Wednesday, March 10, 2010

McClatchy Washington Report 3/10

  • For years, the Marines apparently didn't provide documents that benzene, a known carcinogen, had been found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which has worked for nearly two decades to understand the contamination and its health impacts. Now Congress wants to know how long the Marine Corps has known that benzene was in the water drunk by hundreds of thousands of people over three decades.
  • This year, Dave Barry was one of the writers who helped put together the jokes that Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin told during Sunday night's Academy Awards presentation. Steve Martin, it turns out, is obsessive about studying and tweaking jokes. Alec Baldwin's approach is less deliberative. Here's how it went.
  • Bank of America is dropping one of the banking industry's most-criticized fees. No longer will customers be charged an overdraft fee when they use their debit card and don't have enough money in their accounts. The new debit card policy starts June 19 for new accounts and at the end of August for existing accounts.
  • Search online for "Cash for Clunkers," and here's one thing you'll find: stories about its negligible overall impact on the economy. Wrong, says Maritz Automotive Research Group, which recently surveyed participants in last summer's federal program designed to stimulate new-car sales. One key finding: 90 percent of those participating in Cash for Clunkers would not otherwise have bought a new car.
  • Thousands of demonstrators from both sides of the controversy — liberals who back a public-option and conservatives who hope for no health care reform at all — descended on Washington Tuesday. Both sides understood what happened last year when Democrats failed to pass health care before the August recess: delaying a big vote buys the opposition time.
  • Just hours after Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel to help launch indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Israel announced the construction of 1,600 homes in mostly Arab East Jerusalem, an open rebuff that led Biden to issue a sharply worded condemnation. "The substance and timing of the announcement . . . is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now," he said.
  • The judge said campaign-aide-turned-tell-all-author Andrew Young and his wife lied about the number of copies they made of a tape showing John Edwards having sex with his mistress and how many people had seen it. The judge said he was ready to send the couple to jail at the fourth hearing he's held on the tape, each one eliciting more new information about who had seen the tape and what copies existed.
  • The move follows the arrest of a paroled sex offender accused of killing a 17-year-old girl near San Diego last month and under investigation in the death of a 14-year-old who disappeared in the same area more than a year ago. Until Tuesday, the department routinely shredded the files of parolees one year after they had been discharged from parole.
  • On Monday, the state's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office concluded that the landmark 2006 law that mandates cuts in greenhouse gas emissions would cost the state jobs in the near term, and have uncertain effects in the long term. On Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has ardently championed the law, dismissed the LAO report as so much armchair analysis.
  • Kathy Taft, 62, died Tuesday, four days after she was found beaten in a house belong to her boyfriend, a prominent attorney. Police have said almost nothing about the circumstances of the crime and had kept the neighborhood sealed off for days. On Tuesday, Taft's family said her boyfriend had been in Florida at the time of the assault.
  • It's crunch time for President Obama and the congressional Democrats. The political stakes are clear. If they want to ensure that they will be slaughtered in the November congressional elections, all they need to do in the weeks ahead is screw up their golden opportunity to pass health care reform.
  • Warren Buffett leads a troop of officials, reporters, and a guy with a boom mike into the just-finished new apartment.

    Five years ago, after the levees failed, this area was ten feet underwater. Now, on this bitterly cold morning early in March, it is a construction zone ringed by chainlink fences, and one of the richest men in America wanders around what will eventually be some family's home. This is part of the inaugural meeting of the Purpose Built Communities network, to which civic leaders from around the country have come. And, it is an attempt to export "What Works."


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