Clem’s Chronicles: Breast Cancer Screening Controversy/President Obama in China/Hasan Investigation

By Clem Lane

Nov 16, 2009 10:02pm

Howdy folks-here's tonight's note. Reminder that you can see excerpts of Barbara Walters' 20/20 interview with Sarah Palin tomorrow on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, WORLD NEWS, and NIGHTLINE.

BREAST CANCER SCREENING-As Charles Gibson said at the top of WORLD NEWS, “It has been the gospel long promoted by the American Cancer Society for every woman over 40…get a mammogram every year.” Today though came a much different recommendation from a task force of health care professionals that has to have some folks scratching their heads-less screening for women and later in life. John McKenzie, filing for WORLD NEWS, notes the timing on this, “when mammograms are helping drive down the death toll from breast cancer.” McKenzie tells us the new recommendation addresses two groups-firstly, “that women over 50 get routine mammograms…not every year but every 2 years.” McKenzie continues-“The other major change…the decision to stop recommending routine mammograms for women 40-49 yrs.” Why change the guidelines, especially for women in their forties? The task force concluded that the benefits don’t outweigh the negatives. McKenzie explains: “The harm of ‘false positives’. Those ‘false alarms’ that can require more screening, painful biopsies, and anxiety. They also tax the healthcare system ‘unnecessarily’. The guidelines say: most women can afford to wait two years…because slow-growing tumors are much more common than fast-growing breast cancers.” Having trouble buying that? You’re not alone. McKenzie introduced us to Nancy Gaul-“the mammogram she got at 40 revealed the makings of a 2 ½ inch tumor in her breast.” Gaul noted “I am shocked by these guidelines because if I had not had a mammogram at age 40 I would not be here today.” “The American Cancer Society agrees”, McKenzie adds, “and is refusing to go along with the new recommendations.”A potential moral dilemma in the making-McKenzie adds that “the new guidelines would save money and resources, but even by the Task Force’s own calculations, these changes could result in more deaths from breast cancer.” Dr. Tim, while re-highlighting the downsides mentioned in the McKenzie spot, noted “I think most women are going to continue with the guidelines in place until they have better proof that it makes sense to stop having them every year.” Tim adds “that women who are at especially high risk for breast cancer because of strong family history or genetic testing should definitely have yearly mammograms. There’s no debate about that.” Our ABC NEWS Medical Unit sought reaction to today’s recommendation from the task force and Dr. Tim reports “I was surprised, some prominent people, including Dr. Susan Love, who is probably the best-known cancer researcher in the country, agreed with the (task force).” But the story is far from over with Dr. Tim assuring us “there’s going to be a vigorous debate” as we move forward.

PRESIDENT OBAMA IN CHINA-“President Obama”, Jake Tapper noted on WORLD NEWS this evening, “came to China to reaffirm relations with an economic superpower and a key strategic player in world politics.” But today, Tapper adds, “he also made sure to bring up human rights issues, though he did so subtly.” The setting should be familiar to all Americans-the town-hall meeting. But President Obama was holding court in Shanghai, in front of “more than 400 university students handpicked by university officials.” The President didn’t offer a blanket denunciation of China’s human rights record but as Tapper says “his message was clear”. Obama: “These freedoms of expression and worship and access to information and political participation, we believe are universal rights.” The President’s Chinese hosts may see things slightly differently-Tapper said that prior to the President’s visit, “the Chinese government rounded up and detained dozens of dissidents.” So how did the students react to the President’s message? Tapper notes that the “students did not seem eager to embrace the President’s vision” and Tapper’s own informal survey was cut short when “a government official soon told us to stop interviewing students.” The relative freedom of the town-hall style meeting and the President’s message were not seen by many in China-in his close, Tapper says that “Chinese officials tried to limit the impact of the President’s town hall, keeping it from being broadcast live on state run television” as well as blocking most internet news sites’ coverage  in “what’s known as the great firewall of China.” The President has moved on to Beijing where he meets and holds a joint news conference with Chinese President Hu tomorrow (actually with the time difference their joint statements happen around 11:15pm ET this evening).

SARAH PALIN/ABC NEWS POLL:  “The buildup to her new book hasn’t eased Sarah Palin’s political challenges,” Gary Langer tells us.  An ABC News/Washington Post poll found 60 percent of Americans do not believe Sarah Palin is qualified to serve as president, and just over 50 percent say they would not vote for her if she ran in 2012.  Nine percent said they would definitely support her, and 37 percent said they would consider it.  “These views are much like they’ve been for the past year, when initially favorable responses to Palin’s selection as the Republican vice presidential nominee quickly turned down in the heat of the 2008 campaign,” Langer reports.  On Palin’s favorability among Americans, the polling unit reports “43 percent of Americans express a favorable opinion of Palin overall, while 52 percent see her unfavorably. Favorability is the most basic measure of a public figure’s popularity; in politics, where majorities win, it’s trouble when it goes negative, as it’s been for Palin since October 2008.”  For the full poll results, please see Gary Langer’s email to the Polling Unit DL.  (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

PRESIDENT OBAMA, POLITICS AND HEALTH CARE-Another ABC NEWS/WASHINGTON POST poll will be available after 12:01am Tuesday morning. This will focus on President Obama’s job performance in the face “of broad unemployment, a controversial health plan and continued doubts about his work on the war in Afghanistan”.

ECONOMIC STIMULUS/SAY WHAT?-Transparency. The Obama Administration preaches it and a new website lets you know about economic stimulus money. Jon Karl, filing for WORLD NEWS, picks up the story: “You can track the money and the jobs created by state, by zip code and by Congressional district.” Sounds good huh? Problem is, Karl notes that “the website…lists millions of dollars spent, and jobs created, in places that don’t exist.” DOH! Such as? Karl mentions two examples from the state of Arizona-“The website, for example, says 30 jobs were created for just $761,420 in Arizona’s 15th Congressional district. The problem: the state has only 8 congressional districts; there is no 15th district. And it lists $34 million spent in Arizona’s 86th district…that district doesn’t exist either.” And it’s not just the great state of Arizona-Karl says that “in virtually every state, the website lists millions of dollars spent and jobs created in fictional Congressional districts.” Nothing nefarious here, say the Obama Administration who tell Karl that they “chalk it all up to human error and tells us the mistakes were most likely made by grant recipients who filled out their forms incorrectly” adding further that “the overall claims by the White House about jobs created are still accurate.” And Zach Wolf noted “ABC was able to locate several of the expenditures made to nonexistent Congressional districts” including one of those mentioned above in Arizona. Still, Wisconsin Democrat David Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee released a paper statement demanded the website’s errors be fixed-"Whether the numbers are good news or bad news, I want the honest numbers and I want them now.”

HASAN INVESTIGATION:  There’s more evidence the deadly shooting rampage at Ft. Hood was pre-meditated.  Brian Ross reported tonight Maj. Hasan practiced shooting more than 200 rounds of ammunition at a shooting range near Ft. Hood two days before the attack.  Hasan also closed his safe deposit box at his bank and told the manager “You’ll never see me again.”  It’s been previously reported that Hasan exhibited signs he was discontent working with the Army, and investigators believe his frustration with the Army’s handling of alleged war criminals may have been the final straw.  Here’s Brian Ross: “Investigators say in the months before the shooting, at Walter Reed hospital in Washington and later at Fort Hood, Hasan had repeatedly tried to get military prosecutors to bring charges against some of his own patients who he believed had admitted to war crimes against Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His final failed effort was on November 2, the day before he went to the firing range.”  Ross reports that “Hasan’s efforts to bring war crimes charges came as he developed a deep relationship with a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen, Anwar Awlaki who is regarded by US officials as an al Qaeda recruiter.”  Awlaki confirmed his relationship with Hasan to the Washington Post, and said he was the Army psychiatrist’s confident.   “Awlaki said his e-mails with Hasan showed the major’s growing discomfort with the role of US soldiers fighting in Muslim countries, the very e-mails that the FBI’s joint terror task force saw last year and deemed to be innocent.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

SHUTTLE ATLANTIS-The space shuttle Atlantis took off as scheduled this afternoon, carrying six astronauts and a full load of spare parts to the International Space Station. The shuttle will reach the orbiting outpost Wednesday. The crew will perform three spacewalks during the 11-day mission which keeps them up in space through Thanksgiving.

GENERAL MOTORS-Better…but not great.  GM lost $1.2 billion for the third quarter – far less than the $6 billion it lost in the first three months of the year but a far cry from Ford’s $1 billion profit over the same period. GM credited a sharp reduction in debt and sales of new model cars as positives for the quarter. Associated Press noted “In one sign GM is indeed on firmer footing, it took in $3.3 billion more in cash than it spent in the third quarter.” It also noted that it would begin re-paying some $6.7 billion in government loans.

RETAIL SALES- Retail sales rose more than expected in October, thanks largely to a big rebound in auto sales. Sales fell at many other retail stores as consumer spending remains under pressure, raising questions about the durability of the recovery. The Commerce Department says retail sales rose 1.4 percent last month. Economists expected a gain of 0.8 percent. But excluding auto sales, retail demand rose 0.2 percent, half of the expected 0.4 percent rise. The government also revised the September performance down to show a 2.3 percent decline, from the 1.5 percent drop initially reported. (AP)

DUDE LEGGO MY EGGO! NO SERIOUSLY…LET GO!-It’s kill or be killed in the frozen breakfast aisle at your local grocery store. Brian Hartman tells us that there appears to be a shortage of Eggo Waffles. Eggo parent The Kelloggs Company explains the shortage thusly-“ Eggo recently experienced supply constraints caused by flood damage at our bakery in Atlanta.  In addition, we've been making significant equipment and technology enhancements at our other waffle bakeries. Unfortunately, these repairs and upgrades are taking longer than anticipated.  Eggo is working around the clock to bring everyone's favorite waffles back to store shelves as quickly as possible.  We hope to regain full distribution of Eggo products by the middle of 2010. This is a top priority for Kellogg Company.” To recap-that’s the middle of 2010 before this problem is alleviated-that’s seven months away!

NEW MOON RISING-Westwood, California is the home of UCLA and its’ collegiate students but tonight Westwood belongs to the “twi-hards”. “New Moon”, the 2nd installment in the “Twilight” series, has its world premiere later this evening. Thousands of fans from all across the United States have descended on the West Los Angeles hamlet to cheer their favorites from the movie-some having camped out for this special evening since last Thursday. The movie opens nationally on Friday, and with the largest pre-sale of all-time (online ticket seller Fandango says that “New Moon” made up 86% of weekly ticket sales this past week), box-office gross expectations are through the roof.

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