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White House picks at intel bill

The White House came out Tuesday against parts of a Senate intelligence reorganization bill, saying they would create "a cumbersome new bureaucracy" for coordinating the activities of 15 spy agencies under a national intelligence director.

Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the Sept. 11 commission, whose report was the impetus for the legislation, gave a lukewarm endorsement to a House version that would make the head of the CIA the new national intelligence director and increase fines and jail time for terrorism hoaxes.

The Republican-controlled Senate and House are trying to finish legislation before the November election.

While endorsing a Senate bill written by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., the White House said it "is concerned about the excessive and unnecessary detail" in it.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the Sept. 11 commission, repeated his support for the Collins-Lieberman bill but was not as strong in his endorsement of a version written House Republican leaders and more closely resembling what President Bush wants. He expressed concern that the House bill goes beyond the commission's recommendations.

The Senate on Tuesday followed another Sept. 11 commission recommendation by approving 96-0 an amendment to tighten air cargo security through more and better inspections, background checks on air cargo handlers and requirements for cargo airlines to develop security plans.

Medicare to expand coverage of heart device

WASHINGTON _ Medicare on Tuesday proposed expanding coverage for expensive cardiac defibrillators that are surgically implanted in patients who are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest.

Officials projected that 77,000 Medicare patients would have the stopwatch-size devices implanted in 2005. That would be about a 50 percent increase from the 52,000 who received them in 2003.

About 500,000 Medicare beneficiaries, including some who have never had a heart attack, would be eligible for the defibrillator, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.

A government-funded study earlier this year showed the technology significantly reduced deaths in patients with even mild heart disease.

The expansion could take effect as early as the start of 2005, CMS administrator Mark McClellan said.

FDA says intercepted Canadian drugs unsafe

WASHINGTON _ The government said Tuesday that intercepted drugs purportedly sent from Canada were made and shipped elsewhere, had been subject to Canadian recall and had cheaper generic counterparts in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration said the 439 packages of prescription drugs were ordered by Americans from the Web site www.CanadaRx.com.

Customs agents in Miami intercepted the drugs that they said had been shipped from CanadaRx's office in the Bahamas.

None appeared to have been made in the United States. Many had unstated dosages and suspicious labels. Some appeared to have been made in Singapore, Japan and New Zealand.

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