Governor Sanford admits to an affair, turmoil continues in Iran and more health care reform discussion…I'm Marisa Bramwell and here's tonight's editorial note from the ABC News desk:
GOVERNOR SANFORD ADMITS AFFAIR: Governor Mark Sanford tearfully confessed he was not hiking in the Appalachian Trails the past few days, but that he was in Argentina spending time with a woman with whom he had been having an affair for the past year. Questions about the governor’s whereabouts arose last week after his wife and staff admitted they hadn’t seen or heard from him since last Thursday – and that they had no idea where he was. “This was not the first time the Republican governor disappeared for days on end,” Steve Osunsami reported on WORLD NEWS. “Critics in his own party say it as typical behavior, and that during a major wildfire last month outside Myrtle Beach, the governor was out of the country, and took days to respond.” Sanford’s wife was not by his side during his news conference Wednesday afternoon. Jenny Sanford released a statement that said she had asked the governor to leave their home and stop speaking to her when she learned of the affair two weeks ago. So what’s next for the governor? “Sanford was a rising star in the Republican Party and had been considering a run for president. Political observers here and far say that’s unlikely now,” Osunsami reported on WORLD NEWS. Sanford has resigned from his position as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Governor Haley Barbour takes over for him. On whether Sanford will resign as governor…”that is the big question,” George Stephanopoulos reported on WORLD NEWS. “No one in the state, no major politician in the state has called for his resignation, but there are tough statement from the Republican leader, speaker of the house, in the senate, raising the questions…he left the state, didn’t tell people where he was. Let his staff lie about it, didn’t delegate it. The pressure could build for him to resign on those grounds, and on former Republican chairman of the state has said the calls are likely to come quickly.”
HEALTH CARE REFORM: President Obama met with Governors Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), Jim Douglas (R-VT), Jim Doyle (D-WI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Christine Gregoire (D-WA) at the White House Wednesday afternoon to discuss health care reform. Following the meeting the president acknowledged there was “terrific work” being done in the states, but there was “no perfect unanimity across the table in terms of every single aspect of reform. I think everybody here wants to make sure that governors have flexibility, that they have input into how legislation is being shaped on the Hill…we're committed to working with them in the weeks and months to come to make sure that when we get health reform done, it is in partnership with the states where the rubber so often hits the road.”
“The White House has shown some flexibility about the government run plan,” Jake Tapper reported on WORLD NEWS. “Sources tell ABC News that one of the options the president discussed with the governors today is having states offer public plans of their own, not the federal government.”
On the Hill, bipartisan health care negotiations resumed among members of the Senate Finance Committee. Zach Wolf reports: “Three Republicans on that committee, ranking member Charles Grassley of Iowa, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Orrin Hatch of Utah have been working hard to find common ground with Democrats on the Committee…All agree that progress is being made, but it is unclear when they could emerge with a bipartisan bill. Grassley said off camera this morning that a bipartisan bill could be presented this week if the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office returns an acceptable cost estimate and Grassley, Snowe and Hatch all sign off on the policy proposals.”
Also Wednesday, Health and Human Services Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius presented the administration’s views on the draft health care reform bill before a house committee. Dean Norland reports: “Health and Human Services Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House committee Wednesday that health care reform constitutes one the nations’ s most important domestic priorities and the cost of doing nothing is simply too high…Sebelius said the U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world, but it isn’t getting the job done.” David Wright visited Lynchburg, Virginia and spoke to people about just that: “Some folks here clearly have their doubts President Obama will be able to fix the healthcare system. Some worry about big government programs. Others that they’ll pay higher taxes in the end. But Democrats and Republicans alike here told us they hope he can fix it because something needs to be done.”
IRAN: The government continues to ratchet up its crackdown on demonstrators protesting the presidential election. And once again Jim Sciutto has spent the day monitoring developments from Dubai: “A significant escalation of the crackdown. Uniformed and plainclothes Revolutionary guards replacing regular police and army. And using greater force. Witnesses describe a bloody, aggressive confrontation. The clash began outside parliament. Protestors had come today expecting to see opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. Instead, they met overwhelming force.” Jim says eyewitnesses reached by phone told of security forces beating protestors with “all sorts of weapons, ” including cables and wooden clubs. Then the injured were hauled off in police vans. One eyewitness said she saw “a lot of blood.” Obviously, Iran’s leadership isn’t backing down. Again, Jim Sciutto: “Today, Iran’s supreme leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) vowed neither the system nor the people will give in to any pressure. Tehran residents are finding other ways to protest…honking their horns and shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ at night…though it’s difficult to miss that the organized marches are dwindling.” Before all the recent trouble in Iran, the U.S. had reached out to Iran’s diplomats with an invitation to attend our Independence Day celebrations on July 4th. Kirit Radia at the State Department says Secretary of State Clinton today sent out a cable to diplomatic posts around the world. Here’s part of what she said: “Unfortunately, circumstances have changed, and participation by Iranian diplomats would not be appropriate in light of the unjust actions that the President and I have condemned. For invitations which have been extended, posts should make clear that Iranian participation is no longer appropriate in the current circumstances.” One symbolic step to protest Iran’s crackdown on demonstrators. (Thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
IRAQ: Another deadly bombing as the deadline approaches for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq's urban areas. This time, a bomb ripped through a crowded market in Baghdad's main Shiite district, leaving around 70 people dead and more than 100 wounded. The explosion, in Sadr City, came just days after the U.S. military handed over to Iraqis its main base on the edge of what was once a Shiite militia stronghold. The bomb, which was hidden under vegetables on a motorized pushcart, exploded about 7 p.m., apparently timed to maximize casualties by striking shoppers buying food for their evening meal at the Mradi market. A series of blasts this week have killed more than 160 people. (Thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
IA FOOTBALL COACH KILLED: Ed Thomas, a prominent high school football coach in Iowa, was shot and killed by a former student Wednesday. Police say 24–year-old Mark Becker entered the weight room of Aplington-Parkersburg High School and shot Thomas several times in front of current players. Becker is in police custody and has been charged with first-degree murder. Here’s Eric Horng: "A motive for the shooting is unclear, thought just this past weekend Becker was arrested for breaking into a home and leading officers on a high-speed chase. Police say he was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation…but released on Tuesday." Thomas was an inspiration to his small town of Parkersburg; many of his players went on to the NFL, and last year he led the effort to raise a quarter-million dollars to help rebuild his town after it was devastated by a tornado. A vigil for Coach Thomas will be held Wednesday night.
MORE INFO ON PARP INHIBITORS: More details were released Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine on PARP inhibitors, a new form of cancer therapy that shows promise at treating difficult breast cancers, including “triple negative” breast cancers. John McKenzie reports: “The new drugs work by disrupting a cancer cell’s ability to heal itself. As they multiply out of control, cancer cells need to constantly repair themselves by producing a chemical called PARP. These new drugs…block that repair chemical so the cancer cells remain damaged and more likely to die…Against some of the most resistant breast cancers, this new treatment shrank tumors in 41 percent of patients. And similar results were reported against ovarian cancers…if these new drugs continue to prove effective in larger studies, they could be approved and widely available within the next couple of years.”
DC TRAIN CRASH INVESTIGATION: Matt Hosford and Lisa Stark give us an update on the NTSB’s investigation into the DC Metro train crash: “The NTSB is examining a circuit – one of six- on the track in the area of Monday's Metro crash. There are six circuits in this area of track and NTSB investigators found five of six circuits were operating properly. One circuit showed what Debbie Hersman described as an "anomaly". The safety board is going to further examine this one circuit- the examination will include running a stand-in train through the area…NTSB investigators found bluing – indicating breaking may have taken place- 300 to 400 feet prior to the collision. This is consistent with what NTSB said yesterday regarding the emergency break switch being depressed. The train that was struck was pushed approximately 7 feet by the strike train upon collision. Anti climbers did engage on the strike train in both the front and back of the train, however the car body failed to stay intact. Do not know the speed of the strike train at this time- no event recorders- but NTSB does believe they will be able to ascertain speed at some point.” Also “circuits are a critical part of the automatic train control system. It is part of the system that knows a train is on that part of the track and sends signals to trains on how fast they can go and whether to proceed.”
ECONOMY: New home sales for the month of May were lower than analysts’ expectations. The Commerce Department says new home sales in May dropped to 342,000, .6 percent lower than they were in April. Economists were expecting sales to be around 360,000.
The Federal Reserve opted to keep interest rates unchanged for the fourth meeting in a row. The key interest rate is currently between 0 and .25 percent. In a report issued after their meeting, the Fed said “the pace of economic contraction is slowing” and “financial markets have generally improved in recent months.”
AMBASSADORS TO SYRIA/VENEZUELA: Kirit Radia reports: “The State Dept is now confirming that it plans to send ambassadors to Syria and Venezuela. The US withdrew its ambassador in Damascus after the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri…The US has not had an ambassador in Venezuela since last September when Hugo Chavez accused the US of backing a coup.
MEDICARE FRAUD CHARGES: Jason Ryan reports: “Timed with the President's health care reform push the Justice Department today announced federal charges being brought against 53 doctors in a Medicare fraud case in Detroit. The doctors and other defendants submitted false claims for infusion therapy and physical therapy in excess of $50 million. The cases originally stemmed from cases out of Miami and then moved to the Detroit area…Almost 40 individuals were arrested in the past 24 days in connection with the 7 indictments which were returned by a federal grand jury in Michigan in May, two of the indictments were returned this month…Pierre Thomas recently traveled to Florida and saw firsthand how fraudsters bilk the system with fake storefronts, medical offices with only a desk and chair, one fraudster even said it's easy money "It's faster and easier than selling drugs."
COLLEGE AID APPLICATIONS: Students applying for college aid will have a much shorter application to fill out. The White House announced Wednesday the college financial aid application form, which currently has 153 questions, would be shortened and made to be more “user friendly” in an effort to increase college enrollment among middle and low-income students.
EPA/AIR QUALITY: New data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows the toxicity of the air in 600 neighborhoods across the U.S. is so high, it puts the people living in those areas at a greater risk of getting cancer. The average cancer risk in the U.S. is 36 in 1 million; for people living in areas like Los Angeles, Ca. and Madison County, Ill. it is 100 in 1 million.
US SOCCER TEAM WINS: In a surprise victory, the United States’ men’s soccer team beat top-ranked Spain in the Confederations Cup 2-0. The win sends the American team to their first FIFA final since 1916.
BEST PICTURE OSCARS: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday that, starting next year, the Best Picture category will double to feature 10 nominees. Having ten or more Best Picture nominees was a common practice in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The Academy hopes opening the field will improve the variety of films and help boost ratings.