Patt Morrison for September 7, 2010

Mercer 10169

Is the cure for the housing market letting it crash?

1 in 10 mortgages in the United States are at least one payment behind and July 2010 housing sales are down 26% from sales just one year ago. Are the multitude of programs that the Obama administration has rolled out to prop up the ailing housing industry actually helping, or is it high time to let go and let the market completely fall? From tax credits to mortgage modifications, practically every lever of government assistance as been pulled to help keep homeowners, facing default or foreclosure, in their homes and paying their mortgages. Even with billions of dollars in spending, housing prices continue to fall, new home constructions have essentially ground to a halt and foreclosures continue unabated. California alone is responsible for 14.7% of all foreclosures in the second quarter of this year. Clearly homeowners still need desperate help, but are they beyond saving?
Mercer 10167

Employer v. employee: who pays more for health care?

A new survey conducted by the nonprofit Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust finds that the answer to that question is the employee. The average worker with a family plan now pays $4,000 a year—a 14% increase from 2009. That’s the largest yearly increase since they began keeping records in1999. The average increase for employers this year was zero. According to the survey, employers are passing the rising costs of health care directly on to their employees. Those costs were once shared equally between the worker and the employer. And while health insurance premiums have gone up 47%, wage increases have risen only 18% since 2005. Given these tough economic times and the skyrocketing costs of health care, who should carry the load the employee or the employer?
Mercer 10164
According to a study conducted by Columbia University, the number of kids between the ages of 2 and 5 prescribed antipsychotic drugs doubled between 2000 and 2007. An FDA report indicates that over 500,000 children and teens were on antipsychotic drugs in the United States in 2009. Some doctors believe medication is necessary for children with severe emotional problems, mood swings, or those afflicted by autism disorder. Others feel the use of antipsychotic drugs could pose very serious health consequences to a child’s developing brain and body. A group of Medicaid doctors recommended more oversight including outside consultations and second opinions before medication is given to very young children. The FDA has also issued warnings, and a Senate panel recently asked the Government Accountability Office to look into the high numbers of foster youths on psychotropic drugs. What’s accounting for the increasing numbers? Is it because doctors are better able to identify and treat mental health issues in children? Or are some parents medicating their children because they are ill-equipped or unable to handle temper tantrums? Or is it because medication is less expensive option to more traditional psychotherapy?
Mercer 10170
It’s a tough decision that confronts almost every parent of a child born between the months of August and December—is my child, who has either just turned 5 or is about to turn 5, ready for kindergarten? It would seem like a minor problem and yet states across the country have passed legislation that delays the start of kindergarten for these cutoff kids, since research shows that a few extra months of cognitive development could make huge differences in the academic abilities of children. A bill is currently sitting on the Governor’s desk that would require California children entering kindergarten turn 5 by September 1st rather than the original cutoff of December 2nd. SB 1381, approved by the legislature last week, would also provide a year of transitional kindergarten for children with Fall birthdays. As kindergarten becomes more academically rigorous, could a few extra months of preparation for first grade help boost test scores and improve the classroom performances of California’s young students?
Mercer 10162
Behind noir classics like L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia, and American Tabloid is an author, an author who has, for the most part, kept his story relatively private. James Ellroy was 10 when his recently divorced and alcoholic mother hit him. He wished her dead, and three months later, her body was found dumped on the side of the road. Ellroy believed he had caused her death and has since then searched for redemption and atonement by finding the fabled “one.” In his memoir The Hilliker Curse, James Ellroy describes his shattered childhood, youth, his relationships with women, and his inspiration for writing. *James Ellroy will be appearing tonight at 8 p.m. at Largo at the Coronet in Los Angeles, this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Vroman’s in Pasadena, and Friday at 7 p.m. at The Mystery Bookstore in L.A.
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