World and Nation

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Senate Votes to Strengthen Product Safety Commission

Responding to a wave of defective toys and other goods, the Senate approved a measure on Thursday that would overhaul the country’s consumer product laws and strengthen the beleaguered safety agency that oversees the marketplace.

Besides increasing the staff and budget of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the legislation would create a public database of complaints about products and empower state prosecutors to act if they think the federal government is not doing enough to protect consumers.

If the bill became law, it would be the first major consumer product legislation in 18 years, enacted as federal regulators struggle to cope with the explosive growth of foreign imports, particularly from countries with few significant safety standards.

The Senate bill, which was supported by consumer groups, was adopted 79-13. It now heads to a conference committee to be reconciled with a more modest measure that was endorsed by the White House and major manufacturers and was unanimously passed in December by the House.

German Authorities Report Problems With Blood Thinner

Concerns about the safety of the blood thinner heparin spread to Germany on Thursday after drug authorities there received reports of patients being sickened after getting the drug.

Meanwhile, Food and Drug Administration officials announced that they were asking all companies in the United States that produce heparin to test it with two new procedures.

The complex tests, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and capillary electrophoresis, are the only ones that can uncover whether the drug contains a possibly counterfeit ingredient.

Dr. Janet Woodcock, deputy FDA commissioner, said that the agency would post instructions online for how to conduct the tests.

FDA officials said Wednesday that a possibly counterfeit ingredient had been found in certain batches of heparin linked to at least 19 deaths in the United States and more than 700 severe allergic reactions.

Federal officials said they could not yet say that the contaminant, which mimics real heparin, caused the reactions.

GOP Has Edge in Fundraising

For all the success that Democratic presidential candidates have had in raising money — taking in a combined total of more than $500 million in the current race — the Republicans are beating them in one crucial area of fundraising: the money being raised by the parties themselves.

The Democratic National Committee ended 2007 nearly flat broke, with cash of $2.9 million and debts of $2.2 million. Since then it has raised some money, paid down debt and managed to put $3.7 million in its piggy bank. This compares, however, with $25 million that the Republican National Committee has in cash on hand, after having raised $97 million since the beginning of 2007.

And with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., now the presumptive Republican nominee, party officials started plotting with his campaign this week on deploying those resources against the well-financed Democratic candidacies of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D- N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill.