President-elect Barack Obama will announce his economic team later today in a press conference with Vice President-elect Joe Biden in Chicago. “Obama’s transition team is working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill so that on Obama’s first day in office, Jan. 20, 2009, an economic stimulus package has passed both houses of Congress and is awaiting his signature.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) expressed the need for “a pretty big package” to stimulate the economy. “In my view, it has to be between $500 and $700 billion, and that’s because our economy is in serious, serious trouble.” Due to the state of the economy, Obama is reportedly “leaning toward letting a Bush tax cut for the wealthy expire on schedule in 2011 rather than repealing it sooner.”
Hailing Obama’s cabinet selections, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos added, “We have not seen this kind of combination of star power, brain power, and political muscle this early in a cabinet in our lifetimes.” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell added that Obama’s “all-star cabinet” is comprised of the “smartest people he can find.”
In an interview with a Japanese television network, President Bush said he believes the Iraq war was a success and is “very pleased” with what is happening there. “People have been able to take their troops out of Iraq because Iraq is becoming successful,” he added.
Three bomb attacks in Baghdad killed at least 20 people today, including a suicide bombing near an entrance to the U.S.-protected Green Zone. The attacks come as Iraqi lawmakers prepare for a vote this week on a security pact with the U.S. and are seen by some as “a calculated show of insurgent defiance” towards the agreement.
“Marine Corps leaders are devising a plan” to send additional combat troops to Afghanistan “to wage aggressive warfare against the Taliban that they expect could take years.” The plan, which has to be approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Centcom Commander Gen. David Petraeus, calls for more than 15,000 troops.
Yesterday, the U.S. government “agreed to inject an additional $20 billion into Citigroup Inc. and back up to $306 billion worth of the giant bank’s assets in a bid to help stabilize the firm.” In return, Citigroup will give the Treasury preferred shares, “adhere to executive pay limits and implement a government program designed to help make home loans more affordable for struggling borrowers.”
“Private health insurance plans, which serve nearly a fourth of all Medicare beneficiaries, have increased the cost and complexity of the program without any evidence of improving care,” according to new studies. One study found that “growth in private plans had driven up costs because the government pays them 13 percent more on average than what it would spend for the same beneficiaries in traditional Medicare.”
A new study by the Children’s Health Fund finds that children of displaced families from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita “have serious health and mental ailments.” For example, “41% of children younger than 4 were diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia” and “55% of elementary-school-aged children had a behavior or learning problem.”
“A new network of monitors that is to track lead emissions from factories has been scaled back” after the White House intervened “at the last minute” to weaken last month’s EPA ruling limiting toxic metal particles in the air. The White House changed an EPA plan to require lead monitors next to any factory emitting at least half a ton of lead a year, raising the threshold to a ton of lead or more.
And finally: Last night, Stephen Colbert debuted “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!.” In the new special, Colbert “not only tries to outsmart a bear, but he also takes on Yuletide songwriting, eggnog spices and his talented guests, including John Legend, Feist, Toby Keith, Willie Nelson and Elvis Costello.” Keith, for example, sings a song about the so-called “War on Christmas.” Watch a preview here.
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