Domestic Policy

  EPA Drops Plan To Ease Pollution RulesNovember 30, 2006 15:34 The Bush administration, looking at the prospect of stronger oversight from a Democratic-led Congress, is withdrawing a proposal to let big polluters report less often on what they spew from their smokestacks.

The administration, however, is going ahead with a plan to make one-third less provide detailed figures at all.

The government last year proposed easing air regulations to exempt some companies from having to tell the Environmental Protection Agency about what it considers to be small releases of toxic pollutants.

That proposal is still alive. But abandoned now is the idea of making companies that must make such reports, known as toxic release inventory, do so every other year instead of annually.
  Congress Should Patch Election Holes By 2008November 29, 2006 11:18 A county in Florida has the dubious honor once again of butchering an election. In Sarasota, a software glitch apparently denied as many as 18,000 voters the ability to vote in a congressional race decided by 369 votes out of 280,000 cast.

Had the electronic foul-up undermined a close U.S. Senate race in Virginia or Montana instead of a House race in Florida, it would have become a national crisis. Republicans and Democrats would still be arguing over which party will control Congress next year.

Courts will decide whether to order a new election in Sarasota. But Congress should look at the sporadic, but serious, instances of problems across the nation and propose legislative fixes in time for the 2008 presidential election.

The obvious priority: ordering a paper trail nationwide so that there is a hard copy for voters to see and for election officials to use in the event of a recount. Called a voter-verifiable paper audit, it would have confirmed for Sarasota voters that their choice for Congress didn't register. In Pennsylvania, it would have detected instances of ``vote-flipping,'' in which a voter's choice maddeningly registers as a vote for an opponent. And it might have caught the problem in Arkansas, where the total number of votes kept changing on each tabulation.
  Democrat Calls For Outdated Alternative Minimum Tax To Be AxedNovember 29, 2006 11:13 The new Democrat-controlled Congress should abolish an outdated tax that could condemn up to 23m Americans to pay a total $1,000bn next year, according to the incoming head of a powerful congressional committee.

Charles Rangel, the New York Democratic congressman who is expected to become chairman of the tax-writing ways and means committee in the House of Representatives, said scrapping the alternative minimum tax (AMT) was a top priority.
  Forest Service to Close 100's of CampgroundsNovember 21, 2006 11:19 Rising expenses and a shrinking budget are forcing U.S. Forest Service officials to consider closing hundreds of campgrounds, picnic areas and other recreation facilities.

By the end of 2007, each of 155 national forests and 20 grasslands must complete a recreation-site facility master plan evaluating recreation facilities on their condition, frequency of use and how they fit in the forest's recreation focus, or "niche."

Federal officials said they are weighing the value of each of roughly 15,000 campgrounds, trailheads with bathrooms and other developed recreation sites in the 193 million acres under the agency's authority against the costs of maintaining them.

The agency faces a $346 million backlog in maintenance and growing costs for fire suppression, which now makes up 42 percent of expenditures. Its budget for 2007 was cut 2.5 percent to $4.9 billion.
  House Won't Consider Military Draft LegislationNovember 20, 2006 13:37 The two top House Democrats said they have no intention of bringing up legislation to resume the military draft.

The remarks by Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader-Elect Steny Hoyer come a day after Representative Charlie Rangel, a New York Democrat, said he plans to again introduce legislation to revive the draft when his party takes control of Congress in January.

``The speaker and I have discussed scheduling'' for the House next year, Hoyer said after a meeting today with Pelosi. ``It did not include'' the draft, he said.

``Mr. Rangel has long held this position,'' Pelosi said. ``It's not about a draft, it's about shared sacrifice in our country.''

``We have made very clear what our priorities are, and they're Six for '06,'' Pelosi said, naming the Democrats' plan to address what they call the middle class squeeze by raising the minimum wage, repealing the richest tax cuts and increasing education grants. ``Mr. Hoyer will be leading the action on the floor.''
  Vote On Oil Bill Promised This YearNovember 14, 2006 12:03 Republican leaders in the House of Representatives agreed Monday to take up legislation during a post-election lame-duck session that would expand offshore oil and gas drilling and provide the first meaningful sharing of federal royalty payments with Louisiana and other producing states, Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, said.

Jindal said the GOP House leaders for the first time expressed a willingness to pass a Senate measure with more limited drilling options and less revenue sharing, at least for the near future, if no compromise can be reached with Senate leaders on a House version.

A negotiated agreement seems unlikely, especially with some Senate Democrats wanting to put off action until next year, when they take control of both the Senate and House for the first time since 1994.
  "No Greater Legacy" For Bush Than Climate DealNovember 14, 2006 11:48 Britain's environment minister urged President George W. Bush on Tuesday to agree cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases, saying there could be "no greater legacy" for his last two years in office.

Touring east Africa's biggest slum on the outskirts of Nairobi during a November 6-17 U.N. climate conference, David Miliband also said the world faced a "massive challenge" to help Africa to overcome poverty and global warming.

He said that 189-nation talks in Nairobi should seek ways to widen the U.N.-led fight against global warming to all nations, including the United States, after a first period of the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012.

"It's essential that the United States is part of a global agreement to binding global carbon reductions," he said as he toured the muddy Kibera slum, where a million people cram into tiny homes made of corrugated iron, mud or wood.

  Removing our Rights to Protect AnimalsNovember 13, 2006 13:25 The Humane Society of the United States has no tolerance for individuals and groups who resort to
intimidation, vandalism, or violence supposedly in the name of animal advocacy, and we have spoken out
repeatedly against violence in any form. We believe harassment, violence, and other illegal tactics are
wholly unacceptable and inconsistent with a core ethic of promoting compassion and respect, and also
undermine the credibility and effectiveness of mainstream, law-abiding organizations and individuals.
However, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) threatens to sweep up – criminalizing as
“terrorism” or otherwise chilling – a broad range of lawful, constitutionally protected, and valuable activity
undertaken by citizens and organizations seeking change. Even with changes that have been incorporated
into the current version of the legislation, it is still seriously flawed.
  Domestic Policy Issues to Change under ReidNovember 10, 2006 13:12 Senator Harry Reid has played defense as minority leader, forging a Democratic united front against Bush administration proposals to create private Social Security accounts and cut estate taxes.

Now, with Democrats in control of Congress for the first time since 1994, he can go on the offensive. Reid is poised to become Senate majority leader and join House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi in pushing the party's own legislative goals of raising the minimum wage and reducing Medicare drug prices.

Reid will have the tougher job, analysts say, in trying to maneuver a Democratic agenda past the Senate's Byzantine rules in a chamber where almost a dozen lawmakers are weighing 2008 presidential bids.

``It's a job that involves persuasion, not demand,'' said Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. ``He understands acutely the challenges of leadership in the Senate.''

Reid, 66, is likely to be unchallenged in the leadership elections scheduled for next week. After Democrats clinched a 51- 49 majority by winning a close Senate race in Virginia, Reid said voters want Democrats to lead in a new direction.

``This country has spoken loudly and clearly,'' Reid told a Capitol Hill rally yesterday. ``There must be a change of direction in Iraq. We have to have results in doing something to make health care more affordable and more available. We have to do something to create energy independence.''
  Democratic Party Likely Controls Both House and SenateNovember 08, 2006 20:23

Control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate shifted to Democrats on Wednesday, with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld the first victim of heavy Republican election losses fueled by voter anger at President George W. Bush and his Iraq policies.

Democrats, who gained about 30 seats to seize control of the House and had moved to within one seat of a majority in the Senate, won the contested seat of Virginia Sen. George Allen, an incumbent whose narrow race over Democrat James Webb had come down to within thousands of votes. NBC television and the Associated Press awarded the race to Webb on Wednesday.

The AP said it had contacted election officials in all 134 localities where voting occurred, obtaining updated numbers on Wednesday. The new AP count showed Webb with a lead of 7,236 votes over Allen.

The news agency quoted an adviser to Allen, speaking on condition of anonymity, saying Allen was disinclined to request a recount if the final vote spread was similar to that of election night -- or about 7,000 votes.

Allen, who has refused to concede defeat, said in a statement on Wednesday night he planned to make a statement after the conclusion of the final vote count.

  Denver Mayor Promises To Pay For Election Day TicketsNovember 07, 2006 19:32 Mayor John Hickenlooper told 9NEWS Tuesday he was upset about all the voting problems and promises they will be fixed.

Many Denver voters were greeted by long lines at the polls when they went to vote on Tuesday.

The problem was compounded when the computer system used to check in voters was rebooted around 1 p.m.

At one point, some of Denver's voting centers had a three-hour wait.

"This is the 21st Century, how hard can it be to get a database and make it accessible to 55 places? It should take 10 minutes to vote. It should take two minutes. The worst should be 10 or 15 minutes. I think that's the standard we have to expect," said Hickenlooper.

Several voters say because of the long lines, they got parking tickets.

Hickenlooper says, at the very least, he will personally pay for any "street sweeping" tickets people might have received while trying to vote.

  Bush Statement Shows Iraq War Is All About OilNovember 06, 2006 09:56 The president stated in his recent news conference that "we cannot allow an oil-rich nation in the Middle East to become a terrorist state." I can't believe that your newspaper or a news agency didn't take this statement and run with it as the biggest revelation or story of the year.

The war is all about oil, has been all about oil, and won't end until President Bush's oil buddies are satisfied about the security of their contracts long term and only then will the troops come home. That is, unless the will and desire of the people is upheld by our elected officials. Polls have shown that a majority of Americans want a single payer health care system and an end to the war.

A bigger story of the year is "Why are we not being represented?"
  Computerized Vote Systems Raise Fears Of Potential FraudNovember 02, 2006 11:11 The Florida vote count in the 2000 presidential campaign not only gave the White House to George Bush, it stimulated an upsurge of interest in how elections are run, how votes are counted and what can go wrong along the way, either accidentally or on purpose.

The fascination has fueled fear and loathing on the Internet and myriad conspiracy theories. It's been fed by numerous newspaper and magazine articles and now by an HBO documentary, "Hacking Democracy," which features Bev Harris of Renton in her dogged efforts to smoke out the secrets of computerized voting equipment manufacturers -- notably Diebold Election Systems, the supplier for the King County elections department.

Much of the paranoia about elections has focused on the new generation of touch-screen voting machines, which are spreading across the country and, in Washington state, are the devices of choice for complying with federal rules on access by disabled voters.

But Harris said Wednesday that there's just as much to worry about with the electronic equipment long in use in King County and elsewhere: optical scanners that tabulate ballots, computer displays for verifying signatures on absentee ballots, data bases for registration rolls.