Dental Abuse Seen Driven by Private Equity Investments – Isaac Gagnon stepped off the school bus sobbing last October and opened his mouth to show his mother where it hurt.
She saw steel crowns on two of the 4-year-old’s back teeth. A dentist’s statement in his backpack showed he had received two pulpotomies, or baby root canals, along with the crowns and 10 X-rays — all while he was at school. Isaac, who suffers from seizures from a brain injury in infancy, didn’t need the work, according to his mother, Stacey Gagnon.“I was absolutely horrified,” said Gagnon, of Camp Verde, Arizona. “I never gave them permission to drill into my son’s mouth. They did it for profit.”
Isaac’s case and others like it are under scrutiny by federal lawmakers and state regulators trying to determine whether a popular business model fueled by Wall Street money is soaking taxpayers and having a malign influence on dentistry. Isaac’s dentist was dispatched to his school by ReachOut Healthcare America, a dental management services company that’s in the portfolio of Morgan Stanley Private Equity, operates in 22 states and has dealt with 1.5 million patients. Management companies are at the center of a U.S. Senate inquiry, and audits, investigations and civil actions in six states over allegations of unnecessary procedures, low-quality treatment and the unlicensed practice of dentistry.
Democrats look to California in bid to retake House– No state figures more prominently in Democratic plans to retake the House than bright blue California.With 25 seats separating them from the speaker’s gavel, Democrats have settled on a blueprint targeting nearly a dozen seats across the Golden State — a yawning figure that highlights the emphasis party officials have placed there.
Exit, stage Wright– Yesterday’s breathless campaign hysteria arose out of a not-really-much-of-a-scoop from the broadsheet across town: A rich guy in Omaha wants to spend a lot of money defeating Barack Obama.Stop the presses. Eek.Said rich guy sought the advice of a controversial consultant (who’d very much benefit from getting the rich guy’s commission) on a strategy. The consultant proposed reviving the 2008 controversy over Obama’s relationship with his egregious pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
You’d have thought, from the mainstream-media tweets yesterday morning, that the mere act of mentioning Obama and Wright in the same breath was nothing less than a hate crime in itself. How dare anyone mention the president in the same breath as the anti-American demagogue who officiated at his wedding, baptized his children and gave him the title of his second book.
For those of us who enjoy seeing such folk sputter and squirm, the idea of a Wright attack against Obama instantly seemed rather piquant. But it only took a moment’s reflection to see how senseless and even stupid such an approach would be.
Ricketts’ aide: Jeremiah Wright plan was DOA– The head of the Super PAC that considered a proposal to attack the president based on his associations with controversial preacher Reverend Wright said Friday that the pitch was a non-starter.“I was immediately troubled by the proposal. It surprised me,” Brian Baker, president of Ending Spending Action Fund funded by billionaire Joe Ricketts, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We run an organization based on fiscal responsibility. They know we asked for a document based on ending spending, fiscal responsibility and jobs in the economy. This is far afield from that.”
Romney Launches First General Election Ad– Mitt Romney’s campaign is out with its first television ad of the general election, describing what a Romney presidency would look like on “day one.”The spot will be launched in four swing-states –Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa and Virginia — with a $1.2 million buy, CNN reports.A generally positive ad, the narrator outlines different Romney initiatives that he would launch from the start of his time in office, which include approving the Keystone XL pipeline and replacing President Obama’s heath care reform legislation.
Explaining Why Minority Births Now Outnumber White Births | Pew Social & Demographic Trends– The changing profile of the nation’s youngest residents also stems from the fact that some groups, especially Hispanics, have higher numbers of children than do non-Hispanic whites. One illustration of this difference is in the “total fertility rate,” or the number of children the average woman is predicted to have in her lifetime, based on current age-specific birth rates. For the U.S. as a whole, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of American Community Survey data, the number is 2.0. (American Community Survey data in this posting come from a Pew Research Center analysis of the 1% sample of the 2010 ACS Integrated Public Use Microdata Series [IPUMS])Among Hispanics, the total fertility rate is 2.4. For non-Hispanic whites and for non-Hispanic Asians, it is 1.8. Non-Hispanic blacks (2.1) have higher fertility than whites but lower fertility than Hispanics.Immigration is an important contributor to higher birth rates among Hispanics, because foreign-born women tend to have more children on average than U.S.-born women. Most growth in the Hispanic population from 2000 to 2010 was due to births, not immigration, a change from the long-time pattern. But most births to Hispanic women are to those born outside the U.S.
Latinos will soon be California’s largest ethnic group, Census says– Latinos will become California’s largest ethnic group very soon, a new Census Bureau report indicates.The bureau issued its first post-2000 census estimates of population growth, birth rates, age cohorts, and racial and ethnic characteristics.It pegs California’s Latino population (it uses the term “Hispanic”) at 14.4 million, 38.2 percent of the state’s 37.7 million residents, while the non-Hispanic white population is just under 15 million or 39.7 percent, dropping below the 40 percent mark for the first time.
For several years, demographers have predicted that the state’s Latino population would surpass whites by 2015, but the new Census Bureau reports indicates that the crossover may occur somewhat sooner.
Although immigration from Latin America has slowed to almost a stop, other findings indicate, Latinos tend to be younger than the white population and have much-higher birthrate, thus expanding their population while that of whites continues to shrink..
USC sued in deaths of 2 students– A wrongful death suit has been filed against USC by the parents of two USC graduate students slain near the campus on April 11.Wanzhi Qu and Xiaohong Fei, father and mother of Ming Qu, and Xiyong Wu and Meinan Yin, parents of Ying Wu, filed the suit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. They are seeking unspecified damages.Wu and Qu, both 23-year-old electrical engineering students from China, were fatally shot during a downpour about 1 a.m. while sitting in Qu’s recently purchased 2003 BMW, which was double-parked in the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue.
Wu was found in the passenger seat and Qu on the steps of a nearby house where he collapsed while trying to summon help, Los Angeles police said.
USC attorney Debra Wong Yang today issued a statement in response to the suit.
Announcer: “Decades ago Gingrich goes to Washington. Romney runs pro-choice campaign for Senate.”
Read the script below.
SCRIPT: Decades ago Gingrich goes to Washington. Romney runs pro-choice campaign for Senate. Gingrich found guilty of ethics violations. Mitt creates Romneycare. Gingrich joins Pelosi in support of global warming. Support TARP bank bailout. Collects big bucks from Freddie Mac. Rick Perry creates a million new jobs, cuts taxes, reduces regulations; the proven conservative.
Make a deal on the payroll tax, and come back for more – The Journal editors suggest: “At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly. Then go home and return in January with a united House-Senate strategy that forces Democrats to make specific policy choices that highlight the differences between the parties on spending, taxes and regulation. Wisconsin freshman Senator Ron Johnson has been floating a useful agenda for such a strategy. The alternative is more chaotic retreat and the return of all-Democratic rule.”
Johnson is suggesting implementing seven of the spending-cut ideas from the Simpson-Bowles debt commission, which amount to a cut of $655 billion over 10 years. These are relatively noncontroversial items such as reducing congressional and White House budgets by 15 percent, imposing a three-year freeze on federal workers’ pay, reducing the size of the federal workforce and selling excess government real estate. In other words, Johnson is asking if his colleagues can’t at the very least agree to chop the low-hanging fruit in the budget.
Well, it would have been nice if the supercommittee could have managed that, or if that kind of package of cuts could have been presented as a full year offset for the payroll tax reduction. But that’s for next year.
The GOP, if it has not the wherewithal to oppose a payroll tax reduction (When will Congress ever have the nerve to increase it and stem further hemorrhaging of funds available for Social Security? Why not cut the entire tax, according to the Democrats’ logic?), then cut a deal and come back to finish the work in 2012. If the Democrats want another 10 months of payroll tax relief, then Republicans should get something for that (e.g. more cuts, a definitive decision on the pipeline). Just not now. In January.
Capitol Stand-off: Republicans Caving? – My prediction: House Republicans will soon – probably within 24 hours – cave in and accept the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut passed last week by the Senate.
I base this on conversations with House Republicans who know they are losing the public relations battle and losing it badly. They know they are taking the blame for a stand-off that threatens to raise taxes on 160 million Americans. And they cannot let that happen.
As one top House Republican aide just told me: “I do not expect taxes to go up on January 1st.”
At this point, there is really only one way for taxes not to go up on January 1st: House Republicans need to fold. Democrats won’t give in because they are completely confident that House Republicans will take the blame for the impasse. And Republicans don’t disagree.
Republicans are now searching for a face-saving way to give up. The most likely scenario would be for Democrats to agree to negotiations on a full-year extension to begin as soon as next week – but only after the House passes the two-month extension.
The Senate is gone. The House has left behind a few stragglers to sit on a conference committee that may never meet. The president’s still around but itching to go to Hawaii to be with his family. Christmas is coming. Hanukkah is here.
The decision by House Republicans to deep-six a bipartisan deal to extend a payroll tax cut has left that party divided and given Democrats an issue with which to hammer them throughout the holidays. House leaders insist theirs is the principled stand because they want a year-long extension, not a two-month one.
But right now, they are hearing it from all sides, including the influential Wall Street Journal editorial board, no friend to Democrats.
Texas Gains the Most in Population Since the Census – Texas gained more people than any other state between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011 (529,000), followed by California (438,000), Florida (256,000), Georgia (128,000) and North Carolina (121,000), according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates for states and Puerto Rico. Combined, these five states accounted for slightly more than half the nation’s total population growth.
“These are the first set of Census Bureau population estimates to be published since the official 2010 Census state population counts were released a year ago,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “Our nation is constantly changing and these estimates provide us with our first measure of how much each state has grown or declined in total population since Census Day 2010.”
The United States as a whole saw its population increase by 2.8 million over the 15-month period, to 311.6 million. Its growth of 0.92 percent between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, was the lowest since the mid-1940s.
“The nation’s overall growth rate is now at its lowest point since before the baby boom,” Groves said.
California remained the most populous state, with a July 1, 2011, population of 37.7 million. Rounding out the top five states were Texas (25.7 million), New York (19.5 million), Florida (19.1 million) and Illinois (12.9 million).
Gingrich to House GOP: Give In on Payroll Tax – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who famously lost budget battles to President Bill Clinton amid two government shutdowns, had some advice to House Republicans at loggerheads with another Democratic president: Give in.
“Incumbent presidents have enormous advantages. And I think what Republicans ought to do is what’s right for America. They ought to do it calmly and pleasantly and happily,” Mr. Gingrich said when asked about the clash between President Barack Obama and House Republicans over extension of the payroll tax cut.
Mr. Gingrich made it clear he favored a one-year extension of the two-percentage point payroll tax cut, which expires Jan. 1, not the two-month extension that passed the Senate with bipartisan support. He called the Senate bill “an absurd dereliction of duty.”
“Obama is so inept as a president, and the Congress is so dysfunctional as an institution, that we are lurching from failure to failure to failure,” Mr. Gingrich said.
He offered sympathy to House Speaker John Boehner for having to negotiate with “a Senate majority leader who is totally disruptive and a president who is basically campaigner-in-chief, who has no interest in solving the problems of the American people.”
But he said resistance was doomed.
“It’s very hard for the legislative branch to outperform the president in communications,” he said. “He has all the advantages of being one person. He has all the advantages of the White House as a backdrop, and my experience is presidents routinely win.”
Despite the candidate’s success in expanding his political brand in recent weeks and months, those who support him remain a very distinct segment of the Republican electorate, as evidenced by a new poll in Iowa.
The Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG survey is the latest poll to show Paul leading in the Hawkeye State’s caucuses. His 27.5 percent-to-25.3 percent lead on Newt Gingrich is within the margin of error, but it reflects a race that appears to be headed in the good doctor’s direction.
Scribd Protests SOPA By Making A Billion Pages On The Web Disappear – The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is delayed in Congress, but it is definitely not dead. The media company lobbyists and their Congressmen (hello, Lamar Smith!) are simply regrouping. Some of the more controversial aspects of the bill include transferring liability for copyright infringement to sites that host user-generated content and blocking that content via DNS servers.
To highlight the chilling effect this legislation could have on free speech on te Internet, today document-sharing site Scribd is protesting SOPA by making every document disappear word-by-word when you vist the site. All in all, there are a billion pages of documents on the Scribd. “With this legislation in place, entire domains like Scribd could simply vanish from the web,” warns Jared Friedman, CTO and co-founder, Scribd.
GOP shuts down House on Dems’ payroll-tax gambit – House Democrats tried Wednesday to force a vote on the Senate’s two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut, but Republicans gaveled the House closed to prevent them from having a chance, as top GOP leaders huddled down the hall to try to figure a way out of the mess.
The House was set to hold a pro forma session, but two top Democrats, Reps. Steny H. Hoyer and Chris Van Hollen, demanded to be recognized to try to force a vote on the two-month extension. House Republicans have blocked that deal, which is strongly backed by President Obama, and are holding out for an extension that covers all of 2012.
Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican who was serving as the presiding officer, banged his gavel to close the session Wednesday morning even as the two Democrats were demanding to be recognized.
“You’re walking out, you’re walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class taxpayers,,” Mr. Hoyer shouted after Mr. Fitzpatrick as he marched off the floor, leaving the two Democrats, both from Maryland, to themselves in the cavernous chamber.
Only 51 votes are required for passage – which means only 4 Democrats are needed. There are 23 Democrat Senate seats up for reelection next year. A few of these folks aren’t running. The rest are – many in Center or Center-Right states. Additionally. there are a few other Senators that should also be subject to Constitutional reason, and thusly contacted.
Behold a list of some of these Senators – and their contact information. Reach out and tell them to vote Yes on S.J.Res 6. And Tweet it all out – with the hashtag #freethenet.
Gallegly one of targeted 25 in new DCCC radio ads – One year before Election Day 2012, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched radio ads in the districts of 25 targeted Republicans nationwide, including Rep. Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley.
The extent of the buy was not divulged, but Republican operatives told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call that they believed the buy was very minimal — an attempt to gain some news coverage, rather than actually make impressions on voters with repetitive ads on multiple stations.
Gallegly — who has not yet announced whether he intends to run for re-election — would most likely run in the new 26th Congressional District, which includes all of Ventura County except for most of the city of Simi Valley and small coastal strip in the city of Ventura. The voting makeup and history of that district suggest it is one that Democrats can classify as a “pickup” — one in which most the territory is now represented by Gallegly and could be won by a Democrat in the fall. If Democrats win 25 such districts nationally next year and hold onto the seats they now hold, they will regain majority control of the House of Representatives.
The inclusion of Gallegly in the 25 selected targets is the latest evidence that the new district will put Ventura County squarely on the map in national congressional campaign politics next fall.
Best College Majors for a Career – Choosing the right college major can make a big difference in students’ career prospects, in terms of employment and pay. Here’s a look at how various college majors fare in the job market, based on 2010 Census data. Some popular majors, such as nursing and finance, do particularly well, with unemployment under 5% and high salaries during the course of their careers.
The embattled GOP nominee has admitted that several women who worked at the National Restaurant Association during his tenure as president of the organization received settlements. Politico has reported that the settlements were given because of sexual harassment allegations.
PHOTOS: Celebrity Cheaters
The woman, who will be the first to go public on Monday, sought Cain’s help with an employment issue and was allegedly sexually harassed by him. Allred and her client will discuss, in detail, what she alleges occurred with Cain.
The Tea Party darling had hoped the scandal would die down, but that’s not happening. Once again, he clashed with reporters on Saturday night after a debate with Newt Gingrich. Cain refused to answer questions about the allegations, and said, “You see what I mean? I was gonna do something that my staff told me not to do and try to respond, okay? What I’m saying is this — we are getting back on message, end of story. Back on message. Read all of the other accounts. Read all of the other accounts where everything has been answered in the story. We’re getting back on message, okay?”
Romney Will Play in Iowa – The Hotline: “After months of debate inside the Romney camp over whether to compete in Iowa, it seems the decision has been made: Romney will play in Iowa, and he will play to win. The most recent evidence: Romney will hold campaign events Monday in Iowa, his second trip in three weeks after visiting the state only twice in the previous 12 months; His son Josh and wife Ann have quietly canvassed the state in recent weeks, and both have campaigned vigorously there for the Republican candidate in a crucial state Senate race; and Romney just launched aggressive robocalls in Iowa attacking Perry over his immigration policies, throwing the first punch in what could be a heavyweight Hawkeye State bout.”
“The question is no longer whether Romney competes in Iowa; the question is how much time and money he’ll invest in the state that so wounded his candidacy in 2008.”
Byron York: Why Santorum runs – If sheer effort determined the winner of the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum would win in a walk. His stop in Fairfield marks the 97th Iowa county Santorum has visited in his run for the Republican presidential nomination. The state has 99 counties in all, and before this day is over, Santorum will reach his goal of visiting them all. None of Santorum’s rivals has even come close.
The problem is Santorum isn’t close to the lead here in Iowa. According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, he is the choice of 3.5 percent of Iowa Republicans — seventh in a field of eight candidates. No matter who has led the field — Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain — Santorum has stayed near the bottom.
Yet Santorum is the most powerful voice on behalf of the conservative social positions that many Iowa Republicans hold dear. It’s his bad luck to be running in a year dominated by economic concerns and to face opponents who more or less share his views on social issues but are perceived as stronger candidates on economic matters. Santorum is stuck in a moment that’s just not made for him.
It’s a problem Santorum has struggled with, and he’s come up with two ways to address it. The first is by talking about the economy in a way that is unique among Republican candidates. And the second is by arguing that economic recovery and economic strength simply aren’t possible without the emphasis on strong families that has been a key part of his campaign.
Panetta’s comments about budget reductions come nearly three weeks before the so-called congressional super committee reaches a key deadline. The Pentagon stands to see $600 billion in automatic cuts if the committee does not come up with an alternative plan.
“There will be some huge political challenges,” Panetta told the Times in an interview that took place Friday. “When you reduce defense spending, there’s likely to be base closures, possible reduction in air wings,” he said.
The days of a counterinsurgency-focused force might be coming to a close.
The Times reported that Panetta “did not envision maintaining a ground force large enough to conduct a long, bloody war and then stability operations in North Korea or Iran, as the United States did in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Among the proposals he was considering, Panetta told the Times that the Pentagon was considering raising fees for the military’s health insurance program. Military retirees and families, who are guaranteed the military benefit for life, pay only $460 a year in fees, the Times said.
Often described as the candidate to beat in the GOP race, Romney remains stuck in place in national polls — he is at 24 percent in the Post-ABC survey — despite the fact that one of his main challengers, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has stumbled and several high-profile potential candidates decided not to enter the race to challenge President Obama.
Documents and other records provide new details on the role played by a former Soviet weapons scientist who allegedly tutored Iranians over several years on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction, the officials and experts said. Crucial technology linked to experts in Pakistan and North Korea also helped propel Iran to the threshold of nuclear capability, they added.
Census: 49 million in poverty – New estimates released Monday show that the number of Americans living in poverty was higher than previously estimated, and stands at 49.1 million, according to the Census Bureau.
The nearly-50 million people who live below the poverty line represents 16 percent of all Americans.
The numbers that were released were adjustments to the official 2010 poverty figures of 46.2 million, or 15.1 percent of Americans, that were released in September. The supplemental figure is higher than the official figure because it considers higher costs of living on expenses that aren’t factored into the official rate.
Hispanic poverty rose to 28.2 percent, affecting 14.1 million, surpassing that of blacks for the first time. Still, 9.9 million African-Americans suffered from poverty, a rate of 25.4 percent. The Asian poverty rate was 16.7 percent, affecting 2.4 million people.
Meanwhile, non-Hispanic whites had a lower poverty rate of 11.1 percent, or 21.9 million people.
Supervisor Jeff Stone, a Republican pharmacist from Temecula, called California an "ungovernable'' financial catastrophe from which businesses are fleeing and where taxpayers are being crushed by the burden of caring for welfare recipients and illegal immigrants.
On Tuesday, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors will consider Stone's proposal to host a statewide summit for city and county leaders to sketch out a framework for secession.
The politician said he was undaunted by scores of failed similar attempts since the 1800s, saying Californians haven't face such dismal economic times since the Great Depression.
"This has struck a chord with a lot of people in the state who have suffered economically,'' said Stone, adding that he has received thousands of emails supporting his proposal. "We know it's going to be a challenge to form a second state, but it's not a impossible. We're sending a message.''
The commission was scheduled to release its second set of draft maps this coming Thursday but decided during its Saturday meeting to skip that step "in order to produce the best district maps possible."
The group of citizens responsible for creating new districts for seats in the state Legislature and state Board of Equalization, as well as for California seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, faces a July 28 deadline for finishing its maps, which must be adopted by Aug. 15.
They are running out of time and have faced criticism from the power structure left and right.
I will be amazed if they can reach a consensus and pass a fair set of redistricting maps by the deadline.