These are my links for March 7th through March 12th:
Patty Murray budget: $1 trillion in new revenue – Sen. Patty Murray’s new budget plan will raise tax revenues by nearly $1 trillion while cutting spending by the same amount over the next decade, according to people familiar with the proposal.The Budget Committee chairwoman plans to brief fellow Democratic senators over the new proposal in a closed-door lunch Tuesday that President Barack Obama is also scheduled to attend. Committee deliberations will begin Wednesday, and the panel expects to vote on the plan Thursday before floor debate next week.
Rome conclave: Cardinals set to elect new Pope – Cardinals gathered in Rome to elect the new Pope will begin voting later, with no clear frontrunner to take over as head of the Roman Catholic Church.The 115 cardinal-electors have attended a special Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.This afternoon they will process into the Sistine Chapel to begin their secret deliberations. They will vote four times daily until two-thirds can agree on a candidate.
The election was prompted by the surprise abdication of Benedict XVI.
The 85-year-old stepped down last month saying he was no longer strong enough to lead the church, which is beset by problems ranging from a worldwide scandal over sexual abuse to allegations of corruption at the Vatican bank.
Benedict’s resignation and the recent damage to the Church’s reputation make the choice of the cardinal-electors especially hard to predict, the BBC’s James Robbins in Rome says.
Schedule of voting during the papal conclave – The conclave to elect a new pope begins Tuesday at the Vatican. The voting process follows a set ritual every day until the Catholic Church has a new leader. Here is an approximate schedule.
Detroit: An American Autopsy – “Go ahead and laugh at Detroit,” Charlie LeDuff sneers defiantly as the once-great metropolis teeters on the brink of collapse. “Because you are laughing at yourself.”So begins LeDuff’s haunting, angry and deeply personal account of what is left of his hometown. The city was once heralded as “Paris of the Midwest” for its cosmopolitan luxuries, broad boulevards and sweeping views of the Detroit River. Yet it was quintessentially American because of its unstinting work ethic and tireless inventiveness.
Ryan to rally GOP on 10-year plan – Rep. Paul Ryan on Tuesday will seek to unify the Republican Conference with a rallying cry to balance the budget in 10 years.
The target set by Ryan (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is more aggressive than the one Democrats rejected last year that took until nearly 2040 to balance.
Paul Ryan: The GOP Plan to Balance the Budget by 2023 – America’s national debt is over $16 trillion. Yet Washington can’t figure out how to cut $85 billion—or just 2% of the federal budget—without resorting to arbitrary, across-the-board cuts. Clearly, the budget process is broken. In four of the past five years, the president has missed his budget deadline. Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in over 1,400 days. By refusing to tackle the drivers of the nation’s debt—or simply to write a budget—Washington lurches from crisis to crisis.House Republicans have a plan to change course. On Tuesday, we’re introducing a budget that balances in 10 years—without raising taxes. How do we do it? We stop spending money the government doesn’t have. Historically, Americans have paid a little less than one-fifth of their income in taxes to the federal government each year. But the government has spent more.
A US Border vehicle drives along the US and Mexico border fence in Naco, Arizona, Photo: Reuters
These are my links for April 23rd through April 24th:
For first time since Depression, more Mexicans leave U.S. than enter – A four-decade tidal wave of Mexican immigration to the United States has receded, causing a historic shift in migration patterns as more Mexicans appear to be leaving the United States for Mexico than the other way around, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center.
It looks to be the first reversal in the trend since the Depression, and experts say that a declining Mexican birthrate and other factors may make it permanent.
Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less | – The largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill. After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants—more than half of whom came illegally—the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped—and may have reversed, according to a new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of multiple government data sets from both countries.
The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and changing economic conditions in Mexico.
The report is based on the Center’s analysis of data from five different Mexican government sources and four U.S. government sources. The Mexican data come from the Mexican Decennial Censuses (Censos de Población y Vivienda), the Mexican Population Counts (Conteos de Población y Vivienda), the National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (Encuesta Nacional de la Dinámica Demográfica or ENADID), the National Survey of Occupation and Employment (Encuesta Nacional de Ocupación y Empleo or ENOE), and the Survey on Migration at the Northern Border of Mexico (Encuesta sobre Migración en la Frontera Norte de México or EMIF-Norte). The U.S. data come from the 2010 Census, the American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
California’s Demographic Revolution by Heather Mac Donald – California is in the middle of a far-reaching demographic shift: Hispanics, who already constitute a majority of the state’s schoolchildren, will be a majority of its workforce and of its population in a few decades. This is an even more momentous development than it seems. Unless Hispanics’ upward mobility improves, the state risks becoming more polarized economically and more reliant on a large government safety net. And as California goes, so goes the nation, whose own Hispanic population shift is just a generation or two behind.
The scale and speed of the Golden State’s ethnic transformation are unprecedented. In the 1960s, Los Angeles was the most Anglo-Saxon of the nation’s ten largest cities; today, Latinos make up nearly half of the county’s residents and one-third of its voting-age population. A full 55 percent of Los Angeles County’s child population has immigrant parents. California’s schools have the nation’s largest concentration of “English learners,” students from homes where a language other than English is regularly spoken. From 2000 to 2010, the state’s Hispanic population grew 28 percent, to reach 37.6 percent of all residents, almost equal to the shrinking white population’s 40 percent. Nearly half of all California births today are Hispanic. The signs of the change are everywhere—from the commercial strips throughout the state catering to Spanish-speaking customers, to the flea markets and illegal vendors in such areas as MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, to the growing reach of the Spanish-language media.
A 2005 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York of 75,744 minority subprime loan borrowers found the largest percentage was Hispanic (15,647 loans or 20.7 percent). This study found no evidence of adverse pricing of subprime loans by race or ethnicity and minority borrowers paid lower rates.
A 2008 study by the U.S. Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C. found Southern California was the hot spot for the most subprime loans in all of the United States in 2005. And out of the top 10 cities with the most subprime loans, six were in California (percent of Hispanic population in parentheses): Riverside (45 percent), Bakersfield (45.5 percent), Stockton (37.6 percent), Modesto (35.5 percent), Fresno (50.3 percent) and Visalia (46.0 percent). Where Hispanics got into trouble had more to do with home equity loans than primary home purchase loans.
Hispanics were hit hardest with foreclosures after the Housing Bubble popped.
If the Housing Bubble demonstrated anything, it is that Hispanics suffered not from too little, but too much, upward mobility by government-induced home ownership policies.
Boston Qualifying Rate Drops by a Third – Some interesting data-crunching from Ray Charbonneau, who blogs at Y42K?: If you compare the 2011 and 2012 fields of some major marathons, you’ll find the Boston qualifying rate on average has dropped by about a third. Charbonneau excludes the results from this year’s Houston Marathon—where qualifying rates actually went up—assuming that the Olympic Marathon Trials helped attract some higher-caliber athletes than the 2011 race. He also excludes results from this year’s exceptionally warm Boston Marathon and National Marathon in Washington, D.C., where qualifying rates dropped even more than a third. The stricter qualifying standards the B.A.A. put into place for the 2013 Boston Marathon (which went into effect last September) lowered qualifying times across all age groups by five minutes and 59 seconds. Based on Charbonneau’s results, this drop should eliminate about a third of all previous qualifiers.
Rethinking the Hispanic Vote – For Republicans, the illegal immigration litmus test, forcing conservative candidates to toe a hardline on the issue, could very well recede in the near future. A January Pew poll showed the number of Republicans considering illegal immigration as a top issue has plummeted, dropping from 69 percent in 2007 to 48 percent at the beginning of this year. The future Republican positioning on immigration could very well be closer to the policy views of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio than that of hardliners like Iowa Rep. Steve King.
The long-term political implications are equally significant. Democrats have counted Hispanics as a pivotal part of their coalition, but there’s no guarantee that as first-generation immigrants assimilate, they will remain reliable partisan voters. Indeed, a complementary Pew Hispanic Center study, released last month, showed immigrants becoming more Republican the longer they’ve been in this country — a similar narrative to other first-generation ethnic groups.
Democrats want voters this year to focus on what they have branded a war on women, but the flip side of the debate — the so-called war on religion — is not going away anytime soon.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for two weeks of public protest in June and July against what it sees as growing government encroachment on religious freedom.
The protests are expected to include priests and nuns and thousands of Catholic parishioners. Some activists expect civil disobedience, which could lead to powerful images of priests and nuns being led away in hand restraints.
Pew: immigration from Mexico drops to net zero – Immigration from Mexico has reached a net zero, with as many Mexicans moving back to Mexico as are entering the United States, according to the Pew Research Center’s Jeffrey Passel, a highly regarded demographer who used data from both countries.
The report released Wednesday cited several possible reasons, including, “the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and changing economic conditions in Mexico.”
California prisons detail plan to downsize, cut costs – The California prison system on Monday unveiled an extensive plan to cut spending by billions of dollars, close a prison and return inmates being housed out of state — all while meeting court-ordered benchmarks on medical care and overcrowding.
In three years, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is expected to be 7.5% of the state’s total budget, down from an estimated 9.4% in the upcoming fiscal year. This is largely because of realignment, the process of sending low-level offenders to local jails instead of state prisons to comply with a court order to reduce chronic overcrowding.
“California is finally getting its prison costs under control and taking the necessary steps to meet federal court mandates,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement.
Some parts of the state’s plan will require consent from the Legislature, and its success also hinges in part on court approval. Although the court ordered California to reduce its inmate population to 137.5% of prison capacity, the state expects to fall slightly short, at 141% — a difference of up to 6,000 inmates — by the June 2013 deadline.
Corrections Secretary Matt Cate said the state will ask the court to raise its benchmark next year.
A measure to abolish the death penalty and replace it with a maximum sentence of life behind bars without parole has qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot, the Secretary of State confirmed today. The measure, backed by a coalition that includes the American Civil Liberties Union and some law enforcement and victims rights groups, would apply to inmates currently on death row.
Supporters say capital punishment, which voters added to the state’s books in 1978, costs California more than $100 million a year while leading to very few executions because of the time it takes to go through the appeals process.
State elections officials confirmed late Monday that an initiative to abolish capital punishment in California has qualified for the November ballot, with supporters having gathered more than enough voter signatures to call the question.
The initiative would not only repeal the death penalty but would also convert the sentences of all 724 inmates currently on Death Row to life without the possibility of parole. It would further commit $30 million a year for three years to local law enforcement efforts on unsolved murder and rape crimes.
Teenagers are using salt to separate the alcohol from the sanitizer, doctors said.
“It’s essentially a shot of hard liquor,” said Cyrus Rangan, director of the toxicology bureau for the Los Angeles County public health department and a medical toxicology consultant for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “All it takes is just a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager.”
Although there have been only a few cases, Rangan said the practice could easily become a larger problem. Bottles of hand sanitizers are inexpensive and accessible and teens can find instructions on distillation on the Internet.
Unexplained Infant Deaths Often Linked to Bed Sharing – Among infants who have died suddenly and unexpectedly, most were sharing a sleep surface with another child or adult, and only one fourth were sleeping in a crib or on their back when found, according to a new report.
Results were published in the American Journal of Public Health online April 19. The study was conducted by Patricia G. Schnitzer, PhD, from the Sinclair School of Nursing, University of Missouri, Columbia, and colleagues.
According to the researchers, more than 4000 infants without prior known illness or injury die suddenly and unexpectedly each year in the United States.
The researchers found that only about one fourth of infants were sleeping in a crib or on their back when found, but 70% were on a surface not intended for infant sleep, such as an adult bed. Of note, 64% of infants were sharing a sleep surface, and of those, nearly half were sleeping with an adult.
One study limitation, among others, is the possible lack of generalizability because the data were as drawn from only 9 states.
“Infants whose deaths were classified as suffocation or undetermined cause were significantly more likely than were infants whose deaths were classified as SIDS to be found on a surface not intended for infant sleep and to be sharing that sleep surface,” Dr. Schnitzer and colleagues note.
Big Tobacco Groups Fear Spread of Plain Packaging – The world’s top tobacco groups fear if new rules on plain packaging take hold in Australia and Britain they may spread to higher-growth and potentially more lucrative emerging markets and put a curb on their future profits growth.
Health campaigners are pushing for tobacco companies to package their cigarettes in plain packs displaying the product name in a standard typeface and with graphic health warnings as a way of discouraging youngsters from taking up smoking.
Australia aims to become the first nation in the world to force tobacco groups to sell cigarettes in these plain, brand-free packets by December this year, while Britain this week launched a three-month consultation over the issue.
Smoking Cessation Worth It Despite Dim Outcomes – Drugs and counseling to help patients stop smoking typically double the odds of success relative to solo cold-turkey attempts, but success rates still seldom exceed 20%, a researcher said here.
The bottom-line message: “Keep trying,” said Michael K. Ong, MD, PhD, of the University of California Los Angeles, in a presentation at the American College of Physicians’ annual meeting.
Existing approaches to smoking cessation will remain the best available for the foreseeable future, Ong suggested, and even though their effectiveness is modest at best, they are better than letting patients fend for themselves.
He noted that clinicians are often reluctant to assist patients with these problems. A recent CDC survey found that only about half of smokers who saw a health professional in the previous year reported being advised to quit.
An earlier survey identified a series of reasons that physicians had for not offering to help with smoking cessation, such as they’re too busy; the services are not billable; it’s a futile effort; and patients may be scared away.
AT&T wields enormous power in Sacramento – As the sun set behind Monterey Bay on a cool night last year, dozens of the state’s top lawmakers and lobbyists ambled onto the 17th fairway at Pebble Beach for a round of glow-in-the-dark golf.
With luminescent balls soaring into the sky, the annual fundraiser known as the Speaker’s Cup was in full swing.
Lawmakers, labor-union champions and lobbyists gather each year at the storied course to schmooze, show their skill on the links and rejuvenate at a 22,000-square-foot spa. The affair, which typically raises more than $1 million for California Democrats, has been sponsored for more than a decade by telecommunications giant AT&T.
At the 2010 event, AT&T’s president and the state Assembly speaker toured Pebble Beach together in a golf cart, shaking hands with every lawmaker, lobbyist and other VIP in attendance.
The Speaker’s Cup is the centerpiece of a corporate lobbying strategy so comprehensive and successful that it has rewritten the special-interest playbook in Sacramento. When it comes to state government, AT&T spends more money, in more places, than any other company.
Consider this: if Mitt wins every remaining all-or-nothing state but one, and half of the remaining proportional delegates, he would likely still fall short of the magic nomination number of 1,144—which would force him to rely on unpledged delegates, the Republican version of the infamous Democratic super-delegates in 2008, to claim his party’s mantle.
The annual reports detail statements of economic interests and are designed to reveal potential conflicts of interests lawmakers might have relating to income sources, assets and gifts received.
Among the noteworthy gifts listed in the report are $1,445 in hotel accommodations and cultural activities paid for by the government of Vietnam and the Chinese International Affairs Foundation received by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, while on a fact-finding trip to Asia last fall with three other state senators.
Limbaugh Has Lost 29 Advertisers – Conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh is hemorrhaging advertisers following his harsh comments about a Georgetown University law student last week, with at least 29 halting their commercials on his show, according to Politico. Two stations have dropped him as well. The Atlantic Wire counted 31 advertisers who have abandoned Limbaugh.
A Barred Owl is shown near Mount Vernon, Va. To save the endangered spotted owl, the Obama administration is moving forward with a plan to shoot barred owls, a rival bird that has shoved its smaller cousin aside. The plan is the latest government attempt to protect the northern spotted owl, the meek, one-pound bird that sparked an epic battle over logging in the Pacific Northwest two decades ago.
These are my links for February 28th through February 29th:
“We all know that this institution has an abysmally low approval rating, and the American people are asking for change in Congress, and so I’m announcing today that I will leave the Congress at the end of this year,” the 16-term member joked.
Police said officers in riot gear charged against a crowd of students outside the stock market in Spain’s second largest city in the country’s northeast and made an unspecified number of arrests. They had broken away from a larger rally of thousands of striking students.
The fire set to the containers spread to a car and protesters smashed a bank window.
Some later made their way toward the University of Barcelona and took refuge in a plaza inside the campus.
The plan is the latest federal attempt to protect the northern spotted owl, the passive, one-pound bird that sparked an epic battle over logging in the Pacific Northwest two decades ago.
Catholic school fires gay teacher planning wedding – The Rev. Bill Kempf, St. Ann’s pastor, said in an emailed statement that the parish was “recently informed by one of its teachers of his plan to unite in marriage with an individual of the same sex. With full respect of this individual’s basic human dignity, this same-sex union opposes Roman Catholic teaching as it cannot realize the full potential a marital relationship is meant to express. As a violation of the Christian Witness Statement that all Catholic educators in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are obliged to uphold, we relieved this teacher of his duties.”
The Christian Witness Statement, which educators sign when applying for Archdiocese work, says all who serve in Catholic education should, among other requirements, “not take a public position contrary to the Catholic Church” and “demonstrate a public life consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
The Roman Catholic Church does not condemn homosexuals who remain “chaste,” but it takes a strong stance against same-sex marriage and homosexual acts.
Robin said his partner did, indeed, sign a witness statement. “We just didn’t realize we were making a ‘public’ stand,” Robin said. “There’s nothing that’s been hidden about our relationship at any point. I go to the staff parties. I show up at the school concerts. … It doesn’t matter until somebody with the Archdiocese is sitting in the room.”
Romney Camp Will Haunt Santorum With Robocall Story – Mitt Romney’s campaign will spend the next two weeks reminding Republicans around the country of Rick Santorum’s last-minute attempt to convince Democrats to vote for him her ein Michigan, a Romney aide said Tuesday night.
“It’s a major issue. [Santorum is] trying to pass himself off as the true conservative in the race, but he’s supporting the liberal Democrat line against Governor Romney,” said Ryan Williams, a spokesman for the Romney campaign.
He added of Santorum’s efforts to find Democratic help in the state’s open primary: “This isn’t going anywhere.”
A campaign aide said Romney may even work Santorum’s courting of Democrats into Romney’s stump speech going forward.
Worried Dems pressing Obama on gas prices – Congressional Democrats are ramping up pressure on President Obama to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to prevent rising gas prices from threatening the economy and their election-year prospects.
They are growing anxious that the price of fuel could reverse their political fortunes, which had been improving due to signs of growth in the economy.
Republicans have hammered Democrats on the price spike, repeatedly noting that gas prices — now at $3.72 per gallon for regular — have doubled since Obama won the White House.
The sound you hear is the loud sigh of relief from the Romney campaign. A great deal was on the line in the oddest of places — the state of his birth, the state where his dad served as governor, the state he won against John McCain four years ago. A few months ago, no one could have imagined Mitt Romney being hard-pressed in Michigan, and yet it happened.
Rick Santorum may have lost by a few points, but he scored a moral victory by making Romney work for the Wolverine State. This was a real contest that Santorum might have won had Romney not put the pedal to the metal. After all, based on pre-primary surveys and exit polling, Santorum won the actual Election Day vote, suggesting both that Romney’s superior organization delivered for him again in absentee balloting but also that among the party faithful who simply showed up on Election Day, Romney continues to have considerable problems.
53% of Self-Identified Democrats Voted for Santorum – CBS News’ Exit Poll finds that 9 percent of respondents identified themselves as Democrats. Among that group, 3 percent voted for New Gingrich, 17 percent each for Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, and 53 percent for Rick Santorum.
The Mounting Minuses at Google+ – WSJ.com – To hear Google Inc. Chief Executive Larry Page tell it, Google+ has become a robust competitor in the social networking space, with 90 million users registering since its June launch.
But those numbers mask what’s really going on at Google+.
Democrats grow confident of House win – Democrats say they are optimistic that they can regain control of the House of Representatives in the November election, an outcome that would mark a sharp reversal from the thumping defeat dealt to the party in 2010.
“We’ve gone from a gale force wind against us to a sustained breeze at our backs,” said Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term,” Snowe said in a statement. “So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail.”
Snowe’s retirement represents a major setback for the GOP’s efforts to regain a majority in the Senate. As a moderate Republican, she may be the party’s only hope to hold a seat in the strongly blue state.
Republicans did get some traction in the state in 2010, including electing Republican Paul LePage as governor.
But in a more neutral political environment, and in a federal race, Democrats will be heavy favorites to steal this seat from Republicans — their best pickup opportunity in the country, for sure.
“I’ve got to admit, it’s been funny to watch some of these folks completely try to rewrite history now that you’re back on your feet,” the president said to a raucous crowd at the United Auto Workers Convention. “The same folks who said if we went forward with our plan to rescue Detroit, ‘you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.’”
On Monday, the Senate majority leader held a conference call blasting GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney for touting endorsements from immigration “extremists” like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. And on the Senate floor Tuesday, Reid attacked Romney’s opposition to President Barack Obama’s bailouts that many credit for saving the Detroit auto industry.
“I’m sorry to say that life support system that the Detroit auto industry was surviving on, Republicans wanted to pull the plug. One man who is now seeking the Republican nomination for president of the United States said, ‘We should kiss the automobile industry goodbye,’” Reid said, without naming Romney.
“He called the death of American auto manufacturers ‘virtually guaranteed,’ another direct quote. And so he argued we should just let Detroit go bankrupt,” he added. “But he wasn’t alone. Republicans in this chamber agreed, many of them agreed, Democrats weren’t willing to give up on American manufacturing” and manufacturing jobs.
The Michigan primary: Five counties to watch – Voters in Michigan head to the polls today, carrying the fate of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s presidential bid in their hands. Win Michigan and, as expected, Arizona, and Romney almost certainly reasserts himself as the clear frontrunner in the Republican race. Lose Michigan and the calls for Romney to reconsider his candidacy will begins. It’s that simple.
“Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.”
The former senator from Pennsylvania warned in 2008 how politics and government are falling to Satan.
“This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country – the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age?”
“He attacks all of us and he attacks all of our institutions.”
Santorum made the provocative comments to students at Ave Maria University in Florida.
The White House contender described how Satan is even taking hold of some religions.
“We look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”