Tales from the Trail

from Maggie Fox:

Stimulus package does provide some jobs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 25 years into the AIDS pandemic, scientists finally have a vaccine that protects some people -- but instead of celebrating, they are going back to the drawing board.

The vaccine, a combination of two older vaccines, only lowered the infection rate by about a third after three years among 16,000 ordinary Thai volunteers. Vaccines need to be at least 50 percent effective, and usually 70 to 80 percent effective, to be useful.

Worse, no one knows why it worked.

"Additional studies are clearly needed to understand how this vaccine regimen reduced the risk of HIV infection," Dr. Eric Schoomaker, surgeon general of the U.S. Army, which helped pay for the study, told reporters.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, "We need to bring the best minds together and map the way forward."

The vaccine is a combination of Sanofi-Pasteur's ALVAC canarypox/HIV vaccine, which includes synthetic versions of three HIV genes, and the failed HIV vaccine AIDSVAX, made by a San Francisco company called VaxGen and now owned by the nonprofit Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases.

The First Draft: $829 billion — and that’s the good news

KOREA/You’ve no doubt heard the old saying about money and Washington: a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. That seems to be the case for fixing U.S. healthcare.

President Barack Obama got some good news from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office yesterday, which estimated that a healthcare plan by the Senate Finance Committee would cost $829 billion. CBO said this plan would cut the budget deficit by $81 billion over 10 years.

There was good news this morning too, as the Labor Department reported new unemployment claims at a nine-month low.

First Draft: Jobs, jobs, jobs

USA/Today, as ever, it’s all about jobs. War, pestilence (in the form of the H1N1 flu), a big gas explosion at a shopping mall outside Washington, the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty’s crown – all these take a back seat to jobs, especially in a recession. And especially after this week’s “stress test” results for banks, when the unemployed might well be asking, “OK, the big banks got their bailout. Where’s ours?”

The latest jobless numbers offered some signs of relief: U.S. employers cut 539,000 jobs in April, thousands fewer than the 590,000 jobs analysts predicted. But the unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent from 8.5 percent in March, the highest in more than a quarter-century.

President Barack Obama is largely out of sight today, but is due to emerge for a late-morning speech on job creation and job training.

The First Draft: jobs jobs jobs

Guess what? There’s more bad news about the economy today.

Numbers out today show the unemployment rate has risen to its highest rate in 25 years as companies buckled under the strain of a recession that is showing no signs of ending. ECONOMY-JOBFAIR/

Want to hear more? The head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Keith Hall, testifies to Congress about the employment picture at 9:30.

In the Obama administration’s first public overture to Tehran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has invited Iran to a conference on Afghanistan planned for this month. Traveling in Brussels, Clinton also said the problems of climate change and the economy should be tackled simultaneously.

First Draft: no break

It’s Friday, but no break from dismal economic news.

The employment report showed a whopping 598,000 decline in jobs in January, the most severe slashing in 34 years. The unemployment rate jumped to 7.6 percent to its highest level in more than 16 years.

The latest economic data shock gives more ammunition to President Barack Obama as he tries to sell reluctant Republicans on the economic stimulus package.OBAMA/

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a prominent Republican, said on NBC’s “Today” show that Obama should be careful in how he handles the stimulus legislation or he risks being seen as more of a Jimmy Carter than a Ronald Reagan.

The First Draft, Wednesday Dec. 31

Happy New Year. It was a great political year. But most folks with a 401K retirement account and a mortgage will be glad to bid farewell to 2008 and ring in 2009 with a feeling of optimism that is natural with the start of a new year. 

FINANCIAL/TIMESIt would seem investors have gotten a whiff of that optimism.  After registering some of the worst annual losses in history, world stock markets look to close out the year on an up note. Wall street is poised to open higher with oil prices falling and the dollar rising.

Still, 2009 promises to bring more political drama. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has been accused of trying to sell the vacant Senate seat, defied calls by his fellow Democrats to resign and appointed former state attorney general Roland Burris to fill the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.