2001, have been pushing for a Senate vote.

EPA Sees Improvement

In Gulf Coast Water

While casting a nervous eye at Hurricane Wilma, officials reported that the latest pollution data in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina indicated for the first time that the Mississippi Delta was again a safe place to swim.

"This is encouraging for recreational uses, but the data should not be used for assessing the safety of consuming shellfish," Benjamin H. Grumbles, the Environmental Protection Agency's assistant administrator for water, told reporters.

Officials had previously recommended that people avoid contact with floodwaters that have since been pumped into Lake Pontchartrain and should use soap and clean water to decontaminate themselves if they could not avoid contact. Sediment should be avoided because of fecal bacteria, chemicals, metals and other contaminants it might contain, officials said.

Water samples from 20 locations in the Gulf of Mexico's river channels and near shorelines were collected aboard the Bold, EPA's sole ship for monitoring ocean and coastal waters.

The data from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2 showed the presence of a type of sewage-related bacteria, enterococcus, but at levels that did not violate freshwater or marine water standards, the agency said.

U.S. Freezes Assets of

N. Korean Arms Sellers

The Treasury Department designated eight North Korean companies as supporting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ordered their U.S. assets frozen.

The action prohibits all transactions between the firms and any U.S. person or company.

"Proliferators of WMD often rely on front companies to mask their illicit activities and cover their tracks," said Stuart A. Levey, the Treasury undersecretary for enforcement and terrorism and financial intelligence.

The companies are Hesong Trading Corp., Korea Complex Equipment Import Corp., Korea International Chemical Joint Venture Co., and Korea Kwangsong Trading Corp.

Also, Korea Pugang Trading Corp., Korea Ryongwang Trading Corp., Korea Ryonha Machinery Joint Venture Corp. and Tosong Technology Trading Corp.

President Bush in a June gave the departments of State and the Treasury new powers to block assets of companies believed to be helping North Korea, Iran and Syria pursue nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

-- From News Services