Tuesday, March 23, 2010

McClatchy Washington report 3/23

  • He won't be there when President Barack Obama signs health care legislation into law Tuesday, but the memory of the late President Harry S Truman will. Truman is considered the political Godfather of universal health care, having first proposed it on Nov. 19, 1945, and establishing it as a keystone of the Democratic Party agenda ever since.
  • Across the country, as many as 32 million of the country's 46 million uninsured could soon have improved access to affordable health insurance — through government subsidies or by becoming eligible for Medicaid. Whether the system will be ready to receive them remains a significant unknown. The influx of new patients may strain the nation's supply of primary care physicians.
  • A federal judge on Monday ordered the Pentagon to release a long-held Mauritanian captive held at Guantanamo Bay who was once considered such a high-value detainee that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld designated him for "special interrogation techniques."
  • A day after the U.S. House passed major health care reform legislation, the Kansas House debated a proposed state constitutional amendment designed to block it. The amendment would attempt to prohibit the federal government from requiring almost every Kansan to have health insurance. But it appears the measure could fall a few votes shy of passing when the House holds a final vote today.
  • The head of the N.C. Republican Party said Monday that he is frustrated that the State Board of Elections hasn't dropped the hammer on Gov. Bev Perdue over campaign finance problems. Chairman Tom Fetzer said that Perdue, a Democrat, deserves a public hearing with sworn witnesses — the type of event the board held for former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley, who was eventually fined $100,000 for failing to disclose campaign flights.
  • Beginning this fall, the Marine Corps will guarantee nearly all Marines 14 months at home for every seven months they spend in war zones, the first payoff for service members of the United States' diminishing military presence in Iraq.
  • In a twist that has energy experts bemused and confused, gasoline prices have been climbing for the past month on the premise that the economy will get better, motorists will increase their driving and demand for gasoline will increase. Trouble is, gas consumption in the United States remains relatively flat.
  • A planned play at Tarleton State University that portrays a gay Jesus has raised emotions in Stephenville, Texas, to the point where a Christian radio show was jammed with protest calls and some student actors have been pressured to quit.
  • When it comes to hunger strikes, Venezuelan farmer and biologist Franklin Brito is something of an expert. Now he is on a hunger strike again, but his protest is less visible. That is because he is virtually incommunicado on the 12th floor of the military hospital in Caracas, where he has been held against his will since Dec. 13, on the grounds that he is not responsible for his actions. On Tuesday, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, a branch of the Washington-based Organization of American States, will hold hearings on Venezuela, covering issues such as freedom of expression and the state's refusal to comply with Commission rulings and those of its sister body, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
  • Responding to a demand by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, state lawmakers Monday sent him bills establishing another homebuyer tax credit and a sales tax exemption for environmental technology firms, satisfying him enough to win his signature on a transportation funding bill.
  • The bill putting a proposed in-state natural gas pipeline into the hands of the Alaska Railroad rolled through its first Senate committee Monday, after a chorus of legislators said that pipeline dreams going back more than 60 years need to give way to action.

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