WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With the impeachment drive against him ebbing, U.S. President Donald Trump will face his Democratic accusers on Tuesday night at a State of the Union speech where he is expected to push his case for WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With the impeachment drive against him ebbing, U.S. President Donald Trump will face his Democratic accusers on Tuesday night at a State of the Union speech where he is expected to push his case for another four years in office. Trump, a Republican, may be tempted to lash out at the Democratic critics seated before him in the U.S. House of Representatives, seeing it as a chance for payback against those who sought to oust him through what he calls a “witch hunt.” Some of his aides and allies, however, are pressing for him to avoid a confrontation. The Republican-led Senate is almost certain to end the impeachment drive on Wednesday with a vote to acquit him. His speech, which starts at 9 p.m. ET (0200 GMT) on Tuesday, affords Trump the opportunity to advance his message for what is likely to be a hard-fought battle for re-election on Nov. 3. Aides say there has been an internal debate inside the White House over whether he should even bring up impeachment in his speech. A senior administration official said on Monday night that Trump was not expected to delve deeply into the issue, if at all, but acknowledged that this could always change. Trump himself has said he plans an upbeat speech offering an optimistic vision at a time when Washington – and the rest of the country – is polarized over his leadership. “We’re really looking to giving a very, very positive message,” Trump told reporters during a Super Bowl party at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Sunday. Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican and strong Trump supporter, told reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday that Trump would help himself by taking the high road. “I hope he will smother people with the milk of human kindness,” Roberts said. Asked if Trump could turn impeachment to his advantage by being gracious about it going forward, Roberts said, “Could. Some of us have urged that.” The theme of Trump’s speech is “The Great American Comeback.” He plans to highlight the strength of the U.S. economy and achievements to support it like a China trade deal and another trade pact with Mexico and Canada. Trump is also expected to offer to work with his political opponents on issues like reducing healthcare costs and drug prices and rebuilding infrastructure, officials said. But with the two parties immersed in election-year politicking, no major legislative action is expected this year. Trump is expected to contrast his vision for healthcare with the plans advanced by his Democratic rivals, a reference to left-leaning proposals by two of the Democratic presidential candidates he frequently attacks, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. He is also expected to promote his efforts to limit migrants from crossing the southern U.S. border, as well as national security moves such as his decision to kill Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani with a U.S. drone strike. Still, the president held out little hope for bipartisan cooperation this year in the wake of the impeachment fight, saying he doubted Democrats would want to work with him. “I’m not sure that they can do it, to be honest,” Trump told the Fox network in a Super Bowl Sunday interview. The State of the Union speech is attended by Democratic and Republican lawmakers from both the House and the Senate as well as such VIP guests as Cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justices. The television audience for last year’s speech was estimated at 47 million people. Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Jeff Mason; Editing by Howard Goller Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. Reuters Trump, a Republican, may be tempted to lash out at the Democratic critics seated before him in the U.S. House of Representatives, seeing it as a chance for payback against those who sought to oust him through what he calls a “witch hunt.” Some of his aides and allies, however, are pressing for him to avoid a confrontation. The Republican-led Senate is almost certain to end the impeachment drive on Wednesday with a vote to acquit him. His speech, which starts at 9 p.m. ET (0200 GMT) on Tuesday, affords Trump the opportunity to advance his message for what is likely to be a hard-fought battle for re-election on Nov. 3. Aides say there has been an internal debate inside the White House over whether he should even bring up impeachment in his speech. A senior administration official said on Monday night that Trump was not expected to delve deeply into the issue, if at all, but acknowledged that this could always change. Trump himself has said he plans an upbeat speech offering an optimistic vision at a time when Washington – and the rest of the country – is polarized over his leadership. “We’re really looking to giving a very, very positive message,” Trump told reporters during a Super Bowl party at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Sunday. Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican and strong Trump supporter, told reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday that Trump would help himself by taking the high road. “I hope he will smother people with the milk of human kindness,” Roberts said. Asked if Trump could turn impeachment to his advantage by being gracious about it going forward, Roberts said, “Could. Some of us have urged that.” The theme of Trump’s speech is “The Great American Comeback.” He plans to highlight the strength of the U.S. economy and achievements to support it like a China trade deal and another trade pact with Mexico and Canada. Trump is also expected to offer to work with his political opponents on issues like reducing healthcare costs and drug prices and rebuilding infrastructure, officials said. But with the two parties immersed in election-year politicking, no major legislative action is expected this year. Trump is expected to contrast his vision for healthcare with the plans advanced by his Democratic rivals, a reference to left-leaning proposals by two of the Democratic presidential candidates he frequently attacks, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. He is also expected to promote his efforts to limit migrants from crossing the southern U.S. border, as well as national security moves such as his decision to kill Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani with a U.S. drone strike. Still, the president held out little hope for bipartisan cooperation this year in the wake of the impeachment fight, saying he doubted Democrats would want to work with him. “I’m not sure that they can do it, to be honest,” Trump told the Fox network in a Super Bowl Sunday interview. The State of the Union speech is attended by Democratic and Republican lawmakers from both the House and the Senate as well as such VIP guests as Cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justices. The television audience for last year’s speech was estimated at 47 million people. Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Jeff Mason; Editing by Howard Goller Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. Reuters

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 13: In this photo illustration, a container of Johnson's baby powder made by Johnson and Johnson sits on a table on July 13, 2018 in San Francisco, California. A Missouri jury has ordered pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson to pay $4.69 billion in damages to 22 women who claim that they got ovarian cancer from Johnson's baby powder. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (Reuters) – For the first time in nearly 50 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will examine asbestos testing for talc powders and cosmetics at a hearing on Tuesday.

Regulators are taking a closer look after finding asbestos, a known carcinogen, in several talc cosmetics and powders, including a bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s well-known Baby Powder. Citing those FDA results, some U.S. lawmakers and consumer advocates have called for stricter safety regulations to protect public health.

J&J, the market leader in talc powders, has defended the safety of its talc. The company said tests by labs it hired found no asbestos in samples from the same bottle the FDA examined – except for some the company attributed to contamination from a lab air conditioner.

In a statement, the company said it looks forward to the FDA’s “thorough review of the most effective and reliable ways to test for asbestos in cosmetic talc.”

The hearing on asbestos testing in talc, the FDA’s first since 1971, will focus on testing standards recommended by a panel of government experts. The recommendations, published last month, embrace positions held by public health authorities and experts for plaintiffs who allege that contaminated talc products caused their cancers.

After hearing from the government panel, FDA officials will take public comment from consumer advocates, industry representatives and testing experts.

For decades, the cosmetic talc industry has largely been allowed to police itself with little oversight from the FDA. Although talc and asbestos are similar minerals often found together in the ground, the FDA has never required manufacturers to test for the carcinogen.

In a written report, the government panel said the talc industry’s standard test methods have “long-recognized shortcomings in specificity and sensitivity.”

One of the most significant recommendations from the expert panel is that mineral particles found in talc products small enough to be drawn into the lungs, even those the industry would not call asbestos, should be counted as potentially harmful. The expert panel said both asbestos and look-alike minerals are suspected of causing “similar pathological outcomes,” so the “distinction is irrelevant.”

The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have limited exposure to asbestos on the job and in the air to reduce cancers since the 1970s when the hazard was well established. A Reuters report in December (here) showed that, during the same period, the FDA downplayed health concerns, including possible asbestos contamination, in talc powders and cosmetics and deferred again and again to manufacturers.

David Michaels, a former OSHA administrator during the Barack Obama administration, said he welcomed the public discussion because even small amounts of asbestos are unacceptable in easily-inhaled consumer products.

“I hope the national attention given to this issue will help insulate FDA from pressure from corporations that manufacture cosmetics and personal care products, who are likely to oppose the newly-recommended testing protocols,” said Michaels, a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and author of a book, “The Triumph of Doubt,” which examines corporate influence on science.

The Personal Care Products Council, a cosmetics trade group, declined to comment before the hearing.

FDA spokeswoman Monique Richards said no decisions are expected to be made Tuesday, and the focus will be on gathering public feedback. The FDA has not announced a timetable for deciding whether it will pursue rules on testing.

The increased scrutiny on this issue follows a 2018 Reuters report (here) which showed that although J&J knew for decades its raw talc and powders sometimes tested positive for asbestos, the company did not report those findings to the FDA.

Reporting by Chad Terhune

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Reuters

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