Clem’s Chronicles: Winter Weather/MJ Doctor Charged/Health Care and the GOP

By Clem Lane

Feb 8, 2010 9:31pm

Looks like the weather gods will have plenty to say about how many of us spend our work week. Another big one coming…and the other news follows

WINTER WEATHER-It’s déjà vu all over again for residents of the mid-Atlantic states as the region prepares for another winter beatdown from Mother Nature. Take our nation’s capital. David Kerley, reporting on WORLD NEWS, notes that “a full two days after it stopped snowing…many streets here in Washington haven’t seen a plow.” Two feet of snow will do that to ya-and it wasn’t just DC.Kerley tells us “the two foot blanket covers seven states and 15 million people.” On the horizon-another storm scheduled to hit tomorrow afternoon into Wednesday. While the center of the storm is expected to be further north up in the Philadelphia area, Washington, Kerley tells us, has the “potential of another 10 to 20 inches”. That,  Kerley notes, might leave DC “paralyzed for most of the week.”  Unfortunately, the storm isn’t concentrating on just the East Coast. It will first make its way through the upper Midwest. Accuweather says that “Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit are bracing for the worst snowstorm of the winter so far” as it moves through the region tonight through tomorrow. When that snowstorm does move East, residents in places like New York and Boston who were spared the worst of this weekend’s weather woes will get their fair share of misery-up to a foot of snow possible as far north as Boston and double that amount possible south in New York, New Jersey and the Philadelphia area. For you folks down south-no gloating. You’ll get a chance to join the misery index. Accuweather notes “A second snowstorm is forecast to roll in from the Southwest late in the week. That storm will take aim at many areas in the Deep South.”

CAL MUDSLIDES FEARED AGAIN-Southern California has its’ own weather worries resurfacing tomorrow, not exactly what residents of mudslide-prone areas already battered over the weekend want to hear. The National Weather Service said the storm could dump up to an inch of rain on San Gabriel Mountain slopes that were burned in last year's massive wildfire in the Angeles National Forest. That possibility have authorities mulling whether to order evacuations, especially in La Canada Flintridge, where 43 homes were damaged from Saturday’s mudslides.

HEALTH-CARE REFORM-The White House is not giving up its’ quest for health-care reform. President Obama has invited Congressional leaders from both parties to attend a Feb. 25th televised meeting on health care. While the call from the White House is bi-partisan, it’s the Republican presence and level of cooperation that is the big question mark. Jon Karl told anchor Diane Sawyer on WORLD NEWS that “when it comes to attending that meeting, all indications are the republicans will say yes. But if it's a matter of resuscitating the President’s healthcare bill, they’ve already given their answer and that’s a firm no.” Karl notes that “Democrats up here (on the Hill) are saying that these days, Republicans have even been saying no to some of their own ideas”. Case in point-the creation of a deficit-cutting commission. Karl notes that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell “practically dared the President to support” the Republican-sponsored bill. Karl says that “three weeks ago, the President did just that”. And the Republican response? Karl: “Most voted no, including John McCain and six other Republicans who actually co-sponsored the bill.” So will Republicans attend the President’s health care meeting? House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced this evening that they are sending a letter to the White House regarding the proposed health care summit. That letter seems to have plenty of questions for the White House to answer before the GOP can say yes or no.

CALIFORNIA COMPANY’S INSURANCE PREMIUM HIKE BRINGS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SCRUTINY- From Jake Tapper: “Reports that Anthem Blue Cross is raising premiums on some customers by 39 percent on March 1, have prompted the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to write a letter to the company, Golden State's largest private insurer, asking the company to ‘provide a detailed justification for these rate increases to the public.’
‘Additionally, you should make public information on the percent of your individual market premiums that is used for medical care versus the percent that is used for administrative costs,’ Sebelius wrote, noting that the profits of Anthem Blue Cross's parent company, WellPoint Incorporated, have soared. The company earned $2.7 billion in just the last quarter of 2009. Quarterly sales went from $15.1 billion to $19 billion — a 26% rise.”
Anthem Blue Cross released a written statement saying it would respond to Sebelius “promptly” and added “It is important to note that individual medical insurance premiums do not reflect an individual member's personal claims experience. Therefore, as medical costs increase across our member population, premium increases to the entire membership pool result. Unfortunately, in the weak economy many people who do not have health conditions are foregoing buying insurance. This leaves fewer people, often with significantly greater medical needs, in the insured pool. We regret the impact this has on our members. It highlights, why we need sustainable health care reform to manage the steadily rising costs of hospitals, drugs and doctors . As such, it is important to go back to the beginning and get health care reform done right.”

JACKSON DOCTOR CHARGED:  Cardiologist Dr. Conrad Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter Monday for his role in pop star Michael Jackson’s untimely death.  “A long-awaited day of reckoning for Dr. Conrad Murray…the man who’s been at the center of the homicide investigation ever since Michael Jackson died in June…if convicted, he could face up to four years in prison,” Dan Harris reported on WORLD NEWS.  Murray entered his plea of not guilty through his attorney, Ed Chernoff, as Jackson’s family looked on.  A few hours after the hearing Murray posted $75,000 bail and was released from jail.  Murray’s lawyer said the doctor plans to return to his medical practices in Houston and Las Vegas while he awaits trail, but officials say they plan to suspend his medical license.  A preliminary hearing to set the start date for the trial will be held April 5. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

NEW ORLEANS CELEBRATES THE SAINTS:   The New Orleans Saints returned home Monday afternoon to a jubilant city still reveling in Sunday night’s Super Bowl victory.  The celebration in New Orleans, Ryan Owens tells us, “wasn’t just measured in decibels…but in pride for a city that suffered so much..a city that has seen so much loss finally got its big win.”  For WORLD NEWS Owens visited Katrina survivors who expressed pride in their team: “If you look at all we’ve been through and all that the Saints have been through, they sort of mirror us.  They mirror us for their resiliency.  They mirror us in not giving in to what other people expect them not to be able to do,” survivor Robert Green told ABC News.
The Saints’ victory parade will kick off Tuesday at 5pm CT from the Superdome and – in the spirit of Mardi Gras – will feature 10 floats donated from different Mardi Gras krewes and 12 marching bands. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

MOTHER’S AGE & AUTISM-A new study suggests having a child with autism increases as the mother ages. The ABC NEWS MEDICAL UNIT wrote up the following synopsis of the study: “Older moms are more likely to have children with autism, regardless of the father’s age, finds one of the largest studies on parental age and autism. The researchers examined all births in California during the 1990’s. The risk increased by a relative 18% for every five-year increase in the mother’s age. While older dads have also been implicated in increased risk, this study finds that among moms over 30, increases in the father’s age do not further increase risk. The authors state that more research is needed to understand what causes this greater risk, although possibilities include genetic mutations, increased immune reactions, or changes to the way genes are read by cells. Dr. Bryan King of Seattle Children’s Hospital said that ‘the size of the sample used in the present study (close to 5 million births) has resulted in a clear signal that both maternal and paternal age are involved.’ But that this finding does not account for the big increase in autism prevalence ‘although it may be contributing somewhat,’ he said.”

CRESTOR APPROVAL-From the Associated Press: “Federal regulators have granted AstraZeneca approval to market its cholesterol pill Crestor as a preventive measure against heart attack and stroke in patients with healthy cholesterol levels. The Food and Drug Administration's decision will allow the company to promote Crestor to millions of U.S. patients who traditionally have not been candidates for cholesterol-lowering drugs.” Roger Sergel notes “There are some estimates that this will open the door to potentially 6 million more patients being candidates for this cholesterol lowering drug. This is the first time the FDA has approved a cholesterol drug to treat people who have a risk of heart disease due to a high level of inflammation in the blood which is measured by a blood test known as CRP.”

OTHER STUFF-
JOHN MURTHA DEAD AT 77-Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha died today at the age of 77. He had been suffering complications from gallbladder surgery. In 1974, Murtha became the first combat veteran of the Vietnam War elected to Congress and had continued to serve his district up until his death.
SUPER BOWL SACKS HAWKEYE PIERCE-Nielsen says last night’s Super Bowl attracted 106.5 million viewers making it the all-time US ratings champ, besting the broadcast finale of M*A*S*H which had held the record (105.9 million) for 27 years. (David Herndon)

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