The WonkLine: April 5, 2010

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. You can also follow The Wonk Room on Twitter.


Climate Change

“Strong currents on Monday battered a stranded coal carrier that slammed into a stretch of the Great Barrier Reef over the weekend,” as “Maritime Safety Queensland officials warned that if the ship broke in two, some 65,000 tons of coal and 300,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil used to run the ship’s engines would spill into the marine reserve.”

Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) made a “heavy-handed” demand that “local officials express support, in writing, for a proposed coal mine in order to receive stimulus money for local projects,” in a letter telling them to voice support for “coal money.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that “about 150,000 deaths occur annually in low-income countries due to the adverse effects of climate change”, as scientists report that emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide have surged by 2000 percent from melting permafrost.

Health Care

“U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is asking states to decide whether they will participate in new high-risk health-insurance pools, a temporary mechanism for covering the uninsured that takes effect this summer.”

“WellPoint Inc. revealed Friday that it boosted its chief executive’s compensation 51% last year, even as the health insurance giant prepared massive rate increases in California that embroiled it in a national controversy over skyrocketing health insurance costs…For example, the amendments package increases Medicaid primary care pay to 100% of Medicare rates in 2013 and 2014 and boosts funding for community health centers.”

Physicians who provide primary care to patients are among those the federal government will single out for more support under the final health system reform package that is now the law of the land.”


American Civil Liberties Union director Anthony D. Romero accused Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio of using immigration to drive a political agenda while turning Arizonans against each other and threatening the civil rights of legal residents.

Thomas Friedman wrote that bringing unemployment down in a “sustainable way” demands fostering start-up companies by “improving our schools” and “recruiting talented immigrants.”

The Washington Post points out that the power of Latinos to move immigration reform “ultimately rests on their numbers, which is why the census has been so much on the minds of Latino leaders.”


Bloomberg reports that “Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, by delaying a report on global currency policies, is betting international diplomacy will work better than U.S. pressure to get China to strengthen the yuan.”

Rolfe Winkler looks at the rising cost of higher education: “For other assets, it’s easy to sit out the borrowing arms race. Dwellings can be rented, savings parked somewhere besides frothy stocks or bonds. But every year there’s a new crop of 18 year-olds that have to pay the debt-inflated price of tuition.”

Matt Taibbi outlines how financial instruments peddled by Wall Street put Jefferson County, Alabama under a mountain of debt.

National Security

“At least seven people have died after suspected militants attacked the US consulate in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar…Pakistan’s main Taliban faction said it had carried out the attack, and that the US consulate was the target.”

“Russia may sell $5 billion worth of weapons to Venezuela, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday after a visit to the South American nation. Putin met Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas on Friday to discuss oil, defense and nuclear energy cooperation, although no new no arms agreements were signed.”

“South Korea’s navy sent a destroyer to pursue a South Korean-operated oil tanker hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry announced Monday. Pirates on Sunday apparently boarded the supertanker nearly 1,000 miles southeast of the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, highlighting the broad reach of the pirates and the persistence of a problem that grabbed headlines last year with a rash of hijackings.”