Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

February 27, 2009



Chicago Tribune - The Obama administration will move to rescind a controversial rule that allows health-care workers to deny abortion counseling or other family-planning services if doing so would violate their moral beliefs, according to administration officials. The rollback of the "conscience rule" comes just two months after the Bush administration announced it last year in one of its final policy initiatives.




Reuters - General Motors Corp Chief Executive Rick Wagoner's salary and other compensation rose 64 percent in 2007 to about $15.7 million, mainly due to option grants, according to a proxy. The GM compensation committee cited significant progress over the past few years in reducing the automaker's health care cost burden, increasing growth internationally and improvements in its cars and trucks in the 2007 awards to executives. Wagoner's compensation rose from about $9.57 million in 2006. The figure was arrived at based on Wagoner's salary, all other compensation and the basis of annual grants.

Reuters - Irish carrier Ryanair, Europe's largest budget airline, might start charging passengers for using the toilet while flying, chief executive Michael O'Leary said. "One thing we have looked at in the past and are looking at again is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in future," he told BBC television.


Secrecy Report - A federal court this week said that litigants have a First Amendment right to provide classified information to their attorneys when doing so is necessary to protect their interests. The ruling is implicitly at odds with a common government practice of denying attorneys access to classified information in Freedom of Information Act cases, pre-publication review disputes, and other matters. There is a "First Amendment right to share [classified] information with an attorney when such sharing is necessary for an attorney to advise his client of his rights," wrote Judge Gladys Kessler of the DC District Court.


Bad Times for the humanities. The Modern Language Association's end-of-the-year job listings in English, literature and foreign languages dropped 21 percent for 2008-09 from the previous year, the biggest decline in 34 years. 'Although people in humanities have always lamented the state of the field, they have never felt quite as much of a panic that their field is becoming irrelevant,' said Andrew Delbanco, the director of American studies at Columbia University."


LA Times - The Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing to launch an investigation of the CIA's detention and interrogation programs under President George W. Bush, setting the stage for a sweeping examination of some of most secretive and controversial operations in recent agency history. The inquiry is aimed at uncovering new information on the origins of the programs as well as scrutinizing how they were executed -- including the conditions at clandestine CIA prison sites and the interrogation regimens used to break Al Qaeda suspects, according to Senate aides familiar with the investigation plans. Officials said the inquiry was not designed to determine whether CIA officials broke laws. "The purpose here is to do fact-finding in order to learn lessons from the programs and see if there are recommendations to be made for detention and interrogations in the future," said a senior Senate aide, who like others described the plan on condition of anonymity because it had not been made public.


Spiegel, Germany - Residents and visitors to Germany's capital city will soon be able to say "Auf Wiedersehen" to Internet cafes and DSL connections. A new project by the local government aims to bring free Wi-Fi to the city's central districts. The city is planning to provide free wireless Internet access for the whole of central Berlin, using antennae mounted on traffic lights. A 14-day test phase is being carried out this week and next to check that the technology doesn't have any adverse effects on the traffic lights.


Bloomberg - President Barack Obama will reverse a U.S. plan to ship nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the senior senator from the state, said in a newsletter to his constituents. . . The Energy Department estimated last year the repository would cost $96.2 billion over the life of the project. In 2001, the department's estimate was $57.5 billion. The project has been beset by legal and technical problems, hinging on questions about the safety of the repository.


Just as they did in the Burris case, Senate leaders plan in the Al Franken case to interfere with a state's right to select its own senator according to its laws. Reports Politico, "Senate Democratic leaders said Thursday they were prepared to seat Al Franken as soon as the beginning of April, regardless whether Republican Norm Coleman files legal appeals. . . Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer of New York added that, while the party would allow Coleman to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, he expected the election dispute to be wrapped up by the beginning of April." One small problem: if the case was still pending, Franken wouldn't have the certificate of election he needs to be properly seated.

Politico asked John Kerry for his favorite joke. Kerry replied: "On the advice of my attorney, my family and every member of my staff, I am no longer allowed to tell jokes."





Anonymous robbie said...

Um, regardless, Norm Coleman should give up the ghost. His continued struggle reeks of desperation and overkill.

February 28, 2009 5:10 PM  

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