The WonkLine: February 12, 2009

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 10 a.m. roundup of the latest news about health care, the economy, national security and climate policy. This is what we’re reading. Tell us what you found in the comments section below.

National Security

Marc Lynch sees a sign of the (coming) Middle East in Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Saudi Arabia. Lynch notes that “very few American media outlets appear to have even noticed” the visit.

Phoenix, Arizona has become the kidnapping capital of America. The kidnappings are believed to be connected to the growth of Mexico’s drug cartels, which now operate extensively throughout the United States.


Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, arrived in Afghanistan today, one day after a coordinated series of Taliban suicide attacks in Kabul.

Health Care

The latest on health provisions in the stimulus: $19 billion for Health IT, $87 billion over two years to help states maintain their Medicaid programs, 60% subsidy for COBRA premiums for up to 9 months, $1 billion for a new Prevention and Wellness Fund, $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research.

Health Populi is reporting that doctors’ choices to prescribe generic drugs are often driven by their patients.

An experiment with hundreds of General Electric Co. workers found that “dangling enough dollars in front of smokers who want to quit helps many more succeed.”


In “a huge win for our planet and for taxpayers,” the provision for $50 billion in nuclear loan guarantees added to the recovery plan at the behest of Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) has been stripped.


In a hearing “on the structural soundness of coal ash impoundments” like the Kington disaster, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) is introducing legislation to set federal regulations on coal ash ponds: watch live.

Australia’s firefighters are begging their government to take action on global warming pollution “in an effort to avoid more deadly bushfires like those that killed 181 people this week.”


“Big business appears to be the biggest loser in the final economic stimulus plan,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Negotiators…sliced billions of dollars in tax incentives for businesses and slashed huge tax breaks for consumers that were strongly backed by industry lobbyists.”

The U.S. trade deficit shrank in 2008, “but a politically sensitive gap with China ballooned to an all-time high.”

Nicholas Kristof writes on escaping “the banking Bust Bowl of 2009”: The conundrum “is that a bailout is both: A) urgent and essential; and B) unfair and unpopular.”