The pathetic victims of a possible government shutdown have been trotted out by the media prematurely, building up dramatic momentum as the budget showdown between Republicans and Democrats reaches the big finale. Naturally, the woes of innocent folks are the fault of dastardly Republicans, and the press is deft at trying to prove this. No wonder. Hand-wringing journalists are using the same melodramatic language that surfaced during the 1995 shutdown. ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl, for instance, predicts that "Treasures like Old Faithful and Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and Yosemite's half dome will be closed to visitors."
But wait. Here's what CNN World News anchor Kathleen Kennedy said, when the previous crisis loomed 16 years ago: "The echoes of a government shutdown would be felt from coast to coast. The gates of 'Lady Liberty' at New York would be closed," she said at the time, also invoking the Washington Monument and Bunker Hill as further proof.
"The liberal media are filling their programs with stories about dire consequences of deep cuts that will lead to troops not getting paid, closed national parks, and late tax refunds," says Geoffrey Dickens, deputy research director at the Media Research Center, which tracked the coverage in 1995 — and this time around.
"However Karl and the others, as quotes from 1995 show, are simply dusting off the old media playbook to blame Republicans, not Democrats, for a shutdown, as they focus on high profile federal projects like national parks in an attempt to frighten the American people into opposing prudent fiscal decision-making," Mr. Dickens observes.
Does Sarah Palin wonder what happened to her concept of "conservative feminism," revealed in a speech almost a year ago at a Susan B. Anthony List event? Not to worry. It's evolving. Behold, the Conservative Women's Network's "Steel Nerves, Iron Jaws and High Heels: The New Feminism" — an upcoming gathering at the Heritage Foundation featuring political commentator and Republican strategist Andrea Tantaros.
Yes, there's the budget, the debt, health care reform and terrorism to worry about. Now comes deadly antibiotic-resistant super bacteria: The Infectious Diseases Society of America warns of a genuine "health disaster" if Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Food and Drug Administration don't get their acts together on the unpleasant subject.
The group says people will die of common infections and that surgery, chemotherapy, organ transplants and premature infant care "will no longer be possible." Treating illnesses from methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other bugs now puts a $34 billion dent in the federal budget.
"The way weve managed our antibiotics for the past 70 years has failed. Antibiotics are a precious resource, like energy, and we have a moral obligation to ensure they are available for future generations," said IDSA president Dr. James M. Hughes, who says the group has suggested remedies for the crisis.
"Time is running out. If such measures are not implemented now by Congress, federal agencies and health care providers across the country, an increasing number of lives will be devastated and lost," he adds.
Yes, we've overused antibiotics. There's also a "lack of clear guidance" from federal agencies on new drug research; drug companies instead concentrate on lucrative medications for chronic conditions such as diabetes. In 1990, there were 20 companies with large antibiotic research programs; now there are two.
There is some legislative movement, though. The group — composed primarily of doctors, scientists and researchers — says the Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance Act and the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now Act are "good first steps," but more are needed.
HERE'S THE SKINNY
This likely rules out an order of french fries in the House cafeteria at the moment. Nine Democratic members of Congress have joined a public fast to protest "Republican budget cuts for the needy," in support of activists at MoveOn.org, Service Employees International Union and 39 other organizations.
Lawmakers who vow not to eat — at least for a day, anyway: Reps Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Sam Farr, Michael M. Honda and Barbara Lee of California, James P. McGovern of Massachusetts and Janice D. Schakowsky of Illinois. Organizers say 16 other lawmakers are expected to join the hungry ranks in the next few days.
ON THE RADAR
Former governor of Florida Jeb Bush picks up a snappy award May 11 at the John F. Kennedy Center. Mr. Bush has won a 2011 Bradley Prize for his activities on the school side of things: The award carries a stipend of $250,000.
"Gov. Bush has been at the forefront of education reform," says Michael W. Grebe,president and CEO of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. "During his administration and since, Florida students have made incredible gains. He has also been a vocal advocate for school choice."
POLL DU JOUR
• 43 percent of Americans say they will "probably vote" for Mr. Obama in 2012, 38 percent would vote for a Republican candidate and 16 percent are not sure.
• 69 percent are "comfortable" with a black candidate for president, 15 percent "enthusiastic."
• 66 percent are "comfortable" with a Catholic for president, 11 percent "enthusiastic."
• 64 percent are "comfortable" with a Hispanic for president, 11 percent "enthusiastic."
• 62 percent are "comfortable" with a woman for president, 23 percent "enthusiastic."
• 54 percent are "comfortable" with a business executive for president, 14 percent "enthusiastic."
• 44 percent are "comfortable" with a Mormon for president, 5 percent "enthusiastic."
Source: An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 adults conducted March 31 to April 4.
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