Clem Lane here-tonight's news:
H1N1 SWINE FLU-While the “swine flu” may have faded from the headlines, it hasn’t gone away. There was an H1N1 Swine Flu summit held today at the National Institute of Health’s Maryland headquarters that some 500 state and local health officials attended. Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius reminded those health officials of the prevalence of the H1N1 virus across the globe: “It is not gone. It is continuing to spread. It is in 102 countries. We have it in every state in this country.” Lisa Stark, filing for WORLD NEWS, reports that “we heard for the first time today that the government believes it will have a vaccine ready…before the flu season hits.” President Obama even phoned in from the G-8 Summit and offered the following counsel: “We want to make sure we are not promoting panic, but we are promoting vigilance and preparation.” Okay so what about the vaccine? Stark: “The government today said clinical trials will start in August, with a vaccine ready by mid-October.” Local officials, Stark noted, were told to “prepare for mass vaccination programs in places like schools and community centers.” The supply is expected to be limited and will be aimed at the most vulnerable-school-age children, pregnant women, health workers and people with other illnesses. If this seems like overkill to you, Stark reminds that “one thing that was stressed today is that the only thing predictable about influenza is it’s unpredictability.”
WARREN BUFFETT ON THE ECONOMY-The economy-are we in a recession? Coming out of a recession? Going deeper into a recession? Lots of smart people have lots of different ideas about where the economy is going. One of the smartest, Warren Buffett, the so-called “Oracle of Omaha” weighed in with his thoughts in an interview with ABC’s Bianna Golodryga that was first featured on GOOD MORNING AMERICA this morning. The bottom line?Golodryga: “While he said the worst is behind us, he said a recovery is nowhere near.” A couple of highlights from the interview—
2nd stimulus-Buffett:“I think that a second one may well be called for….our first stimulus bill seems to me was sort of like talking half a tablet of Viagra and having also a bunch of candy mixed in you know, as if everybody was putting in enough for their own constituents.”
Unemployment-Golodryga asked whether Buffet would be surprised if the rate shot up to 11%. Buffett: “I wouldn’t be surprised. I’m not predicting it but that would not surprise me.”
President Obama-Buffett: “I don’t think you can have a better president that President Obama in there and I think he is the right person for the job.”
Ben Bernanke-Golodryga: “someone else Buffett supports is Ben Bernanke. You’ll recall that his term is coming up at the end of the year. There’s speculation whether he’ll be nominated for a second term. Buffett said, ‘well if you remove Bernanke, it’s like removing Tiger Woods from the Ryder Cup.’ That’s something Bernanke would say.”
MORE ON ENSIGN-We mentioned the Sen. John Ensign story in last night’s note-the husband of his mistress Cindy Hampton talked to a Las Vegas Sun columnist and mentioned a severance payment that Ensign himself did not disclose. Today we learned some additional information sure to make things worse for the Senator.Jon Karl: “When John Ensign admitted his affair, he called it the worst thing he’d ever done…now he’s made another stunning admission: $96 thousand in payments to the family of his mistress.” Those payments were made not by Senator Ensign, but by his parents, Karl tells us, “after the woman’s husband found out about the affair in early 2008.” The timing of said payments may scream “hush money” to some but Ensign’s attorney released a statement that noted “His parents decided to make the gifts out of concern for the well-being of long-time family friends during a difficult time. The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others.” Placated? Nope, me neither. Karl reports how the money was dispersed: “The $96K was broken up into eight $12K payments made by each of Ensign’s parents to the mistress, her husband and their two children. Capping the payments at $12K allowed them to avoid paying taxes on the money.” How will this affect the Nevada Republican Ensign? Karl says that “the new swirl of admissions and accusations has put more pressure on Ensign and made it likely he’ll face a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.”
RACIAL BIAS AT PHILLY SWIM CLUB?: Parents are searching for answers and the state of Pennsylvania has opened an investigation into why several minority children were banned from a private swimming club in suburban Philadelphia. On June 29, 65 children from the Creative Steps Summer Camp visited The Valley Club for the first time to go swimming. Dan Harris reports on what happened next: “The camp had a signed agreement to swim once a week at the club this summer…but two days after their first visit, the club returned their money and said don’t come back. In a questionable worded statement the head of the swim club reportedly told a local television station, ‘There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion and the atmosphere of the club.’” Several of the children said they heard club members asking what “black kids” were doing at the club.
Today The Valley Club posted a new statement on their website denying accusations of racial discrimination: “We had originally agreed to invite the camps to use our facility, knowing full well that the children from the camps were from multi-ethnic backgrounds. Unfortunately, we quickly learned that we underestimated the capacity of our facilities and realized that we could not accommodate the number of children from these camps. All funds were returned to the camps and we will re-evaluate the issue at a later date to determine whether it can be feasible in the future.” Senator Arlen Specter has asked the club to reinstate the summer camp’s contract, and the state’s Human Relations Commission said it has launched an investigation into the allegations. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this story)
CHINA UNREST: Friday is a day when large numbers of Muslim Uighurs gather for their weekly prayers. But in view of this week’s trouble in Xinjiang Province, it is unclear whether all mosques there will be open. UPDATE: A Chinese official says that mosques in riot-hit Urumqi have been ordered to stay closed for Friday prayers. Today, efforts to maintain control of the situation were in evidence on a number of fronts. In Beijing, President Hu Jintao took a “hands-on” approach, beginning with an urgent meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee, which urged officials on all levels to mobilize to restore order in Xinjiang. In Urumqi, there was a massive show of force, with some 8,000 troops stationed in the hardest hit area. They were doing their best to keep the Han Chinese and the Muslim Uighurs apart. Overhead, helicopters dropped propaganda leaflets urging ethnic unity, as hundreds of people gathered to watch the troops march by. People were still angry but the violence subsided. Once again, Clarissa Ward was in the streets of Urumqi. And during the day she came upon that woman who got everybody’s attention the other day. Clarissa recalled her striking image. “ One woman hobbling on a crutch towards a wall of stone-faced soldiers and armored vehicles. Demanding to know what they had done with her family.” The woman told Clarissa that “They arrested my husband and my older and younger brothers…five of them all together.” And her husband and brothers still haven’t been heard from. But for now, Clarissa concludes: “Tonight the city is quiet…but the scars of this week’s violence are still visible. And the wounds are deeply felt on both sides.” (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
–SENATOR BURRIS-Illinois Senator Roland Burris will not run for the Senate in 2010, Zach Wolf confirmed with Senate sources. Burris’ decision is based at least partly on a lack of funds-according to the Chicago Sun-Times, he has raised only $20K for his campaign war chest. Burris is holding a 3pm ET press conference in Chicago tomorrow where he is expected to make the announcement.
–OPERATION FALCON- The U.S. Marshals Service says the latest “Operation Falcon” led to more than 35 thousand arrests nationwide during the annual month long crackdown. That’s the most ever in the program’s five year history. Jack Date sent along the U.S. Marshals press release to the Domestic News DL-it also stated that “In Operation FALCON 2009, as in prior operations, an emphasis was placed on the capture of violent offenders, gang members and sex offenders. Nationwide, the operation arrested 433 persons wanted for murder, 900 gang members and 2,356 sex offenders.” (Jack Date)
–EL NINO-Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today announced the return of the el Nino weather phenomenon. El Nino, the warming of Pacific waters, usually means the following: a quieter-than-average hurricane season in the Atlantic, stormy weather from California to Florida and mild winters in the North. (Ned Potter)
–MCNAIR FUNERAL- Steve McNair's family, friends, former teammates and coaches gathered Thursday night in Nashville, TN along with thousands of fans to remember the slain ex-NFL quarterback's accomplishments on and off the field.
–NY PHIL TO CUBA- The New York Philharmonic has been invited to play two concerts in Cuba at the end of October. An advance group from the orchestra will be spending this weekend in Havana discussing plans with Cuban officials and to look over possible venues. This comes more than one year after the Philharmonic’s trip to North Korea and if all logistical issues can be resolved will be the first time the orchestra performs in Cuba. (Chuck Lustig)