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Dec 23, 2010

Having the most money isn't what's most important | Personal Finance Daily | MarketWatch

Personal Finance Daily
DECEMBER 23, 2010

Thursday's Personal Finance stories

By MarketWatch

Don't miss these top stories:
What do you want from life? It's an age-old question, with about as many answers as there are people.

The end of a year and the beginning of a new one is a good time to assess both our personal and financial assets and goals. It's worth heeding the advice of Meir Statman, an expert on why investors can sometimes be their own worst enemy, getting in the way of our own true selves. His new book, What Investors Really Want, makes a good case that what you do with your money is more important than how much money you have.

At this time of year especially, count your blessings, not your coins.

Jonathan Burton , Money & Investing editor

Having the most money isn't what's important

Meir Statman says people can make smarter investment decisions if they worry less about being a great investor and are more concerned with being a great person.
Read more: 'Best life' should be investors' true goal.

Consumer sentiment improves

A gauge of U.S. consumer sentiment rose in December, reaching the highest level in six months, but remains at a low level on concerns about "stagnant incomes," according to data released Thursday.
Read more: Consumer sentiment rises.

Investment books for budding Warren Buffetts

If you're like me, still searching for the perfect gift, consider a book — but not just any book. Buy a book that could help someone manage their money and retirement better, recommended by those who eat, breath and sleep all things investing and retirement.
Read more: Investment books for budding Warren Buffetts.

Where to invest in 2011

Russell Pearlman of SmartMoney discusses where to invest in 2011.
See: Where to invest in 2011

What investors really want

Why do so many investors make poor decisions? Often they can't help it, says Meir Statman, author of "What Investors Really Want." He talks about ways people can understand their investing behavior and improve their odds of success.
See: What investors really want.

7 best mutual funds for 2011

It's the perfect time to take a hard look at your mutual fund holdings in a 401(k) or an IRA. If you find funds that don't fit your philosophy anymore or have been underperforming, here are some standouts to consider.
Read more: 7 best mutual funds for 2011

CNBC Evening Brief: Stocks, Commodities Don't Need a Weak Dollar Anymore


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The washington Post Afternonn edition : Most Read Articles.- Arms treaty approval a win for Obama, but GOP critics are gaining momentum.

Washington Post

1) GOP leaders criticize Obama's Iran policy in rally for opposition group

PARIS - A group of prominent U.S. Republicans associated with homeland security told a forum of cheering Iranian exiles here Wednesday that President Obama's policy toward Iran amounts to futile appeasement that will never persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear projects.

2) How 50 Cent scored a half-billion

In "The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop," author Dan Charnas traces how rap grew from its obscure roots in the ghettos of 1970s New York to its culmination as the world's predominant youth pop culture and a multibillion-dollar industry.

3) Dave Camp's plan: Taxes made simple

His target: a tax code that's '10 times longer than the Bible, without the good news.'

4) Obama the Great - if he does say so himself

The comeback president could pay a big price if he forgets a humility lesson.

5) Purse from Fla. school board shooting sold on eBay

PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- The purse a Florida school board member used to smack a man who was holding other board members at gunpoint has sold for more than $13,000 in an auction.

6) Arms treaty approval a win for Obama, but GOP critics are gaining momentum

Eleven days after the bruising midterm elections, President Obama got a stark reminder of how his political shellacking at home could undermine his standing abroad.

7) Sergey Kolesnikov's tale of palatial corruption, Russian style

A whistleblower's tale of Vladimir Putin's palace -- and the crisis of corruption.

8) Rush to foreclose by Fannie, Freddie helped feed problems with legal paperwork

As the housing market came crashing down in 2008, the giant mortgage company Fannie Mae took an unprecedented step to help tackle the rising tide of foreclosures. It named an exclusive group of law firms that would help rapidly carry out the unsavory task of filing legal paperwork to remove homeo...

9) Whither the female sports fan?

It was a major milestone for college sports, and a special triumph for women's basketball. With its victory over Florida State on Tuesday, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team won its 89th straight game, breaking one of the most hallowed records in intercollegiate sports, the UCL...

10) TSA procedures offend followers of many faiths

As Erum Ikramullah prepared to head to Reagan National Airport on Thursday for a flight, she mulled over two distasteful choices: the body scanner or the pat-down?

Financial & Forex Info News ( F & F I N) | KITCO New York Metals Market Close Report

Financial & Forex Info News ( F & F I N )

New York Market Close Dec 23/10 05:20 PM EST

Stocks End Mostly Lower To Close Out Christmas Week - U.S. Commentary RTTNews - Evening Market Wrap

Evening Market Wrap Thu Dec 23 2010


Dec 23, 2010 Stocks End Mostly Lower To Close Out Christmas Week - U.S. Commentary Stocks moved mostly lower to close out the lightly traded Christmas week on Thursday, with low market participation prompting limited reaction to the day's deluge of economic data. The major averages all saw choppy trade late in the day, ending on a mixed note. Full Article

Economic News

Dec 23, 2010 U.S. Durable Goods Orders Fall Amid Steep Drop In Transportation Orders New orders for U.S. manufactured durable goods decreased by a little more than expected in the month of November, according to a report released by the Commerce Department on Thursday, although the decrease was largely due to a steep drop in orders for transportation equipment. The report showed that durable goods orders fell by 1.3 percent in November following a revised 3.1 percent decrease in October. Economists had expected orders to drop by about 1.0 percent. Full Article
Dec 23, 2010 U.S. Personal Income And Spending Both Rise In November While the Commerce Department released a report on Thursday showing a slightly bigger than expected increase in personal income in the month of November, the report also showed a slightly smaller than expected increase in personal spending. The report showed that personal income rose by 0.3 percent in November following a downwardly revised 0.4 percent increase in October. Economists had been expecting income to edge up by about 0.2 percent. Full Article
Dec 23, 2010 U.S. Consumer Sentiment Index Shows Improvement In December Consumer sentiment in the U.S. showed a notable improvement in December compared to the previous month, Reuters and the University of Michigan revealed in a report on Thursday, although their final reading on consumer sentiment for the month came in below economist estimates. Full Article
Dec 23, 2010 Jobless Claims Little Changed At 420,000Applications for jobless insurance payments fell by only 3,000 to 420,000 in the week ending December 18, according to data released by the Department of Labor Thursday morning. The modest drop in the number of workers filing claims for unemployment benefits last week suggested the economy is struggling to generate jobs in the final weeks of a rough year in the labor markets. Full Article
Dec 23, 2010 U.S. New Home Sales Increase In November But Remain Near Record LowsNew home sales in the U.S. showed a notable increase in the month of November, according to a report released by the Commerce Department on Thursday, although sales came in below economist estimates due in part to a downward revision to October sales. The report showed that new home sales rose 5.5 percent to an annual rate of 290,000 in November from the revised October rate of 275,000. Full Article

Corporate News

Dec 23, 2010 GM Recalls Over 100K Vehicles On Airbag, Axle Concerns - UpdateGeneral Motors Corp. (GM), Thursday said it is recalling over 100K Cadillac CTS models over concerns related to passenger airbag deployment failure and locked up rear axles. In its filing with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, GM indicated the recall of about 109,000 Cadillac CTS models from the 2005-2007 model years because of a kink, bend or fold in the front passenger presence system mat, which could lead to the passenger air bag failing to deploy. Full Article
Dec 23, 2010 Jo-Ann Stores Agrees To Go Private In $1.6 Bln Cash Deal - UpdateSpecialty fabrics and crafts retailer Jo-Ann Stores, Inc. (JAS) said Thursday that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners, L.P., for about $1.6 billion in cash. Jo-Ann shares surged around 33% in pre-market activity on the NYSE. Full Article
Dec 23, 2010 Cephalon Appoints Kevin Buchi As CEOBiopharmaceutical company Cephalon, Inc. (CEPH) said Thursday that its board of directors appointed Kevin Buchi as the company's chief executive officer and a member of the company's board. He succeeds the company's CEO and founder, Frank Baldino, who died last week. Buchi, who has been with Cephalon for almost 20 years, assumed day-to-day chief executive responsibilities for the company in August 2010. Full Article
Dec 23, 2010 Verigy Receives Sweetend Bid From Advantest - UpdateSingapore-based semiconductor testing company Verigy Ltd. (VRGY) said Thursday that it has received a revised takeover proposal of $15.00 per share in cash from Japanese rival Advantest Corp. (ATE). Verigy, which is already in merger agreement with LTX-Credence Corp. (LTXC), said its Board continues to recommend deal with LTX-Credence to its shareholders, and is not recommending the revised Advantest proposal at this time. Full Article

Political News

Dec 23, 2010 Poll Suggests Nelson Facing Tough Re-Election BidWhile the 2012 elections are almost two years away, the results of a Magellan Research Group poll released on Wednesday suggest that Senator Ben Nelson, D-Neb., is likely to face a tough fight in his race for re-election to a third term. The poll showed that just 29 percent of likely Nebraska voters believe that Nelson deserves to be re-elected compared to 59 percent that said it is time for someone new. Full Article

Wall St marks 4th week of gains; S&P slips
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks racked up a fourth straight week of gains on Thursday, as investors expected optimism about the economic recovery to support equities through year-end. | Full Article

Toyota to pay $10 million to settle suit over California crash
December 23, 2010 04:07 PM ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Toyota has agreed to pay $10 million to settle the lawsuit brought by the family of a California state trooper and three relatives whose fatal car wreck helped spark the automaker's wide-ranging safety recall. | Full Article
Data reinforce solid fourth-quarter growth hopes
December 23, 2010 03:37 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Demand for a range of long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods surged in November and consumer spending rose for a fifth straight month, cementing views of a solid economic growth pace in the fourth quarter. | Full Article
Consumer sentiment at highest level since June
December 23, 2010 03:08 PM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Confidence among consumers rose in December to its highest level since June, on improved job prospects and larger discounts from retailers, a survey released on Thursday showed. | Full Article
Obama to renominate Diamond to Fed, official says
December 23, 2010 02:23 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will again nominate economist Peter Diamond to the Federal Reserve Board next year, a White House official said on Thursday, setting up a potential clash with Republicans, who will have more influence in the new Senate. | Full Article
North Korea warns of "sacred war" in standoff with South
December 23, 2010 04:06 PM ET
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea threatened a nuclear "sacred war" on Thursday and South Korea vowed a "merciless counterattack" if it was attacked again as both sides raised the rhetoric on a day of more military exercises in the South. | Full Article
Police check Rome embassies after blasts hurt two
December 23, 2010 04:07 PM ET
ROME (Reuters) - Italian police checked foreign embassies in Rome on Thursday after two people were wounded in separate explosions at the Swiss and Chilean missions that the government suggested could be the work of anarchist groups. | Full Article
New homes sales, prices rise in November
December 23, 2010 04:09 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New single-family home sales rose in November but to a lower- than- expected rate , a government report showed on Thursday, highlighting the weakness in the housing market even as the broader economic recovery gains momentum. | Full Article
Russian Duma could ratify START within days
December 23, 2010 04:08 PM ET
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian lawmakers said they could approve a nuclear arms reduction pact that is crucial to the "reset" in ties with the United States as early as Friday if a successful U.S. Senate vote left the terms of the treaty intact. | Full Article
China says willing to help euro zone return to health
December 23, 2010 08:21 AM ET
BEIJING (Reuters) - China is willing to help countries in the euro zone return to economic health and will support the International Monetary Fund element of a bailout package for the bloc, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday. | Full Article
Placebos help, even when patients know about them
Little screening of kids for obesity complications
Flu kills 27 in Britain, spreading in Europe
Role of mom's choice in C-section rise questioned
Gaps seen in pregnancy-related diabetes screening

NYT: Afternoon Business News: Parcel Bomb Attacks Strike at 2 Embassies in Rome

News Analysis

Multinationals Sit Out China Trade Battles

Western companies, eager for access to China, are loath to cry foul even amid evidence that Beijing may be flouting international trade laws.

Home Sales Struggled Again in November

While durable goods orders dropped 1.3 percent in November, orders for goods excluding transportation recorded their largest gain in eight months.

Ireland Puts Another $4.8 Billion Into Allied Irish Banks

The latest injection of money means that the government is on course to own nearly 93 percent of the bank.
Media Decoder Blog

F.C.C. Head Expected to Approve Comcast-NBC Deal

The Federal Communications Commission chairman signaled his tentative approval to Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal, though with conditions.

Leonard Green Offers $1.6 Billion for Jo-Ann Stores

Private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners offered $61 a share for Jo-Ann Stores - a 34 percent premium to the closing price on Wednesday.

F inancial & Forex IiInfo News | KITCO London Fix Market Report


London Fix Thu Dec 23 00:00:00 EST 2010
USD 1384.00 1373.50   29.18 1729.00
750.00 752.00
UK 898.70 890.55   18.97 1122.75
487.00 488.00
EURO 1056.00 1051.28   22.28 1319.35
572.30 575.60

Statistics seasonally adjsuted home sales data Up from Oct. but Down From a year Ago.

Economics and Statistics Administration Logo
Sales of new single-family houses in November 2010 were 290,000 at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, 5.5% above the revised October level, but down 21.2% from their year-ago level.

Mixed Data : New Order for Manufactured Durable Goods - Personal Income Rose 03% |

xFinancial & Forex Info News (F & F I N )

Economics and Statistics Administration Logo -Economic Staistiscs Administration

New orders for manufactured durable goods in November 2010 decreased 1.3 percent, to $193.7 billion.  Excluding transportation, new orders rose 2.4 percent.  Capital goods shipments declined 0.2 percent and overall shipments fell 0.3 percent.  Inventories increased 06 percent.

Personal income in November 2010 rose 0.3 percent.  Nominal personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased 0.4 percent and real PCE rose 0.3 percent.  Nominal disposable income (DPI) increased 0.3 percent and real DPI rose 0.2 percent.  The personal savings rate as a percentage of DPI was 5.3 percent in November.

Futures little changed ahead of data . Financial & Forex Info News ( F & F I N ) | Reuters Before The Bell

Financial & Forex Info News ( F & F I N )


Futures little changed ahead of data
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock index futures were little changed in light volume on Thursday ahead of a busy day for economic data as Wall Street approached a fourth straight week of gains. | Full Article

Senate inaction kills Diamond nomination to Fed board
December 23, 2010 06:36 AM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The nomination of Nobel prize-winning economist Peter Diamond to the Federal Reserve's Board was scuttled on Wednesday when the Senate failed to vote on it before adjourning for the year. | Full Article
Irish government takes control of Allied Irish
December 23, 2010 07:54 AM ET
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's government said on Thursday it would pump 3.7 billion euros into Allied Irish Banks (AIB) setting it on course for nearly 93 percent ownership of what was once the country's largest publicly traded lender. | Full Article
China says willing to help euro zone return to health
December 23, 2010 07:35 AM ET
BEIJING (Reuters) - China is willing to help countries in the euro zone return to economic health and will support the International Monetary Fund element of a bailout package for the bloc, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday. | Full Article
Riversdale agrees to $3.9 billion Rio Tinto bid
December 23, 2010 06:17 AM ET
offered $3.9 billion to buy African-focused coal miner Riversdale in an agreed deal that is likely to be challenged by rivals seeking to secure coking coal reserves. | Full Article

MarketWatch : Most Recent Market Pulse

Most Recent Market Pulse

6:46 AM Verigy gets revised Advantest bid of $15-share
4:30 AM Repsol sells 3.3% stake in YPF for $500 million
3:37 AM LyondellBasell sells flavors-and-fragrances lines
3:29 AM AstraZeneca, Abbott end drug-license deal
3:13 AM Europe stocks higher in thin pre-holiday trade       


The Washington Post : Wonkbook: The 111th Congress is over. How will the 112th compare?.

One reader called it 'the Angry Birds' Congress. Majority Leader Harry Reid said it was a "goose on steroids." By the time the 111th gaveled out yesterday, everyone agreed that its final session had been anything but lame. And the rest of the Congress merits that respect, as well. Its frenetic level of activity was enabled by historic majorities (notably in the Senate) and action-inducing events (like the financial crisis), but the rush of legislation it passed, often in difficult circumstances, is testament to Reid and Pelosi's desire and ability to use the majorities they were given. And they did. From health-care reform to financial regulation to food safety to the tax deal to tobacco regulation to the stimulus, the laws they wrote will reshape the safety net, the regulatory state, tax policy, the country's built infrastructure, and much more.
The question now becomes how the 112th Congress will work. The House GOP has already released its rules. They include "CutGo," wherein tax cuts will no longer need to be paid for, a live reading of the Constitution on the House floor, barring former congressmen who now work as lobbyists from the House gym, posting the text of legislation at least 24 hours before it gets considered, and changing the "Committee on Education and Labor" to the "Committee on Education and the Workforce" because, well, the GOP is not so friendly with the labor movement.
It's the Senate, however, where things have taken a surprising turn: All returning Democrats have signed a letter to Reid calling for filibuster reform. That's surprising now, and would've been unthinkable a year ago. What they mean by filibuster reform isn't yet clear -- it's not ending the filibuster, but it could be as much as the full Merkley package, or as little as empowering Reid to negotiate with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over cloture delays -- but either way, it puts the minority on notice that continued routinization of procedural obstruction won't be met with mere sighs from the majority, but with rule changes that might eventually deprive the minority of those tools. The letter may just be a warning shot, but it could turn into much more if Democrats feel the warning wasn't heeded.
Top Stories

Every returning Democratic Senator wants to reform the filibuster, reports Dan Friedman: "All Democratic senators returning next year have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging him to consider action to change long-sacrosanct filibuster rules. The letter, delivered this week, expresses general frustration with what Democrats consider unprecedented obstruction and asks Reid to take steps to end those abuses. While it does not urge a specific solution, Democrats said it demonstrates increased backing in the majority for a proposal, championed by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and others, weaken the minority’s ability to tie the Senate calendar into parliamentary knots. Among the chief revisions that Democrats say will likely be offered: Senators could not initiate a filibuster of a bill before it reaches the floor unless they first muster 40 votes for it, and they would have to remain on the floor to sustain it."
Chalk it up to Mitch McConnell, I argue: "[Democratic] unity stems from an unlikely source: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has mounted more filibusters in the past two years than occurred in the ’50s and ’60s combined. Uncontroversial bills like an extension of unemployment benefits that passed 97-0 and food-safety legislation that passed with 73 votes frequently faced multiple filibusters and months of delay. The minority has been so relentless and indiscriminate in deploying the once-rare failsafe that the majority has finally decided to do something about it."
The 111th Congress has adjourned, report David Fahrenthold, Philip Rucker, and Felicia Sonmez: "A Congress that was dominated by Democrats passed more landmark legislation than any since the era of Lyndon B. Johnson's 'Great Society.' Congress approved an $814 billion economic stimulus, a massive health-care overhaul, and new regulations on Wall Street trading and consumer credit cards. The list grew longer during this month's frenetic lame-duck session: tax cuts, a nuclear arms treaty and a repeal of the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on gays in the military. But the 111th Congress will also be remembered for endless filibuster threats, volcanic town hall meetings, and the rise of the tea party. All were symbols of a dissatisfaction that peaked on Nov. 2, with a Republican rout in the midterm elections."
A bill providing health benefit to 9/11 relief workers has finally passed Congress, reports Felicia Sonmez: "After a years-long battle and a bout of last-minute opposition by Senate Republicans, the House on Wednesday passed a bill that would provide $4.2 billion in compensation and long-term health-care benefits for first responders who became ill from working at Ground Zero in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, sending the measure on to President Obama for his signature. The bill passed Wednesday evening by a vote of 206 to 60 after House leaders had held open the vote for more than an hour, presumably for members who were still hustling to make their way over to the Capitol on the final day of the 111th Congress' lame-duck session. Missing Wednesday's vote were nearly 170 House members, 100 more than had been missing in action for the previous day's votes."
The 111th Congress' accomplishments are reflected inthe 112th's main goals, writes E.J. Dionne: "The new Republican House majority is devoted less to a bold agenda of its own than to repealing, scaling back or derailing the accomplishments of the outgoing majority. The fact that wiping out what they call 'Obamacare' is a unifying priority for the conservative newcomers is a backhanded compliment to those who enacted it: Yes, it was a big deal after all, and in the forthcoming debate, reform's supporters will get a second chance to make the case for what they did. Republicans also hope to undercut financial reform, giving the law's supporters the opportunity to explain more clearly why a financial system with loose rules becomes little more than a casino operated by people in much nicer suits than those worn by the average croupier."
Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.
Indie pop interlude: First Rate People's "Girls' Night".
Still to come: Merrill Lynch spent two years selling itself toxic assets; Medicare is declining to use its own databases to police fraud; a bill to protect whistleblowers failed in the Senate; the US is challenging China at the WTO on wind power; and a cat is deeply confused by his own reflection.

Merrill Lynch sold itself toxic assets, report Jake Bernstein and Jesse Eisinger: "Two years before the financial crisis hit, Merrill Lynch confronted a serious problem. No one, not even the bank's own traders, wanted to buy the supposedly safe portions of the mortgage-backed securities Merrill was creating. Bank executives came up with a fix that had short-term benefits and long-term consequences. They formed a new group within Merrill, which took on the bank's money-losing securities. But how to get the group to accept deals that were otherwise unprofitable? They paid them...The group, created in 2006, accepted tens of billions of dollars of Merrill's Triple A-rated mortgage-backed assets, with disastrous results. The value of the securities fell to pennies on the dollar and helped to sink the iconic firm. Merrill was sold to Bank of America, which was in turn bailed out by taxpayers."
Economic growth beat projections in the third quarter:
Fannie and Freddie were central to creating the foreclosure crisis, report Zachary Goldfarb and Ariana Eunjung Cha: "Fannie and Freddie, the largest mortgage companies, shaped the practices being challenged in courtrooms around the country. They picked law firms that could foreclose fast and paid them based on how many foreclosures they could process. Speed was essential because delays cost the companies money - and, after they were taken over by the government two years ago, meant losses for taxpayers, too. Not only did the companies urge swift foreclosures, but in at least one case Fannie executives also greenlighted working with a firm that they knew firsthand had engaged in legally questionable practices, according to documents and interviews with lawyers and industry officials."
Greater consumer spending and business hiring is forming a positive feedback loop:
Obama should be able to compromise with incoming Ways and Means chair David Camp, writes George Will: "His aim is 'fundamental' tax reform, understood the usual way - broadening the base (eliminating loopholes) to make lower rates possible. He would like a top rate of 25 percent - three points lower than Ronald Reagan achieved in 1986, with what proved to be perishable simplification...If Barack Obama is accurately reported to be considering serious tax simplification and lower rates, he will have an ally in Camp - up to a point. Serious arguments about taxes are never just about taxes. They are about government's proper size and purposes. Concerning that, Obama differs with Camp, who says: 'Washington doesn't have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem.'"
Classic comics interlude: Calvin & Hobbes strips about snowmen.
Health Care

Medicare isn't using its own records to stop fraud, report Mark Schoofs and Maurice Tamman: "There are plenty of reasons why Medicare often fails to stop questionable payments up front. To protect law-abiding doctors and hospitals--the vast majority--Medicare is required to pay nearly everybody within 30 days. Medicare says it is reluctant to suspend payments to providers who may have made honest mistakes, out of concern that beneficiaries might go without needed treatment. Law-enforcement agencies and Medicare contractors, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Medicare fraud cases, can't investigate and prosecute them all. Sometimes, prosecutors and investigators ask Medicare to keep paying so as not to tip off targets of an investigation. But a central problem is that Medicare hasn't fully exploited its most valuable resource: its claims database, a computerized record of every claim submitted and every dollar paid out."
The ACLU is pushing the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to require Catholic hospitals perform abortions:
The EPA will offer testing for a water supply carcinogen, reports Lyndsey Layton: "The Environmental Protection Agency is suggesting that water utilities nationwide test their drinking water for hexavalent chromium, a probable carcinogen, after an independent survey released earlier this week found the chemical in tap water drawn from 31 cities. The EPA said Wednesday that it is issuing guidance to the utilities explaining how to test for the chemical but is not requiring tests at this time. The agency said it will also give technical help to the 31 cities identified in the survey - including Washington and Bethesda - so they can set up a monitoring and sampling procedure for hexavalent chromium, a chemical made famous by the film 'Erin Brockovich.'"
Domestic Policy

A bill to help whistleblowers has failed in the Senate, report Jeffrey Smith: "A bill giving federal employees expanded protections against retaliation for blowing the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse died in Congress on Wednesday night, after a 12-year lobbying effort won last-minute unanimous approval for it in the House but failed to gain similar approval under special voting rules in the Senate. A single unnamed senator put a hold on the bill, which had already passed the Senate by voice vote in a more controversial form, just before the chamber adjourned for the Christmas holiday. That decision denied the Obama administration - and many Republican supporters - a victory that accountability advocates have long sought."
Some municipalities are dealing with retiree benefits through bankruptcy:
States have enacted dramatic education cuts, writes Robert Reich: "California has reduced K-12 aid to local school districts by billions of dollars and is cutting a variety of programs, including adult literacy instruction and help for high-needs students. Colorado has reduced public school spending in FY 2011 by $260 million, nearly a 5 percent decline from the previous year. The cut amounts to more than $400 per student. Georgia has cut state funding for K-12 education for FY 2011 by $403 million or 5.5 percent relative to FY 2010 levels. The cut has led the state’s board of education to exempt local school districts from class size requirements to reduce costs."
Adorable animals getting disoriented interlude: A kitten gets confused by his own reflection.

The US is challenging China at the WTO over wind power, reports Sewell Chan: "The Obama administration accused China on Wednesday of illegally subsidizing the production of wind power equipment and called for discussions at the World Trade Organization, the first step in a trade case sought by American steelworkers. It is the second time in less than four months that the administration has accused China of violating world trade rules. The move escalates the trade tensions between the world’s largest two economies over clean energy, a sector that the administration views as a technological frontier in which American companies are struggling to remain competitive. Washington is challenging a special government fund in China that awards grants to makers of wind power equipment."
The price of oil has finally recovered from the financial crisis, report Russell Gold and Carolyn Cui: "Rising demand for petroleum--notably from U.S. motorists and Chinese manufacturers--has helped push oil above $90 a barrel for the first time since the early days of the financial crisis. The recovery in oil prices is an encouraging sign of world growth, but the spike in crude, if unchecked, also could pose problems for consumers whose incomes remain pinched. Crude oil closed above $90 on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday for the first time since October 2008, after prices fell in the early months of the financial crisis and global recession. The price of crude had held above $80 for much of 2010, and crept up in recent weeks. Crude's rise is hitting motorists in the wallet. The average price for a gallon of gasoline reached $3 for the first time in two years."
China is near a coal shortage, reports Huang Jingjing: "A severe coal shortage has caused power supplies to factories and residential neighborhoods to be temporarily suspended across seven provinces and regions, as the nation's energy shortage worsens. Coal reserves have been emptied by a huge surge in power demand, prompted by a cold weather front that swept China last week, according to the State Grid Corporation, China National Radio (CNR) reported Sunday. In northwest Shaanxi Province, 14 major thermal power stations had only enough coal stocks for four days, with two others already empty. Due to this worrying state of affairs, many enterprises and residents in the province have received notice of impending power cuts, according to the local China Business View."
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams.