Clem’s Chronicles: Fuel Standards/Netanyahu at the WH/Hubble

By Clem Lane

May 18, 2009 9:10pm

Howdy folks-here’s tonight’s editorial note:

CLEAN AIR/NEW FUEL STANDARDS-The White House is going to announce new fuel standards tomorrow which will increase gas mileage numbers and reduce the pollution they emit. Thanks to Jon Karl, you don’t have to wait until the announcement to find out the details. Karl, reporting for WORLD NEWS, notes that “the changes are sweeping. Car companies will be forced to cut the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in new cars by about 25 percent. New cars will also need to be more energy efficient. Sources familiar with the changes tell ABC NEWS the new national standard will require an average of 35 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks by the year 2016.” Car companies have long resisted the moves, but are on board now. Why is that? Jon Karl again: “For one, they are facing a tangle of different state regulations that will now be replaced by a single national standard.” That national standard is key, according to auto analyst Jeremy Anwyl, who says that automobile companies would have to make “different versions of the same vehicle” to be able to market to all the states. Karl tells us that we can expect to see representatives from several automobile companies at the White House announcement tomorrow.

NETANYAHU AT THE WHITE HOUSE-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to the White House today for his first meeting with President Barack Obama. When they emerged from their meeting, it was the usual love fest for the cameras-check out this snippet from the Jake Tapper/Sunlen Miller wrap-up: “"He has both youth and wisdom," Obama said of his 59-year-old counterpart.  "You’re a great leader," Netanyahu returned the compliment. "A great leader of the United States, a great leader of the world, a great friend to Israel." Both talked of working for  a Middle East peace plan but Tapper noted on WORLD NEWS that “reality questions remain on how to get there.” Tapper points to one problem area-“the two state solution” enthusiastically mentioned by President Obama. Tapper reports that “Netanyahu would not commit to any Palestinian state…he and his government are skeptical of the Palestinian government’s ability or desire to rein in terrorist attacks.” Another issue-Jewish settlements. Netanyahu supports the continued expansion of Israeli settlements. President Obama noted “settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward.”  Simon McGregor-Wood, reporting for WORLD NEWS, visited one such settlement area. McGregor-Wood: “Today, 40 thousand Israelis live in Israel’s biggest settlement on the West Bank and the construction shows no signs of slowing down.” That construction could doom any chance for peace in the area. Saeb Erekat, the Chief Palestinian negotiator was quoted in McGregor-Wood’s piece saying about the expansion of settlements: “This is a red line as far as the US, as far as Europe, as far as peace as far as the world, this line if Netanyahu crosses it, you can…that’s it, close the chapter of peace in this region.”  So a lot to be resolved then. Tapper notes that President Obama continues his peace process efforts next week when he meets with the Presidents of Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
What about Iran, another potential area of disagreement between the two countries? Tapper tells us “the Israeli Prime Minister was most pleased by President Obama’s commitment to ending Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which Israelis view as a threat to their very existence.” Tapper noted in his close that “according to a senior Israeli official, President Obama agreed that ‘stopping Iran’s nuclear program supercedes all other issues.”

HUBBLE TELESCOPE-One of the hardest-working shuttle crews in history wraps up its’ Hubble telescope operation tomorrow. Ned Potter, reporting for WORLD NEWS, notes that “in five days, the astronauts have spent 36 hours and 56 minutes spacewalking, replaced or fixed nine major components and, they hope, extended the Hubble’s useful life by five to ten years.” At the NASA briefing this afternoon, more information on the new and improved Hubble telescope. Gina Sunseri: “This newly repaired and upgraded Hubble will be 30 times more powerful than the original Hubble. The astronauts on Atlantis installed three new instruments – a new wide field camera, a cosmic origins spectrograph, a fine guidance sensor.  The  advanced camera for surveys and the space telescope imaging spectrograph were both repaired, gyroscopes were replaced and  new batteries installed. batteries.  Whew, it’s practically brand new now, and the service mission only cost $1 billion.  When will we know if the repairs worked? It will be three weeks after Atlantis leaves before science observations begin, and first  images will be available as early as September 7th.” Note: While Hubble is released back into orbit by Atlantis tomorrow, Sunseri notes that the “STS 400 crew and Endeavor will not be released from stand-by rescue duty until Atlantis de-orbits on Friday.”

SWINE FLU CONCERNS:  Health officials warned today that the swine flu outbreak is spreading quickly.  In the United States there are more than 5,000 cases and the number of deaths increased to 6, the latest being an assistant principal from a Queens intermediary school that was shut down last week due to the H1N1 swine flu outbreak.  Starting Tuesday four more New York City schools will be closed, bringing the total of closed New York City school to 16, affecting more than 12,000 students.  In Japan, the government closed nearly 2,000 schools and various community events after health officials confirmed more than 150 new cases in the country.  So is the recent resurgence in swine flu cases cause for concern? On WORLD NEWS, Dr. Tim Johnson said health officials are focusing on the severity of the swine flu and that “they’re not surprised by the numbers of cases.  Flu viruses in general are very contagious and spread easily. The only real surprise is how late in our typical flu season these cases are occurring…they look mostly at the severity and so far the cases are mild, hospitalizations are rare, deaths extremely rare.”   At the World Health Organization meeting in Geneva today, health officials from more than a dozen countries urged WHO to revise its criteria for declaring a pandemic, arguing that WHO needed to consider how deadly a virus was, not just how it has spread globally.  Health officials at the WHO meeting are also discussing the creation of a swine flu vaccine. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry) 

BILL CLINTON, UN ENVOY-Kirit Radia reports that former President Bill Clinton will be named as the United Nations special envoy for Haiti. Radia: “Clinton’s spokesman Matt McKenna confirms appointment and that announcement to come Tuesday… and refers us to this statement Bill Clinton gave to the Miami Herald today:
”It is an honor to accept the secretary general’s invitation to become special envoy to Haiti,” former President Clinton said in a statement to The Miami Herald. ‘Last year’s natural disasters took a great toll, but Haiti’s government and people have the determination and ability to `build back better,’ not just to repair the damage done but to lay the foundations for the long-term sustainable development that has eluded them for so long.”
”I believe Haiti is better positioned to make progress for all its people than at any time since I first visited in 1978,” he said Monday. “It offers unique opportunities for public and private investment to improve health and education in ways that will be good for Haitians and all their partners in our interdependent world.”

YOUNGEST BREAST CANCER PATIENT IN U.S.-From the ABC NEWS MEDICAL UNIT’s Michelle Schlief: “A ten-year-old girl in Southern California may be the youngest person to be suffering with breast cancer in the country. However, in 1996 a 10 year old girl was described in Nepal who had a lump in her left breast which turned out to be secretary carcinoma – a form of breast cancer that resulted from a genetic mutation. Still this is a very rare event, particularly for the type of cancer that this girl is reported to have – invasive ductal carcinoma. We heard from over a dozen top breast cancer experts none of whom had personally seen breast cancer in a patient so young.
The youngest girls the doctors we spoke with had seen breast cancer in ranged from 15 to 19 years of age. ‘10 year old girls have very little breast tissue — the vast majority of girls are pre-pubertal at that age. I’d be interested to see the actual pathology report to make sure this is genuinely typical adenocarcinoma of the breast, and not some odd neuroendocrine or other lesion,’ said Dr. Freya Schnabel of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Experts were also anxious to learn if the girl shared a family history of breast cancer, or had any unusual exposure to radiation or chemicals.”

GAS PRICES-Up. That’s not just the name of the new Disney/Pixar film opening later this month. It’s also the direction that gas prices are heading. From Dan Arnall: “The Energy Department reports a seven cent increase in average gasoline prices ahead of the Memorial Day weekend kickoff to summer driving season. According to figures published today by the EIA, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas is now $2.31. Gas prices have increased $0.26 since the end of April – an increase of 13%. While the recent run-up has been pronounced, we are nowhere near the prices we were a year ago ($3.79); in fact, we’re 40% below those levels. What’s been driving prices? The price of crude oil is the key driver. We’ve seen oil prices jump 74.3% since their recent lows (December 19 @ $33.87). Gasoline prices are only up 35% in that same time frame. Crude oil settled at $59.03 today, up $2.69 for the day in New York trading. But the fundamentals of supply and demand don’t seem to be driving prices higher. There is lower demand from drivers for gasoline (-1.2% compared to a year ago) and relatively high supply for this time of year. The global economy continues to be in a pronounced slump which has many analysts suggesting the rally in oil prices might be nearing its end.”

OTHER STUFF-
WYETH LAWSUIT-The Justice Department is accusing drugmaker Wyeth of overcharging Medicaid hundreds of millions of dollars for drugs. The Justice Department and 16 states have joined in two whistleblower lawsuits filed in federal court in Massachusetts. 
MR. MARKET ENJOYS HIS MONDAY- The Dow Jones industrial average shot up 235 points, making up three-quarters of last week’s losses. All the major indexes rose about 3 percent. A better-than-expected profit report from Lowe’s Cos., an uptick in homebuilder sentiment and positive comments from analysts about U.S. banks revived investors’ confidence in an economic rebound.
MY SPACE SUICIDE SENTENCING DELAYED- The sentencing of Lori Drew, a 50-year-old Missouri woman convicted  of federal computer fraud charges related to an Internet hoax that prompted  the suicide of a teenage girl, has been postponed until July 2. 

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