By Linda Meric

When his first two children were born, Daniel Wells didn’t even think of asking his employer for leave. But when his wife became pregnant with the third, he better understood the need to bond with a new baby.

So Daniel, an arborist, requested time off following the birth. He was shocked when he got the answer: request denied. The company said it couldn’t get along without him, not even for a few weeks, and cited a “substantial economic harm” clause in denying the leave.

After the birth, Daniel found himself back at work in three days – instead of three weeks.

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By John Decock

According to current nuclear industry proposals, over two dozen new nuclear reactors would be constructed in the United States, the vast majority in the Southeast and Texas. President Obama recently offered $8.3 billion worth of taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to two of them in Georgia, which could be the first to be built in the U.S. in nearly four decades.

Wall Street isn’t interested in investing in these expensive and risky projects, so these guarantees promise that taxpayers will pay back the nuclear industry’s loans if the project fails.

In addition to the high cost and risks, new reactors create another problem, one that is rarely mentioned: they put enormous pressure on water resources. Nuclear reactors require huge amounts of cooling water to operate; without adequate water, they cannot produce electricity. (According to the industry’s Electric Power Research Institute, nuclear reactors can consume between 400 and 720 gallons per megawatt hour; while coal consumes about 300 gallons and natural gas, less than 250 gallons.)

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By Laurie Mazur

Forty years ago, 20 million Americans took to the streets to celebrate the first Earth Day. Their agenda was wide-ranging: pollution, smog, endangered species. But one issue—population growth—was seen as the mother of all environmental problems. As Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, famously remarked: “Whatever your cause, it’s a lost cause without population control.”

Fast-forward to Earth Day 2010. Climate change and other looming environmental threats make the concerns of 1970 look downright tame. Meanwhile, world population has grown from 3.7 billion in 1970 to 6.8 billion today—an increase of 84 percent. Yet population growth, for the most part, has fallen off the environmental agenda.

Why? The reasons are complex, but here’s the short version. Concern about population growth launched a worldwide movement to promote family planning, and it worked: Fertility rates fell, population growth rates slowed and the “population bomb” was defused. At the same time, while family planning has had huge benefits for human health and well-being, some programs trampled women’s rights in pursuit of lower birth rates. Those abuses, and a right-wing backlash against family planning, have rendered population issues untouchable in many quarters.

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By Dr. Stephen Radinsky

As a retired radiologist, I will never forget the day when I had to tell a woman that her free mammogram, provided through a state initiative, had shown that she had breast cancer. I began telling her about the next steps in diagnosis and treatment and she interrupted me, saying, "You don't understand, I don't have health insurance. I can't afford any of this."

I have spent years wondering what happened to that woman. With the health reform legislation just enacted by Congress, scenarios like this will disappear.

Our healthcare system has been broken for many years. One of the major problems in reforming the system was due to the unwillingness of the insurance companies to compromise. The insurance systems had a virtual monopoly in every state and were unwilling to sell insurance across state lines. Thus, the insurance companies made huge amounts of money. Last year, the CEO of United Healthcare made $1.6 billion in stock options alone. Several years ago, a Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO had a salary and bonus of $337.5 million.

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By Mike Stagg

Governor Bobby Jindal continues to fight healthcare reform even though the political fight is over now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law of the land.

Since President Obama signed it into law, Jindal has ordered Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to file suit against the law. He has reversed Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon’s plan to participate in the high-risk pools the law creates which provide coverage to adults who have been denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. And he’s had DHH Secretary Alan Levine act as the administration’s public face in the effort to pass a constitutional amendment here to nullify aspects of the ACA, particularly the individual mandate to buy coverage.

These moves might advance the governor’s national political ambitions, but they are bad for Louisiana and harmful to its citizens.

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By Juan D. Rangel

It was Sunday, five in the morning; we were eighteen hours away from our hometown Dade City, FL and one hour away from one of the most important cities of our country, Washington D.C. I was amazed to be so close to our nation’s capitol and never thought that one day I would be able to travel and explore Washington D.C. I knew I would be there in a few minutes visiting historic places unknown to me. But, I continue to ask myself this question: why did I go? What did I want by doing this trip?

I always wanted to help my family and improve my lifestyle by getting an education. I started school here in the United States when I was in the fifth grade. I graduated from high school with honors. I want to be a full-time college student and earn a degree in international business. I want to be an example and a role model for my brother and all of the kids in my community.

But college is nearly out of reach for me because of the cost. My parents cannot help me financially because of their low-wage jobs. Sometimes their paycheck is not enough to cover our family’s basic necessities. This is why I traveled to Washington, D.C. on March 22 to march for immigration reform.

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By Elias Feghali

Fixing our broken immigration system is vital to America's economic recovery.

As our economy shrinks, state governments are desperate for revenue. Without additional sources of funds, they are increasingly making the decision to cut important social services, raise taxes, or even worse, lay off hard-working state employees.

Recently, Tennessee laid-off 850 workers (the Department of Intellectual Disabilities took the biggest hit, along with children's services). Gov. Phil Bredesen called these cuts "unfortunate, but necessary" to keep Tennessee afloat.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We Need a Better Alternative


By David Bacon

Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham recently announced their plan for immigration reform. Unfortunately, it is a retread. It recycles the same bad ideas that led to the defeat of reform efforts over the last five years. In some ways, their proposal is even worse.

Schumer and Graham dramatize the lack of new ideas among the Washington powerbrokers. But real immigration reform requires a real alternative. We need a different framework that embodies the goals of immigrants and working people, not the political calculations of a reluctant Congress.

What's wrong with the Schumer/Graham proposal?

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By Sharron Oxedine and K.A. Owens
for Kentucky Forward Coalition

A couple of weeks ago, as families and businesses were trying to recover from the destruction from the floods across the state, thousands of us pulled together. We sandbagged, rescued, washed, dried, moved, fed, housed, clothed and hugged each other until we were all safely through the storms. That is who we are. Kentucky is a beautiful place to call home because we take care of our friends and neighbors, knowing that we’re all in this together.

When our legislators meet in Frankfort this week, their job is to develop a decent budget, one that allows our communities to get important work done that we can’t accomplish as individuals. We created public school systems to provide opportunity, public health systems to keep ourselves well, and environmental and public safety systems to protect our air, water, and people. For these to function -- and to support our quality of life and our economy -- these systems need adequate, stable investments of our public dollars.

The Kentucky Forward Coalition -- a coalition of education and health advocates and faith, labor, and community groups -- is working for tax reforms that would generate the money for investments that reflect Kentucky’s values, improving our quality of life. Many of us see first-hand how the chronic underfunding of our schools and community health services is damaging our Commonwealth. We teach the students who slip behind because of cuts to after-school programs and swollen class sizes; we console the families of people on waiting lists for treatment for mental illness; we work to keep children safe while coping with a severe shortage of resources; and we are the people who wonder why Kentucky couldn’t be among the top in quality of life indicators, instead of always stuck at the bottom. Kentucky deserves better.

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By Geena Davis

Five years ago, while watching children’s entertainment with my then 2-year old daughter, I was stunned to see that there were far more male characters than female characters in this media aimed at the youngest of children.

Media images are a powerful force in shaping our perception of men and women. The stark gender inequality in media aimed at little children is significant, as television and movies wield enormous influence on them as they develop a sense of their role in the world. And because young kids tend to watch the same TV shows and movies repeatedly, negative stereotypes get imprinted again and again.

Well, it occurred to me that it was high time for our children to see boys and girls sharing the sandbox equally.

So I launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and its programming arm, “See Jane.” In collaboration with the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, we sponsored the largest research analysis ever conducted into content of children's movies and television programs.

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