A controversial Medicare bill made it past two attempted Democratic blocks in the Senate yesterday and is expected to win final passage in the biggest changes to the program since its creation in 1965. Critics say the bill would privatize Medicare — the federal health insurance program for 40 million people. The Washington Post notes that the $400 billion figure underestimates the long-term costs of the measure which could be as high as $2 trillion.
Energy Bill Vote Delayed Until 2004
In other news from Capitol Hill, The White House and Republican leaders yesterday abandoned attempts to vote on a massive energy bill this year and will resume the effort after Congress reconvenes in January. The measure would represent the largest overhaul of US energy policy in a decade. The $31 billion bill collapsed after Republican leaders refused to drop a provision shielding oil companies from some lawsuits.
On Monday Congress backed down on its strong opposition to the new media ownership regulations of the Federal Communications Commission by agreeing to a compromise with the White House. The compromise lifts what is known as the tv ownership cap from 35 to 39 percent. This will allow ABC and NBC to be able buy more television stations. CBS and Fox will not be able to because they were already over the existing cap. If Congress had enforced the 35 percent cap, CBS and Fox would have been forced to sell off stations. Gene Kimmelman of the Consumers Union said QUOTE "This is a backroom deal to let the two largest networks keep all of their stations."
The U.S. has approved the banning of an Arab TV network from broadcasting in Iraq because it aired a message purportedly from Saddam Hussein urging violent resistance against the occupation. The U.S. appointed Iraqi Governing Council announced the ban against the network al-Arabiya on Monday and seized the station’s equipment. The head of the council, Jalal Talabani, justified the ban by stating "Saddam in our eyes is a criminal, a torturer, a war criminal, and whoever disseminates for him exposes himself to legal punishment." The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the closure.
The Pentagon was forced on Monday to retract major portions of one of the biggest stories out of Iraq this week: the alleged mutilation of two U.S. troops in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The original story went something like this: Iraqis had captured two U.S. troops, slit their throats, pulled them from the vehicles, dragged them through the streets, pummeled them with rocks and mutilated them. The story was front page news across the country. The Daily News of New York ran a banner headline reading: "Bastards: Iraqi teen wolf pack ambushes 2 GIS, drags them into street and mutilates them." But it turns out the story is largely untrue. The Pentagon now says the troops actually died from gun wounds, were not dragged through the streets, were not mutilated and were not pummeled with rocks. The New York Times reports the Pentagon has yet to fully explain how the initial story developed.
In related news, The Washington Post is coming under criticism from its own ombudsmen for its coverage of the Jessica Lynch story for failing to investigate how the Post and other media outlets were mislead on the original story. In his latest piece, Ombudsman Michael Getler writes: "Given the Post’s starring role in perpetuating the myth, its reporters and editors should have been the first to run a front-page interview with Jessica about her disgust at being used by the media and the military for their own cynical ends." Getler continued "The Post ought to have also done some top-notch, multi-story investigative reporting on who concocted this hoax and how they were able to hoodwink the public with it through the national media."
The Washington Post reports that for just the third time President Bush met Monday with families of soldiers who died in Iraq. He has yet to attend any funerals of the 431 troops who have died in Iraq although at least 40 of the funerals took place just at Arlington National Cemetery, four miles from the White House.
Turkish officials detained 12 people Monday in connection with last week’s suicide bombings in Istanbul that killed over 50. The Washington Post reports that three of the bombers came from the eastern Turkish city of Bingol an area where the Turkish once encouraged Islamic militants to take up arms against the region’s Kurdish population. Official investigations have found that militants in the region were given weapons from the government’s arsenal and the deaths of thousands of Kurds were seldom investigated. An official with the Turkish Human Rights Association compared the Turkish government’s role in aiding the militants to that of the U.S. in Afghanistan helping the mujaheddin in fighting the Soviets during the 1980s.
The Sunday Mirror of London is reporting that the Queen of England is furious at President Bush because her royal gardens at Buckingham Palace were partially ruined during his trip. The Palace’s carefully manicured lawns were ripped up when the White House used it for landing the President’s helicopter. And the Mirror reports two other U.S. helicopters damaged tress that had survived since the days of Queen Victoria. The Palace’s chief gardener said, "The lawns are used for royal garden parties and are beautifully kept. But 30,000 visitors did not do as much damage as the Americans did in three days."
A jury has sentenced to John Muhammad to death for his role in the Washington-region sniper attacks that killed 10 people