The WonkLine: February 19, 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

Egypt’s most prominent political dissident and a one-time presidential candidate, Ayman Nour, was unexpectedly released from prison on Wednesday. Nour was convicted in 2005 of forging signatures on petitions he had filed, a case widely seen as politically inspired.

Counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen said that if troops were redeployed too quickly from Iraq to Afghanistan, Washington could again find itself fighting two insurgencies at once.


A new report from the International Crisis Group states that Lebanon’s refugee camps — filled with hundreds of thousands of marginalized and heavily armed Palestinians deprived of basic political rights — are a time bomb that needs urgent attention.


Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan said yesterday that “it’s critically important that banks and lending institutions ‘step up to the plate’ to help make certain the Obama administration’s new home foreclosure initiative succeeds.”

Backers of immigration reform “are urging lawmakers to tackle the touchy subject this year despite rising unemployment levels among legal residents.”

In the LA Times, Michael Hitzik notes that “if you peer beneath the terminology at the underlying reality, it’s obvious that nationalization of the banks is a done deal. We bought them. We own them. The only problem is that we’ve failed to exercise our right to control them.”

Health Care

Health care in the United States “is in danger of collapsing within 24 months,” report three analysts for ABC news. The hospital system is “the weakest link in the health care chain.”


Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) said yesterday that the “stars are aligned” to reform health care, but warned that it will be “some time” before bills are introduced in Congress.

The Commonwealth Fund unveiled its idea for a new health care plan this morning: “Every American would be required to have some form of public or private health insurance, and one choice would be a new nationwide government program for anyone under 65.”


As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry announced the “global financial crisis will not affect China’s resolve to tackle global warming.”

Greenpeace activists in Ottawa challenged President Barack Obama “to take a tough stand” on Canada’s tar sands, whose mining and conversion to synthetic crude oil “involves huge quantities of carbon dioxide, sulphur and other noxious substances.”

Shareholder activists have placed nine companies, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, Canadian Natural Resources, and coal company Massey Energy, on a Climate Watch List for “lagging behind their industry peers” in “responding to the business challenges from global climate change.”