The WonkLine: May 12, 2011

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.


Climate Change

The Missouri town of Tunica Cutoff could be wiped off the map if the Mississippi River continues to rise. Many residents, whose median incomes are about half of the national average, are without flood insurance and fear they will not afford to be able to rebuild.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) released a report summarizing the shortcomings of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The report concluded a Japan-like disaster “could also occur in the United States, and would not even be violations of current regulations.”

The French Parliament approved a bill to ban fracking. The bill’s next step is a Senate vote, which will take place on June 1. If passed, France will become the first country to make the controversial practice illegal.

National Security

American counterterrorism officials have said that they have learned more in the last 10 days than in the last 10 years about Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network after analyzing documents seized at his compound during the raid that killed him.

Two suicide bombers attacked military recruits at a training center in Pakistan today, killing 80 people. The Pakistani Taliban claimed credit for the bombing saying it was the first strike to avenge bin Laden’s death.

The Obama administration has decided “to limit the expansion of Afghanistan’s army and police forces over the next 18 months, largely to hold down the costs of training, equipping and paying them.”

LGBT Equality

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has introduced a bill, the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act, that will help fight LGBT youth homelessness.

A study from the National Institutes of Health found that HIV+ individuals who begin medications immediately (as opposed to waiting until the virus begins to damage the immune system) reduce the rate of infection by 96 percent.

Wasilla High School’s principal tried to prevent the jazz choir from performing “Bohemian Rhapsody” because parents complained that Freddie Mercury was gay, and thus the song was not appropriate.


Seven top officials in the Mexican National Immigration Agency were fired yesterday due to allegations of kidnapping migrants.

Several Vietnamese immigrants are suing two American companies for leaving them “highly vulnerable to debt bondage and forced labor.” The workers say they went into debt to make the trip to the U.S., only to find their contracts would expire in mere months — rather than two years — as promised.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) plans to sign an Arizona-style immigration enforcement bill today. The bill is expected to take effect as early as July.


Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) said yesterday that “the Obama administration will likely use a recess appointment” to name the first director the the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

A study being released today by the Project on Government Oversight shows that over the past five years 219 former Securities and Exchange Commission employees filed disclosures stating that they planned to represent companies or clients before the commission.

Fortune’s James Bandler looks at J.P. Morgan’s hunt for Afghan gold.


Support for an anti-gay state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality tanks in Minnesota.

Why naturalized Americans should be allowed to run for president.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 17-1 to allow Don Verrilli’s nomination as Solicitor General to move forward, despite Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) petulant suggestion that he would oppose Verrilli’s nomination to become a judge. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was the sole dissenter.


Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee “are putting the finishing touches on a bill that could eliminate more than 40 programs.”

“Lawmakers charged with reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act are beginning to sketch out their own visions for aspects of the law’s renewal,” EdWeek’s Alyson Klein reports.

“A bill that would make it easier to fire ineffective teachers statewide and allow Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel to lengthen the Chicago school day passed the Illinois House on Thursday, even as the state’s three teachers’ unions withdrew support at the last minute,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Health Care

“Presidential contender Mitt Romney may strongly support the health reform law he passed — but he also made some questionable statements about what’s actually in it.”

“The U.S. spent $7,500 per person on healthcare in 2008, according to data released Thursday by The Conference Board of Canada — far and away the most of any country studied.”

A Medicare Trustees report “is expected to announce that under provisions of the president’s 2012 budget, Social Security benefits will increase by 0.9 percent. Democrats also announced late Thursday that the solvency of Medicare’s Part A trust fund will fall as a result of the less-than-stellar performance of the economy.”