Happy Monday folks. A whole heck of a lot of news tonight……
CLEAN AIR RULES-The global climate conference opened today in Copenhagen, but it was a move announced by the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. that grabbed the headlines. David Wright, reporting on WORLD NEWS, noted “it is a simple declarative statement with huge implications for policy. Think of it like the Surgeon General’s warning about cigarettes all those years ago.” The statement? “After a thorough examination of the scientific evidence and careful consideration of public comments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people.” Wright continues-“with that today, the EPA Administrator ruled that 6 greenhouse gases constitute toxic air pollution…and are therefore subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.” Which means? Wright again:“The EPA now has unilateral authority to act…including setting new carbon emissions standards for power plants, factories, and cars…even if Congress fails to pass a climate bill.” Not surprisingly, plenty of folks don’t like it. Republicans, Wright tells us, “accused the (Obama) Administration of doing an end-around Congress, which is still debating a climate bill….Industry groups also strongly object, saying the EPA’s action could damage the economy and send jobs overseas.” Supporters dispute that, Wright notes, saying “that this would not necessarily hurt the economy, that it could create jobs.” As for the EPA, Wright said in his close that the agency “pledged to work with Congress in the future, not move ahead on its own.”
CLIMATE CONFERENCE-With representatives of 192 nations, the climate conference in Copenhagen is nothing if not global. Bob Woodruff, filing from Copenhagen for WORLD NEWS, notes that “delegates began hammering out the details of an agreement that would move away from fossil fuel pollution that is warming the planet.” It won’t be easy-Woodruff: “President Obama will offer a 17% cut in emissions by 2020 and 83% by 2050. Developing nations including India and China are proposing their own cuts. But they are not deep enough, scientists say.” There are other issues working against a comprehensive treaty-financing for poor nations and more increasingly these days, climate change doubters. Woodruff: “Saudi Arabia claimed a series of stolen emails, in which climate scientists appear to fudge data, undermine the need to act on global warming. Climate change deniers say these emails are proof humans aren’t causing global warming. U. S. officials say the evidence proves otherwise.” President Obama’s decision to delay his arrival in Copenhagen until the end of the conference underscores his importance in moving things forward. Woodruff: “One thing the US has in its favor here in Copenhagen is a new president with star power who is more willing than his predecessor to negotiate a climate treaty. Delegates hope they will leave here with a firm blueprint to address climate change…and the momentum to get there.”
TARP MONIES-For all the vilification the TARP program has brought the Obama Administration from certain circles, today we learned that monetarily at least, the program may not be as big a drain on the deficit as its’ detractors feared. Jake Tapper, filing for WORLD NEWS, fills us in: “In August, the Obama Administration estimated the cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, to be $341 billion. But in a report issued to Congress today, officials say TARP will cost significantly less, $141 billion.” Hey that’s $200 billion in savings-what’s the money going to be used for Mr. Tapper? Tapper: “Today the President said that in addition to paying down the deficit, he might use this money to help small businesses hire.” Not liking that idea? Republicans who Tapper tells us “say the money should only go towards reducing the deficit.” There’s more money talk in today’s report-both good and bad. Tapper adds “that the report also states that TARP should ultimately turn a profit of roughly $20 billion from money invested in banks and returned.” (that’s the good) As for the not-so-good…Tapper says “it could lose roughly $60 billion total from riskier investments in insurance giant AIG and US automakers.” Tapper asked Treasury Secretary Geithner how much of the $700 billion in TARP funds will be coming back to the American people. Geithner: “You’re going to see there are substantial risks of losses still ahead although a fraction of what we initially estimated.” Good news for the President any way you slice it…as for the President’s idea of using some of this money to help small businesses hire, Tapper tells us that “tomorrow President Obama will give a major address on jobs in which he’ll talk about this issue.”
AFGHANISTAN-Admiral Mike Mullen was out and about today. Luis Martinez reports that “Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held town halls at two military bases that will be impacted by the President’s surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan: Fort Campbell, Kentucky and Camp Lejeune, NC. He took some good questions at each about the US fight in Afghanistan. At Lejeune he said the US has 18-24 months to get this right or July, 2011 might not be possible. At Campbell he stressed that July,2011 is not a deadline and that as far as a counterinsurgency fight in Afghanistan right now, the US is losing.”
In Afghanistan, Miguel Marquez is embedded with a group of Marines fighting for the control of the city of Now Zed. Marquez reports that American forces seemed to have the element of surprise on their side. Marquez: “In the fight for the city of Now Zed, the show of force has been so overwhelming most insurgents left town fast…and they left behind weapons hastily buried along with huge caches of bomb-making materials.” Marquez notes the growing pains of the relationship between U.S. forces and their Afghan compatriots. Today’s issue…who gets the weapons? Marquez: “When they found these rocket-propelled grenades and guns, Afghan security forces wanted to keep them for themselves…Marines wanted to blow them up. Frustrated Afghan forces walked off the job in protest but then returned. Marines and Afghan security forces still learning how to work with each other.” And it is a two-way street…Marquez adds that “(Marines) released 4 suspected insurgents detained just days ago. They believe these men can be reintegrated safely into village life…how? Elders here publicly vouched for the men, signing a statement that they would be responsible if the men help the Taliban again.” A good start then for the operation, “start” being the operative word. Marquez in his WORLD NEWS close notes “tonight Marines have a foothold on new ground. Now the hard part….keeping it.”
ZHU ZHU PETS: Today the Consumer Product Safety Commission said it would not recall Zhu Zhu Pets, the battery-operated toy hamsters a consumer group claims have high levels of the chemical antimony. GoodGuide issued a warning over the weekend, claiming its testing found the popular holiday toy was unsafe. But, as Andrea Canning reported tonight on WORLD NEWS, “It turns out experts say GoodGuide used a different test that didn’t meet U.S. government or toy industry standards. The group used a test to try and determine if the substance was in the toy. The industry and the government rely on a different test that checks to see if that substance will actually rub off the toy – onto skin or into someone’s mouth.” GoodGuide acknowledged late today that it did use different testing methods and should not have compared its testing standards to those conducted by the government. In response Cepia LLC CEO Russ Hornsby released a statement saying he was “pleased that GoodGuide has issued a clarification and acknowledged that their testing is ‘different from the testing methoodlogy’ used by the U.S. and the E.U., and has lead to ‘confusion’ about their research….as we have continually stressed, all Zhu Zhu Pets toys are safe and compliant with all U.S. and European standards for consumer health and safety in toys.” While the CPSC says it will not recall the toy, it does say it will continue its investigation into the matter. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)
CANCER RATES CONTINUE TO DECLINE: Cancer rates are falling. That’s the word from a new report out today from the federal government that shows the number of new cancer cases and deaths continue to decline. “This latest report is the most encouraging yet…with a clear ‘trend’ now developing,” John McKenzie reported on WORLD NEWS. “While new cases of less common cancers continue to grow…among the four biggest cancer killers, new cases are falling year after year. New cases of lung cancer dropping .8 percent a year; breast cancer down 2 percent a year; prostate cancer declining 2.4 percent a year and colorectal cancer falling 2.5 percent a year,” McKenzie says. That’s great news for the fight against cancer in the U.S. The report, which focused on colorectal cancer, says we can credit part of that to a change in habit. “Researchers conclude about half the decline in new colorectal cancer cases is due to behavior: eating less red meat, less smoking and greater use of aspirin, calcium and folate. And half the decline is due to more screening,” McKenzie reports. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)
IRAN PROTESTS- Tens of thousands of students, many shouting "Death to the Dictator!" and burning pictures of Iran's supreme leader, took to the streets on more than a dozen campuses Monday in the biggest anti-government protests in months. Jim Sciutto has more: “On National Students Day, Iranian students are supposed to celebrate their government. Today, thousands condemned it. They waved money at pro-government militia, calling them hired thugs. And, for the first time, they carried Iranian flags missing the word ‘Allah’ at the center, a daring protest against the Islamic regime.” As has become the norm, journalists working for foreign media organizations were banned from covering today’s demonstrations…which is not to say that the event was uncovered. Sciutto again: “But students and members of the public are taking the lead…organizing the protests, and, with journalists banned, even covering them on their own…filming on their cell-phones and uploading videos to YouTube.” Security forces reacted- Riot police and pro-government Basij militiamen on fleets of motorcycles flooded Tehran's main thoroughfares, beating men and women with clubs as crowds of demonstrators hurled bricks and stones. Some protesters set tires and garbage cans ablaze. Sciutto notes that “hijacking national holidays to stage protests has become a favorite opposition tactic. And in the coming weeks, there will be several more holidays, and more chances to show their anger.”
HEALTH CARE REFORM- Senate Democratic liberals are seeking expansion of two large federal programs, Medicare and Medicaid, in exchange for dropping a government-sold insurance option from health care legislation. Under the potential trade-off with party moderates, near-retirees beginning at age 55 or 60 who lack affordable insurance would be permitted to purchase coverage under Medicare, which generally provides medical care beginning at 65. first some info from Wolf on the next Senate hurdle on health care reform-abortion language. Wolf: “Democrats are keeping their public option disagreements behind closed doors for now, but their division on how to treat abortion in health reform legislation has taken over the Senate floor debate. We don’t expect a vote on Sen. Ben Nelson’s, D-Neb, amendment until tomorrow. Nelson’s amendment would further restrict insurance coverage of abortions in Democrats health reform bill. Nelson has said he will oppose health reform legislation if his language is not adopted, but other Democrats have said they do not believe he has the 60 votes he will need to get it attached to the bill.” 60 votes or not, it didn’t deter Nelson from introducing the bill. Wolf: “Introducing his amendment on the senate floor, Nelson argued that his amendment tracks with an existing ban on abortion services under insurance offered to federal employees or to people receiving Medicaid or Medicare. Some states cover abortions through Medicaid. His amendment would ban abortion coverage in any health plan for a person receiving public assistance to buy insurance.”
WESTERN WEATHER: Powerful storms are moving across the Western U.S., bringing heavy rain and snow to most of the region. In southern California up to four inches of rain are forecast in some areas, and there is concern of mudslides in areas devastated by wildfires. Blizzard warnings are in effect for northern Arizona and Colorado, and several feet of snow are expected in Utah. The storms will continue to move east, bringing blizzard-like conditions to the Midwest on Tuesday and Wednesday. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)
MUMBAI TERROR CHARGES-From Jason Ryan: “The US Attorney's office in Chicago has filed terrorism charges against a Chicago man for his involvement in assisting in last year's deadly Mumbai terrorism attacks which left 175 dead including 6 American citizens. David Headley was charged in a 12 count criminal information with 6 counts of murdering US Nationals in India, conspiracy to bomb public targets in India, conspiracy to murder and maim persons in India, providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to murder and maim persons in Denmark and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in Denmark. In recent weeks investigators from the FBI and other US intelligence agencies have run down leads and connections between Headley and his role in the Mumbai attacks. Senior FBI officials recently held meetings with India's national security advisor during the Indian Prime Minister's visit to Washington two weeks ago. In recent days an FBI Team from the United States arrived in Delhi to share additional information.” Kirit Radia adds “State Dept says the DOJ/FBI team that is briefing Indian officials in New Delhi today will then travel on to Islamabad to brief Pakistani officials as the US explores Headley’s ties in that country where, of course, the Mumbai attackers came from.” Late tonight, Jason Ryan reports that Headley will be arraigned Weds Dec. 9th at 11:45am ET. Ryan adds that “Headley is currently cooperating with the government in this investigation and could plead guilty to take the death penalty off the table and receive a life sentence.
CHIMP ATTACK/NO STATE CHARGES- A Connecticut woman who owned a chimpanzee that mauled and blinded a woman won't be charged because there's no evidence she knowingly disregarded any risk the animal posed, a prosecutor said Monday. State's Attorney David Cohen said it wasn't evident that Sandra Herold of Stamford had been deliberately reckless in handling the animal. He said state officials did not share their safety concerns about the chimpanzee with Herold and did not enforce a permitting requirement. (AP)
–OHIO EXECUTION TOMORROW- The State of Ohio is prepared to execute a convicted killer on Tuesday using an untested method of lethal injection that no other state has ever employed. The planned execution of Kenneth Biros, who was convicted of killing and dismembering Tammy Engstrom in 1991, will mark the first time a one-drug protocol consisting of an overdose of an anesthetic has ever been used on a death row inmate. (Ariane DeVogue/Dennis Powell/Devin Dwyer)
–HEISMAN TROPHY FINALISTS- Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy are headed back to the Heisman Trophy presentation as finalists, along with running backs Mark Ingram(Alabama) and Toby Gerhart(Stanford) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh(Nebraska). Tebow is trying to become the second two-time Heisman winner. The Florida quarterback won the award in 2007 and finished third last season. Texas QB McCoy finished second last year in the Heisman voting. (AP)
–YOU MEAN YOU’VE NEVER HEARD ‘FREE LOOP’?-Billboard Magazine has come out with their one-hit wonder of the decade and the winner is Daniel Powter for the treacle-like power ballad “Bad Day” whose chorus is still stuck in millions of heads despite not being on the charts since 2006.