Morning News - A Nation at Risk Edition
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The House voted overwhelmingly yesterday to block Medicaid rules that would cut federal health-care spending on the poor and likely shift billions of dollars of costs to states. The vote was large enough to override a threatened White House veto.
Meanwhile, the Senate defeated an attempt to overturn the Supreme Court’s Ledbetter decision that made it harder for workers to sue for pay discrimination against their employers. The 56-42 vote fell short of the 60 needed to advance the measure.
The Washington Post has a long article today on the looming battle over the Bush administration’s attempt to tighten the 15-year old Family and Medical Leave Act. Marc Freedman is quoted in the article saying: "The act said specifically that the interests of employers and employees should be kept in balance. Over the last 15 years, we've seen too many employees take advantage of the medical leave." In 2005, the last year for which the Labor Department has data, nearly 7 million people used the FMLA.
A University of California professor thinks Fed chief Ben Bernanke has a golden opportunity to accomplish several badly needed things to improve the economy by simply doing nothing. Prof. James Hamilton says Bernanke could bust the growing commodities bubble, strengthen the dollar - and thereby lower oil prices - and keep a lid on inflation by refusing to cut interest rates again. The Fed meets again on April 30. The Wall Street Journal is predicting a quarter-point cut, and perhaps a signal from the Fed it would pause after that.
CalPERS chief investment officer Russell Read is leaving his post after two years on the job amid some strain with the board. During his tenure the fund increased in value from $36 billion to $244 billion on the back of investments in foreign stocks, Asian real-estate, commodities, and private equity firms. Some board members were uncomfortable with the pace of change and the number of new programs he introduced.
Today the federal government plans to identify some of the most troubled nursing homes in its public database, part of a trend toward giving consumers easier access to nursing-home information online. That trend could accelerate if Congress passes a bill that would force more nursing-home data into the public domain.
A few more details are emerging about North Korea’s involvement in Syria’s attempt to build a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor. Israel apparently has videotape of North Koreans at the site - which was destroyed by an Israeli bombing raid in September - and its configuration was almost exactly the same as North Korea’s facility at Yongbyon.
Hillary's decisive win in Pennsylvania is helping her replenish her campaign coffers. She raised $10 million in the 24-hour period following her Pennsylvania win. She still trails Obama badly in fundraising.
The fickle New York Times, which has endorsed Clinton, has an article today picking apart her contention that she would run better than Obama in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. It says exit polling and independent political analysts show Obama could do just as well as Clinton in the general election among blocs of voters with whom he now runs behind.
George Will has a column today commemorating the 25th anniversary of the seminal "Nation at Risk" study on U.S. education. Writes Will:
Released quietly on the Fourth of July weekend, the report concluded that the qualities of the families from which children come to school matter much more than money as predictors of schools' effectiveness. The crucial common denominator of problems of race and class -- fractured families -- would have to be faced. But it wasn't. Instead, shopworn panaceas -- larger teacher salaries, smaller class sizes -- were pursued as colleges were reduced to offering remediation to freshmen … For decades, schools have been treated as laboratories for various equity experiments. Fads incubated in education schools gave us 'open' classrooms, teachers as 'facilitators of learning' rather than transmitters of knowledge, abandonment of a literary canon in the name of 'multiculturalism,' and so on, producing a majority of high school juniors who could not locate the Civil War in the proper half-century … [No Child left Behind] left standards up to the states, which have an incentive to dumb them down to make compliance easier. A nation at risk? Now more than ever.