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Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Democrats propose $1.9T increase in debt limit - a record increase that would raise National Debt to reach $14.3 T -

Reading - Democrats propose $1.9T increase in debt limit - a record increase that would raise National Debt to reach $14.3 T -

Senate Democrats on Wednesday proposed allowing the federal government to borrow an additional $1.9 trillion to pay its bills, a record increase that would permit the national debt to reach $14.3 trillion.

The unpopular legislation is needed to allow the federal government to issue bonds to fund programs and prevent a first-time default on obligations. It promises to be a challenging debate for Democrats, who, as the party in power, hold the responsibility for passing the legislation.

It's hardly the debate Democrats want or need in the wake of Sen.-elect Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts. Arguing over the debt limit provides a forum for Republicans to blame Democrats for rising deficits and spiraling debt, even though responsibility for the government's financial straits can be shared by both political parties.

The measure came to the floor under rules requiring 60 votes to pass. That's an unprecedented step that could mean that every Democrat, no matter how politically endangered, may have to vote for it next week before Brown takes office and Democrats lose their 60-vote majority.

Democratic leaders are also worried that Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., who opposed the debt limit increase approved last month, will vote against the measure.

The record increase in the so-called debt limit is required because the budget deficit has spiraled out of control in the wake of a recession that cut tax revenues, theWall Street bailout, and increased spending by the Democratic-controlled Congress. Last year's deficit hit a phenomenal $1.4 trillion, and the current year's deficit promises to be as high or higher.

Congress has never failed to increase the borrowing limit.

"We have gone to the restaurant. We have eaten the meal. Now the only question is whether we will pay the check," said Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. "We simply must do so."

A White House policy statement said the increase "is critically important to make sure that financing of federal government operations can continue without interruption and that the creditworthiness of the United States is not called into question."

Less than a decade ago, $1.9 trillion would have been enough to finance the operations and programs of the federal government for an entire year. Now, it's only enough to make sure Democrats can avoid another vote before Election Day.

Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota immediately offered an amendment to end the bank and Wall Street bailout, officially known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Thune would prohibit further expenditure of TARP funds and would require that all funds paid back be used to retire debt.

The latest increase comes on top of a stopgap $290 billion measure that cleared the Senate on Christmas Eve. Given the country's finances, that measure would last only about six weeks, lawmakers said, requiring the far larger measure that's pending.

Read more - http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100120/ap_on_bi_ge/us_congress_debt_limit_11

Russia diversifies into Canadian dollars -buying CDN in a bid to diversify its foreign exchange reserve -

Reading - Russia diversifies into Canadian dollars -buying CDN in a bid to diversify its foreign exchange reserve -

Canadian Money to be injected in to the Banking System

Russia’s central bank announced on Wednesday that it had started buying Canadian dollars and securities in a bid to diversify its foreign exchange reserves.

Analysts said the move could be a sign of increased diversification of emerging market central bank assets away from the dollar and into investments denominated in other commodity-linked currencies, such as the Australian dollar.

Adam Cole at RBC Capital Markets said if taken in isolation, Russia’s announcement that it was buying Canadian dollars was not significant, but if it was part of a broader trend, then it was an important step.

“If it is a barometer for the activity of other central banks, then its is structurally positive for the currencies of countries like Canada and Australia that have a commodity bias in their economies,” he said.

Although not officially confirmed, traders said that other emerging market central banks, including some in Asia which hold large foreign exchange reserves, have also been active in the foreign exchange market in recent weeks buying both Canadian dollars and Australian dollars.

Alexei Ulyukayev, first deputy chairman of Russia’s central bank, said that it would invest in Canadian dollar-denominated deposits and bonds.

“The Canadian financial market is not very deep, so we can invest in deposits in significant volumes, while the bond market is limited,” he said.

Although the central bank did not specify how much of its reserves it was allocating to assets denominated in the Canadian dollar, analysts estimated that the central bank could put up to $9bn, or 2 per cent, of its foreign exchange reserves into the currency.

Russia’s foreign exchange reserves, the world’s third largest, stood at $439bn at the end of December. These stockpiles have grown by 14 per cent since the start of the rally on global asset markets in March as rising commodity prices have boosted mineral-rich Russia’s coffers.

Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, Russia’s foreign exchange reserves were evenly split between dollar and euros.

Alarmed at the plummeting value of the dollars in its holdings, Russia has been at the vanguard of countries calling for the US authorities to stem the fall of its currency. Last year, along with China, Russia urged the creation of a new supra-national currency to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

The dollar has fallen more than 12 per cent on a trade-weighted basis since March. Commodity-linked currencies have rallied strongly, however, with the Canadian dollar up 24 per cent against the US dollar over that period and the Australian dollar 40 per cent higher.

This has prompted Russia to diversify its holdings. Indeed, in addition to its plans to buy Canadian dollars, Sergei Ignatiev, chairman of the Russia’s central bank, said last month that its was “discussing the possibility” of buying Australian dollars.

But some analysts warned that emerging market central banks might be in danger of buying commodity-linked currencies at the top of the market.

“In the long run it makes perfect sense for emerging market countries to diversify into commodity linked currencies,” said Simon Derrick at Bank of New York Mellon.

“But in the short-term, I would urge caution given that many commodity-linked currencies currently stand at extremely high levels on a historical basis.”

Read more - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/22f1bd26-05db-11df-8c97-00144feabdc0.html?nclick_check=1

How Did School Staffers Get Insulin Instead of Flu Vaccine? - Nurse has been temporarily relieved of duty

Reading - How Did School Staffers Get Insulin Instead of Flu Vaccine? - Nurse has been temporarily relieved of duty -


When staff members at a Wellesley, Mass., school went to the nurse last Friday, they expected to be injected with a vaccine for theH1N1 flu. What they received instead was a shot of insulin resulting in a bout with low blood sugar.

While the staffers seem to be suffering no long-term damage from mistakenly receiving the insulin injections, investigations are ongoing to determine what caused the medical error. Indications thus far have been that a school nurse was responsible. The nurse has been temporarily relieved of duty.

While ABC News contacted people at the departments of health for the town of Wellesley and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as the Wellesley School District, it remains unclear how the flu vaccine, which can be distributed in pre-filled syringes or vials, was mistaken for insulin, which is drawn from a vial because each dose needs to be calibrated when it is given.

Such errors have happened before. This past fall, a number of people in the neighboring town of Needham received a seasonal flu vaccine in place of the H1N1 vaccines they were supposed to receive. And in 2007, a teacher in the nearby town of Attleboro also received an injection of insulin instead of the intended flu shot.

"Mistakes can always be made," said Lisa Lowery, a registered nurse and immunizations program manager for the Visiting Nurse Service in Indianapolis. While she is reluctant to blame the nurse, she said other steps can be taken to avoid such a problem.

The benefit of having a nurse specifically performing a vaccination clinic, according to Lowery, is that it allows the nurse to be more focused. "You're in a habit of doing what you're doing. You're doing one vaccine and only one vaccine," she said.

"In practices, you're taught to take the bottle to another nurse and have her double-check what you're about to give," she said -- a situation that isn't possible when a school nurse alone is administering vaccine.

"That nurse is not used to injecting vaccines as a school nurse," said Lowery. "It would have been her habit to pick up insulin. Having someone to back them up and check them out would have prevented some more errors. If you're holding a vaccination clinic, use someone who's used to doing that."

Kay Renny, a registered nurse and manager of community programs for the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Michigan in Detroit said other steps are typically taken to avoid such a problem.

She said when her nurses are giving out both seasonal and swine flu vaccines, they do so in two separate lines with two separate forms, which do not look alike, so that nurses -- who are only administering one shot -- will notice. "This is the first year where we're administering two flu vaccines at the same time," she said, explaining it presented a new challenge.

When a mistake happens, "It doesn't hurt them, but it doesn't help them. What they want is what they're there for," said Renny. "You try to put steps in place to avoid that happening."

She noted that the vials for insulin and flu vaccine are similar but the syringes are different, with those for insulin being smaller. "Whenever administering any kind of medication, you have to double check when you have multiple kinds of medication in front of you. You really need to double check your double check."

Possible Fallout

While no one seems to be suffering long-term consequences from the medical error, adverse events are always possible with insulin being needlessly injected, since it drops the blood-sugar levels.

"It's basically going to make them hypoglycemic," said Dr. Sue Kirkman, senior vice president for medical affairs for the American Diabetes Association. "That might cause anything from just feeling shaky and jittery and hungry all the way down to making it difficult to think."

Kirkman explained that a person can become unconscious if their blood-sugar drops too low, but noted that this type of error could be corrected by certain injections or "you can have the person eat carbohydrates to bring the blood sugar back up," depending on the severity.

It remains unclear what, if any, impact this incident will have on public demand for flu vaccine.

Both nurses seemed to think, however, that the incident, while unfortunate, would likely improve safety in people still getting vaccinated without reducing the number of people willing to get the shot.

"When you have stories out there, then people are going to be asking the person administering -- the nurse -- what are you giving me?" said Renny. "What I think it does is help the administrator administer the right vaccine, because it's forefront in their mind."

"I do think people who are actively going to seek a shot are going to be proactive about asking the nurse, which is a good thing," said Lowery. At the same time, she said, "We still need to encourage the public to get both their H1N1 vaccination," noting that it remains unclear if H1N1 will return and the traditional peak of seasonal flu has not yet arrived.

"Don't let an incident as isolated as this affect your choice," she said. "Make sure you get vaccinated and prepare for the flu season."

More Answers Needed

One complicating issue that has not been resolved yet is how the error was made, given that the H1N1 doses had come in prefilled syringes, while insulin doses are filled at the time from a vial.

Insulin "typically would not be in pre-filled syringes," said Kirkman, adding that "there are some situations where a home health nurse, for example, might pre-fill syringes for someone who's homebound. I think it's just impossible to speculate."

"It does seem odd," said Lowery. "However, having been a school nurse, it involves more than giving out Band-Aids," she said, noting that kids and teachers are coming in for a variety of ailments. "I can see, unfortunately, where it would be very easy to get flustered and confused."

A woman answering the phone for the Wellesley superintendent's office indicated that the investigation is ongoing and no answer could be provided for that particular question yet.

Read more - http://abcnews.go.com/Health/SwineFluNews/school-staffers-insulin-swine-flu-shot/story?id=9606504