Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Obama Decision Time On Afghanistan?

AFGHANISTAN/The latest violence in Afghanistan may raise the drumbeat in Washington for a decision from President Barack Obama on whether to send more U.S. forces.

He’ll make remarks today at a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony, and could address the matter there. Plenty of other topics are on the front burner, though, including healthcare reform and overhauling financial regulation, to name just two.

Senator John McCain, Obama’s Republican presidential rival in 2008, said the decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan should come soon. McCain told CBS television’s “Early Show”: “Overwhelmingly the military establishment and those who have had the experience of our success in Iraq know that the people there don’t want the Taliban back … and they want an environment of security. And we watch this situation continue to deteriorate while this long protracted process of decision-making goes on. We’re not operating in a vacuum. The president of the United States needs to make this decision and soon. Our allies are nervous and our military leadership is becoming frustrated.”

Afghanistan is clearly not the only focus of U.S. foreign policy concern. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Pakistan, pledging a fresh start in U.S.-Pakistani relations. Clinton’s visit came as a car bomb killed over 80 people in a crowded market.

Back in Washington, the struggle continues to get doses of swine flu vaccine to those most at risk. One top U.S. health official says the government may end up throwing away unused doses of the vaccine if people can’t get it fast enough.

The First Draft: Achoo

The U.S. government wants you to know the H1N1 swine flu vaccine is safe. FLU/VACCINE-USA

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blanketed morning television talk shows with basically the one message. “This definitely is a safe vaccine for people to get,” she said on NBC’s “Today” show, urging the public to visit flu.gov.

People are worried, but how much depends on which poll you look at.

A Consumer Reports survey last month found that nearly two-thirds of American parents said they would hold off having their children vaccinated against the H1N1 swine flu or wouldn’t get them immunized at all, expressing wariness about whether the new vaccine had been tested enough.

A Harvard School of Public Health survey earlier this month found that 75 percent of parents would get the swine flu vaccine for their children.

from Maggie Fox:

Swine flu update

WHO has given up on trying to keep any kind of precise count on swine flu, which is just about everywhere now. It's fairly mild but hardly anyone has any immunity, so it will infect far more people than seasonal flu does in an average year. That may mean more serious cases and more deaths than usual, just by virtue of sheer numbers.

It is affecting lots of kids but there are some clear guidelines for health care workers to protect themselves and their families.

Lots of companies are working on vaccines, which likely will not be ready for most countries  until the middle of October.  In the meantime, most patients do not need any treatment at all. People with diabetes, asthma, pregnant women and children who seem to have trouble breathing need prompt treatment, however, and the good news is the antiviral drugs still work well.

The First Draft: Will U.S. Ban Air Passengers with Swine Flu?

The answer is a resolute ‘no.’

Instead, the Obama administration hopes to combat infection aboard U.S. flights by encouraging hand-washing in the air. Dealing with sick passengers will be left to individual airlines, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show. USA/

“They have that question with other people who show up and look like they’re sick and had it even before the swine flu was spoken about,” Napolitano said.

“What we’ve been meeting with the airlines about is making sure that hand-washing is easily accessible and that those kinds of things are available on planes for travelers.”

First draft: Storms trump flu

Flu mania seems to be winding down a bit. At least on the morning U.S. television talk shows CANADA/and the front pages of the major newspapers.

Is it complacency? A feeling that it can’t hit you? Or just plain flu fatigue? Whatever the case, the slowdown of interest in the deadly new strain of flu comes just as global health officials gear up to declare a full-stage pandemic.FLU/

The morning news shows focused first on the severe weather pummeling the United States, and only after went on to talk about flu. The acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Richard Besser, said the spread of the deadly influenza is not much worse than the average seasonal flu.

First Draft: Obama’s Day 101 to-do list — Chrysler, flu

OBAMA/On Obama Day 101, it’s all about Chrysler.

Unless it’s about swine flu.

Efforts at a last-minute rescue deal for Chrysler appeared to be dead ahead of a midnight Thursday deadline, with holdout creditors resistant to a debt forgiveness agreement and bankruptcy looming despite President Barack Obama’s statements of optimism at a Wednesday night news conference.

An announcement from Obama was planned for noon Eastern, as the president kicks off his second 100 days with the first-ever bankruptcy filing by a Big Three U.S. automaker.

Vice President Joe Biden flooded the morning airwaves, supposedly to calm fears about a swine flu pandemic. He said he did not see the need to close the border with Mexico,  but said he would not be too crazy about his daughter taking a flight there at the moment.

First Draft: Specter gives Obama anniversary gift


As he marks his 100th day in office, President Barack Obama has a new reason to celebrate — the defection of a senior Republican to his Democratic party.

Calling Arlen Specter “one tough hombre”, Obama appeared at the White House with the long-time moderate Republican and welcomed him as the “newest Democrat from the state of Pennsylvania.”

“I know that the decision that Senator Specter made yesterday wasn’t easy. It required long and careful consideration and it required courage,” Obama said.

First Draft: Air Force One’s Big Apple photo op

USA-POLITICS/No matter what kind of day you’re having, it’s probably not as bad as the one Louis Caldera had yesterday. Caldera is director of the White House Military Office, and he approved what might well be one of the most criticized photo op choices of all time: a low-level flyover of Manhattan by a plane often used to transport the president as Air Force One.

Caldera said federal authorities informed the appropriate officials in New York and New Jersey beforehand, but many New Yorkers were instantly reminded of the 911 attacks when they saw the blue and white passenger plane flying by their skyline, trailed by an F-16 fighter jet carrying a photographer. The idea was to get a picture of Air Force One with the Statue of Liberty.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg excoriated the plan, and Caldera reportedly got a dressing down from a “furious” President Barack Obama. Caldera apologized profusely, saying federal authorities took “the proper steps” but “it’s clear that the mission created confusion and disruption.”

First Draft: CDC’s Besser does “The Full Ginsburg”

FLU/USA-CASESDr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been everywhere in the media over the last several days, talking about swine flu. His calm demeanor and practical advice — cover your cough, wash your hands — showed up on every major television network this morning. It seemed like he was live, simultaneously, on several of them.

In some Washington circles, this kind of media blitz is known as “The Full Ginsburg.”

For those with long memories, when sex was the biggest scandal in the U.S. capital, William H. Ginsburg had 15 minutes of fame as Monica Lewinsky’s attorney. He represented the former White House intern in 1998 when she was called to testify about her relationship with then-President Bill Clinton. The case ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment.