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The WonkLine: March 27, 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, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Climate

President Obama added “seven northwest Minnesota counties” to the federal emergency already declared in North Dakota as “Fargo and Moorhead teeter on the brink of disaster” from this “historic flood.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis visited a “heating, ventilation and air-conditioning class” in Allegheny County to announce “$102.5 million for energy efficiency and conservation projects in Pennsylvania as part of $3.2 billion earmarked for such projects nationwide.”

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Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) “predicted global warming legislation would move quicker than a bill to overhaul the U.S. health care system” in the House because “we all agree that the science is in accord.”

National Security

After agreeing to bury their differences and unite forces, Taliban leaders based in Pakistan have closed ranks with their Afghan comrades to ready a new offensive in Afghanistan as the United States prepares to send 17,000 more troops there this year.

Japan’s military is getting ready to shoot down part or all of the rocket North Korea is planning to launch, if it looks like it will land anywhere on Japanese territory. Meanwhile, senior regional envoys are heading to Washington to craft a diplomatic response to the imminent launch.

The Washington Times reports that Hezbollah is using the same southern narcotics routes that Mexican drug kingpins do to smuggle drugs and people into the United States.

Economy

President Obama “will seek support today from executives of the nation’s largest banks for his plan to stabilize the financial system”; he is meeting with 15 executives, including Vikram Pandit of Citigroup and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase.

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The Economic Policy Institute finds that “too many countries are free-riding on other nations’ stimulus packages.”

A group of top AIG executives called the Credit Risk Committee “oversaw some of the company’s biggest bets, such as the insurer’s foray into credit-default swaps”; even after a $173 billion bailout, this group “remains largely unchanged.”

Health Care

Under a new measure proposed by the Senate, “expensive biotechnology drugs would face competition from cheaper copycats, setting off a bruising battle between big drug makers and consumer advocates.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has “taken on the role of mediator between the three powerful House committee chairmen tasked with writing a massive health reform bill.”

Henry Aarons explains why liberals should support the idea of taxing health benefits. It’s “clearly a good idea from the standpoint of reducing the incentive for open-ended (which is to say, excessive) health insurance,” he writes.