Familiar Players in Health Bill Lobbying
Firms Are Enlisting Ex-Lawmakers, Aides
By Dan Eggen and Kimberly Kindy
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, July 6, 2009
The nation’s largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records.The tactic is so widespread that three of every four major health-care firms have at least one former insider on their lobbying payrolls, according to The Washington Post’s analysis.
Nearly half of the insiders previously worked for the key committees and lawmakers, including Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), debating whether to adopt a public insurance option opposed by major industry groups.
Scores Killed in Clashes in Western China
By EDWARD WONG
Published: July 6, 2009
BEIJING – The Chinese state news agency reported Monday that at least 140 people were killed and 816 injured when rioters clashed with the police in a regional capital in western China after days of rising tensions between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese.
The casualty toll, if confirmed, would make this the deadliest outbreak of violence in China in many years.
The rioting broke out Sunday afternoon in a large market area of Urumqi, the capital of the vast, restive desert region of Xinjiang, and lasted for several hours before riot police officers and paramilitary or military troops locked down the Uighur quarter of the city, according to witnesses and photographs of the riot.
Judge approves plan to sell G.M.’s assets
Sale to new, government-backed company part of bankruptcy proceedings
By Michael J. de la Merced
A federal judge late on Sunday approved a plan by General Motors to sell its best assets to a new, government-backed company, a crucial step for the automaker to restructure and complete its trip through bankruptcy court.
The decision by the judge, Robert E. Gerber, of Federal Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, came after three days of hearings to address the 850 objections to the restructuring plan and after he received a revised sale order from G.M.’s lawyers.
In his 95-page opinion, Judge Gerber wrote that he agreed with G.M.’s main contention: that the asset sale was needed to preserve its business, in the face of steep losses and government financing that is slated to run out by the end of the week.
Police raid at gay club in Texas stirs ugly memories
The incident, on the heels of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, prompts fear among the Fort Worth gay community that times haven’t changed.
By P.J. Huffstutter
July 6, 2009
Reporting from Fort Worth — Todd Camp and some friends had just marked the 40th anniversary of the police raid on New York’s Stonewall Inn by screening a documentary on the historic gay riots and then heading for drinks at the Rainbow Lounge.
Camp remembered looking across the bar, packed with gay and some straight couples, and marveling how much times had changed since Stonewall — the spark that ignited the gay rights movement.
And then the police came.
“No one knew what was happening,” said Camp, founder of the Q Cinema gay film festival in Fort Worth. “All I could think was, ‘It’s Stonewall all over again, and we can’t do anything about it.’ ”
Seven officers from the Fort Worth Police Department and two agents from the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission clashed with about 300 bar patrons in the early hours of June 28, reviving an ancient dread that even this conservative Texas city had thought long past.
Devastation in Zambia as climate change brings early flooding
The Red Cross warns that global warming will lead to more disasters along the Zambezi river basin
David Smith, Africa correspondent, in Mongu, Zambia
The Guardian, Monday 6 July 2009
The ceremony is called Kuomboka, meaning “moving out of the water”. Every year the king of the Lozi people journeys from the flooded plains to higher ground. Thousands gather to dance, feast and watch the royal barge rowed by dozens of oarsmen beneath a giant replica elephant.
The Kuomboka is traditionally the cue for local people to follow the king in escaping the rising waters, but the reality of climate change is catching up with this colourful ritual. The most recent flood came too soon and too strong, killing at least 31 people in Zambia’s impoverished western province. The devastating aftermath has left people starving and homeless.
“Flooding here is an annual event, but it came earlier than expected and people were caught off guard,” said Raphael Mutiku, a public health engineer for Oxfam in Mongu.
Daniel Howden: I ran for fun. But my friend Elijah didn’t
Nairobi Notebook: Helicopters and wardens on motorbikes were busy herding the lions, rhinos and elephants away from the course
Monday, 6 July 2009
In many respects, Elijah and I had the same preparation for the Lewa half-marathon. We both did training runs every day in the build-up. We travelled up to the spectacular game reserve in the shadow of Mount Kenya in the same vehicle.
I was careful to take his advice on the pre-race meal – apparently maize meal, or ugali, is perfect running fuel. Standing in a thicket of fever trees at dawn on the morning of this unusual race, we both had hot, milky Kenyan tea with the obligatory shock of sugar. The wild elephants that had stood within trumpeting distance of the tents the night before had left.
A handful of spotter planes, helicopters and wardens on motorbikes were busy herding the lions, rhinos and elephants away from the course. Then the starting gun fired and I couldn’t see Elijah anymore. As I laboured my way uphill with a pack of similarly ungifted runners along a rutted track that climbs and dips through the burnt grass of the plains, he was running in a group that included former world marathon record holder Paul Tergat, pictured, and the reigning Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru.
Victims of Tamil Tiger war hit by Sri Lanka tax on aid workers
From Times Online
July 6, 2009
Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent
The Sri Lankan Government is trying to siphon off millions of pounds of humanitarian aid by imposing a 0.9 per cent tax on all funding for aid groups, including the British charities Oxfam and Save the Children Fund, The Times has learnt.
Aid workers said that Burma was the only other country that they could remember imposing such a tax – one of several new measures hampering their efforts to help victims of Sri Lanka’s recent civil war.
The new tax regime was unveiled in 2006 but not enforced immediately. Most agencies did not comply, as they hoped to persuade the Government to change it, according to aid workers.
Kyrgyzstan weighs opium as industry
As an election nears, a presidential candidate promotes the idea that the opium trade could bring cash to the impoverished Central Asian republic.
By Lois Kapila and Alessandra Prentice | Contributors to The Christian Science Monitor
from the July 5, 2009 edition
BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN – Lacking the oil or gas revenues that fill the coffers of its richer neighbors, the small Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan has always suffered from a weak economy. Locals joke that Kyrgyzstan is the one country in the world untouched by the current financial downturn: “We’re pretty well protected from the crisis … we had no industries before and we’ve got no industries now,” they quip.
While this may be an exaggeration, successive governments since independence have anxiously searched for different ways to boost the economy. Until now, this has meant developing the mining industry, hydroelectric power, and tourism. But the wild poppies blooming along dilapidated Kyrgyz roads hint at a controversial resource that some suggest could help drag the country out of poverty.
Presidential candidate Zhenishbek Nazaraliev, the founder and director of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Bishkek, has proposed that the solution to Kyrgyzstan’s economic woes lies in the legalization of opium cultivation for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
Dmitry Medvedev starts nuclear arms talks with missile shield demand
From The Times
July 6, 2009
Tony Halpin in Moscow; Catherine Philp in Washington
President Medvedev threw down the nuclear gauntlet on the eve of President Obama’s landmark visit to Moscow today, challenging him to roll back a planned missile shield in Eastern Europe in return for making huge cuts in Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
The challenge came as the two prepared for historic talks on nuclear arms reduction with both already pledging major and reciprocal cuts.
Mr Medvedev raised the stakes in an interview with Italian media in which he insisted that any agreement would have to include concessions on the European-based missile shield proposed by President Bush.
G8 summit: Bob Geldof forces Silvio Berlusconi to apologise over missing aid
Bob Geldof has forced an apology out of Silvio Berlusconi for reneging on Italy’s foreign aid commitments, days before the prime minister hosts the G8 summit.
By Nick Squires in Rome
Published: 6:30AM BST 06 Jul 2009
The anti-poverty campaigner said Italy had delivered only three per cent of the aid increase promised by Mr Berlusconi four years ago and that he lacked the legitimacy to chair this week’s summit in L’Aquila.
“How can you lead the G8? Where is your credibility?” Geldof asked Mr Berlusconi in a frank one-to-one exchange which left the prime minister clenching his fists in annoyance.
“Here we have the signature of a country and the honour of a man,” Geldof told the premier, showing him the written commitment to increase aid to Africa that he signed at the G8 summit in Gleneagles in Scotland in 2005.
Iranians find new ways to keep protests alive
Twitter, Youtube, and the force of the movement for change in Iran make it difficult for the government to paint the protesters as tools of foreign powers.
By Dan Murphy | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
The Iranian regime continued this weekend in its bid to paint citizens protesting the announced results of its June 12 presidential election as tools of outside powers.
In a scathing editorial published Saturday in the influential state-run newspaper, Kayhan, editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari said opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi had committed “terrible crimes,” including “murdering innocent people, holding riots, co-operating with foreigners, and acting as America’s fifth column.”
This comes on the heels of a leading Iranian cleric’s call Friday for some Iranian employees of the British Embassy to be tried for allegedly inciting pro-democracy protests.
In spite of those efforts, however, the movement for change inside the country continues to make it very unlikely that the events of past few weeks will be remembered as the product of outside meddling.
Israel’s settlements in West Bank present a major hurdle
The U.S. demand that construction and expansion of settlements be halted is something Israel has rejected, putting a strain on relations and hurting chances of rekindling talks with the Palestinians.
By Edmund Sanders
July 6, 2009
Reporting from Maale Adumim, West Bank — This sprawling, well-manicured Israeli settlement — with its rows of red-tile roofs, palm trees and air-conditioned shopping mall — could almost pass for Orange County. Except the guards in this gated community sometimes pack automatic weapons.
Settlements such as the city-sized Maale Adumim, about four miles east of Jerusalem in the West Bank, are viewed by much of the world as illegal because they are built on land seized by Israel during the 1967 Middle East War. Many Israelis see Maale Adumim as part of their country.Now the long-simmering dispute over this and other fast-growing settlements has become a major obstacle to restarting peace talks. Palestinians have refused to resume talks unless settlement growth is frozen, including so-called natural growth of existing settlements as families grow. Israelis have refused, despite pressure from the Obama administration, saying a complete freeze would unfairly disrupt the “normal life” of settlers. The issue has sparked the most public rift between the U.S. and Israel in years.
Army foils Zelaya’s bid to return
Ousted president’s plane fails to land after runway is blocked and at least one person is killed in clashes at Tegucigalpa airport
Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 6 July 2009 01.40 BST
Honduras was in turmoil last night as President Manuel Zelaya attempted to return and topple coup leaders who ousted him, prompting deadly clashes between his supporters and security forces.
The president flew from Washington towards home in a high-stakes effort to reclaim power, sparking dramatic scenes at the airport in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, where soldiers and police squared off against thousands of demonstrators.
After the interim government refused Zelaya permission to land and parked military vehicles on the runway, he was forced to divert the plane to the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, where it later landed.