- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2009

HEALTH CARE

Sebelius won’t rule out tax on rich

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday said the administration is open to a House proposal to pay for President Obama’s massive health care overhaul with a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans, though Democratic senators said they doubt the idea will be part of the final bill.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, has called for a surtax on individuals earning at least $280,000 annually and couples earning more than $350,000. The tax would raise $550 billion over a decade to fund half of the health bill’s cost, according to Mr. Rangel.

“Look, everything does have to be on the table; you can’t negotiate properly without that rule in place. But I don’t think the House proposal as I’ve heard it will be what’s part of the final package,” Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mr. Conrad’s opinion was echoed by Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, who told ABC’s “This Week” that the upper chamber is “going to have a different approach.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Sebelius was noncommittal when asked for the administration’s position on the Rangel plan as well as taxing employer health benefits, saying merely that “everything is on the table.”

REPUBLICANS

Lawmakers call stimulus a ‘flop’

Republicans lined up Sunday in opposition to a second economic stimulus package.

Republicans called Obama’s $787 billion spending plan a “flop” and said it hasn’t fulfilled its hype. They criticized the White House for increasing the federal deficit and doing little to combat an unemployment rate that hit 9.5 percent in June.

“The reality is it hasn’t helped yet,” Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Only about 6.8 percent of the money has actually been spent. What I proposed is, after you complete the contracts that are already committed, the things that are in the pipeline, stop it.”

“I do think it is fair to say that the stimulus is a flop,” Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The goal that was set when we passed it was unemployment wouldn’t rise past 8.5 percent, and what we see now is businesses just aren’t hiring. Even the best projections have us losing 750,000 more jobs this year.”

“A lot of it has been spent on ridiculous projects,” Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

GHANA

Obama connects slavery, Holocaust

President Obama says slavery is a terrible part of the United States’ history and should be taught in a way that connects that past cruelty to current events, such as the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

During an interview with CNN while traveling in Ghana, Mr. Obama compared the legacy of slavery to the history of the Holocaust. He said both are horrible historical points that cannot be ignored and that their lessons must not be forgotten.

“I think it’s important that the way we think about it and the way it’s taught is not one in which there’s simply a victim and a victimizer. And that’s the end of the story,” Mr. Obama said at Cape Coast Castle, a West African site where traders once shipped slaves to the New World.

Mr. Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters visited the slave trading post Saturday at the end of a trip that took them to Russia, Italy and Ghana. It was the first trip to sub-Saharan Africa for America’s first black president.

CLIMATE

2 Cabinet chiefs going to China

Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke visit their ancestral homeland this week to press China to join with the United States in stepped-up efforts to fight global warming.

The two Chinese-American Cabinet officials arrive in Beijing on Tuesday to talk with senior Chinese leaders.

The trip also sets the stage for a visit by President Obama to China later this year that many environmentalists hope will focus on the need for U.S.-China action before a meeting in Copenhagen in December to try to forge a global deal on reducing carbon-dioxide emissions.

They think cooperation, perhaps even a bilateral deal, between the world’s largest developed country and the world’s largest developing country is vital if efforts to forge a new global climate treaty are to succeed.

STATE DEPARTMENT

U.S. envoy to Iraq unhurt in bombing

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill was among a group of U.S. personnel who were uninjured when an explosive device detonated near their convoy in southern Iraq.

State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore said the bomb exploded as the convoy was traveling Sunday through Dhi Qar province.

No one in the convoy was hurt, Ms. Moore said. She added that an investigation into the incident is under way.

WHITE HOUSE

Philippine leader, Obama to meet

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will meet with President Obama at the White House on July 30.

The White House announced the visit Saturday as Mr. Obama wrapped up a weeklong trip to Russia, Italy and Ghana.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Arroyo will discuss ways to enhance cooperation between their countries on a issues such as counterterrorism, climate change and the alliance between the United States and the Philippines.

Mrs. Arroyo also will meet with other key government officials while in Washington.

The White House says she will be the first Southeast Asian leader to visit Washington under Mr. Obama’s administration.

FBI

Bank-robbery report says most unpunished

The FBI’s annual report on bank robberies shows that the feds recovered only a small portion of stolen loot and identified just 40 percent of the perpetrators in the 6,700 bank heists last year.

Of the $61.6 million in cash stolen, only about 19 percent - $8.9 million - was recovered. Although the report does not reveal the arrest rate, it does show that just 3,342 of the 8,393 crooks known to be involved in the robberies were identified. Of those identified, 43 percent were determined to be narcotics users and 19 percent had previously been convicted of a bank-related crime.

The South saw the most robberies - 2,100 - followed by the West, with 1,857. Banks in metropolitan areas claimed the highest number of heists - 3,388 - with small cities or towns following, with 2,189.

In all, bank-related crime in 2008 was slightly below that reported in 2007.

HEALTH

$1 billion marked for flu vaccine

The U.S. government will commit $1 billion toward the purchase of ingredients for a swine flu vaccine, Washington’s top health official said Sunday as U.S. deaths from the virus continued to mount.

“There will be another $1 billion worth of orders placed to get the bulk ingredients for an H1N1 vaccination,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN on Sunday, adding that the final vaccine likely will be ready by October.

“Congress has agreed with the president that this is the No. 1 priority, keeping Americans safe and secure,” she said, adding that U.S. scientists are working “to get the shots in folks’ arms.”

Her remarks came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 211 U.S. deaths from the H1N1 virus, popularly known as the swine flu, with about 37,000 cases confirmed - the highest level of death and infection of any country in the world.

Officials have warned that the virus could return with a vengeance in the the coming months. The virus, already deemed at pandemic levels by global health experts, is in more than 100 countries and is continuing to spread.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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