UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington under nine presidents and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 14, 2009

BREVITAS

GAZA

Al Jazeera - More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed during Israel's 19-day war in Gaza, Palestinian medical officials have said, as clashes continue throughout the Strip. Civilians make up about 40 per cent of causalities with children accounting for a third of the dead, aid agencies and Palestinian medics said. At least 4,630 people have been injured, Hasanein Myawaya, the head of Palestinian emergency services, said.

Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said . . . "More than 80,000 Palestinians have now fled their homes because of the fighting around them . . . UN schools have taken in 35,000 refugees.

Al Jazeera - Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, says he is breaking off ties with Israel in protest against its war in Gaza, which has left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead. Morales said that he would seek to get top Israeli officials, including Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, charged with "genocide" in the International Criminal Court. The Bolivian president also dismissed the United Nations and its "Insecurity Council" for its "lukewarm" response to the crisis and said the general assembly should hold an emergency session to condemn the invasion. . .

Morales's move follows the decision by his ally Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, to expel Israel's ambassador in the country because of the offensive, calling it a "holocaust".

OBAMALAND

Barack Obama
had dinner with rightwing pundits George F. Will, William Kristol, David Brooks, and Charles Krauthammer. Then he met at the White House with another group that included Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, Rachel Maddow, E.J. Dionne and Eugene Robinson. That's meant to be balance. But with the exception of Maddow, none of the others in the second group are liberals in the way that Will at al are conservatives and none reflect what Paul Wellstone called the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. So much for balance.

Project on Government Oversight - The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, tasked with the confirmation hearing for Steven Chu to be Secretary of the Department of Energy, provided no information regarding Chu's plans on over two-thirds of his department's budget. According to a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, at least 67 percent of DOE's budget goes to nuclear weapons and weapons-related programs. This is 14 times what DOE spends on all energy-related research and development, which was the main focus of today's questions from the Committee. Dr. Chu was not asked what actions he would take to redirect DOE's $52 billion for nuclear weapons and weapons-related programs to DOE's other responsibilities: energy-related R&D; general science, space, and technology programming; nuclear security; and nonproliferation efforts. "How can the Senate confirm Dr. Chu without having heard a single thing about how he plans to run the vast majority of the Department of Energy? This is a case where the Senate has left some pretty important questions unanswered," said POGO's Executive Director Danielle Brian.

Carol Marin, Chicago Sun Times - The Obama news conferences [make] one yearn for the return of the always-irritating Sam Donaldson to awaken the slumbering press to the notion that decorum isn't all it's cracked up to be. The press corps, most of us, don't even bother raising our hands any more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day.
We reporters have earned our own membership in the Bizarro universe. Who are we, after all? The ones rapid-firing at Rod Blagojevich with tough questions until we drive him from the room? Or the Miss Manners crowd, silent until called upon, quietly accepting that only a handful of questions will be taken at a time?

HEALTH & SCIENCE

California Nurses
- Establishing a national single-payer style healthcare reform system would created 2.6 million new jobs and $317 billion in new business and public revenues, with another $100 billion in wages according to the findings of a study. The number of jobs created by a single-payer system, expanding and upgrading Medicare to cover everyone, parallels almost exactly the total job loss in 2008.

Will Dunham, Reuters - More Americans are burdened by chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure, often having more than three at a time, and this has helped fuel a big rise in out-of-pocket medical expenses, a study showed. With prescription drugs playing a key role, average annual out-of-pocket medical costs - those not covered by health insurance - rose from $427 per American in 1996 to $741 in 2005, researchers wrote in the journal Health Affairs. . . The figures were much higher among the elderly. For example, a person insured through the Medicare program for those 65 and older who had three or more chronic conditions paid an average of $2,588 of out-of-pocket medical expenses.
- More Americans are burdened by chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure, often having more than three at a time, and this has helped fuel a big rise in out-of-pocket medical expenses, a study showed. With prescription drugs playing a key role, average annual out-of-pocket medical costs - those not covered by health insurance - rose from $427 per American in 1996 to $741 in 2005, researchers wrote in the journal Health Affairs. . . The figures were much higher among the elderly. For example, a person insured through the Medicare program for those 65 and older who had three or more chronic conditions paid an average of $2,588 of out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Harold Meyerson, Washington Post - A bill that Barney Frank is promoting in the House, which would direct banks that choose to take bailout funds to start lending to creditworthy borrowers and designate no less than $40 billion for mortgage relief, is necessary if Congress is to authorize the Treasury to spend another $350 billion on TARP. Over in the Senate, the Democrats seem inclined to think that the need for such legislation is obviated by President-elect Obama's promise to administer the TARP in the ways that Frank's bill would mandate. If Obama's appointees inspired sufficient trust that they would be willing to take on the banks, such legislation would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, they don't.

Obama's appointee to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Schapiro, led the finance industry's own regulatory body, which, unsurprisingly, did nothing to rein in Wall Street's speculative orgy. Obama's appointee to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Gary Gensler, drafted the legislation in 2000 that exempted derivatives, including credit-default swaps, from regulation.

INAUGURATION

Most unusual Inauguration Day ad (in the DC Current): "Inauguration Special: Toilet Tissue: 96 rolls/500 sheets. . . $48/case"

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