The WonkLine: October 25, 2010

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 9:30 a.m. roundup of the latest public policy news. 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.



Justices Scalia and Alito wanted to block a Maine campaign finance law just days before the upcoming election. Fortunately, they were outvoted. Nevertheless, the law could still be reviewed by the full Court once the present election season is over.

Arizona may have illegally imported an increasingly rare drug used in executions to ensure that it could kill a death row inmate on schedule.

Apparently, one of the privileges of joining the Supreme Court is a free shooting lesson from Justice Scalia. Hopefully Scalia’s aim is better than his hunting partners’.


New York City has delayed plans to make a set of teacher ratings public, “while a state court considers a teachers union petition to block the release.”

Schools in Loudoun County, Virgina, have decided to pull a history book from their fourth-grade classrooms “because of its dubious claim about thousands of black soldiers fighting for the South during the Civil War.”

Arizona teachers are fighting to save Tucson’s Mexican-American studies program, which Arizona Schools Superintendent Tom Horne (R) has called “dangerous.”

Health Care

“The success of President Obama‚Äôs health care overhaul, with its promise of affordable coverage for all, depends on the creation of such retail shopping malls, known as health insurance exchanges.”

“Government officials who spoke Thursday during a webinar sponsored by the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program said the program would be ready to accept claims as soon as Monday.”

At least “one major employer has shifted a greater share of plan costs to workers, and others are weighing the pros and cons of eventually forcing employees to strike out on their own.”


ABC News reports: “After four years and $850 million dollars already spent, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano suggests the virtual fence is turning out to be a high-tech lemon, and may be scrapped entirely.”

The latest Los Angeles Times-USC poll found that a majority of those questioned believed Meg Whitman did not handle the controversy over her housekeeper’s immigration status well.

The prices of most federal immigration documents, including green card replacements, are scheduled to increase next month, the second fee increase in three years due to a drop in agency revenue.

National Security

“President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan acknowledged Monday that he has received cash from Iran. His comments followed a report in The New York Times saying that Iranian officials once gave Karzai’s chief of staff a bag stuffed with cash.”

“A new Air Force manual for cyberwarfare describes a shadowy, fast-changing world where anonymous enemies can carry out devastating attacks in seconds and where conventional ideas about time and space don’t apply.”

“The Japanese government lodged a protest with the Chinese government Monday about the alleged presence of Chinese patrol boats near disputed territory.”


Business groups like the National Association of Manufacturers are continuing to push the administration to give multinational corporations a tax break on repatriated earnings. A similar scheme was tried under the Bush administration and failed to deliver its promised economic boost.

“The outstanding amount of over-the-counter derivatives rose during the first half of 2010 despite calls by regulators to move much of the market on to exchanges,” according to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association.

Reuters looks at why more and more retirees are declaring bankruptcy.

Climate Change

Every U.S. Senate and House candidate in New Hampshire declined to show up to a forum on “climate legislation, energy policy and green jobs,” as Palin-endorsed climate denier Kelly Ayotte (R) holds a strong lead in the Senate race.

Hurricane Richard made landfall in Belize, Cyclone Giri struck western Myanmar, and catastrophic rains have killed 38 people in Thailand.

“Scientists who were aboard two research vessels studying the Gulf of Mexico oil spill’s impact on sea life have found substantial amounts of oil on the seafloor, contradicting statements by federal officials that the oil had largely disappeared.”

LGBT Equality

“New Hampshire’s largest newspaper is under fire for refusing to publish marriage notices for gay couples despite that state being one of five to have legalized gay marriage.”

“The current court challenge to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality is far from the first, but a notable 2003 Supreme Court decision may help make it the most likely to succeed.”

The New York Times notes that “unlike in years past, when such candidates were often considered mere curiosities,” this year, several transgendered candidates are “within striking distance of historic victories.”