Wednesday, February 24, 2010

McClatchy Washington Report 2/24

  • Toyota's top U.S. executive insisted to lawmakers on Tuesday that electronic problems weren't the cause of sudden acceleration problems in some of its cars, but added that the company's recall of millions of vehicles may not "totally solve" the problem.
  • Dissatisfaction echoes across Pennsylvania, where Obama's 60-plus percent job approval ratings in some polls a year ago have evaporated. After he carried the Keystone State by 10 percentage points in 2008, opinion polls now find that a clear majority of Pennsylvanians disapprove of his performance as president, a troubling election-year sign for Democrats in a notably independent-minded state.
  • Moderate congressional Democrats, a bloc that's crucial to the fate of President Barack Obama's renewed health care effort, offered only mild endorsements of his new plan Tuesday, while warning that it faces a difficult legislative path.
  • Anthem Blue Cross executives, under intense questioning by the California Assembly's Health Committee on Tuesday, defended the company's decision to raise premiums by as much as 39 percent on hundreds of thousands of Californians. The rate hikes have become a lightning rod for those looking to recapture the political momentum in the effort to overhaul the country's health care system.
  • After rising from obscurity to become a significant factor in the three-way Republican race for Texas governor, candidate Debra Medina appears to be losing ground after her remarks in a national radio interview about the 9-11 terrorist attacks, according to two public opinion surveys released Tuesday.
  • As relief agencies turn their focus to protecting Haiti's homeless earthquake survivors from the impending rainy season, bringing toilets to camps has become critical. There are nowhere near enough toilets — portables, latrines or any other kind — for the tens of thousands living in the camps in and around Port-au-Prince. The squalid conditions have government and relief workers worried about a potential outbreak of deadly diseases, such as diarrhea, spread by unsanitary conditions.
  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration said Tuesday that the governor will not commute the sentences of thousands of illegal immigrant inmates even though majority Democrats sent him a budget bill this week that assumes he will do so.
  • Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a jailed Cuban dissident on a hunger strike for 86 days, died Tuesday, his mother reported, the first time in nearly 40 years an island activist starved himself to death to protest government abuses.
  • A ballot initiative aiming to change Alaska law so that doctors performing abortions on girls under 18 would have to notify a parent is being challenged in state court today. The lawsuit being argued in Superior Court today says the initiative should be thrown out because it misleads the public and is technically unlawful. It is the opposition's first move in what is likely to be a series of attempts to kill the measure.
  • In a court hearing Tuesday, lawyers for Rielle Hunter accused Andrew Young of stealing a sex tape featuring former presidential candidate John Edwards, then repeatedly lying about it. Hunter sued Young and his wife, Cheri, last month over who owns the sensitive material. Young, who previously swore he was the father of Hunter's baby to cover for his former boss, has written a book about the affair and has frequently appeared on national TV to promote his book.
  • Jackie Robinson was a First Black — as in first black player in modern Major League Baseball. And First Blacks bear the burden not only of their own destiny, but also that of every other African-American who hopes to follow. First Blacks must represent.
    It is a truism that seems especially timely during Black History Month in the age of Obama. Barack Obama is the ultimate First Black. Understanding that may help explain why this president doesn't always respond to provocation as some observers would hope or expect.
  • Joannie Rochette skated with a broken heart, but somehow she skated, because that is what her late mother would have wanted her to do. She was in third place after Tuesday night's short program, putting her in contention for a medal Thursday.

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