Happy Thursday night-here's what's going on…..
TOWN HALL MEETINGS/HEALTH CARE-President Obama heads to Montana tomorrow to participate in his 2nd of 3 town hall meetings this week (the 3rd is Saturday in Colorado). We’ve seen quite a few angry exchanges at health care town hall meetings throughout the United States this week-you would be forgiven if you got the impression that darn near every American who shows up at these meetings are against plans for health care reform. And a Gallup poll that Jake Tapper cited last night and again this evening showed 49% of Americans disapprove of the way President Obama has been handling health care policy. Tapper brought this up to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs who responded in part by saying “Look I think part of it is some of these misconceptions”. Cue the pushback-The Obama Administration and its’ allies are not sitting quietly on the sidelines while the debate plays out-take the television advertising blitz we’ve been subject to for example. Jake Tapper, filing for WORLD NEWS, notes that “almost $60 million worth of tv ads have run so far…most of them in favor of the president’s push, by a ratio of 2-1.” To fight some of the seemingly inaccurate claims being spouted by opponents, Tapper tells us the White House has turned to “viral emails” sent to supporters “signed by senior adviser David Axelrod which he asks supporters to forward to friends.” Is it too late for the White House to reverse the momentum? Tapper: “White House officials insist it’s not too late for the President to make his case to the American people.”
HEALTH CARE REFORM/ABORTION FACT CHECK-Abortion. A very controversial subject. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s a topic generating plenty of questions in town hall meetings on health care reform. Kate Snow: “Could federal money be used toward abortion? That is the question that comes up most often at those town hall meetings. Will health care reform lead to taxpayer-funded abortions?” The answer unfortunately is unclear. Snow explains: Current law states federal funds cannot be used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. But under health care reform, lower-income Americans would have their health care subsidized by the government and they will be allowed to pick a health plan that covers abortion. The President has said that’s not the intention-the government should not pay for it.” This apparent ‘grey’ area has not gone unnoticed. Snow says that “a lot of the people opposed to abortion rights want these (health care reform) bills to explicitly spell out what’s already law-that no federal tax dollars would be used.”
CASH FOR CLUNKERS-Good news for people hoping to take advantage of the “cash for clunkers” program but despondent that their vehicle choice is no longer available on the lot. The Transportation Department said today consumers can purchase a new car not yet on the dealer lot and be eligible for the car rebate program. That’s good news for automakers who may have been caught flat-footed when demand far outstripped supply at some dealerships as the Cash for Clunkers program progressed. Time to ramp up production! Sharyn Alfonsi, filing for WORLD NEWS, notes that “At Ford today, manufacturing more cars is job one. Ford says it will build an additional 6000 Focus compacts at its Wayne, Michigan plant and an additional 3500 Escape SUV’s at its Kansas City plant which was slated to shut down for two days later this month.” What about other manufacturers? Alfonsi: “GM says inventory levels are now at ‘historic lows’. But says they’re ‘unlikely’ to increase production for now….Chrysler will add shifts and overtime at some of their plants the end of this month.” Charlie Herman points out that this new Transportation Department move only applies if there’s an actual transaction-you can’t trade in your car, get a voucher and say ‘holler at me when you get in a car I might want to buy”.
CHENEY UNPLUGGED: The memoirs of former Vice President Dick Cheney aren’t expected to be published until the Spring of 2011. But we’re already getting a sense of what will be included in the book. Word is that Cheney has been holding informal discussions about the book with a number of acquaintances and has apparently opened up about some of his thoughts. David Wright tells us: “He has, more than any other member of the Bush Administration, vigorously defended his legacy. Today's Washington Post quotes several sources close to Cheney saying the former Vice President has been surprisingly candid about his disappointment with the last few years of the Bush Administration. "The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him…" one confidante told the Post.” As Stu Schutzman further explains: “It seems fair to say that President Bush, not unlike any President, was acutely aware of his legacy. Bush spoke often and at times sounded a bit defensive about the way history would judge him. As some see it, Bush “crossed the Rubicon” when Donald Rumsfeld resigned the day after the midterm elections in 2006. As the war in Iraq got bloodier with no end in sight, this was something critics and even some friends thought he should have done much earlier. Cheney immediately pushed back against the boss calling Rumsfeld the “finest Secretary of Defense” in history. But the dyke was breached. The President went on to undo many of the Cheney inspired policies of the post 911 era: he ended torture of detainees by water boarding; ended the CIA secret prison program; ended unsanctioned domestic surveillance and called for the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay.” But as the former vice president begins to “tell it like he sees it,” David Wright points out: “Cheney has been downright contemptuous of other administration officials who later broke ranks and expressed criticism in public. If he is indeed preparing to dish the dirt in his memoirs, some Bush loyalists are bound to view it as hypocritical.” (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
DEATH OF A LEGEND: He was born Lester William Polfuss but he became known as Les Paul – guitar virtuoso and inventor. Les Paul died today in White Plains, New York after a career that began in the 1930’s. In the early days he was known for his lightning-fast riffs and produced a slew of hits, many with his wife Mary Ford. He earned nearly 40 gold records. But it was his development of the solid-body electric guitar that really changed the music industry. His invention paved the way for modern rock 'n' roll and became the standard instrument for the likes of Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page. Paul also developed technology that would become hallmarks of rock and pop recordings, from multitrack recording that allowed for layers and layers of "overdubs" to guitar reverb and other sound effects. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the most important forces in popular music. Les Paul played everything from country to jazz to pop. But it was only four years ago that he recorded his very first rock album. Until very recently, he played weekly at a popular jazz club in New York City. Les Paul died of complications from pneumonia. He was 94. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
LOCKERBIE RELEASE?: Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi a former Libyan secret agent was convicted of 270 counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison for his part in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988. Thus far Al-Megrahi has served 10 years in a Scottish prison but a fatal illness may award him an early parole. Nick Watt reported on World News, “the former Libyan intelligence agent is dying of prostate cancer and Scottish officials are considering granting him what they call a "compassionate release." Top US and UK officials believe that Al-Megrahi should remain in prison for the rest of his life. Family’s members have mix feels some believing he should remain in prison, while others feel he should be shown compassion. Nick’s close his piece with, “Scottish authorities believe Megrahi has just months to live. The question tonight, will he spend those last few months a free man or a prisoner.” (thanks to Faisal Jamil for this entry)
CALIFORNIA FIRES-Thousands of firefighters battled wildfires across California on Thursday, including a growing blaze that forced about 2,400 people to evacuate their homes in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Lockheed Fire, which started around 7 p.m. Wednesday, had scorched about 2,800 acres, or 4.4 square miles, in Santa Cruz County, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The blaze, about 10 miles north of the coastal city of Santa Cruz, threatened more than 1,000 homes and other buildings. No reports yet of damage or injuries.
MICHAEL VICK SIGNS WITH THE EAGLES-He couldn’t have picked a team with kinder, more gentler fans. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that Michael Vick has signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. His agent, Joel Segal confirmed with Mortensen.
MID-AIR COLLISION- The Federal Aviation Administration says it has placed two employees on administrative leave in connection with last week's deadly mid-air collision over New York's Hudson River. The FAA said Thursday night it has begun disciplinary proceedings against an air-traffic controller who was handling the small plane that collided with a tour helicopter and against a supervisor on duty at the time. The FAA says the controller was involved in "apparently inappropriate conversations" on the telephone at the time of the accident. The agency says the supervisor was not in the building at the time as required. However, the FAA says that the employees' actions don't appear to have contributed to the accident itself. Nine people died in the crash.
SPEICHER REMAINS RETURNED- The remains of Navy pilot Michael Scott Speicher returned to his Florida home on Thursday, 18 years after his FA-18 Hornet was shot down on the first night of the 1991 Gulf War. Speicher's remains arrived at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station around 3 p.m. About ten minutes later his coffin was rolled off the plane draped with the U.S. flag. It was to remain at the All Saints Chapel on the base overnight. There will be a private funeral service held tomorrow.