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The Roundup for March 16, 2011

Please forgive the lateness of my roundupping.

• I assume that the head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission knows more than I do about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and so when he says the spent fuel rods are sitting without water in some of the reactors, even when the Japanese deny this I tend to believe him. Clearly the Japanese are desperate and running out of options, and all the energy on averting disaster at Fukushima is distracting from the massive human needs issue with half a million homeless. At last count, Tokyo Electric Power was building a new power source to assist repair efforts at the plant, instead of restoring power to Japanese homes.

• Four NYT journalists, including the award-winning Anthony Shadid, are missing in Libya. Very distressing.

• The fact that the idea for a national infrastructure bank has the support of business and labor will only take it so far. If it costs ten cents, Republicans in the House simply won’t put it forward. John Thune is already casting it as a deal benefiting “urban” residents, and we all know what that means.

• The FDIC approved resolution authority rules that would wind down too big to fail firms. I do like that, under the bill, FDIC could claw back compensation from “persons who are substantially responsible for the failed condition of a covered financial company.” But given that these are all international firms, I have no idea how they think winding them down will actually work in practice. And anyway, Wall Street reform is being squeezed to the point of irrelevance by defunding and bad implementation.

• Elizabeth Warren got a grilling today from a House committee about CFPB, but she withstood the pressure pretty well. Meanwhile, Tim Geithner actually defended her role in the mortgage settlement talks, though privately he is said to be annoyed by her presence in them. In Senate Banking Committee hearings, he said it was his idea.

• In Tennessee, protesters were arrested for disrupting a committee hearing considering a bill to strip collective bargaining rights for the state’s teachers.

• In California, a foreclosure defense lawyer publicly advised people to break into their old homes because the actions undertaken by the banks are illegal. Now the state bar is trying to lift his law license.

• When the National Review is writing critical stories about Bradley Manning’s treatment, you know there’s a problem.

• If there’s any compromise on the budget, it will begin with rolling back cuts to nuclear power security, you can bet on that.

• Obama’s looking to use executive orders to close loopholes on gun safety. With a dysfunctional Congress, pretty soon this is how most laws will get made, and that’s actually not good for democracy.

• Now the House wants to tweak the medical loss ratio rules after they have been made, by exempting insurance broker commissions. This is simply a way to make broker commissions as large as possible for no material reason.

• Students keep falling behind on their loans, and this is fast becoming a crisis for the industry. I know: giving out giant loans that put students into servitude for their early careers may not be as vital as making the cost of college more affordable.

• We will have Sharron Angle to kick around anymore. She’s running for Dean Heller’s seat in the House.

• New home construction is way down. The housing market remains a wreck.

• Ann Friedman moves to Good Magazine, and in the above piece she talks about the value of new media, which James Fallows makes his piece with in a big piece for The Atlantic. By the way I’ve never read Gawker in my life and don’t think I’m missing anything.

• Democrats, led by Dianne Feinstein, introduced a bill to repeal DOMA. Considering that the Justice Department stopped defending the law in court, this is slightly more significant than most bills introduced by Democrats in this time of divided government, 99% of which will go nowhere.

• Lynn Woolsey calls David Petraeus’ happy talk on Afghanistan “the Charlie Sheen strategy.” Duh… winning!

• Lindsey Graham is trying to bait Obama into attacking Libya.

• Really dispiriting news about military confinement and sexism in Egypt.

• The Koch Brothers destroy a freshwater river.

• Blue Dog-to-K Street watch, John Tanner edition. The numbers are really adding up.

• And here’s the latest in my Silvio Berlusconi obsession. Prosecutors claim he had sex with an underage Moroccan dancer 13 times. Berlusconi’s alibi is that this proposed sexual schedule is too prodigious to be plausible. Funny, he never had a problem boasting before.

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David Dayen

David Dayen