Clem’s Chronicles: Chile Quake/Obama Physical/Unemployment Benefits

By Clem Lane

Mar 1, 2010 9:33pm

Hiya folks-Clem Lane here with our evening round-up of today's news……..

CHILE QUAKE-Aftershocks continue throughout Chile, two days after a massive 8.8 earthquake struck the country. What we know now—the official death toll stands at more than 720. Over one million people are believed to be homeless. Much has been made of the size of this earthquake but today we learned it literally shook the world-Diane Sawyer noted in her introduction to David Wright tonight that “the Earth shook for a moment on its’ axis” and may have shortened our day by 1.26 millionths of a second. The Chilean government formally asked the United States for help today. Some of the items on their want list? Field hospitals, generators, satellite phones, salt water purification systems, tents and rescue teams. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Santiago, Chile tomorrow and will bring with her a down payment of sorts on U.S. aid-20 satellite phones and a technician.
For terrified residents, many more immediate concerns. Some coastal towns were almost obliterated – first shaken by the quake, then slammed by a tsunami that carried whole houses inland and crushed others into woodpiles. Shocked survivors were left without power, water or food. Or even parents. David Wright, reporting on WORLD NEWS, relayed the following tale: “Today Chilean TV showed 3 children who were traveling along the coast with their mother who died in the quake. They’re now frantically looking for their dad.” Another big problem-looting. Wright tells us it’s particularly bad “in some of the worst-hit areas. Today, vigilantes manned barricades trying to keep the looters out.” In Concepcion, looters have re-emerged, despite beefed-up security there and dozens of arrests. Groups of looters have been cleaning out stores selling food, clothing and drugs. They've fled when police arrived to drive them away. Jeffrey Kofman traveled south from Santiago this morning to the hardest-hit areas, a trip Kofman called “a journey of unfolding destruction and despair.” One such town was Curico, an inland city 125 miles south of Santiago. Kofman notes “we found long lines at the banks, people desperate to get cash”. Further south, more devastation…but also some positive signs. Kofman headed to the city of Talca in the wine region: “As we approached evidence of the quake’s violence was everywhere…cracked pavement, downed bridges. But we also saw an impressive amount of repair work already underway.” In Talca itself, Kofman notes, “we found buildings ripped apart like toys in the hands of an impetuous child. More than 100 people died in this city.” Back in Concepcion, some hope amid that city’s devastation- rescuers heard the knock of trapped victims inside a toppled 15 story high-rise-Wright adds “today at the base of the ruined structure, rescue workers cut windows into the concrete searching for survivors.” NIGHTLINE’s Melia Patria is currently at the rescue scene in Concepcion and will alert us to editorial developments.  As bad as the situation in Chile is, more lax (or non-existent) construction rules like we saw in Haiti would have made things even worse. Wright tells us the “Chile enforces strict building codes because of all the seismic activity here. The vast majority of buildings survived unscathed.” Kofman said in his close “This is the most developed country in Latin America and clearly has much of the expertise and equipment it needs to rebuild” before adding “Make no mistake, the scale of the quake is so large, Chile will need all the help it can get to recover.”

CHILE QUAKE/AMERICANS-Some 18 thousand Americans are believed to be in Chile. So far we have heard no reports of American fatalities or injuries. Tonight comes word that at least two of them have been reported missing. The Monterey County Herald reports that Joseph Stoffers and Isis Skarra-Pergler of Carmel, California have been backpacking in the country since Feb. 2nd. The 24-year-olds are believed to be in the coastal town, Pichilemu, a popular surf spot about 120 miles north of the quake's epicenter. Stoffers' mother, Dana Vogelpohl, said Skarra-Pergler spoke with her father, who lives in New Mexico, shortly before the earthquake through Skype, an online phone service. Neither family has heard from them since earthquake.

OBAMA HEALTH CHECK:  President Obama had his first presidential physical Sunday, and while he is overall healthy, there are a few concerns. Jake Tapper reports: “The president appears to be in great shape, but his doctor is concerned about his LDL – so-called bad cholesterol level at 138 – up 42 points since 2007 and rated ‘borderline high’ by the American Heart Association.  The White House blamed it on a White House chef at his beck and call.”  The White House physician suggests Obama can modify his cholesterol levels through diet and lifestyle – in other words, decreasing his pie and burger intake.  His physician also recommended the President continue efforts to stop smoking.
(thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)
DOT FURLOUGH:   Thousands of transportation workers were furloughed without pay today after a Republican senator blocked the passage of a bill that would extend federal transit and highway programs.  Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning had an angry exchange of words with ABC News when questioned about the bill today – Jonathan Karl reports: “We wanted to ask the Senator why he is blocking a vote that would extend unemployment benefits to more than 3,400 Americans…Senator Bunning is also blocking money for highway construction, so across the country today 41 construction project ground to a halt, thousands of workers furloughed without pay.”  Senator Bunning explained his position on the Senate floor, saying that he was in favor of the bill but wanted cuts from other programs: “If we can’t find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of this U.S. Senate,” Bunning said.  He also suggested that unused stimulus funds to pay for the bill, a proposal rejected by Democrats. Lawmakers expect to work out a deal by the end of the week. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

PRESCRIPTION PROBLEMS-Americans may have more than their own maladies to be concerned about. Take that prescription you just had filled out…how can you be sure it is what the label says? Brian Ross has been reporting on prescription errors for the past couple of years, and tonight he took another look for WORLD NEWS. Ross told us the tale of Beth Hippely “an active mother of three” who was taking blood thinner pills. Turns out the pills she got from Walgreens “were ten times the prescribed dose.” Ross tells us “she was crippled by a massive stroke, forced to stop treatment for early stage breast cancer, no longer able to care for her children.” The prescription error? Ross: “Made by a high school student, who went from working at a movie theater to being a pharmacy technician at Walgreens.” Ms. Hippely ultimately died from her untreated breast cancer and Ross reports “last week, a Florida court upheld a $28.5 million judgment against Walgreens, one of the biggest ever for a prescription error.”
How could this happen? Ross tells us that “three out of every four prescriptions are filled at chain drug stores which critics say have brought a fast food culture to the business.” But there must be standards for pharmacy technicians? Um……nope. Ross says “there is no national age restriction or training standard.” Nor is there any public accountability for pharmacies themselves to worry about. Ross: “The major chains treat their error rates as a closely held secret, and there is no federal requirement to publicly report prescription errors, even those involving serious injury or death.”

AMERICAN MISSIONARIES- A Haitian judge tells the AP he is likely to order the release of American missionaries Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter tomorrow following a closed court hearing. Eight other Americans detained with them have already been released. (Marisa Bramwell)
JOB FIGURES-Friday sees the release of the February Jobs Report and White House Economic Advisor Larry Summers for one is urging caution on how numbers are interpreted. Appearing on CNBC earlier today, Summers said winter blizzards were likely to distort the February figures. "The blizzards that affected much of the country during the last month are likely to distort the statistics," Summers said in an interview with CNBC, according to a transcript. "So it's going to be very important … to look past whatever the next figures are to gauge the underlying trends," he said. Charlie Herman notes that this means the report could look worse than it is. (Reuters/Charlie Herman)
TICKET HACKERS-Ever wonder why you always end up in the nose bleed seats despite being on-line right at the time tickets to that hot show go on sale? A partial explanation may have surfaced today. Four California men were charged with using sophisticated computer programs to fraudulently obtain more than a million tickets to concerts and sporting events and reselling them for a profit estimated at $29 million. According to a 43-count indictment, the four men and their company, Wiseguy Tickets Inc., devised software that impersonated individual ticket buyers to bombard online ticket services such as Ticketmaster and Major League Baseball. You can read Rich Esposito’s full story on The Blotter
GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN?- California Attorney General Jerry Brown plans to formally announce via web video on Tuesday that he's entering the race to be his state's next governor. If he wins in November, this would be the second time around for Brown, who served two terms as California Governor from 1975-1983. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is barred by term limits from running again. Brown served so long ago that the state’s gubernatorial term limits law was not yet in place. (Teddy Davis)

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