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For the Tea Party, influence beyond mere numbers

Enough Tea Party-supported candidates are running strongly in competitive and Republican-leaning congressional races that the movement stands a good chance of establishing a sizeable caucus to push its agenda in the House and the Senate, according to a New York Times analysis.

With a little more than two weeks until Election Day, thirty-three Tea Party-backed candidates are in tossup races or running in House districts that are solidly or leaning Republican, and eight stand a good or better chance of winning Senate seats.

While the numbers are relatively small, they could exert outsize influence, putting pressure on Republican leaders to carry out promises to significantly cut spending and taxes, to repeal health care legislation and financial regulations passed this year, and to phase out Social Security and Medicare in favor of personal savings accounts. Still, the bulk of the Tea Party candidates are running in districts that are solidly Democratic, meaning that most Tea Party efforts — no matter how energetic — are likely to register as basically a protest vote.

Plug-in cars pose a riddle for EPA on fuel economy

DETROIT — About two months before two new plug-in cars go on sale in the United States, the federal government is struggling with how to rate the fuel economy of mass-market plug-in vehicles.

How the Environmental Protection Agency rates the two cars, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, could have a big influence on consumers’ perceptions of vehicles that run on electricity. General Motors, which makes the Volt, and Nissan are anxiously awaiting the agency’s decision as they start production of the cars and complete marketing plans for rollouts in December.

Providing the customary city and highway miles-per-gallon information would make little sense for the Volt, which can drive 25 to 50 miles on battery power before its gas engine kicks on, and even less so for the Leaf, which is powered only by a rechargeable battery.

The Volt and Leaf must be rated by the EPA and have those ratings shown on window labels before they are sold.

Europe to propose a ban on cloning farm animals

BRUSSELSEuropean Union regulators are preparing to propose rules on cloned livestock that would be stronger than those in the United States with regard to actual clones. But the rules would seek to avoid trade tensions by allowing imports of food produced from the offspring of clones as well as imports of semen and embryos from clones for breeding.

The European Commission’s report, which is expected Tuesday, will recommend a ban on the cloning of farm animals in Europe for five years, and on importing live clones, according to a person briefed on the report who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The rules, which would replace the current patchwork of legislation and guidelines in the European Union, are intended to address growing unease in Europe about cloning and food after a handful of breeders in Switzerland, Britain and possibly other countries imported semen and embryos from clones or their progeny from the United States to breed more productive livestock.

Animal welfare advocates contend that cloning leads to suffering, including difficult births. They also say cloned animals can face health problems later.