Friday, April 23, 2010

McClatchy Washington report 4/23

  • A Senate panel investigating the causes of the nation's financial crisis on Thursday unveiled evidence that credit-ratings agencies knowingly gave inflated ratings to complex deals backed by shaky U.S. mortgages in exchange for lucrative fees.

  • With the oceans absorbing more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide an hour, a National Research Council study released Thursday found that the level of acid in the oceans is increasing at an unprecedented rate and threatening to change marine ecosystems.

  • One powerful member of the Wells Fargo board of directors has a son who works for Wells, making more than $700,000 last year. Another has a brother who works at the bank. Two directors run software firms that sell products to Wells, and another runs a security company that did $2.6 million worth of business with the bank last year. There is nothing illegal about the directors' business and personal ties. Still, perceived coziness between board members and the companies they oversee has been a key theme — and arguably, a cause — of the financial crisis.

  • Sen. Arlen Specter said Thursday that he'd hold a hearing next month to examine Wall Street firms' potential conflicts of interest when they secretly bet against products similar to those they sold, and into whether investment banks were being penalized too lightly for their roles in wrecking the economy.

  • The California Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's request that it take over furlough litigation now in two appellate courts and freeze more than a dozen cases in trial courts around the state. The decision ends the possibility for a relatively quick resolution to about two dozen furlough lawsuits in courts around the state. The state has spent $736,283.50 on private attorneys to represent Schwarzenegger in 30 lawsuits launched since the governor issued his controversial furlough order in December 2008.

  • For months, Haitians in this quake-ravaged capital have received free medical care courtesy of foreign doctors, the government-run hospital and several private hospitals that suspended charging patients after the Jan. 12 quake. Now, Haiti's private hospitals are in critical condition, their bottom lines bleeding. One closed its doors, forcing 177 nurses, doctors and staff out of work. Another slashed staff in half.

  • Scott Roeder, 52, of Kansas City, criticized the judge, the jail, prosecutors and his lawyers in a habeas corpus petition that he filed in Sedgwick County, Kan. A hearing is scheduled for June 4. Such a petition requires a judge to determine whether a person has been imprisoned lawfully and whether he should be freed. Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder in January and sentenced April 1 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 50 years. That case is under appeal.

  • Brick and mortar video stores are under pressure from the online world, just like record stores and booksellers before them. Blockbuster and Hollywood Video are closing local outlets as nationally, both companies feel the heat from game changers like Netflix and Redbox, which rents movies for $1 a night out of vending machines in supermarkets. Streaming movies directly to laptops and smart phones or download them right to PlayStations or Xboxes, is also changing the business model for video rentals.

  • Two new prototype homes, one designed for the state's wind-beaten coast and one for the Arctic, will be built in remote villages this summer as researchers look for low-cost answers to the housing crunch in rural Alaska. The three-bedroom house could cut energy bills by 50 percent and cost as little as $200,000 to build, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center.

  • Chris Shaw makes $7.25 an hour and has $28.96 in his bank account. Shaw, of Marshall, Mo., won Wednesday's Powerball lottery jackpot — becoming $258.5 million richer literally overnight. Shaw is the biggest Powerball jackpot winner in Missouri, and one of the largest winners ever.

  • Not quite 20 percent of Americans are tea party supporters. They tend to be white, Republican, male, over 45 and wealthier than the rest of us. Where most Republicans describe themselves as "dissatisfied" with Washington, tea partiers are apt to say they're angry.
    So, why didn't they start howling when President Bush claimed he need not be bound by laws with which he disagreed?

  • Sharon Robinson is a chip off the old block.
    You can almost peer into her soul and see the essence of her famous father. And if her dad were alive, he would be quite proud of her accomplishments.

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