ThinkFast: November 19, 2009

Joe Lieberman

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last night, a health care reform bill that combines elements from legislation that passed two Senate committees. According to Reid, the CBO says the bill will cost $848 billion over 10 years while reducing the deficit by $130 billion over a decade and extending coverage to 31 million uninsured Americans.

“In a ruling that could leave the government open to billions of dollars in claims from Hurricane Katrina victims,” a federal judge said yesterday “that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had displayed ‘gross negligence’ in failing to maintain a navigation channel — resulting in levee breaches that flooded large swaths of greater New Orleans.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was inaugurated today for a second term. With “around 800 Afghan and foreign dignitaries” in attendance — including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — Karzai said, “We want our security within five years to be entirely within the hands of the Afghan government and led by Afghans.”

President Obama has nominated Dana Perino, President Bush’s former press secretary, to a seat on the Broadcasting Board of Governors. He also nominated Susan McCue, former chief of staff to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). Bush had previously nominated McCue, but “Senate Republicans refused to move her nomination.”

1 million: Number of people who “could lose unemployment benefits in January if Congress doesn’t extend federal aid,” according to a new report by the National Employment Law Project. Around 9 million people currently rely on jobless benefits, with unemployment at a 26-year high of 10.2 percent.

New data from the U.S. Census survey shows that one in two children live in poverty in 17 small counties in the United States. Ziebach County, South Dakota, leads the list with a poverty rate for those under the age of 18 of 67.1 percent.

A South Carolina state ethics panel has found evidence that “Gov. Mark Sanford may have broken state law, charging him with ‘several’ undisclosed violations after an investigation into his travel and campaign spending.” “They found probable cause exists on several allegations,” said State Ethics Commission director Herbert Hayden.

The House Financial Services Committee voted in favor of an amendment that would allow regulators to break up big banks and “limit a firm’s ability to merge.” Rep. Paul Kanjorski’s (D-PA) amendment, which “drew strong objections from Republicans,” is attached to “the sweeping financial overhaul legislation.”

Aetna Inc., one of the nation’s largest insurers, has announced that it plans to cut up to 3.5% of its work force through the end of the first quarter of fiscal year 2010. It plans to immediately lay off 625 employees and begin real estate consolidation.

And finally: President Obama visited the Great Wall of China yesterday, commenting on how “majestic” and “magical” the landmark is. “It reminds you of the sweep of history, and that our time here on Earth is not that long, so we better make the best of it,” he said. His comments were much more descriptive than President Bush’s in 2002, when he “lingered only 25 minutes, signed the guest book and then uttered a line that made his handlers cringe: ‘Let’s go home.'”

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