Patt Morrison for May 11, 2010

Mercer 7338
We’ve been hearing of the pain and slow demise of the U.S. Postal Service for several years now, and even as the price of stamps has increased and the idea of ending Saturday delivery has been kicked around, nobody has seriously discussed the end of mail as we know it. Until now—the Postmaster General John Potter said yesterday that he has about six months worth of money left, and that without serious intervention by Congress the Postal Service won’t have enough money to make payroll by the Fall. Potter has been pushing hard for an end to mail delivery on Saturdays and has been practically begging Congress to roll back several regulations that would make the Postal Service more nimble in slashing the budget, renegotiating terms with the postal workers union and retooling the system. People have been sounding the alarm bells on the Postal Service for years—can we continue to count on the mail being delivered to our doors?
Mercer 7339
Senators on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee brought executives from BP, Transocean and Halliburton onto Capitol Hill today looking to place definitive blame for the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that is still spewing thousands of gallons of oil into ecologically sensitive areas. Instead, those executives proceeded to blame each other and do their best to deflect responsibility for the sinking oil rig and resulting oil spill that has yet to be contained. Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, summed up the hearing best when he told the executives: “I hear one message and the message is: 'don't blame me.' Well shifting this blame does not get us very far.” Who will take the blame in the Gulf oil spill, who will be liable for cleaning it up and what can Congress do to tighten regulations around the industry?
Mercer 7340
The attitude toward renewed regulatory vigilance in Congress isn’t necessarily new, being ushered in with the victory of Barack Obama in 2008 after years of regulation rollbacks under both the Clinton & Bush Administrations. But with two recent events, the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the high profile Toyota crashes linked to faulty braking system, Congress has the opportunity and will to move on new regulatory regimes that are designed to stop the next accident from happening. Even within the majority Democratic party, however, there are disagreements about how far and wide a new set or regulations should reach. David hosts two of the highest ranking Democrats in Congress on two particular sets of regulation proposals where there is still disagreement about the extent of power that should be granted to the federal government.
Mercer 7341
In a time of increasing awareness of the roll of money in political campaigns, Proposition 15 is a proposal for the fairly radical notion of publicly financed elections but through measured, incremental steps. Prop. 15 would repeal the ban on public funding of political campaigns in California, and as a first step it creates a voluntary system for candidates for the office of Secretary of State to qualify for a public campaign grant if they agree to limitations on spending and private contributions. Funding for Secretary of State race would come from an increased fee on the lobbyists doing business in California. Would Prop. 15 radically alter the fiscal landscape of California’s elections? Probably not at first, but the eventual effects might be dramatic, as cities, counties and the state government could be free to experiment with using taxpayer dollars to fund campaigns. How does Prop. 15 play into the larger debate of campaign finance reform?
Mercer 7342

Why should I care if I’m vitamin D deficient?

New research has doctors worried that more and more of us are deficient in vitamin D- a hormone our body produces when it’s exposed to sunlight. Could sunscreen be one culprit? While the smelly cream is essential to protect our skin from aging and skin cancer, some doctors say it is providing a barrier between our bodies and the good stuff the sun’s rays provide. So why should we care? Well for starters, doctors are seeing a resurgence of rickets (a softening and weakening of the bones) and are worried about an increase in osteoporosis in adults over 50. A deficiency in the vitamin can lead to serious health issues like heart disease, cancer, depression, insomnia, diabetes, chronic pain and even autism. Low vitamin D levels can also make us feel tired and lethargic. The best medicine, say some doctors, is ten to thirty minutes of sunshine per day. So if you’re racked with guilt for calling in “sick” to go to the beach, you can take some comfort in knowing it may be good for your health.
Find an archived Episode: