Thursday, March 11, 2010

News Headlines Roundup 11 Mar 2010

Dems Dealt Blow on Health Care Reconciliation: (CBS) substantive debate, the fate of the Democrats' health care reform package may rest largely on technicalities.

Senate Republican sources say the Senate parliamentarian -- who essentially acts as the Senate referee -- has shot down the Democrats' latest strategy for passing a final bill, CBS News Capitol Hill Producer John Nolen reports.

Democrats were planning on bypassing Republican obstruction -- as well as reaching a compromise on the legislation within their own party -- with a multi-step process: The House would pass the health care bill already approved by the Senate. Then, both the House and Senate would pass a "fix it" bill that would amend the Senate bill. The "fix it" bill would pass the Senate via a process called reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes.

The strategy was complicated from the beginning, but according to Republicans, the Senate parliamentarian is now saying that President Obama would have to sign a health care bill into law before Congress can amend it with a reconciliation measure.

Senate Democrats had no immediate comment on the matter, Nolen reports.

The parliamentarian ruling could foil Democrats' plans to avoid signing into law the "sweetheart deals" that have tainted the Senate bill, such as Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)'s provision that exempts the state of Nebraska from having to pay for any expansion of Medicaid. Democrats are divided over a number of other issues, such as the Senate bill's tax on high-end insurance plans, which they planned to revolve through the reconciliation bill...

...Democrats are still moving forward with the plan to pass a "fix it" reconciliation bill, even in light of the parliamentarian's ruling. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to give Congress a cost estimate for their proposed reconciliation bill by this weekend at the latest, Politico reports, and the House Budget Committee will discuss the bill on Monday.

This could affect the speed of how this health care bill plays out:

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Senate Majority Leader - Harry Reid's Wife and Daughter In Car Accident: (CBS) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's wife Landra Reid, 69, and daughter Lana Reid-Barringer, 48, were involved in a car accident and have been hospitalized for treatment.

Landra Reid's back, neck and nose were broken in the accident, according to Reid's office. Lana Reid sustained neck injury and facial lacerations. Their vehicle, a van, was rear-ended by a semi-truck while they were driving on a highway near Washington DC.

"Both Mrs. Reid and Lana are conscious, can feel their extremities, and according to doctors their injuries are non-life threatening," Reid spokesman Jon Summers said in a statement. "Senator Reid has been to the hospital and appreciates the support he and his family are receiving from Nevadans and his colleagues in the Senate."

Obama donates Nobel Prize money to 10 charities

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Strong Aftershocks Jolt Chile Inauguration: (CBS) A series of strong aftershocks from last month's devastating quake rocked Chile on Thursday as a new president was sworn into office and immediately urged coastal residents to move to higher ground in case of a tsunami.

The strongest aftershock, with a magnitude of 6.9, was nearly as strong as the quake that devastated Haiti's capital on Jan. 12. There were no immediate reports of damages or injuries.

...President Sebastian Pinera was inaugurated at a congressional building in coastal Valparaiso before the building was evacuated as a precaution. The seven aftershocks strongly swayed buildings, shook windows and sent frightened Chileans streaming into the street.

The magnitude-6.9 aftershock is the strongest since the day of the Feb. 27, magnitude-8.8 quake. It occurred along the same fault line, said geophysicist Don Blakeman at the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado. The USGS initially estimated the aftershock's magnitude at 7.2.

Mystery Surrounding King Tut's Dad Solved: (CBS/AP) The DNA tests that revealed how the famed boy-king Tutankhamun most likely died solved another of ancient Egypt's enduring mysteries - the fate of controversial Pharaoh Akhenaten's mummy. The discovery could help fill out the picture of a fascinating era more than 3,300 years ago when Akhenaten embarked on history's first attempt at monotheism.

During his 17-year rule, Akhenaten sought to overturn more than a millennium of Egyptian religion and art to establish the worship of a single sun god. In the end, his bold experiment failed and he was eventually succeeded by his son, the young Tutankhamun, who rolled back his reforms and restored the old religion.

No one ever knew what became of the heretic pharaoh, whose tomb in the capital he built at Amarna was unfinished and whose name was stricken from the official list of kings.

Two years of DNA testing and CAT scans on 16 royal mummies conducted by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, however, gave the firmest evidence to date that an unidentified mummy - known as KV55, after the number of the tomb where it was found in 1907 in Egypt's Valley of the Kings - is Akhenaten's.

The testing, whose results were announced last month, established that KV55 was the father of King Tut and the son of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, a lineage that matches Akhenaten's, according to inscriptions.

Warning: Ancient Sex on Display in Paris: (AP) The latest show at Paris' Quai Branly museum comes with a warning for visitors: "This exhibition of Moche ceramics shows sexual acts of an explicit nature."

But the extraordinary and graphic testimonial of the ancient Moche civilization of Peru isn't about physical pleasure or procreation, according to the curator.

He says the sexual acts evoke the rituals that accompanied the death of dignitaries, and the human sacrifices that went with them. They tell a story about the power of the elite that he says has parallels with modern life.

"Sex, death and sacrifice in the Moche religion," which opened this week and runs until May 23, brings to Europe for the first time 134 erotic Moche ceramics on loan from the Larco Museum in Lima, Peru.

The Moche lived on what is now the northern coast of Peru between the first and eighth centuries. The ancient Andean people belonged to one of the first societies to organize itself in way that would be recognized as a state, constructing cities with elaborate monuments and specialized centers for the production of textiles, metal and ceramics.

Their culture is on display at the anthropological Quai Branly museum, whose recent exhibits include an exploration of the Teotihuacan people of ancient Mexico and a tribute to African literature and culture...

Workers strike to protest spending cuts in Greece - tens of thousands of walked off the job to protest painful government budget cuts.

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And in my own state of Louisiana I'm glad to see the House go after this guy:

House votes to impeach federal judge from Louisiana: Washington (CNN) -- The House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday to impeach Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, making him the nation's 15th federal judge ever impeached.

"Our investigation found that Judge Porteous participated in a pattern of corrupt conduct for years," said U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Task Force on Judicial Impeachment.

"Litigants have the right to expect a judge hearing their case will be fair and impartial, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Regrettably, no one can have that expectation in Judge Porteous' courtroom."

After the impeachment vote, Schiff and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, were named the lead impeachment managers for the Senate trial, which will decide whether to remove Porteous from the bench.

"Today's vote marks only the second time in over 20 years that this has occurred," Goodlatte said in a House news release. "However, when evidence emerges that an individual is abusing his judicial office for his own advantage, the integrity of the entire judicial system becomes compromised."

...Last year, the Task Force on Judicial Impeachment held evidentiary hearings that led to unanimous approval of the four articles of impeachment, citing evidence that Porteous "intentionally made material false statements and representations under penalty of perjury, engaged in a corrupt kickback scheme, solicited and accepted unlawful gifts, and intentionally misled the Senate during his confirmation proceedings," the House release said.

Porteous was appointed to the federal bench in 1994.

...An Impeachment Task Force held four hearings late last year that focused on allegations of misconduct by Porteous, including:

-- Involvement in a corrupt kickback scheme

-- Failure to recuse himself from a case he was involved in

-- Allegations that Porteous made false and misleading statements, including concealing debts and gambling losses

-- Allegations that Porteous asked for and accepted "numerous things of value, including meals, trips, home and car repairs, for his personal use and benefit" while taking official actions on behalf of his benefactors

-- Allegations that Porteous lied about his past to the U.S. Senate and to the FBI about his nomination to the federal bench "in order to conceal corrupt relationships," Schiff said in his floor statement as prepared for delivery.

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