Hillary Rodham Clinton lost another big endorsement besides that of Caroline and Ted Kennedy this past week. The Clinton team had tried to cultivate young Ilana Wexler, 15, who four years ago got an ovation at the Democratic National Convention when she called in her speech for Vice President Dick Cheney to take a “timeout” for using an obscenity during a fit of pique with a Senate Democrat.
Alas, the Oakland, Calif., teen chose to endorse Barack Obama, saying she was attracted by his hopeful message and influenced by her peers, who liked him best, too.
Washington lobbyists are mad as heck and are telling presidential and other candidates that they’re not going to take it anymore. The American League of Lobbyists — the lobbyists’ lobbyists — fired off a forceful letter to major Democratic and GOP candidates, requesting that they “refrain from maligning an entire profession in order to further their political ambitions.”
Contrary to depictions as small-minded money-grubbers in the pockets of greedy special interests and responsible for poisoning the legislative and political processes, the league says its members are, in fact, ethical professionals who perform a valuable service by educating and informing Congress and other lawmakers about complex issues.
Back in 2003, when Congress was debating the Medicare prescription-drug program, there were dire predictions that it could cost $500 billion or more in a decade. But the latest projection issued is less than half that — $243 billion between 2004 and 2013 — and almost 40 percent lower than the last estimate.
Medicare managers say declining drug costs and higher rebates from drug makers helped, but mostly it’s because seniors have been pretty smart at shopping for plans. About 40 million of 44 million Medicare enrollees have drug coverage, 25 million of them through Medicare Part D, with the rest from former employers.
A momentous moment quietly came — and went — Thursday: the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first U.S. satellite. The Explorer-I rocketed into space Jan. 31, 1958, as America’s answer to the Soviet Union’s successful Sputnik 1, which had shocked the world three months before and ignited the space race.
The half-century mark arrived, ironically, just as another satellite was making news. This time, it’s the 5-ton “U.S. 193” spy satellite that’s grabbing attention as it begins an uncontrolled fall toward Earth, where parts of it may rain down over North America in late February or early March.
With a tip of its helmet toward that milestone, NASA will beam the Beatles song “Across the Universe” directly into deep space on Feb. 4 as part of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. space agency. Aimed at the North Star some 431 light-years from Earth, the song will travel across the cosmos at 186,000 miles per second. “Send my love to the aliens,” former Beatle Paul McCartney said in a message to NASA.
Largely absent from public note in recent months, the national anti-war movement is taking to the streets again in March, to mark the beginning of the sixth year of war in Iraq. United for Peace and Justice, a 1,400-group coalition, says that March 19 will bring the “largest day of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience yet” to Washington and other sites around the country.
Also gearing up for March is the “National Heroes Tour,” a cross-country bus trip organized by the Vets for Freedom, which will feature decorated veterans discoursing on the importance of “completing the job in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
(E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at)shns.com. SHNS correspondent Lee Bowman contributed to this column.)