Patt Morrison for April 8, 2010

Mercer 7058
In one of many active efforts to wrestle $73.5 million away from the DWP and into L.A.’s general fund, a former president of the Department of Water & Power Board of Commissioners has filed a lawsuit in Super Court seeking to force the DWP to make its promised payment. Meanwhile the L.A. City Council is pressing forward on its plans to change the city charter to gain more control and authority over the DWP on issues ranging from dismissing commission members to appointing the general manager. While L.A. faces a budget deficit of nearly $700 million, the focus has been on the fight over a comparatively measly $73 million and which element of city government gets to call the shots. Will the conflict result in a clearer view of governance in L.A. or is this battle really a silly political distraction from bigger problems?
Mercer 7057
It’s a galling statistic for those of us struggling to finish up our tax returns and stressing over what further money we’ll owe to the federal government: 47% of American households will pay no federal incomes taxes at all for 2009. Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability. Meanwhile Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was in Dallas yesterday talking about the coming collision between the national debt and the taxing and spending habits of the American government and public. Bernanke message was clear: the debt is quickly becoming unsustainable, and Americans will soon have to choose between raising taxes or dramatically cutting public spending. Which course do you choose?
Mercer 7054
Education officials announced the first of three rounds of Race to the Top results last month, choosing to award only a small portion of a $4 billion pot to just two states. They left some sore losers in their wake, including California, which competed tirelessly for a piece of the education pie. Those loser states are now claiming the scoring by anonymous judges is inscrutable and are questioning whether even the possible reward of millions-of-dollars warrants starting over from square one. The scoring certainly favored states that were able to get 100% support from school districts, and that worked against California, where the number was painfully low. Still, California legislators were able to jump through hoops to qualify California for the running and are now considering what further concessions they’ll need to make to get teachers and districts on board. Patt talks with legislators and teachers’ union representatives about how far California is from beginning yet another race to the top, and still without any guarantee of winning.
Mercer 7055
Probably not, at least not based on what’s happened in the aftermath of David Frum’s comments on the health care reform debate. As far back as summer of 2009 Frum, the former speechwriter for George W. Bush, challenged certain Republican tactics in opposing health care and other Democratic initiatives. As healthcare reform crept closer to reality Frum again warned that the promised “Waterloo” defeat of the national health bill would actually be a defeat for Republicans—Frum wrote, “For them [conservative media broadcasters], it's mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it's Waterloo all right: ours.” For “betraying” the Republican cause Frum was forced out of his scholar position at the American Enterprise Institute and roundly criticized by conservatives. Is it possible to drag the conservative movement into more moderate territory, and can Frum pull it off?
Mercer 7056
It’s long been conventional wisdom that breastfeeding is the single most important thing that mothers can do for their infants, in terms of disease prevention and encouraging healthy growth—but that wisdom is fraught with anxiety and debate about how vital breastfeeding, how long it should be done and the magnitude of the promised health benefits. A new study from the journal Pediatrics quantifies those health benefits, finding that the lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90% of U.S. women fed their babies breast milk only for the first six months of life. The findings suggest that there are hundreds of deaths and many more costly illnesses each year from health problems that breastfeeding may help prevent. Only 12% of mothers follow government guidelines recommending that babies breast feed exclusively for the first six months—should breastfeeding become a national health policy priority?
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