The Republican-controlled House is expected to approve a measure today repealing President Obama’s healthcare law. Republicans opened debate Tuesday despite Democratic vows to block advancement in the Senate. Republicans expect to follow the vote with another measure instructing House committees to draft alternative proposals. On the House floor, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky denounced the Republican effort.
Rep. John Yarmuth: “They can say whatever they want, but the truth is that the Republican plan is no care, no matter how desperate or how dire your diagnosis, no matter if the alternative saves money, saves jobs and saves lives. I yield back.”
Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio also criticized the repeal effort but said Congress ultimately should establish a single-payer healthcare system.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “Repeal means Americans will continue to pay more for insurance but get less, that is, if they can afford health insurance in the first place. The very idea of healthcare reform solely within the context of a for-profit system has been more than problematic. Today, 50 million Americans have no health insurance. What are we going to do for them? Rather than waste time on debating how much reform insurance companies will permit, if any, it’s time to change the debate. It’s time to end the for-profit healthcare model. It’s time for a not-for-profit healthcare, single-payer, universal, Medicare for all.”
Chinese President Hu Jintao has arrived in the United States for a four-day stay. President Obama and Hu shared a private dinner last night, to be followed by a joint news conference today and a lavish state dinner at the White House. Also today, Obama and Hu will meet with a number of U.S. and Chinese business executives. Among the executives expected to attend are the CEOs of Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, General Electric and Boeing. Ahead of the trip, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said Obama will raise U.S. allegations that China has manipulated the price of its currency.
Robert Gibbs: “We believe more must be done in terms of their currency. Obviously, with inflation, there are some impacts on the real value of the currency. They have made some — they have taken some limited steps, despite the answers, to revalue their currency. And our belief, as you heard Secretary Geithner in here just Friday say, we believe that more must be done. That is an opinion that is held not just by this country, but by many countries around.”
Prior to Hu’s arrival, a group of protesters rallied in front of the White House to protest Chinese human rights abuses in Tibet.
Protester: “It’s the duty and the responsibility of the U.S. government under the leadership of President Obama to convince and urge Chinese President Hu Jintao to actively seek a solution to the Tibet issue.”
The FBI has opened an investigation after a backpack containing a bomb was found along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Washington. The FBI says the bomb appears to be a case of “domestic terrorism … capable of inflicting multiple casualties.” Investigators say the bomb was equipped with a remote control detonator and shrapnel and positioned to direct its blast toward the marchers
The FCC has given final approval to a $30 billion takeover by the nation’s largest cable television company, Comcast, of the television and movie giant NBC Universal. The merger gives Comcast control of the NBC network, the Spanish-language Telemundo, cable channels including MSNBC, dozens of local television stations and the Universal film studio. The FCC vote was four to one, with Commissioner Michael Copps casting the lone dissent vote. Media democracy advocates have widely criticized the merger. Josh Silver of the group Free Press spoke to Democracy Now! on Tuesday.
Josh Silver: “The Comcast-NBC merger is going to increase prices for consumers, it’s going to make independent voices even more scarce on commercial television dials, and it’s going to cut out independent programming even further from the cable dial. Yesterday’s announcement of this merger flies in the face of President Obama’s stated commitment to oppose media consolidation when he was on the campaign trail, and it bodes terribly for the future of the internet. We expect to see higher costs for access, higher costs for cable programming, higher costs for internet access, and, at the end of the day, less choices for consumers and higher prices.”
Internal U.S. government reviews have found that WikiLeaks’ disclosures of State Department diplomatic cables has caused little damage to the U.S. government abroad. The review contradicts repeated public statements by the Obama administration that WikiLeaks has endangered U.S. policies and personnel. According to the Reuters news agency, two congressional officials say the administration felt compelled to misrepresent the expected consequences of the leak out of a desire to shut down the whistleblower website and bring charges against its top members.
In WikiLeaks news, Switzerland has announced a probe into whether the U.S. illegally spied within its borders. Swiss officials say the United States asked for permission to conduct a spying operation in 2007 but were denied for “lack of a legal basis.” The probe will examine whether the operation proceeded anyway following WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables showing the United States carried out spying in Switzerland as well as Iceland, Norway and Denmark without those governments’ permissions.
Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was briefly detained and charged on Tuesday following his return from a 25-year exile. Known as “Baby Doc,” Duvalier has been charged with corruption, theft and misappropriation of funds. Some estimates put the amount he embezzled at close to $1 billion.
In Yemen, a high-profile journalist and expert on al-Qaeda has been sentenced to five years in prison on allegations of aiding the militant group and its leaders. Abdulelah Shai has made a number of international media appearances for his work on al-Qaeda. He is known for his expertise on the group and making contacts with key members but has denied having any links to its activities. Speaking from his prison cell, Shai denounced his sentencing.
Abdulelah Shai: ’”I am not being held in the judicial system, I am held by the gangs of national security. This is not a legal verdict, this is a plot by those who have been condemned by WikiLeaks documents.”
Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is expected to announce today he will retire rather than seek re-election when his term is up in 2012. Lieberman ran as an independent in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary. His announcement follows that of North Dakota Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, who also says he will step down rather than seek re-election.