Domestic Policy

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  Bush Aides Rush To Enact A Rule Obama OpposesNovember 30, 2008 21:16 The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job.

The rule, which has strong support from business groups, says that in assessing the risk from a particular substance, federal agencies should gather and analyze “industry-by-industry evidence” of employees’ exposure to it during their working lives. The proposal would, in many cases, add a step to the lengthy process of developing standards to protect workers’ health.

Public health officials and labor unions said the rule would delay needed protections for workers, resulting in additional deaths and illnesses.

With the economy tumbling and American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush has promised to cooperate with Mr. Obama to make the transition “as smooth as possible.” But that has not stopped his administration from trying, in its final days, to cement in place a diverse array of new regulations.

The Labor Department proposal is one of about 20 highly contentious rules the Bush administration is planning to issue in its final weeks. The rules deal with issues as diverse as abortion, auto safety and the environment.

One rule would make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas. Another would reduce the role of federal wildlife scientists in deciding whether dams, highways and other projects pose a threat to endangered species.

Mr. Obama and his advisers have already signaled their wariness of last-minute efforts by the Bush administration to embed its policies into the Code of Federal Regulations, a collection of rules having the force of law. The advisers have also said that Mr. Obama plans to look at a number of executive orders issued by Mr. Bush.

A new president can unilaterally reverse executive orders issued by his predecessors, as Mr. Bush and President Bill Clinton did in selected cases. But it is much more difficult for a new president to revoke or alter final regulations put in place by a predecessor. A new administration must solicit public comment and supply “a reasoned analysis” for such changes, as if it were issuing a new rule, the Supreme Court has said.
  Supreme Court Debates IndecencyNovember 04, 2008 13:26 The Supreme Court appeared divided on Tuesday over a U.S. government crackdown on dirty words on television as the justices carefully avoided uttering the two four-letter expletives at the heart of the case.

In considering the policy that subjects broadcasters to fines for airing a single expletive blurted out on a live television show, the justices and the lawyers who argued the case instead referred to the "F word" and the "S word."

Several liberal justices seemed concerned over how broadcasters could prevent dirty words from being aired at live events like sports contests and whether the words might have other meanings beyond sexual or excretory connotations.

Some of the conservative justices appeared supportive of the crackdown adopted by the Federal Communications Commission against the one-time use of profanity on live television when children are likely to be watching.

The Supreme Court during the 60 minutes of arguments reviewed broadcast indecency standards for the first time in 30 years. A ruling is expected in the first part of next year.

The case stemmed from a FCC ruling in 2006 that found News Corp's (NWSa.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) Fox television network violated decency rules when singer Cher blurted out an expletive during the 2002 Billboard Music Awards broadcast and actress Nicole Richie used two during the 2003 awards.

No fines were imposed, but Fox challenged the decision and a U.S. appeals court in New York struck down the new policy as as "arbitrary and capricious" and sent the case back to the FCC for a more reasoned explanation of its policy.