megan's blog


New Study Finds Worrisome Pattern of Birth Defects in Fracking Communities

By Miriam Rotkin-Ellman

Natural Resouces Defense Council

Science has long known that the developing fetus is sensitive to experiences of the mother – alcohol consumption, dietary factors, and mercury exposure are some of the more well-known examples. This sensitivity makes newborn babies an early indicator of something going wrong in the environment of the mother. Unfortunately, a team of researchers found preliminary evidence of something gone wrong when they looked at the patterns of birth defects in newborn babies in Colorado. The researchers found that babies whose mothers lived in close proximity to multiple oil and gas wells were 30% more likely to be born with defects in their heart than babies born to mothers who did not live close to oil and gas wells.

Coordinating Health Care for California's 'Dual Eligibles'

By Viji Sundaram

Seventy-four year old Willie Posey has his hands full keeping up with his own health care needs, which include diabetes, a bad knee and neurological problems. On top of that, he also drives his 87-year-old sister to the hospital for her dialysis treatment.

Posey's income barely tops $15,000 a year, combining Social Security payments with $400 a month as his sister's caregiver, and another $400 a month as a facilitator for recovering drug addicts. Both he and his sister qualify for Medi-Cal, California's name for Medicaid, the insurance program for low-income people. They are also enrolled in Medicare, the federal insurance program for elders and people with disabilities. Since they qualify for both programs, they are known as dual eligibles.

An FDR Birthday Wish: Unapologetic FDRs for Tomorrow

By Richard Eskow

Yesterday, January 30, was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday. In a week of mourning for Pete Seeger, that’s a good time to remember what Pete’s friend Woody Guthrie had to say in song about FDR: “This world was lucky to see him born.”

The White House website’s biography of Roosevelt says that, in a time of national crisis, “he restored our faith in ourselves.” That’s true, but it’s not the whole story. He restored our faith in government, and in government’s ability to serve as the expression of our best selves.

How California’s Growing Income Gap Affects Our Schools

By Peter Mathews

An American child’s chance of acquiring a quality education depends more on the parents’ income than on almost anything else, including ethnicity.

Because property taxes are a key source for K-12 funding, affluent districts have more to spend on education. Low-income districts don’t have the resources and facilities necessary to help most of their students achieve their potential. Governor Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula is a small step in the right direction. But even with it, the affluent Shoreline Unified School District in Marin County will spend around $18,000 per pupil, while less affluent Long Beach Unified will spend around $9,000. Lynwood Unified School District will spend even less. Money isn’t everything, but an adequate amount is necessary.

Someone Is Suing the Schools over Teacher Tenure

By Duane Campbell

Linda Deutsch of The Associated Press reported on January 26 in the Sacramento Bee that nine public school students are suing the state over laws on teacher tenure and seniority, which really means that the usual anti-union corporate machine has launched a new front in the war on teachers.

These students (or their parents) want to invalidate a series of current laws which protect teachers from political interference. Their campaign foci just happen to coincide with campaigns of a variety of the usual corporate suspects: Michellle Rhee, the Waltons, Students First, Democrats for Educational Reform, and other well financed political action committees.

The Buck Stops at the FCC

By Michael Copps

Since the DC Court threw out the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules last week, “network neutrality” is a glaring problem that demands prompt action. The good news is that the solution is pretty simple. It doesn’t require a new telecommunications statute replete with time-consuming years of legislative horse-trading and special interest lobbying. All it requires is an FCC big enough to own up to its previous mistakes and courageous enough to put our communications future back on track. The solution: reclassify broadband as “telecommunications” under Title II of the Communications Act.

Pension Cutters Bet Against Prosperity

By Gary Cohn & Bill Raden

Last week’s announcements about 2013 earnings by California’s largest public pension funds suggest the agencies may be making significant progress in shaking off the lingering after-effects of the 2008 stock market crash.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) said it rode a 25 percent run-up in stock prices to post a 16.2 percent gain for its 2013 portfolio — its best showing in a decade. For its part, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) reported an impressive 19.1 percent return on its 2013 investments, led by a 28 percent return on its stock holdings.

Soda Tax Myths: The Arkansas Argument

By Dana Woldow

California state Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) is once again trying to pass statewide legislation to add a penny per ounce tax on sugary drinks, to fund statewide childhood obesity prevention activities and programs. The media's response to Monning's proposed measure, no doubt fueled by beverage industry propaganda, provides a preview of what we can expect to see in February when San Francisco Supervisors introduce legislation to levy a 2 cents per ounce tax on distributors of soda and other sugary soft drinks.

An Alternative to Fracking & California's Drought Emergency

By Giulia C.S. Good Stefani

California is home to the popular-for-rafting Kern River, Big Sur sunsets, the endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard, some of the world’s most important blue whale foraging habitat, strawberry valleys, rolling farms, cowboy towns, and big bustling cities. All of this is put at risk from the heavy industrial oil and gas extraction process called fracking.

CPUC Ignores Cell Phone Privacy

By Richard Holober

Consumer Federation of California

On January 16, 2014, the California Public Utilities Commission majority voted to bury their heads in the sand regarding cell phone privacy.

Commission President Mike Peevey and Commissioner Carla Peterman joined Commissioner Mark Ferron in voting 3-2 to approve Commissioner Ferron’s proposed decision denying the existence of any cell phone privacy concerns. Commissioners Catherine Sandoval and Mike Florio voted no, expressing their preference to approve an alternate proposed decision inked by Commissioner Sandoval. The Sandoval proposal would have acknowledged that privacy-invading smart phone technologies in use today are vastly different than those that existed in the copper wired world of 28 years ago, when the PUC last addressed telecom privacy.