Friday, March 26, 2010

McClatchy Washington report 3/26

  • The second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives accused Democratic Party leaders Thursday of "fanning the flames" about threats of violence to House Democrats and exploiting the reported incidents for political purposes.
  • This fight over China's currency blossoms every spring in Washington, about the same time the cherry trees that ring the Tidal Basin do. This year, however, the U.S. economy's struggling to create jobs and reduce a high unemployment rate. That puts greater focus on what trade with China, now second only to Canada, means to U.S. jobs.
  • Congress Thursday passed and sent to President Barack Obama the final piece of landmark health care legislation intended to change dramatically how most Americans buy, use and maintain insurance coverage. This legislation, combined with the bill signed into law on Tuesday, will bring the most significant change in health care policy since Medicare was created in 1965 to provide health insurance coverage for seniors and the disabled.
  • At birth, Houston Tracy let out a single loud cry before his father cut the cord and handed him to a nurse. Instantly, Doug Tracy knew something was wrong with his son. That turned out to be d-transposition of the great arteries, a defect in which the two major vessels that carry blood away from the heart are reversed. Surgery would correct it, but within days of Houston's birth March 15, Tracy learned that his application for health insurance to cover his son had been denied. The reason: a pre-existing condition.
  • This tax season will be kind to Bank of America and Wells Fargo: It appears that neither bank will have to pay federal income taxes for 2009. The idea of the country's No. 1 and No. 4 banks not paying federal income taxes may be anathema to millions of Americans who are grumbling as they fill out their own tax forms this month. But tax experts say the banks' situation is hardly unique.
  • Fresh on the heels of criticism for its handling of the mortgage crisis, the Obama administration Friday will announce new measures to keep struggling homeowners in their homes, especially those who now owe more than their houses are worth. The measures include temporary relief from payments for borrowers with good payment histories who've lost their jobs in the recession.
  • Kentucky risks losing $42 million a year in federal transportation funds if lawmakers approve a billboard deregulation bill aimed at saving a "Hell is real" sign along Interstate 65, according to federal officials.
  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, facing a ballot initiative that could derail his cherished global warming law, is urging a go-slow, pro-business approach on a key mechanism used to reduce greenhouse gases. The law, AB 32, requires California to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 15 percent by the end of the decade.
  • Tens of thousands of Cuban exiles wearing white, and carrying gladioluses and flags marched for blocks along Calle Ocho with singer Gloria Estefan in support of Cuba's Damas de Blanco, Ladies in White, the peaceful dissidents who last week were attacked by government security forces in Havana.
  • As 48 other states are participating in a national re-writing of their state education standards, Alaska is taking a look at its own and wondering if it should get on board and raise the bar for the state's students. But while some educators say Alaska kids deserve to be held to the same standard as the rest of the country, others are saying we are different and the current, laxer standards are just fine.
  • California Assemblyman Jared Huffman is proposing legislation to impose a three-year moratorium on the use of metal or composite bats in high school baseball games. Bat manufacturers and other opponents of a moratorium counter that claims of increased danger from use of metal bats are nonsense.
  • Nothing puts the health care debate into perspective better than those scooter commercials that often run on television. The ads hype the benefits of owning the electric vehicles, designed to transport those who have difficulty walking but which, in actuality, are pretty much available to anyone on Medicare, which pays for the vehicles. The ads always emphasize the same line — "with little or no cost to you" — which is a nice way of saying that it's costing all of us.

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