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Cash crunch for Republican freshmen in tough districts

WASHINGTON — Allen West made history when Florida voters sent him to Congress last year, becoming one of only two black Republicans from the South to serve in the House since Reconstruction.

But if he wants to be something other than a historical footnote, he may have to match or exceed the more than $6.2 million he raised last year, when he defeated Ron Klein, the Democratic incumbent.

It is a tall order, and so far he is off to a slow start.

Figures released by the Federal Election Commission last week showed that West raised more than $433,000 in the first quarter of year, ranking third among all freshman Republicans. And he has already spent much of that, mostly on direct-mail fundraising and other expenses. During the same reporting period in the 2010 campaign, West raised just over $839,000.

Two Democrats challenging West for the 2012 election, Patrick Murphy, a businessman, and Lois J. Frankel, a former mayor of West Palm Beach, did fairly well in the first quarter of 2011, raising $352,000 and $250,000 respectively.

West is one of more than two dozen Republican freshmen facing tough re-election battles in congressional districts that lean Democratic or were won by President Barack Obama in 2008.

—Ron Nixon, The New York Times

Now, Mubarak’s name and likeness are gone, too

CAIRO — As part of the general mood here to expunge everything reminiscent of former President Hosni Mubarak, an Egyptian court on Thursday ordered the removal of his name and likeness from all public institutions.

The order comes a week after Mubarak was remanded for interrogation, along with his two sons, to answer accusations of financial corruption and ordering the killing of protesters.

Samir Sabry, the Egyptian lawyer who filed the lawsuit, argued that the presence of Mubarak’s name on buildings and streets at a time when the former president and his family were widely seen as symbols of corruption and tyranny was a provocation to national sentiment.

“Why should his name continue to be there?” Sabry said. “You put people’s names up to honor them. Now what are we honoring him for?”

The court seemed to agree. Now, the names, photographs and pictures of Mubarak and his wife, Suzanne, will be removed “from all squares, streets, schools, associations, libraries and all entities in Egypt.”

—Mona El-Naggar, The New York Times

Despite previous evidence, ‘birther’ bills advance

OKLAHOMA CITY — Investigations have concluded that President Barack Obama was, in fact, born in Hawaii in 1961, as he has always said.

Just this week, on the news program “Good Morning America” on ABC, George Stephanopoulos produced a copy of the president’s Certification of Live Birth, causing a potential presidential aspirant, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to say that the issue appeared settled. In 2008, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging that proof.

But the so-called birther controversy stubbornly refuses to go away.

The issue, which has simmered at the fringes of the nation’s political discourse for years, even got a recent burst of attention when it was adopted as a talking point by Donald Trump, a potential Republican presidential candidate.

The result is that what had been a wispy tale of purportedly buried documents and cover-ups designed to hide the president’s supposed birth in Kenya — a tale that has been dismissed by most mainstream members of both political parties — now appears to have legs as the political season lurches toward 2012.

A New York Times/CBS News poll released Thursday found that 57 percent of adults surveyed nationwide said they thought Obama was born in the United States vs. 25 percent who said he was born elsewhere.

—Kirk Johnson, The New York Times

Amid tough times, consumers drop ‘green’ products

When Clorox introduced Green Works, its environment-friendly cleaning line, in 2008, it secured an endorsement from the Sierra Club, a nationwide introduction at Walmart, and it vowed that the products would “move natural cleaning into the mainstream.”

Sales that year topped $100 million, and several other major consumer products companies came out with their own “green” cleaning supplies.

But America’s eco-consciousness, it turns out, is fickle. As recession gripped the country, the consumer’s love affair with green products faded.

Sales of Green Works have fallen to $60 million a year, and those of other similar products from major brands like Arm & Hammer, Windex, Palmolive, Hefty and Scrubbing Bubbles are sputtering.

Sales in most consumer-products categories dropped off during the recession. But according to an analysis by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., certain green products have fared worse.

Using data from the Nielsen Co., Bernstein looked at sales for nearly 4,300 products in 22 categories, like cleaning spray, liquid soap, bathroom cleaners and detergents. It studied monthly sales from March 2006 to March 2011, the most recent data available. (Nielsen’s data includes mass-market, grocery stores and drugstores, but excludes Walmart.)

Bernstein found that sales of green products generally are down from their peak — especially those offered by the big consumer-products companies.

—Stephanie Clifford and Andrew Martin, The New York Times