Tuesday, March 2, 2010

McClatchy Washington Report 3/2

  • The Department of Transportation said Monday that Republican Sen. Jim Bunning's blockage of legislation designed to keep a host of federal programs operating forced the agency to furlough nearly 2,000 employees without pay, temporarily shut down highway reimbursements to states worth hundreds of millions of dollars and stalled multi-million dollar construction projects across the country.
  • Texas's two-step primary system bedeviled Hillary Clinton supporters in 2008, when Barack Obama voters flooded the nighttime precinct meetings and turned a Clinton victory at the ballot box into an Obama majority at the state party convention. Now Republicans are bracing for an onslaught of tea party advocates and others at the precinct conventions scheduled for Tuesday night after the polls close.
  • Negotiations to complete a new U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty have stalled over a Russian demand for the option to withdraw unilaterally if Moscow determines that U.S. missile defenses would threaten its intercontinental nuclear missile force, a senior U.S. official said Monday.
  • While intense scrutiny is being focused on Anthem Blue Cross for proposing rate hikes of up to 39 percent on hundreds of thousands of Californians who buy insurance on their own, other insurers are delivering some equally jolting rate increases. But it's the Anthem Blue Cross hikes that have drawn increasingly critical attention. California Attorney General Jerry Brown issued subpoenas not only to Anthem, but to the other six largest health insurers in California: Aetna Health, CIGNA, Health Net, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente and PacifiCare. Brown cited concerns that the companies were "unjustly raising rates and denying payment of legitimate claims."
  • All direct U.S. flights to Cuba may be halted if the ex-wife of a Cuban spy wins a lawsuit to garnish money that South Florida charter companies pay in fees to Cuba, lawyers in the case said Monday. Ana Margarita Martinez's lawsuit could also deal a blow to the Obama administration's efforts to increase people-to-people contacts with Cuba.
  • U.S. Rep. Adam Smith wants to expand a federal law covering illnesses and injuries to include up to two weeks of unpaid leave for family members of deployed service members — a benefit already available to military families in Washington state.
  • All tragedies have heroes and this story has two. They are cousins, with similar names; one is alive, the other was swallowed by the sea. Osvaldo Gonzalez, 46, was with his family on a small island on the mouth of the Maule River, just off the seaside resort of Constitucion. When an 8.8 earthquake shook Chile in the dead of night Saturday morning, Osvaldo didn't know what to expect, but instinct told him it would not be a good idea to remain on the island.
  • With U.S.-led forces now in control of the one-time insurgent stronghold in southern Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai's deputy flew from Kabul on Monday to reassure Marjah residents that the Taliban were gone for good — and that things would slowly get better.
  • A Rancho Cordova-based insurer Monday launched what it calls the first nationally available insurance coverage designed specifically for the medical marijuana industry. Only 14 states allow use of medical marijuana today, but Statewide Insurance Services is nonetheless offering coverage in all 50 states.
  • Workers at IBM got hit by another wave of layoffs Monday. The cuts affected IBM operations across the nation, according to a labor union trying to organize IBM's workers. The union reported that IBM had cut more than 1,200 jobs in the U.S. and Canada as of Monday afternoon.
  • A few words on the meaning of tea. They are occasioned by a recent commentary from Keith Olbermann of MSNBC. The commentary — you can find it on YouTube — scores the tea party movement as the outcry of people who haven't yet made peace with the fact that their president is black.
    My point is not that Olbermann's argument is wrong but, rather, that it is incomplete.
  • AOL's approach to meshing news with commerce is an advanced example of an emerging practice I referred to in 2008 as "calibrated journalism." Not that it took much foresight to see this coming, nor is it surprising that the former America Online — freed from its calamitous union with Time Warner — has embraced this market-besotted strategy in hopes of building a web-based, stand-alone news organization with global reach and scope.

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