Sunday, March 05, 2006

Political links of the week, take 3

[See also: political links of the week take 2 and take 1.]

Bush Lied: A big story this week was the release of pre-Katrina conference calls wherein President Bush was directly told "I don't think any model can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not but that is obviously a very, very grave concern," which directly contradicts his later statement that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees". This AP story has more:
Homeland Security officials have said the "fog of war" blinded them early on to the magnitude of the disaster. But the video and transcripts show federal and local officials discussed threats clearly, reviewed long-made plans and understood Katrina would wreak devastation of historic proportions. "I'm sure it will be the top 10 or 15 when all is said and done," National Hurricane Center's Max Mayfield warned the day Katrina lashed the Gulf Coast.
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." - A letter to President Bush from representative Conyers based on the recently release briefing videos (linked to above):
Mr. President:

How could you look into the camera and utter those false words when you knew people were needlessly suffering and dying while you were vacationing, hamming it up with country music performer Mark Wills, strumming a guitar?

How can you look at yourself in the mirror every day knowing that, when faced with another crisis of the gravest proportions, you were again beset with uncertainty, indecision, and inaction – anything but the strong leader you purport to be?

How could you take your oath, in god's name, to protect the citizens of this country and then turn your back on a whole city, abandoning them before, during, and long after this horrible tragedy?
Bleak deficit picture in Treasury report concerns lawmakers:
A little-noticed Treasury Department report sent to congressional leaders in December paints a bleaker picture of the nation's finances than is widely accepted ...

According to the 158-page report, the fiscal 2005 federal deficit on an accrual basis was $760 billion, using generally accepted accounting principles that private businesses must use to present their finances.

That is an increase of $144 billion, or 23 percent, over the previous year's deficit of $616 billion.
It's worse than I thought - Orac reports on the cut in funding at the National Institute for Health's National Cancer Institute (NCI):
[T]he NCI budget for 2007 will represent not just a failure to keep up with inflation but a real cut in actual dollars [$40 million] for the second year in a row. And yet we can still manage to afford over $120 million a year to fund the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Where I Catch The NIH With Its Pantaloons Down: A Well-Timed Period post about a possible overstatement on an NIH website of the risks of emergency contraception.

Crucial but Costly Treatment Is Drying Up With Funding: An LA Times article looking at the effect of reduced Medicare funding on patients.
Although budget experts and healthcare economists believe [Medicare] costs must be reined in, Hill's [a patient on Medicare] experience illustrates how hard that is to do without hurting elderly patients.

Hill has a chronic disease in which his immune system attacks the nerves in his limbs, causing weakness and loss of control. The medication he was receiving until last spring is called intravenous immune globulin, or IVIG. One treatment can cost at least $3,000.

Most IVIG patients must receive infusions every three to four weeks, therefore the annual cost can exceed $50,000. According to an industry survey, the average doctor's office would lose from $7,800 to $9,700 a month by continuing to provide treatment at the newly reduced Medicare rates.

"We warned the government," said Dr. Mark Brecher, a University of North Carolina medical school professor who until recently headed an advisory committee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "The committee advised them a major problem was imminent, and to the best of my knowledge, I have seen no real action other than checking on the inventory [of IVIG]."

The panel Brecher headed called on the Department of Health and Human Services to declare a health emergency and override the reimbursement cutbacks. Administration officials have not done so.
Fire Victims Feel Burned by Lawmakers Tied to Insurers: Another article in the LA Times, this one looking at how California politicians have stymied reforms to insurance laws.
Karen Reimus' San Diego house was obliterated by the 2003 wildfires, leaving nothing recognizable except a charred jogging stroller and her daughter's burned bicycle.

Yet her insurer insisted that she catalog each of her family's destroyed personal items — down to pens and tampons — if she wanted to be reimbursed.

"When insurance companies are selling peace of mind the way they do in their advertisements, nobody has any inkling of the hoops you are going to have to jump through," said Reimus, a 39-year-old lawyer and mother of two. She reached a settlement with her insurer after months of wrangling.

Dozens of similarly frustrating experiences prompted Reimus and other survivors of one of the worst wildfire seasons in California history to urge that new rules be imposed on insurers. But the most far-reaching efforts were derailed by a panel of state lawmakers that is closely aligned with the insurance industry, offering an unusually clear window on how Sacramento works and how legislation can be determined by a handful of well-placed politicians.
US to extend military executions rules to Guantanamo Bay:
The US military is clearing the way for executions of condemned terror suspects to take place at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.


Previously executions could only take place at a military jail in Kansas but now death sentences can be carried out anywhere, including the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

The army has confirmed the new rules will also apply to any Guantanamo detainee sentenced to death at a specially convened military tribunal.

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