Friday, March 5, 2010

McClatchy Washington Report 3/5

  • Shrapnel had flown into Ali al Tamimi's eyes, and both his legs were broken. Not even 24 hours after receiving the injuries in a bombing northeast of Baghdad, however, Tamimi cast a ballot from his hospital bed, joining hundreds of thousands of other Iraqis who voted Thursday in an early round reserved for those who might not be able to make it to the polls for Sunday's parliamentary election.
  • Amid consumer furor over rising health insurance premiums, the Obama administration asked insurers on Thursday to post rate hikes — and the justification for them — on the Internet. Also on Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced legislation that would give the federal government authority to reject rate increases that insurance companies cannot justify.
  • California is broke, its 12.1 percent unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation, housing prices have plunged, home foreclosures have skyrocketed and a drought is threatening the state's dwindling water supply. But forget about the battered economy and the health care overhaul. When the Republican contenders in the Senate primary debate Friday, a major topic with be support for Israel.
  • The Missouri Senate opened debate Thursday on a bill to replace the state's income tax with a higher and broader sales tax. The bill would phase out the state income tax over a five-year period, beginning in 2013. In its place, the state sales tax would be expanded to include services and raised to as much as 7 percent.
  • A lack of available land in Haiti is hampering efforts to relocate people from flood-prone camps. With the looming rainy season and housing proposals coming to disaster-prone Haiti, both government officials and relief workers are in a race against nature to relocate hundreds of thousands of quake victims living in squalid camps prone to flooding.
  • Former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass quietly promoted 20 members of her Democratic caucus staff and gave them 10 percent salary increases as she stepped down as Assembly leader. Bass submitted the pay hikes and they took effect on the same day, last Friday, the Los Angeles Democrat's final working day at the helm of the 80-member lower house.
  • Nonprofit groups are paying a price for the corporate and accounting misdeeds of Enron, Tyco International and others nearly a decade ago. In simple terms, the federal government now requires nonprofit groups to provide more extensive information at tax time to make sure they are functioning correctly.
  • Companies are seeing the economic advantage of aiming sales pitches to gay and lesbian customers. Despite the tepid economy, thousands of gay men and women are expected this week in Miami Beach for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's annual Winter Party Festival fundraiser. Many major U.S. businesses are continuing to court the market. Task Force/Winter Party sponsors now include American Airlines, Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy and Showtime Networks.
  • The mental patient in the midst of another anxiety attack. The homeless diabetic with recurring kidney problems. The drug addict with one in a series of infections. Specialists in Sutter General Hospital's emergency room in midtown Sacramento patched them up, sent them out the door and were never surprised when they returned, weeks or months later, sometimes dozens of times in a year. It was a costly cycle, both in human and financial terms. So Sutter found a better way of dealing with "frequent flier" patients.
  • "At some point, you have to use the word 'crazy.' "
    It will not surprise you to hear that the speaker is referring to extremists within the tea party movement. What might surprise you is that the speaker is Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState, a prominent conservative blog.
  • So, who's really going "nuclear" in Washington these days?
    You might have heard a number of Republican senators caterwauling about the possibility that Democrats might use the "nuclear option" to pass a health care reform bill. From the tone of these speeches, listeners might get the idea that using such an option is both a bad thing and something only low-life Democrats would threaten to do.

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