Patt Morrison for June 29, 2010

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The liberal case against Elena Kagan

On the surface of it liberals and progressive Democrats should love the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court—she stood her ground against the U.S. military in protesting the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy by keeping military recruiters out of Harvard Law School; she’s been critical of Guantanamo Bay went after Congress for writing a bill that would strip courts of their authority to review detention practices; Kagan’s self-professed “legal hero” is Thurgood Marshall, the original lion of the left on the Supreme Court. So surely liberals are thrilled to have Kagan’s predictably left-leaning voice on the Court, right? Not universally: many liberals feel uneasy about a lack of a certifiable paper trail of liberal decisions by Kagan, and more offensively she has been a reliable defender of strong presidential powers in times of war, like those enacted by George W. Bush for eight years. What is the liberal case against Elena Kagan?
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Ballot fever building for November election fight

November 2nd’s going to be one crazy night. The jam-packed ballot for California’s November election already includes nine initiatives and one referral, ranging from water bonds to legalizing the MJ to weakening the ban on greenhouse emissions. Sure, it’s only ten measures (so far), but these hot-button issues can make it quite an expensive campaign and election, with big players like Valero and The Nature Conservancy. Patt ‘hashes’ out the details on these ballot measures… no pun intended, really.
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Yesterday the Food and Drug Administration began urging meat producers to stop using so many antibiotics, claiming that it poses a serious public health threat. Antibiotics are used in agriculture to prevent illness, treat sickness and to promote animal growth, although it’s not entirely clear to anyone how antibiotics in feed and water help to fatten animals. No one is quite certain, either, of what percentage of antibiotics is being put to which use; about 84% of all antibiotics in the U.S. are used in agriculture, but estimates of what amount are used to promote growth range from 13 % to 70 %. The industrialization of animal farms over the past several decades has made processors more dependent on antibiotics because factory farm animals tend to be sicker and feed-lot diets can encourage bacterial infections. All this is bad news for humans, who remain vulnerable to “superbugs,” or bacteria that grows resistant to and cannot be killed by antibiotics. The FDA has tried without success for over thirty years to ban such wide use, but in every instance, agricultural interests have succeeded in getting Congress to block the motion. Even though this move does nothing to change the present overuse of antibiotics, it’s the first inkling in years that the agency is remounting the long-standing fight with the agro-industry. Why now? And what will it mean for the meat industry and for consumers?
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"We are seeing an alarming spike in the number of school districts that are having trouble meeting their financial obligations," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell this morning as he released the results of the interim status report on the financial health of California’s 1077 school districts. Alarming indeed… the number of schools that may not be able to meet future financial obligations has increased by 38 percent since the beginning of this year. O’Connell joins Patt with the details on the crisis facing public education in the face of continuing cuts and inadequate funding.
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San Francisco stays healthy

The Supreme Court will not be hearing a challenge from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association against San Francisco’s universal health care program - Healthy San Francisco. The program is available to all San Francisco residents regardless of immigration status, employment status, or pre-existing medical conditions and has enrolled 53,000 previously uninsured people. Where does the restaurant association come in? Healthy San Francisco requires that employers either offer health insurance to employees or contribute money to the city’s plan and as the cost to restaurant owners rise so does the cost of dining. What costs more in the long run and is San Francisco paving the way for other cities to mandate healthcare?
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