Domestic Policy

  Christian Right, States, Push Environment In ElectionsOctober 31, 2006 23:04 When Washington state Senator Maria Cantwell invited former US vice president Al Gore to campaign with her last month, it wasn't to launch an attack on the Republicans for their faulty Iraq policy or the global war on terrorism. Instead, the two appeared at an energy and environment forum in Seattle, promoting action on global warming and investing in renewable energy.

"The Northwest can lead the way to get off of our overdependence on foreign oil, to grow the economy, protect the environment and have a better foreign policy," Cantwell said.

That showing prompted Republican challenger Mike McGavick to appear with Idaho Senator Larry Craig at a local damn, which he accused Cantwell of wanting to breach.

They are not the only ones talking big about the environment this election, as a new and odd coalition has brought the issue to the forefront of US politics more than ever before.

The Sierra Club, one of the nation's largest environmental activist groups, gleefully stated this summer that energy and environmental issues have been placed at the "forefront of election year politics."
  Filipine-Americans Should Vote DeomocraticOctober 30, 2006 22:09 Some 201 million Americans will troop to the polls on November 7, and how they will vote in the midterm US congressional election will impact on the Philippines. Fil-Ams who would be voting for the Democratic Party would also be helping the Philippines in the process.

A Democratic Party victory in the polls will mean more investments and jobs for the Philippines. The Democrats have vowed to raise the federal minimum wage once they seize control of Congress. This will drive American companies to accelerate the transfer of more jobs to lower-cost locations such as the Philippines. By this we mean not just technology-enabled service jobs in business process outsourcing, but also in semiconductor and electronics, among other industries.

The current federal hourly minimum wage in the US is $5.15. The Democrats want this raised to at least $7.25. This would mean automatic increases in all but four US states where the hourly floor wage is already $7.25 or higher.
  Human Genome Lupus Program Endorsed By FDAOctober 28, 2006 13:38 Good! We need more research on autoimmune disorders...

Human Genome Science has received a special protocol assessment from the FDA, agreeing to the company's phase III clinical development program for its antibody LymphoStat-B in patients with lupus.

"We expect to initiate phase III trials of LymphoStat-B before the end of 2006, and we look forward to moving ahead with site activation and patient enrollment," said Thomas Watkins, president and CEO, Human Genome Sciences.

phase II results show that LymphoStat-B significantly reduced disease activity in serologically active patients, the population in which the drug will be studied in phase III.
  FDA Backs Tracking Medical DevicesOctober 24, 2006 22:30 The Food and Drug Administration plans to meet with medical device makers and health care administrators Wednesday to discuss whether the millions of medical devices sold in the United States should be tracked through an electronic database.

"Companies like General Motors, Ford and Honda have a tracking number for every bolt and screw that goes into a car," said Dr. Michael Fitzmaurice, a scientist with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. "Do we expect medical device companies to be less rigorous than automakers? No."

The FDA already tracks some high-risk devices, such as pacemakers that can correct irregular heart beats. Now it wants a tracking system for all devices, saying it would make it easier for the agency to conduct safety recalls. Hospitals support the idea, saying it would help with inventory control and reduce medical errors.
  Maryland Suffers E-Voting Security BreachOctober 23, 2006 16:34 Proponents of electronic voting have found themselves again on the defensive following the unauthorized release of software for voting machines used by the State of Maryland and manufactured by Diebold Election Systems.

The apparent security breach comes just two weeks before nationwide elections that will include an array of new voting technologies.

According to news reports, three disks containing software code were sent to a former Maryland lawmaker. Maryland and Diebold officials told the Associated Press that the software in question is outdated and will not be used in the upcoming election in that state, although it might be used in other states.

Voters in Maryland use a touch-screen voting system by Diebold that lets them make and review selections before casting a ballot. For absentee voting and provisional voting, voters use a paper-based system.
  Bush to Target Social Security after ElectionOctober 22, 2006 16:14 President George W. Bush said Republicans can hold their congressional majority by focusing on national security and the economy, and that he will return to overhauling Social Security as a top domestic priority for his last two years in office.

The president said he was confident that his party will keep control of the House and Senate, even if the margin is narrower. He dismissed ``conventional wisdom'' that his low job approval ratings, public concerns about the Iraq war and ethics scandals in Congress will lead to significant gains for Democrats.

``I've heard all the speculation and all the predictions,'' Bush said in a recorded interview broadcast today on ABC's ``This Week'' program. ``I can't tell you what the margins are going to be, but I believe our candidates will go out and talk about the issues that matter and we'll win.''

Recent polls have indicated voters may be ready to overturn the Republican majority. A poll conducted Oct. 19-20 for Newsweek magazine found 55 percent of U.S. adults say they are likely to cast their ballots for the Democratic candidate in the Nov. 7 elections. The poll put Bush's approval rating at 35 percent. Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats in the House and six in the Senate to gain majorities in both chambers.
  Environment: Toxic BudgetingOctober 17, 2006 09:05 While planning to end a program to protect poor and minority communities, the EPA's Northwest regional office says it will deliver more environmental justice. Although unlikely, that's theoretically possible.

We can think of several key ingredients for transforming the promise from window-dressing to credible: an administration that really cares about the poor; adequate funding; and a strong focus throughout the agency on transforming a poor record on environmental justice to a strong point.

Unfortunately, viewed on those criteria, the Environmental Protection Agency seems to be in a preposterous position. As the Seattle P-I's Lisa Stiffler reported, the agency is trying to save money. Its record on environmental justice nationally has been repeatedly faulted. And we will leave the defense of Bush administration's concern for the poor to those who can still say "compassionate conservative" like it was 2000 and there was an election to grab.
  Meat And Milk From Cloned Animals? FDA Says YesOctober 17, 2006 08:58 The Food and Drug Administration is set to approve milk and meat from cloned animals.


The Washington Post reports the move is based largely on new data that indicates milk and meat from cloned livestock and their offspring pose no unique risks to consumers.

But there is opposition, even among large food companies concerned that the public will not buy food products from cloned animals.
  Bush-Appointed Ex-FDA Chief To Plead Guilty In Conflict CaseOctober 17, 2006 08:52 Former FDA chief Lester Crawford has agreed to plead guilty to charges of failing to disclose a financial interest in PepsiCo Inc. and other firms regulated by his agency, his lawyer said Monday.

The Justice Department accused the former head of the Food and Drug Administration in court papers of falsely reporting that he had sold stock in companies when he continued holding shares in the firms governed by FDA rules.

Court papers say Crawford was the chairman of the FDA's Obesity Working Group while he and his wife owned shares worth at least $62,000 in soft-drink and snack-food manufacturer Pepsico Inc., based in Purchase, N.Y.

In addition, the documents say, he held stock worth at least $78,000 in food product manufacturer Sysco Corp., based in Houston.

While he and his wife owned the stock, the panel Crawford headed met with representatives from the packaged-food industry and gave congressional testimony encouraging manufacturers to relabel serving sizes to give calorie counts greater prominence.
  American Prison Camps Are On The WayOctober 15, 2006 20:33 The Military Commissions Act of 2006 governing the treatment of detainees is the culmination of relentless fear-mongering by the Bush administration since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Because the bill was adopted with lightning speed, barely anyone noticed that it empowers Bush to declare not just aliens, but also U.S. citizens, "unlawful enemy combatants."

Bush & Co. has portrayed the bill as a tough way to deal with aliens to protect us against terrorism. Frightened they might lose their majority in Congress in the November elections, the Republicans rammed the bill through Congress with little substantive debate.

Anyone who donates money to a charity that turns up on Bush's list of "terrorist" organizations, or who speaks out against the government's policies could be declared an "unlawful enemy combatant" and imprisoned indefinitely. That includes American citizens.

The bill also strips habeas corpus rights from detained aliens who have been declared enemy combatants. Congress has the constitutional power to suspend habeas corpus only in times of rebellion or invasion. The habeas-stripping provision in the new bill is unconstitutional and the Supreme Court will likely say so when the issue comes before it.

Although more insidious, this law follows in the footsteps of other unnecessarily repressive legislation. In times of war and national crisis, the government has targeted immigrants and dissidents.
  EPA Relaxing Environmental Rules For Ethanol PlantsOctober 15, 2006 20:27 As President Bush promotes ethanol as a green alternative to gasoline, his administration is quietly relaxing environmental rules for dozens of new corn-to-fuel refineries sprouting up across the nation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning to change the way ethanol plants are treated under the Clean Air Act, a move critics say could make it easier for the burgeoning industry to evade controls that dramatically reduce toxic air pollution.

The shift in policy would give a break to agricultural conglomerates and newcomers seeking to cash in quickly on the nation's growing thirst for renewable fuel. More than 40 new ethanol plants are expected to be built during the next year, boosting U.S. production by 30 percent.

Industry supporters say the new rule is crucial to sustain the ethanol boom, which they contend will reduce the nation's dependence on imported oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

"Ethanol is good for the environment," Bush said during an April speech that touted the fuel additive as a key part of America's energy strategy.

Critics note that the ethanol industry has been growing rapidly despite existing environmental regulations. The number of corn-to-fuel refineries has increased from 50 in 1997 to 101 this year, according to industry statistics.
  Investigation Shows Fema Spent Millions On Puppet Shows, Bingo, YogaOctober 13, 2006 10:09 At the Pinitos Learning Center in Boca Raton, disaster workers dressed as "Windy Biggie" and "Sunny" teach 30 preschoolers a song about how the wind is good, even during a hurricane.

"Windy Biggie is our friend.

"Windy Biggie is strong wind.

"She turns, turns, turns, turns around.

"She's knocking things to the ground."

This is FEMA tax money at work. It's also paying for Hurricane Bingo, puppet shows, "salsa for seniors," and yoga on the beach.

Last year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded Florida $22.6 million for "crisis counseling" for victims of hurricanes Wilma and Katrina.
  Federal Deficit Falls To Smallest Level In 4 YearsOctober 11, 2006 13:55 Don't forget that even if the Federal buget deficit has fallen to $250 billion, that means that we're still going into Federal debt at the rate of $1 trillion every four years...

The federal budget deficit, helped by a gusher of tax revenues, fell to $247.7 billion in 2006, the smallest amount of red ink in four years.

The deficit for the budget year that ended Sept. 30 was 22.3 percent lower than the $318.7 billion imbalance for 2005, handing President Bush an economic bragging point as Republicans go into the final four weeks of a battle for control of Congress.

Bush called the 2006 outcome a “dramatic reduction” in the deficit which allowed him to fulfill his 2004 campaign pledge of cutting the deficit in half earlier than his original 2009 target date.
  The Death Of Habeas CorpusOctober 11, 2006 13:48 On “Countdown” Keith Olbermann examined the Military Commission’s Act of 2006 and what it does to something called habeas corpus.

The following is a transcript of Keith Olbermann's special report on habeas corpus, as reported on Tuesday, October 10th:

The president has now succeeded where no one has before. He’s managed to kill the writ of habeas corpus. Tonight, a special investigation, how that, in turn, kills nothing less than your Bill of Rights. Because the Mark Foley story began to break on the night of September 28, exploding the following day, many people may not have noticed the bill passed by the Senate that night.
  Environmentalists Praise Xcel's Progress On Renewable EnergyOctober 11, 2006 11:36 Xcel Energy officials and environmentalists battled two years ago over renewable energy in Colorado.


Now, they're holding press conferences together.

Environmentalists turned out Tuesday to praise Xcel Energy. The utility and some of the state's rural electric cooperatives opposed Amendment 37 -- an initiative approved by voters in 2004 to increase the amount of power that utilities get from renewable energy sources.

However, Environment Colorado, Western Resource Advocates and other groups have announced that Xcel Energy is on track to meet the bulk of the renewable energy goals eight years early. The company, Colorado's largest utility, is adding power produced by wind and offering rebates for customers who install solar power.

Pat Vincent is CEO of Public Service Company of Colorado, whose parent company is Xcel Energy. Vincent says the utility will meet the Amendment 37 goals by the end of next year.

 
  Senator Says Warming By Humans Just A HoaxOctober 11, 2006 11:32 Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says the debate whether humans are changing the climate is over. Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, says the science linking human activity to global warming is overwhelming.

President Bush recently called global warming "a serious problem." He said there is still uncertainty over how much of the warming is natural and how much man-made, but he added that it was time to "get beyond the debate" and deploy new technologies to curb greenhouse gases.

But in the U.S. Senate, one prominent lawmaker isn't buying it.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., has argued repeatedly that the idea that humans are warming the climate is a hoax. In a speech on the Senate floor last month, he declared that the "greatest climate threat we face may be coming from alarmist computer models."
  Experts Challenge Abstinence-Only ProgramsOctober 05, 2006 23:40 Speaking in front of a packed lecture hall of more than 150 people at Harvard Law School, a panel of experts offered sharp, and at times very harsh, criticism of the effects of United States abstinence-only until marriage policies within the U.S. and abroad.

The September 28 panel, "Sex, Lies and Silence: The Harm of U.S. Abstinence-Only Policies at Home and Abroad," attempted to spark discussion on the push by the Bush administration to substantially increase funding for abstinence-only until marriage education programs over the past five years. As a result of this drastic increase, said panelist Julie Kay, a staff attorney for the organization Legal Momentum, "what we're seeing with the abstinence-only programs is one of the most concerted and well-funded efforts at restricting women's rights."

Kay explained that U.S. abstinence-only programs harm women in a number of different ways, from perpetuating gender stereotypes to providing a wealth of misinformation on sex and sexual decision-making.

"As we take a look at curriculum examples, I think what we're seeing is a real attempt to make girls fearful of sex by emphasizing harmful consequences," said Kay. "At a time when women and girls need honest and comprehensive information about sex and sexual decision-making, and the risks and pleasures associated with sexuality and relationships, instead they are getting a full program of miseducation, misinformation, and deception."
  OMB Seeks 'Bloggers' Help In Reform BillsOctober 04, 2006 10:53 The U.S. Office of Management and Budget has turned to bloggers for help passing government reform and accountability bills through Congress.

OMB Deputy Director Clay Johnson III met with bloggers from Porkbusters.org, Townhall.com, Instapundit.com and Human Events Online's Right Angle blog after they gathered to witness President Bush sign the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, also known as the Coburn-Obama bill, into law, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

The act, which was passed after bloggers flushed out the source of a secret hold put on the bill -- Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska -- calls for an online database of all federal government contracts and grants totaling more than $25,000.

The assistance from bloggers led the OMB to consider further partnerships.
  For Supreme Court'S New Term: Rise Of A New Centrist | Csmonitor.ComOctober 02, 2006 10:37 Abortion regulations and race-based public school enrollment plans are among major national issues at the US Supreme Court this year in a term that offers the first real insight into the constitutional vision of the high court under Chief Justice John Roberts.
Constitutional scholars and other analysts are watching closely to see if respect for legal precedent - the principle of stare decisis - emerges as a defining approach, or whether the Roberts court will seek to build on the conservative agenda of the Rehnquist court, with sweeping rulings that erode or erase liberal precedents.

A major factor in the direction of the court, whose 2006-2007 term begins Monday, is Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is emerging as a primary centrist power on the court following the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Analysts say he may provide the swing vote in several key cases.

"The absence of Justice O'Connor will be one of the most fundamental changes the court has seen," former acting solicitor general and Duke Law School Professor Walter Dellinger told reporters in a recent preterm briefing.

"It is difficult to overstate the significance of that shift," said former solicitor general and Pepperdine Law School Dean Kenneth Starr, in the same briefing. "All eyes will be on Kennedy."