The WonkLine: December 1, 2009

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 10 a.m. roundup of the latest news about health care, the economy, national security, immigration and climate policy. This is what we’re reading. Tell us what you found in the comments section below, and subscribe to the RSS feed. Also, you can now follow The Wonk Room on Twitter.



National Security

Prior to President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan tonight, the New York Times is already reporting that “Obama has decided to expedite the deployment of 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan over the next six months, in an effort to reverse the momentum of Taliban gains.”

“The EU’s first president Herman Van Rompuy and new foreign affairs supremo Catherine Ashton took office Tuesday as the Lisbon Treaty came into force, hoping to assuage concerns at the low-profile pairing.”

“Iranian authorities seized five British sailors after their racing yacht may have strayed into Iranian territorial waters, British authorities said Monday.”

Climate Change

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd‘s climate-change legislation faces a renewed fight” as he prepares to hold talks in Washington today with President Obama on global warming, because “Australia’s opposition Liberal Party elected Tony Abbott leader after he vowed to delay or block the government’s climate-change bill.”

“We can see the West Antarctic glaciers are shrinking at a rate fast enough to contribute to a sea level rise of 1.4 m by 2100,” Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research executive director Colin Summerhayes told reporters today.

“America has the opportunity to lead the world in a new industrial revolution,” U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, but, “the world is passing us by.”


The New York Times notes that “race remains a serious obstacle in the job market for African-Americans,” and that higher education “does not level the playing field.”

According to a report by Sanford Bernstein analyst Todd Bault “AIG has an $11 billion shortfall in reserves to pay workers compensation and business-insurance claims,” while Clusterstock catches the company using “accounting chicannery” to transfer its government debt.

Ryan Grim reports that a provision allowing banks to “open new branches in states regardless of local laws” has reappeared in the Senate’s regulatory reform bill, after being stripped out of the House version.


Arizona State University students interrupted Sheriff Joe Arpaio, singing the tune of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody during his public forum interview with ASU journalist professors.

President Barack Obama’s undocumented aunt, Zeituni Onyango, stated that she is “troubled that her immigration woes have made her a political liability to her nephew” and claimed that she has never asked Obama to intervene in her asylum case.

The Salvation Army and a charity affiliated with the Houston Fire Department are among charities that are asking for birth certificates or Social Security cards to verify that needy children are lawfully present in the US before giving them toys.

Health Care

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked Health and Human Services Chief Actuary Richard Foster to do a study of the “financial and coverage impacts” of the Senate bill.

The Los Angeles Times points out that “millions of unemployed Americans face the prospect of a huge increase in health insurance costs, thanks to the looming expiration of a government subsidy.”

“The White House has started to aggressively push back against a growing narrative that pending health reform legislation doesn’t do enough to control spiraling health costs,” Politico reports.