Thursday, April 8, 2010

McClatchy Washington report 4/8

  • The future of 20 percent of the world's supply of pure fresh water is in jeopardy because a surprise decree by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will allow a heavily polluting pulp mill to reopen on the southern shore of Lake Baikal in southern Siberia.
  • For the first time in two decades, federal wildlife managers will take a look at how they administer the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including the possibility of asking Congress to make 1.5 million acres of the long-disputed coastal plain off limits to oil and gas development by designating it as wilderness.
  • Weighing his words, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke declared Wednesday that the crisis that had the nation's financial system teetering on the brink of collapse is "largely behind us." "But we are far from being out of the woods," the central banker said during a speaking engagement in Dallas on Wednesday.
  • Katon Dawson, who early last year narrowly lost his bid for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, said Wednesday that he's received numerous calls from prominent Republicans concerned by a string of recent controversies tied to the man who beat him, Michael Steele.
  • The California Chamber of Commerce's new ad attacking Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown's record on spending and taxes has sparked ethics complaints from two groups that say the 30-second spot runs afoul of the state's election laws.
  • President Barack Obama's meeting Thursday in Prague with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, where they'll sign a new nuclear arms reduction pact, will highlight a thaw in relations between the former Cold War enemies that's occurred since the U.S. called just over a year ago for the two countries to hit the "reset button."
  • It has survived 19 coups, military rule, hurricanes, and even a three-year embargo. But in the Jan. 12 earthquake, Haiti's best-known export and one of its oldest businesses, Rhum Barbancourt, suffered a $4 million setback. Amber bottles and white oak vats — some containing rum as old as 15 years — crashed to the distillery floor.
  • It's a common patient grievance: If only my doctor would take the time to listen to me and explain things. Maybe all your doctor has to do to remedy that complaint is to sit down. Patients gave their doctor significantly higher marks for satisfaction and thought they had spent more time with him when he sat — rather than stood — by their bedsides, researchers at the University of Kansas Hospital found.
  • The Minerals Management Service was inconsistent in following federal environmental guidelines as it weighed the risks of oil and gas leases in the North Aleutian Basin, the federal government's internal watchdog said Wednesday. The Alaska MMS office also failed to share proprietary industry information among its own staff conducting the environmental reviews, the Government Accountability Office report found.
  • Prolonged and vexing as the struggle was to enact health care reform, it has not prevented the Obama administration from seeking progress on other important fronts. The proof will be evident Thursday, when the U.S. president and Dmitry Medvedev, his Russian counterpart, meet in Prague to sign a treaty significantly reducing both nations' arsenals of nuclear warheads and the vehicles for their delivery.
  • Soon after President Barack Obama signed health reform, a local baby with a heart condition was rejected for insurance. The story became front-page news in Fort Worth and was picked up nationally. The insurer quickly reversed its decision and agreed to pay for a procedure the newborn had received days earlier. The episode stands as another exhibit of what's wrong with health insurance in America, and how it's about to get better.

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