Archive for June, 2012

Supreme Court Upholds the “Affordable Care Act”

Shortly after 10am today, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the ACA, stipulating that the mandate for purchasing individual insurance is constitutional as a tax. A great deal of background information is here. C-SPAN has live coverage and SCOTUSblog is providing real-time analysis and commentary. Here is the text of the opinion.

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Who Owns the News

Did you ever wonder what companies own the newspapers and magazines you read, the TV you watch, or the online news that you view? If so, then Who Owns the News Media is where you need to be. This interactive site allows you to run through media holdings by company, type of media (newspapers, online, local TV, and so on), revenue, circulation, unique visitors etc. Where available, company profiles are supplied. What is striking to us is the number of privately-owned companies in this sector. (“Privately-held” means, among other things, that there is less public information available on a company.) A review of major events in media ownership accompanies this feature. Other useful sites include  Columbia Journalism ReviewWho Owns What; and  What’s Wrong With the News from FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting).

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What is Executive Privilege?

This term has been in the news of late as President Obama has declared that  Justice Department documents in the “Fast and Furious” operation are protected by “executive privilege.” As quoted in this New York Times article: “The president’s move to invoke executive privilege was the first time that he had asserted his secrecy powers in response to a Congressional inquiry. It elevated a fight over whether Mr. Holder must turn over additional documents about the gun case into a constitutional struggle over the separation of powers.” While not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, there are certain perogatives given to the President. As Professor Michel Dorf, a specialist in constitutional law, states in this NPR piece: “…it’s all part of the same constellation of claims that presidents have made that in virtue of the separation of powers they are entitled to certain protections from the processes or the courts that ordinary people are not entitled to.” It is rarely used and at times this adversarial relationship between the executive and legislative branches must by adjudicated by the third branch of government. Additional information can be found:  Presidential Claims of Executive Privilege: History, Law, Practice and Recent Developments (CRS);  Politics of Executive Privilege  and Congressional Access to National Security Information both by Louis Fisher, Specialist in Constitutional Law, Law Library, Library of Congress; When Presidents Invoke Executive Privilege (PBS); What is Executive Privilege? (Associated Press); The Presidential Aegis: Demands for Papers (CRS Annotated Constitution); Secrecy and Separated Powers: Executive Privilege Revisited (Iowa Law Review); and Symposium: Executive Privilege and the Clinton Presidency (William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal).

 

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Tenure Reform Bills in the New Jersey Legislature

There are currently two bills concerning tenure reform: one in the Assembly – An Act concerning school district employees, revising various parts of the statutory law, and supplementing chapter 6 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes (Bill A3036) and one in the Senate – Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act (Bill S1455). Each one alters the process of awarding tenure as well as the removal of tenure. The NJEA has commented on both bills (here for the Senate bill and here for the Assembly bill), and you can read its proposal for tenure reform – Tenure and the Pathway to Success. New Jersey School Boards Association has its own opinion.  NJ Spotlight provides insightful analysis, as always. Additional reportage is at: The Bergen Record, The Star-Ledger, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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New Jersey Local/Municipal Public Sector Contracts

For those interested in finding out what contracts local municipalities have negotiated with various unions; i.e. police, town employees, or what local boards of education have arrived at with teacher unions, this site, Public Sector Contracts, from the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission should prove a useful starting point. By law, employers are required to submit a copy of the final negotiated contracts with their respective public sector unions to PERC. Sortable by county, employer, employer type, or employee organization,  the contracts are available full text. Past and present contracts are accessible, but their chronological arrangement leaves a lot to be desired. Highlights from current teacher contracts can be found at this site: Teacher Contract Settlements from the New Jersey School Boards Association. Listed there are Settlement Rates in Perspective (since April 2010); Settlement Rate Percentage Increases by County (spanning 2011/2012 – 2013/2014); Health Insurance Cost Containments (since January 2011); and Work Time Changes (since April 2011).

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Disease as a National Security Issue

Diseases cross boundaries, disrupt entire sectors, and are contributory causes to many conflicts. Diseases are recognized as a foreign policy issue that must be addressed by the United States. Three new CRS reports detail the U.S. commitment to controlling/preventing/eradicating three diseases: U.S. Response to the Global Threat of Malaria: Basic FactsU.S. Response to the Global Threat of Tuberculosis: Basic Facts ; and U.S. Response to the Global Threat of HIV/AIDS: Basic Facts. Each report includes a description of the disease, global statistics, regional distribution, key U.S. legislation, U.S. global programs along with the responsible U.S. agencies/departments and their major global partners, and key issues. The reports are succinct but replete with figures and tables of great value.

 

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Where in the World Are U.S. Combat Forces Deployed?

According to this Presidential letter to Congress, the United States has combat forces spread throughout the world, from the obvious locales; i.e. Afghanistan,  to areas we may not normally think too much about – Central Africa.

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