The WonkLine: August 6, 2010

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 9:30 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.


Fueled by record heat, “dense clouds of acrid smoke from peat and forest fires choked Russia’s capital on Friday” and “could pose a nuclear threat by releasing into the atmosphere radioactive particles buried in trees and plants from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster” as the death toll “rose to at least 50.” Fueled by record precipitation, massive floods are sweeping through North Korea, China, and Pakistan, killing at least 2500 people and displacing millions. Global warming and ocean acidification from burning fossil fuels mean that oysters are in “serious trouble,” according to scientists.


The chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors has asked Congress to subpoena certain Immigration and Customs Enforcement records that he thinks will “outrage the general public.” The U.S. Senate approved $600 million in emergency funding to help secure the U.S.-Mexican border.  The two men found guilty of beating to death an Ecuadorian immigrant, José O. Sucuzhañay, in 2008 received the maximum sentence of 30 to 37 years in jail.

National Security

“Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday banned all exports of grain after millions of acres of Russian wheat withered in a severe drought, driving up prices around the world and pushing them to their highest level in two years in the United States.” “Japan marked the 65th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Friday with the United States represented at the ceremony for the first time.” “US President Barack Obama said he remains willing to speak with Iran on its nuclear program and international sanctions if the Tehran follows “a clear set of steps,” according to comments published Thursday.”

Health Care

“For the 11 million people signed up for Medicare Advantage plans, their future with the popular program may depend on where they live.”


“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest health insurer, has agreed to reduce a dramatic rate hike for individuals and small businesses, becoming the fourth major insurance company to reach a deal with the state after regulators rejected their initial price increases four months ago.”

“As Americans struggle with double-digit hikes in their health insurance bills, millions are coming up against a hard reality: the state regulators who are supposed to protect them can often do little to control what insurers are charging.”


According to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy lost 131,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained at 9.5 percent. Private sector employment increased by 71,000, while 143,000 temporary Census jobs came to an end.

Council of Economic Advisers chair Christina Romer “has resigned her post to return to her old job as an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley.” Romer is also reportedly “a serious candidate to replace Janet Yellen as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.”


Senate Republicans used a procedural move to send the nomination of Peter Diamond, one of three nominees for the Federal Reserve Board, “back to the White House because of objections from at least one lawmaker.”