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Murthy’s Confirmation Battle Between Public Health Experts and the Gun Lobby
Harold Pollack December 18, 2014

TCF fellow Harold Pollack provided commentary on Vivek Murthy, the recently confirmed U.S. Surgeon General. After countless deliberations over his nomination for the post, with considerable criticism from those that refuse to acknowledge any link between public health and gun policy, Murthy stepped in and put some critics at ease by announcing that his focus will be on obesity prevention. Nevertheless, Pollack says that its impossible to pretend that gun violence and mental illness are two entirely separate issues.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health 85 percent of gun-related suicides are successful, compared to only 3 percent of drug related suicides. States with more gun ownership have higher rates of gun-related suicide. “It’s not a question of Second Amendment anything,” Pollack said. “It’s an issue of how do we talk to patients about threats to their health."

Read the rest of Pollack's comments via Bloomberg Politics.

“The Hunt for El Chapo” Named in Best of 2014
Patrick Radden Keefe December 18, 2014

TCF senior fellow Patrick Radden Keefe's longform article featured in the May 5, 2014 issue of The New Yorker titled, "The Hunt for El Chapo," ranked at #4 among Longform.org's top ten recommended articles of 2014. Radden Keefe's piece that looks deeply into the world's most powerful Mexican drug cartel was chosen among the 1,642 articles recommended.

We urge you to read the full longform piece.

Check out the other 9 recommended longform articles here.

Down but Not Out: Youth and Revolution in Egypt and Beyond
Thanassis Cambanis December 18, 2014

The revolutionary wave of the 2011 Egyptian uprising is still being felt across the Arab region, even if just with less strength and influence. Although over half of the Egyptian population is under 25 years old, TCF fellow Thanssis Cambanis says that the Revolutionary Youth Coalition that is doggedly protesting for economic, social, and political reform is comprised of members ranging from young to old. "Youth is a state of mind," concedes one middle-aged Egyptian activist, proving that members from all demographics are pushing for a radical paradigm shift of the state.

Nevertheless, a set of new political ideas and processes has been unleashed in the Arab revolts. The energy of young street protesters catalyzed a moment of revolutionary potential, a moment that shattered the assumption of regime staying power and opened the way for competitive politics and new ideologies. That fundamental idea—that a peaceful popular movement can replace a repressive state with a responsive, democratic, just and egalitarian polity—has survived today in a battered condition.

Read Cambanis' full article from World Politics Review.

Good News! More Amtrak Delays
Jacob Anbinder December 18, 2014

Delays on Amtrak passenger trains have been a regular issue over the past few years, but instead of natural delays, TCF policy associate Jacob Anbinder says this issue may actually be linked to freight fraud. Freight railroads own over 97 percent of the track that it shares with Amtrak, which may be responsible for the recurrent untimely departures and arrivals. Anbinder suggests that these delays may work to the agency's advantage because it serves as a constant reminder that the agency demands reform. One potential solution to restore riders' faith in the train system that is slowly being pursued is a reduction of long-distance routes and an increase in shorter state-supported ones.

On one Norfolk Southern-owned stretch of track in Indiana, for example, Amtrak trains bound for Michigan are typically delayed almost seven minutes for every 10 miles they travel. Those delays represent an impediment to Amtrak’s future success, since potential customers will choose to drive if they know there’s a significant chance their train will be delayed.

 

Here's Anbinder's full article from US News.

The End of Benjamin Netanyahu?
Michael Cohen December 16, 2014

TCF fellow Michael Cohen asks the question, are we going to see a political shift in Israel in the near future? He explains that the left-wing political parties who have been traditionally unorganized and weak have began to give three-term Prime Minister Netanyahu a run for his money. Approximately 60% of Israelis would also like to see new leadership, which is likely attributed to Israel's decline in stability as a state.

But here’s why all of this matters for the United States: The future of the two-state solution could be hanging in the balance. A Netanyahu win would make any agreement in the next four years between Israel and the Palestinians practically unimaginable. Netanyahu appears to have little interest in talks, and the Palestinian leadership has even less interest in sitting down with him. His reelection would mean more settlements, more polarization, and a steady move further away from a resolution to the conflict.

Read the full article.

No Author, No Law
Robert C. Hockett December 16, 2014

TCF fellow Robert Hockett delves into the fine print of the "Cromnibus" bill that was recently passed by Congress. He suggests that President Obama exercise his veto power to overturn the bill for the critical reason that it repeals Section 716 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Section 716 indicates that taxpayers, rather than Wall Street, will cover the losses that the next crash could incur. The general public would basically be bailing out Wall Street all over again. He suggests two remedies to clear this oversight up:

...now that both houses of Congress have passed the bill with large numbers of Democrats and Republicans alike voting against, our only remaining hope is that the president thinks better of his earlier lobbying efforts on behalf of the bill and to now veto it. It would have been better, of course, had he shown the courage of conviction last week, but this week will be better than none.

As to the second remedy, I propose some such rule as the following: Any time a provision turns up in a bill as if out of nowhere, with no one prepared to claim credit or blame for it, the provision should be viewed in effect as a typo, and deleted accordingly. Where there is no author, there is no law.

Here is Hockett's full piece.

A Kentucky County Just Voted to Approve the First Local Right-to-Work Ordinance
Moshe Marvit December 16, 2014

The "right-to-work" ordinance has recently gained popularity by anti-union groups at the city- and county- level. This ordinance was finally recognized last week in a small Kentucky county where an affirmative preliminary approval was seen. If this law does get passed in the near future, it will begin a nation-wide fight for similar local-level "right-to-work" cases says TCF's fellow Moshe Marvit.

Promoters of the effort argue that although federal labor law generally preempts any local ordinances, Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, which permits right-to-work laws in “any state or territory,” is ambiguous as to whether it applies to cities and counties. They argue that counties are subdivisions of the state, and home rule cities have been delegated authority by the state, so these entities should be included under the term “state.”

Read Marvit's full piece.

How Fiscal Policy Failed During the Great Recession
Mark Thoma December 16, 2014

TCF fellow Mark Thoma says we need to reexamine the fiscal policies employed during the Great Recession to see what worked and what did not. He offers some insight into what we should be considering for future financial crisis solutions. This insight includes: 1) policies must be temporary, crises are not the time to push ideological change; 2) call for an improved culture in the financial industry; and 3) create an independent, Fed style committee in charge of making recommendations for fiscal policy during recessions.

In the end, it’s very frustrating and discouraging. Temporary, timely, and targeted fiscal policy in deep recessions could help so many people. It could make a huge difference for those who are struggling to make ends meet, and it could help the economy recover faster. But Congress seems unable to find its way past ideological gridlock even when people are in so much need, and there doesn’t seem to be a good way to solve that problem.

Check out Thoma's full article here.

Living Well With Breast Cancer by Choosing Wisely: A Conversation With Amy Berman
Harold Pollack December 16, 2014

TCF fellow Harold Pollack interviewed Amy Berman, a geriatric care specialist and senior program officer at the John A. Hartford Foundation, about her personal experiences living with breast cancer over four years. She describes the palliative-care recommendations she's been following, the conversations with her doctors, the activities she continues to enjoy despite, and maintaining a good quality of life despite the disease. Harold asks Berman:

"To know that this care was well-handled, whatever the outcome, gives people comfort. Obviously, people always hope for medical miracles. Yet to know things were well-handled gives people some peace of mind. I don't know if that's been your experience."

The whole interview can be accessed here.

Restoring Shanker’s Vision for Charter Schools
Halley Potter, Richard D. Kahlenberg December 16, 2014

TCF fellows Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter explain how the original idea of charter schools as imagined by Albert Shanker has mutated over the past decade to reflect a different vision and function. They cite that many charter schools today now prize management control, reduced teacher voice, further segregated students, and have become competitors, rather than allies, of regular public schools.

The relevant question today is no longer whether charter schools are good or bad as a group. Rather we ask, can charter schools be taken in a better direction—one that finds inspiration in the original vision of charters as laboratories for student success that bring together children from different backgrounds and tap into the expertise of highly talented teachers?

Kahlenberg and Potter's full piece can be read here.

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This summit will reinforce the importance of racial and socioeconomic diversity in higher education, and identify new paths to achieving these goals relative to legal constraints recently determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

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