The WonkLine: August 20, 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.

Health Care

Vice President Joe Biden will visit Chicago’s Mt. Sinai Hospital today, “a nonprofit community facility where just 7 percent of its patients are covered by commercial insurance.”

Media Matters reports that NBC will reinstate language describing the public option as a “choice” into its health care polling, after “a variety of progressives — from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Health Care for America Now” criticized its removal.


CNN Money reports that calls to boycott Whole Foods after CEO John Mackey’s comments on health care reform “could hurt sales at an already challenging time for the seller.”


The ACLU has sued Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies for “violating the constitution” by using racial profiling to arrest a US Latino citizen and his father, a legal US resident — both of whom had not committed a crime. The Wall Street Journal writes that “sparks could fly” between DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and immigration advocates who are frustrated by a perceived lack of positive movement on their issue at today’s White House meeting. The Washington Independent points out that the “GOP risks alienating Latinos by scapegoating immigrants in health care debate.”

Climate Change

“Scientists have detected mercury contamination” from coal-fired power plants “in every one of hundreds of fish sampled from 291 freshwater streams,” and “more than a quarter of those fish contained concentrations of mercury exceeding levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency for the protection of people who eat average amounts of fish.”


“Many of my people think global warming is a hoax, and I’m a little skeptical myself,” said Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson (D-MN). But if Waxman-Markey is not passed, he warned, the EPA will regulate carbon pollution, “and you’ll have to get a catalytic converter for all your cows.”

Public Citizen Texas crashed the American Petroleum Intitute’s “grassroots” rally of 2500 oil employees against clean energy legislation.


Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, “has urged Congress to adopt tougher rules to govern betting in exotic financial instruments known as derivatives than the Obama administration has proposed, warning that the administration’s new vision of market regulation could contain loopholes.”

According to a report released today by the Council of Graduate Schools, “for the first time since 2004, admission of international students to U.S. graduate schools has declined.” Admissions from prospective international students dropped 3 percent from 2008 to 2009.

Via Mark Thoma, Daniel Little examines some of the factors holding back American social mobility.

National Security

The Telegraph reports that “Taliban attacks across Afghanistan forced the closure of some polling stations today as many nervous Afghans chose not to take part in a presidential election that pitted their faith in democracy against their fears of militant violence.” BBC reports that Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, “has left prison after he was freed on compassionate grounds by the Scottish Government.” Al-Megrahi, 57, was jailed in 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am 103, “which claimed 270 lives in 1988. Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill revealed that the Libyan, who has terminal prostate cancer, would be allowed to return to his homeland.” McClatchy reports that “faced with eroding popular support and disenchantment among young Palestinians looking for alternatives, Hamas is moving forcefully to crush Islamic extremists with possible ties to al Qaida that threaten its hold on power in the Gaza Strip.”