Clem’s Chronicles: President Obama Interview/Brazil Custody Battle/Statins

By Clem Lane

Dec 16, 2009 9:46pm

Howdy folks-Clem Lane here. The President heads to Copenhagen tomorrow night-this afternoon he sat down with WORLD NEWS anchor Charles Gibson for a wide-ranging interview…

CHARLES GIBSON INTERVIEW WITH PRESIDENT OBAMA-Charles Gibson interviewed President Obama today at the White House. Some highlights:
WHAT DIDN’T YOU ANTICIPATE/UNDERESTIMATE BEFORE YOU TOOK OFFICE?-Obama: “Well I think the main thing is we didn’t understand the rapidity of job losses in those first three months…you saw 700 thousand jobs lost or 650 thousand jobs lost in each of those months. So none of the economists had anticipated that.”
THE WEIGHT OF WAR-Had the President anticipated the weight of the job, particularly when it came to sending men and women off to war? The President told Gibson that “unfortunately, I anticipated the difficulties involved in managing two wars at the same time” as well as the weight of “sending young men and women into war”. The President talked about his trip earlier this year to Dover AFB. Obama: “Probably the most powerful moment of my year was when I traveled up to Dover and not only met with the families who were there in the middle of the night waiting for their loved ones to come home in caskets, but walking up the ramp of the transport plane by myself and seeing those caskets, it’s…it’s…it’s indescribable.”
HEALTH CARE/SENATE PASSAGE-Gibson asked the President about the difficulties of passing the health care bill in the Senate, noting that an agreement reached last week was amended after an individual senator rejected an element. Did the President feel as if individual senators were holding him hostage? The President demurred, first pointing out that “in the Senate is a situation where the opposition party has made a political decision that we are going to say no to everything” but Gibson, after getting  the President to agree that “leaves you needing all 58 Democrats and two independents”, asked again: “Do you feel like they’re holding you hostage?” President Obama: “Well here’s what I’ll say. Each of them have very strong opinions…and as you know, many of them, I think, sometimes feel that they’ve got a better idea than, than we do. We try to incorporate as many as possible. The problem is, each one of them may have ideas that are completely contrary to what the other Senator wants.” Gibson noted that many people worry about a bill “that’s so compromised that it’s not worth signing.” The President was not going to agree with his critics on that one-“This will be the single most important piece of domestic legislation that’s passed since Social Security. And I have confidence that we’re going to pass it.” The President had a cautionary tale to follow-“If we don’t pass it, here’s the guarantee, that the people who are watching tonight, your premiums will go up, your employers are going to load up more costs on you. Potentially they’re going to drop your coverage…and the Federal Government will go bankrupt, because Medicare and Medicaid are on a trajectory that are unsustainable.” And to those of you worried about the cost of the bill-the President added “so anybody who says that they are concerned about the deficit, concerned about debt, concerned about loading up taxes on future generations, you have to be supportive of this health care bill, because if we don’t do this, nobody argues with the fact that health care costs are going to consume the entire federal budget.”

GOLDMAN CUSTODY BATTLE:  David Goldman is en route to Rio de Janiero where he hopes to reunite with his son and bring an end to a years-long international custody dispute.  Brazil’s Appellate Court ruled this afternoon that custody of 9-year-old Sean Goldman should return to his biological father.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement on the ruling that read “We appreciate the assistance and cooperation of the Government of Brazil in upholding its obligations under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.  And it is my hope that this long legal process is now complete and that the Goldman family will be reunited quickly.  They will be in my thoughts and prayers today and throughout this holiday season.”  Goldman should arrive in Rio around 10:30am ET Thursday.  The reunion with his son could happen on Friday, but lawyers warn Sean’s step family could appeal the ruling again. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

STATINS FOR “HEALTHY PEOPLE”:  An FDA advisory panel has recommended that the drug Crestor – a statin used to lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks – be approved for use by “healthy people,” those who aren’t at risk for heart attack.  John McKenzie reports: “The panel’s recommendation is what some doctors are calling a ‘game changer’…the FDA panel recommendation is directed at men 50 or older…and women 60 or older who have normal cholesterol levels, but elevated levels of something called C-reactive protein…a sign of ‘inflammation’ in the body which can trigger a heart attack.”  In studies where these patients were given the drug Crestor, heart attacks decreased 54 percent; strokes fell 47 percent and deaths were down 20 percent. Despite the benefits, with all drugs there is the concern of side effects, which McKenzie tells us includes “an increased risk of diabetes.  And the cost: about 17 hundred dollars a year.  How much insurance companies would pay is not clear.”  And some doctors don’t think having all patients on statins as a preventative measure is the best idea: “Inflammation is not just specific enough,” Dr. Merle Myerson told ABC News. “You can have short term inflammation form a cold or tooth ache.  You can’t put everyone on a statin for the rest of their lives just because inflammation is elevated.”  McKenzie again: “It’s now up to the Food and Drug Administration to decide whether to follow the panel’s recommendation: whether to make an already popular medication available to as many as 6 million more Americans.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

TIGER WOODS-Tiger Woods may not be scoring well at home but he can add another plaudit to his public resume-the Associated Press named the world’s number one golfer the athlete of the decade. Woods received 56 of the 142 votes cast since last month by editors at U.S. newspapers that are members of the AP. AP also notes that “more than half the ballots were returned after the Nov. 27 car accident outside his Florida home that set off sensational tales of infidelity.” Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor who won the Tour de France six times this decade, finished second with 33 votes. He was followed by Roger Federer, who has won more Grand Slam singles titles than any other man, with 25 votes.

FED/ECONOMY & INTEREST RATES-Dan Arnall: “For the eighth meeting in a row the nation’s central bankers have decided to keep a key Federal interest rate at its lowest level in history – from zero to 0.25 percent. That historically low rate was introduced exactly a year ago.” The Fed sounded more upbeat on the economy. Arnall adds that “One thing Wall Street was looking for was the retention of a key phrase they’ve taken to mean rates are not going up anytime soon (‘… economic conditions, … are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period.’ [emphasis added]). This wording was retained, and so many on Wall Street believe we won’t see a Fed funds rate increase until the middle of next year at the earliest.” The bankers did note one change coming-Arnall: “The central bankers added an entirely new paragraph to the key post-meeting statement explicitly saying many of the special lending programs it has rolled out – like the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, Term Securities Lending Facility, etc, etc – will be expiring on February 1st of next year. They are starting to set the table for getting their $2.2 trillion balance sheet shrinking back toward the $800 billion they had pre-crisis. They want the markets to prepare for a reduction in this ‘quantitative easing.’”

HOUSE PASSES JOBS BILL-Dean Norland reports that the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $155 billion jobs bill earlier tonight. The bill passed by a vote of 217-212-Norland: “About half of the money in the package will be used to pay for infrastructure projects and to keep public sector employees from being laid off.  The rest of the money will finance six month extensions of unemployment  and COBRA health benefits.  It will also help states pay for their Medicaid programs and expand the child tax credit to all working families with children.” The Senate is not expected to consider the measure until early next year.

IRANIAN MISSILE TEST-Iran test fired an upgraded version of its medium-range Sajjil-2 missile. Wednesday's test was the third for the Sajjil-2 since it was unveiled in May. The missile has the longest range of any in Iran's arsenal, about 1,200 miles which puts Israel, U.S. bases in the Gulf and parts of southeastern and eastern Europe in its sights. Luis Martinez got the following from U.S. Defense officials: “the missile was launched from a facility east/northeast of Teheran and landed in the extreme southeast corner of Iran.  That’s pretty typical for Iranian missile tests and US officials believe it went as far as the Iranians advertised, 1,200 miles.”

CREDIT SUISSE/IRAN SETTLEMENT- Credit Suisse Group has agreed to pay $536 million to settle a Justice Department probe and admit to violating U.S. economic sanctions by hiding illegal business it was doing for Iranian banks. Jason Ryan attended the Justice Department presser on this: “At the Justice Department news conference Attorney General Eric Holder called the actions of Credit Suisse ‘Simply astounding’.  Holder said that the bank ‘thought it didn't have to play by the rules’ and said the bank even had pamphlets for its Iranian clients on how to ensure that money could not be traced to Iranian banks while passing through the US financial system to obtain and clear US dollars into their accounts. Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer said that Iran transferred about $1.6 Billion (USD) out of Iran and through the US financial system. Officials at the press conference said they could not find evidence that any of the funds were connected to Iran's missile development or nuclear facilities. The most egregious claim in the deferred prosecution agreement and paperwork on the case notes that in 2003 once Credit Suisse learned that a competing bank was ceasing their Iranian operations Credit Suisse viewed this as a business opportunity and sought to take over the Iranian US dollar clearing business.”

OTHER STUFF-
BANK OF AMERICA NAMES NEW CEO-Bank of America has found its new CEO. The company’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to tap Brian Moynihan to replace Kenneth Lewis. Moynihan’s an internal candidate-over the past year he has served as BofA general counsel, head of global wealth management and consumer bank chief. Mr. Moynihan assumes the position January 1st. (Marisa Bramwell)
FLORIDA/STATE FARM STAYING-Florida’s largest private property insurer isn’t departing the state after all. State Farm Florida dropped its plan to withdraw from the property insurance market in hurricane-prone Florida on Wednesday as part of a settlement with state regulators that includes an average 14.8 percent rate increase for homeowners and condominium owners (State Farm had wanted as much as a 48% rate increase). The agreement also lets the company, which wants to reduce exposure to the greatest storm risks, not renew about 15 percent of its policies. (AP)
XMAS/NEW YEARS HOLIDAY TRAFFIC EXPECTED TO BE UP-More than 87 million Americans will be traveling more than 50 miles during the end-of-year holidays, the AAA projected today. That’s a 3.8% percent increase over last year, and is the largest projected increase for any major holiday this year. AAA points to the increase as “another sign consumers’ are continuing to grow more confident in their personal financial situations.” (Lisa Stark/AAA press release)

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