Clem's Chronicles: Toyota/Zazi Terror Guilty Plea/Health Care Reform

Happy Monday folks...more Toyota issues and a victory for the Obama Administration in their war on terror. Here's tonight's missive......

TOYOTA/ELECTRONIC PROBLEMS?-On the eve of a Congressional hearing looking into Toyota’s problems with unexplained sudden acceleration, renewed focus on possible electronic problems as the cause. Brian Ross, reporting tonight for WORLD NEWS, tells us that “Toyota said again today no one has produced any evidence to prove there is an electronic problem. But what we saw this weekend suggests otherwise.” Ross explains: “I was behind the wheel as a professor at Southern Illinois University (Dave Gilbert) was able to create a runaway Toyota with an electronic short circuit of the kind that he says can be caused by moisture, corrosion or wear.” The car that Ross was driving was going 20 mph when the short circuit occurred. “Toyota”, Ross notes, “says its cars have a fail safe mode to detect and stop such short circuits by shutting down the power.” Didn’t work in this case-Ross says “the car surged past 70 mph”. Sounds ominous…but there’s more. Ross: “Despite the power surge the car’s onboard computer did not send an error code, meaning the computer had no record of anything wrong, of any unintended acceleration.” Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies notes the importance of that. Kane: “It is mirroring what we’re hearing from consumers, that Toyota tells them it can’t possibly happen. And if it did, it would send an error code. Well in fact, it doesn’t. That’s what’s critical.” So why doesn’t Gilbert let Toyota know? Well he did. Ross:”Toyota has known for a week now what Professor Gilbert found, but they still have not responded to him nor did they have any comment for us today. Tomorrow in front of Congress, Toyota officials may not be able to so easily avoid answering the questions raised by his findings.”

ZAZI PLEADS GUILTY-A guilty plea today from Najibullah Zazi. Pierre Thomas, filing for WORLD NEWS, tells us that “today in open court…Zazi admitted he was a willing al-Qaeda suicide bomber…His target: New York City’s subway system, which 5.2 million people ride every day.” Zazi, 25, pleaded guilty to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country and providing material support for a terrorist organization. He faces a life prison sentence without parole at a sentencing in June. Zazi’s plot was no pipe dream-Thomas: “Zazi said he and members of a terrorist cell planned to hit the subway in Manhattan just after the anniversary of 9/11.” Zazi admitted that he received weapons training from al-Qaeda operatives on the Afghan/Pakistan border in the summer. Thomas: “The plan: to make the high explosive TATP using ingredients that can be purchased at a beauty shop.” Thomas continues: “Days before the 9/11 anniversary, (Zazi) left Colorado by car headed to New York, explosives on board. He did not know it, but the FBI, based on an intelligence tip, was tracking his every move.” This afternoon Attorney General Eric Holder weighed in on the seriousness of the threat-“This was one of the most serious terrorist threats in our nation since Sept. 11, 2001 and were it not for the combined efforts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, it could have been devastating.”

VICE-PRESIDENT CHENEY HOSPITALIZED-Jon Karl: “Former VP Cheney is in GW Hospital after experiencing chest pains. His doctors are evaluating the situation and he is resting comfortably.” Cheney has had four heart attacks, starting when he was 37. He has had quadruple bypass surgery and two artery-clearing angioplasties.

POTUS HEALTH CARE: President Obama unveiled the latest version of his health care plan today ahead of Thursday’s planned bipartisan summit. The 10-year, trillion-dollar plan - which has been posted on the White House’s web site - claims benefits would be expanded to include at least 31 million Americans, and that it would reduce the deficit by $100 billion. Republicans continue to oppose the plan, and as Jake Tapper explains, “they plan to show up Thursday with not a very bipartisan spirit. They are going to talk about how their health care approach can be small and incremental and talk about why the Democratic plan should be scrapped, how the American people do not want it.” Despite the continued opposition, Tapper report s the White House is already taking steps to pass the bill – without Republican support: “The way that they’ve posted this plan…is to have it passed without Republican support. It’s the Senate bill, and some fixes to the Senate bill, and that’s how they’re going to have it passed, by putting it through the House…and then having this fix passed through the Senate through what is called reconciliation rules. That requires only 51 votes, that’s very controversial, and then it will go to the House if they have the votes.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

SENATE JOBS BILL-A Democratic “jobs” bill has made it past a GOP filibuster, thanks to some Republican help. The vote today was 62-30…five Republicans voted with the Democratic majority to end the filibuster. Among them, newly elected Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown. The bill would allow businesses that hire unemployed workers to forgo paying Social Security payroll taxes on them through December and give them another $1,000 credit if new workers stay on the job a full year. Other Republicans voting with the Dems include Maine’s Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Ohio’s George Voinovich and Missouri’s Kit Bond. Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson voted with Republicans. What next? Zach Wolf: “The bill will now have to be debated and get a final vote, perhaps later this week. If it passes, it would have to be reconciled with a more than $100 billion House jobs bill.”

NEW CREDIT CARD RULES: New regulations to protect consumers from surprise changes in their credit card rates and fees went into effect today. The credit card act prevents credit card companies from actions such as raising your interest rates on existing balances and increasing your interest rate without 45 days notice. But, as Elisabeth Leamy reported on WORLD NEWS tonight, “there are plenty of practices the Card Act does not outlaw..for example, your minimum payment could go up sharply at any time…some creative companies have even started charging people a fee for not using their card enough…and after giving you that 45 day notice – they can raise your interest rate as high as they want.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

GEITHNER IN AUSTIN-U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is offering President Barack Obama's support to government workers in Austin. This after last week’s suicide pilot attack on an office building housing IRS offices. One IRS employee was killed in the incident. Geithner and IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman met with IRS employees and delivered a letter from Obama. Geithner and Shulman also expressed condolences to the family of Vernon Hunter, an IRS employee who was killed in the incident and took a tour of the devastation.

MARJA UPDATE-Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen briefed reporters today. On Marja, Mullen noted “As you've all been seeing, we're making steady, if perhaps a bit slower than anticipated, progress. I'm encouraged by the good work being done, by the focus on protecting the people by killing the enemy, and by the bravery of the Afghan people, their security forces and, of course, coalition troops.” Mullen was asked to quantify the “bit slower” comment-he replied: “It's not much less. It's just a tough operation and we're working our way through it.” Miguel Marquez is embedded with Marines involved in the Marja operation. On WORLD NEWS, Marquez noted: “Marine commanders say across the entire battle space, across the entire city of Marja, things are going well. They are making progress and they believe in the next 15 to 20 days they will cease their clearing operations and then the hard work will begin, the hard work of creating a government here where none had existed before.” OTHER STUFF- -- LOOK UP IN THE SKY! IT’S A BIRD…IT’S A PLANE…IT’S A CASH COW?-Action Comics #1, the first comic book featuring Superman, was sold this morning for a record $1 million. There are apparently only about 100 copies of this 1938 comic in existence, and none offered for sale so far have been in as pristine a shape as the copy sold today.

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