Tales from the Trail

No matter how you slice it, Obama’s on a roll

NCAA/What does he do for an encore?

President Barack Obama started the week with a victorious end to the healthcare angst. And ended it with a win on START.

For a president who entered his second year with a Nobel Peace Prize but scrounging for a mega-accomplishment to put in the Democrats’ corner in an election year, this week handed him a pair of major victories.

But there is still plenty of time for things to go awry before November — think Kansas in the NCAA basketball tournament. Or for things to go even better than hoped — think Butler.

On Tuesday, he signed the healthcare bill. On Friday he announced an agreement with Russia on a new START Treaty.

White House and other administration officials have been visibly gleeful and basking in the glow of the sun coming out this week on the president’s agenda. NOBEL-PEACE/OBAMA

from Photographers' Blog:

Obama signs historic health care bill: An easy assignment?

The White House East Room has been, through the decades, the site for countless ceremonies, speeches and historic moments. I have lost count of the number of times I have covered events in there, but on Tuesday, the most historically important moment in the young presidency of Barack Obama unfolded in the most packed working conditions I have ever seen in that grand room. Hundreds of invited Congressmen and women, who each had a hand in bringing about the health care reform bill, sat shoulder-to-shoulder and right up against the stage. Along with dozens of photographers, journalists and television crews, there wasn’t room to breathe and this presented a rare challenge for those that regularly cover the White House – the chance that you may not even see the event taking place!

USA

With the front row of the audience about 3 feet (one meter) from the signing desk, it was almost impossible to see the Presidential Seal and that important document that President Obama was about to sign. Even on step ladders, which normally elevate us sufficiently above the audience, it was touch-and-go, and that’s before camera phones, the new nemesis for any working photographer shooting over a crowd, would inevitably start popping up. Not to mention the audience members standing up themselves to see over the rows in front. I even had to negotiate a compromise with one Congresswoman from New York that if she would refrain from pulling out her cell phone and blocking us behind her, I would ensure that she would receive a copy of one of my pictures as a trade off. She thankfully obliged and I emailed her a jpeg file later in the day for her private collection, for which she was grateful. Other congressmen in the audience were not as considerate, and anticipating this (hey, even elected officials can’t resist pulling out their cameras too), I set in place an “insurance policy”, because news photographer’s never get a second chance at capturing history.

My insurance policy was a Canon 5D camera and 24-105mm lens clamped high above my head on one of the towering light stands, atop of which is enough illumination to set an exposure of 400th sec @ f4, at 1000 asa. They do light White House events well, as administrations past and present recognize the power of the well-crafted image. I know a lot of photographers who shoot indoor events and would dream of soft, plentiful light rather than messing with high ISO speeds or the dreaded flash/strobe. With one dedicated radio transmitter attached to the hotshoe of my handheld camera, and a radio receiver connected to remote camera on the light pole, I could wirelessly fire the remote every time I pushed my shutter button. After editing the pictures from the remote camera for the Reuters wire shortly after the event ended, I thought it would be cool to put the entire sequence together with some sound to give you a sense of being in that room on this historic occasion.

Reid to Republicans: healthcare reform is now law of the land

reid pelosi

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proudly proclaimed on Wednesday that the “historic healthcare reform is now no longer a bill it is the law.”

Someone please tell Republicans.

They are planning a flurry of amendments to try to stall a package of changes being considered by the Senate that Democrats want to make to the legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama.

House Democrats demanded the changes, which among other things would close the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap for the elderly.

Racial overtones at healthcare protest

John Lewis

The protests against healthcare reform took an ugly turn on Saturday. Black congressmen told reporters that demonstrators called them the N-word and one representative said he was spat upon.

“This is not the first time the congressman has been called the N-word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans,” said a statement from the office of Democratic Representative Emanuel Cleaver.

“That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name-calling and spitting.”

Health expenditure around the world

Health at a Glance 2009, a report by the OECD, shows that the United States spends more on healthcare than any other country.
Here are some figures on what leading economies spend on health care per capita, both in public and private schemes. The latest figures are from 2007 and are adjusted for purchasing power parity.
table.tableizer-table {border: 1px solid #CCC; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;} .tableizer-table td {padding: 4px; margin: 3px; border: 1px solid #ccc;} .tableizer-table th {background-color: #104E8B; color: #FFF; font-weight: bold;} COUNTRY TOTAL PUBLIC PRIVATE HEALTH SPENDING
AS PCT OF GDP United States $7,290 $3,307 $3,982 16.00% Norway $4,763 $4,005 $758 8.90% Switzerland $4,417 $2,618 $1,799 10.80% Luxembourg * $4,162 $3,782 $380 7.30% Canada $3,895 $2,726 $1,169 10.10% Netherlands $3,837 $3,126 $711 9.80% Austria $3,763 $2,875 $888 10.10% France $3,601 $2,861 $739 11.00% Belgium $3,595 $2,701 $894 10.20% Germany $3,588 $2,758 $830 10.40% Denmark $3,512 $2,968 $545 9.80% Ireland $3,424 $2,762 $661 7.60% Sweden $3,323 $2,716 $607 9.10% Iceland $3,319 $2,739 $580 9.30% Australia (2006/7) $3,137 $2,124 $1,012 8.70% United Kingdom $2,992 $2,446 $547 8.40% OECD Average $2,984 $2,193 $791 8.90% Finland $2,840 $2,120 $720 8.20% Greece $2,727 $1,646 $1,081 9.60% Italy $2,686 $2,056 $630 8.70% Spain $2,671 $1,917 $753 8.50% Japan (2006) $2,581 $2,097 $484 8.10% New Zealand $2,510 $2,010 $500 9.20% Portugal (2006) $2,150 $1,538 $612 9.90% Korea $1,688 $927 $761 6.80% Czech Republic $1,626 $1,385 $241 6.80% Slovak Republic $1,555 $1,040 $516 7.70% Hungary $1,388 $980 $408 7.40% Poland $1,035 $733 $302 6.40% Mexico $823 $372 $451 5.90% Turkey (2005) $618 $441 $177 5.70%


NOTES:
* Health expenditure is for the insured population rather than resident population.
Sources: Reuters/OECD Health Data 2009.

Senator Coburn cites Thomson Reuters at healthcare summit

USA-HEALTHCARE/Republican Senator Tom Coburn is obviously a big fan of Thomson Reuters. He cited Thomson Reuters reports throughout his presentation at the White House healthcare summit.

Coburn, an Oklahoma physician who opposes the sweeping Democratic healthcare overhaul, said lawmakers should focus first on reducing hundreds of billions of dollars of wasteful spending in the U.S. healthcare system. He cited recent studies by Thomson Reuters showing wasteful spending and how patients are postponing medical care due to cost.

They can be found here, here and here.

Coburn often cited these reports during Senate debate on healthcare reform. He wants to bring down costs by tackling waste, fraud and abuse, and limiting medical malpractice lawsuits. And like most doctors, he wants us to live healthy lifestyles and avoid junk food. He also wants to change some popular government programs that he said are contributing to unhealthy eating habits.

White House healthcare summit plans take shape

BUSH/President Barack Obama’s bipartisan healthcare summit is taking on the trappings of a diplomatic visit, complete with a gilt-edged setting at Blair House, the federal style mansion where foreign heads of state stay when they’re in Washington.

Little seems to have been left to chance: they’ve decided on the shape of the table — a hollow square — and a buffet lunch, with name cards in front of each participant. There’s some concern about an echo in the room. The nearly full-day gathering will be televised. And just as foreign officials get to inspect a venue before visiting dignitaries show up, there will be a walk-through beforehand by staff of the congressional leadership.

There’s good reason for this attention to detail. The summit is central to Obama’s last-ditch attempt to pass sweeping healthcare legislation. Obama’s plan to engage Republicans on healthcare in a high-profile negotating session was inspired by his widely praised exchange with his Republican critics in Baltimore in January. The White House hopes the summit will boost the healthcare effort by showing voters that Obama is committed to bipartisanship. Many observers believe the ultimate strategy may be to use a parliamentary maneuver to push through the bill without any Republican votes.

Hillary Clinton wouldn’t flee to Canada if Sarah Palin was president

What did students in Saudi Arabia want to ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about? Republican Sarah Palin. SAUDI-CLINTON/

One young man asked Clinton:  “Does the prospect of  Sarah Palin one day becoming president, maybe, terrify you?” and whether the Secretary of State might consider moving to Canada — or even Russia — in response.

“Well, the short answer is no. I will not be emigrating,” Clinton replied with a smile. “I will be visiting as often as I can.”

Poll suggests political consequences from U.S. healthcare deal

HEALTHCARE/OBAMAThink today’s U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts could be bad news for President Obama? Then consider what pollsters are saying now about the healthcare reform debate’s potential effect on the November congressional elections.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows little overall movement in public sentiment since August — only 44 percent of Americans favor healthcare reform vs. 51 percent who oppose it.

But findings also show popular support for reform losing some of its cohesion. As recently as November, 30 percent of USA/HEALTHCARE/POLITICSAmericans “strongly” backed proposed changes. But people in that category now account for only 22 percent. That compares with 39 percent who are strongly opposed.

Bomb plot thrusts Obama into political storm

President Barack Obama is weathering a political storm over last month’s suspected al Qaeda plot to bomb a Detroit-bound plane, particularly from Republicans who say he dropped the ball on security while pursuing healthcare and climate reforms. But how much substance there is behind the allegations may depend on who’s talking.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina told NBC’s Today show that he believes Obama just woke up to the gravity of the al Qaeda threat. SECURITY-AIRLINE/OBAMA

“A lot of us have been concerned over the last year that the president did seem to downplay the threat of terror. He doesn’t use the word anymore. He hesitates to say that there is a war on terror,” DeMint said.