Archive for April, 2011

28
Apr
11

Interracial adoption in present racial era

COLUMN

 

Rebecca Carroll

My friend and her husband, who are white, recently adopted their first child, who is black. They were selected through an agency by a black birth mother who felt they would make good parents to a child she could not keep. My friend had not been seeking out a black child. She had tried for years to conceive on her own, and they had also gone through several failed adoption efforts. She pursued becoming a mother as any parent would — with a trance-like dedication to providing her child with love and a sense of security. My mom felt the same way when she adopted me.

Today I read that the ‘Law & Order: SUV’ actress Mariska Hargitay has adopted a black daughter. “We talked a lot about mixed-race adoptions, and we are very excited that we are now a multi-racial family. We’re just so happy she’s here,” she told ‘People’ magazine. Awesome.

Hargitay becomes the latest white celebrity mom raising a black child in contemporary America (along with Mary Louise Parker, Madonna, Sandra Bullock and Angelina Jolie, among others), and I speak from personal experience when I say that I truly hope they don’t raise them to believe we are living in a “post-racial” era. Because we’re not. We are present-racial every damn day, every damn era. It’s like that.

When I went through my first ultra “I am BLACK” phase at about 15 years old, I asked my mom what the hell she’d been thinking when she and my dad thought raising a black child in rural New Hampshire was a swell idea. “We thought the world was changing,” she said, “the world was changing.” Bless her heart.

But the point isn’t whether or not the world is changing, or if as a general population we are making great strides in racial progress. It’s really about cultivating self-awareness around a cultural identity that will be judged and exploited and questioned again and again throughout the life of this brown-skinned person being raised by white parents.

Adoption in and of itself can be pretty sucky. Almost always it starts from a place of pain for everyone involved: a woman who has to surrender a child that has come from her body, a child whose first visceral experience is one of primal severance, and two people (or one person) who are aching to become parents. When you throw race into the mix, it gets complicated. And the celebrity element just gives it that trendy, colonization feel that puts everyone on edge.

I’m sure that Madonna and Sandy Bullock love their kids and wanted to become parents as much as my friend did, and as any prospective parent does, for that matter. My concern is that in their innocuously microcosmic bubble of fame and celebrity, they will struggle to help their kids build a racially honest sense of self. Rather they will end up instilling this: “You are special, the world is yours, you can be whatever you want, nothing can stop you!” And that may be the case for their kids if they, too, remain inside the celebrity bubble. But if they don’t, I’ll tell you what can stop them right quick: Glenn Beck (with or without his own show).

I was fortunate that my parents, who are artists and writers, encouraged individuality and gave me the freedom to create the person I wanted to be — and that’s all well and good, until someone calls you a nigger. Because my parents focused primarily on raising a child, not a black child, my young cultural identity was shaped, in large part, by outside judgment and prejudice aimed toward me, which didn’t feel that fun and caused a whole lot of unnecessary anxiety.

As I got older, I came to the conclusion that I would be in charge of being black on my own terms. And I’m good with that. I’m not saying it doesn’t still feel lousy when someone is blatantly racist toward me, but I figured out that it feels slightly less lousy when you sort of know it’s coming.

All that said, racism is far from the only challenge faced by white parents adopting black kids … I didn’t even touch the more and very pressing issue of proper black hair maintenance.

26
Apr
11

Tea Party might set sights on social security

COLUMN

Joseph Lazzaro

 

Therecently averted shutdown of the U.S. governmentthat seemed almost inevitable as Republicans and Democrats battled over the federal budget would have been a serious blow to the country and its economy. But the pain we just avoided is nothing compared to the havoc the nation will face if the Tea Party-led Republicans move forward with their plans to dismantle Social Security.

Haven’t heard the Tea Partiers talk about ending your Social Security payment yet? Just wait.

Trust me: Whether you’re receiving Social Security now or you expect to in the years ahead, your retirement benefits are not safe if the Republican Party remains in power. Here’s why:

The ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party is dominating its agenda now. That’s the main reason House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was afraid to compromise with President Obama and Senate Democrats, and accept a smaller, more straightforward budget cut to end the stalemate. Nor is there much in the current political climate to suggest that the Tea Party’s ability to instill fear in other Republicans and propel its agenda will diminish any time soon.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has already introduceda sham of a budgetfor 2012. The vague “budget proposal” is a thinly disguised anti-tax Tea Party manifesto that essentially dismantles Medicare, the nation’s health insurance program for senior citizens. Under Ryan’s plan, Medicare would be replaced by a voucher system that would, in theory, allow senior citizens to purchase private health insurance. Among the many problematic aspects to Ryan’s concoction, the worst is that the vouchers would cover only aboutone-third the costof a private insurance plan that provided coverage comparable to Medicare.

If Ryan’s proposal becomes law, seniors can kiss Medicare goodbye. And for most of them, that will probably mean kissing any kind of robust health care plan in their retirement years goodbye as well, unless they have the large amount of spare cash available to buy a better policy than will be available for those holding Ryan’s inadequate vouchers.

First End Medicare, Then End Social Security

If Ryan and the Tea Party sense they can win and dismantle Medicare, your Social Security payment will be next.

See full article from DailyFinance:http://srph.it/dG0oZf

The proposals are likely to start innocuously enough. The Tea Party’s leadership will trot out statements like “Social Security is broke,” (which it isn’t, really) and “We have to cut payments because there’s no other way to ‘save’ the program.”

If retirees today think a little inflation is reducing their purchasing power and a making it hard to live within a budget, wait until they — and eventually, all of us — feel the impact of a 10% or even 20% cut in Social Security payments.

Tea Party lawmakers and other conservatives will also probably try to couple the cut in your Social Security payment with a reduction in the amount of income that’s subject to the Social Security tax, as that will give their core constituency — upper-income Americans — yet another tax cut.

Ryan’s 2012 budget plan already recommends decreasing the maximum income tax rate for individuals to 25% from 35%. Now that’s what the nation needs: Having people whose annual adjusted gross income is $1 million and up pay 25% in federal income taxes, instead of 35%. It’s pure genius: Cutting taxes even further for the wealthy is guaranteed to solve all of our nation’s social problems.

Cutting the Social Safety Net

Perhaps you think the Tea Party wouldn’t risk the political fallout of proposing cuts to Social Security, which is, after all, an extraordinarily popular program. Think again. The Tea Party hasn’t shown much respect so far for programs and policies most Americans favor. In several key states, Tea Party-inspired Republicans have already succeeded in stripping most public employees of their collective bargaining rights — the primary power workers have to negotiate fair salaries, benefits and working conditions. The Tea Party brought the nation to the brink of a damaging, and clearly unpopular federal government shutdown. And the Tea Party has already announced a plan to end Medicare.

The Tea Party appears determined to dismantle the nation’s limited social safety net. It would be naive to assume that Social Security isn’t next.

In the months and years ahead, the Tea Party-led GOP, if it’s not stopped, will announce its plan to cut Social Security payments. And to save both Medicare and Social Security, there’s only one option — replacing Tea Party extremists in 2012 with lawmakers who will protect the programs that protect the American people.

See full article from DailyFinance:http://srph.it/dG0oZf
21
Apr
11

Career study looks at job search trends

The Career Thought Leaders, a think tank for career industry leaders, recently released a career trends white paper that was the culmination of dozens of brainstorming meetings held across the world to identify and discuss trends and best practices in multiple areas of the job search.

According to Wendy Enelow, executive director of Career Thought Leaders, “the findings of the Career Thought Leaders’ first global brainstorming event even surpassed my expectations — and that’s not an easy thing to do!

The depth and richness of content — across a vast range of topics related to careers, employment, job search, social media, personal branding, resume writing, and the like — was phenomenal!” Here is just a sampling of some of the top career trends.

 

Resume trends

Keep it short. Ten years ago, resumes were two, three, or four pages long, showcasing a candidate’s qualifications, achievements, and more. Today’s resumes, however, must be short and should only span one or two pages. Yet, the modern resume must still incorporate all of same elements as longer resumes — qualifications, successes, value, and accomplishments; it’s simply written tighter, cleaner, and leaner. Shorten two sentences to one. Eliminate an extra bullet point. Summarize all of the tech skills into one line. You can do it!

Google has replaced the resume as the preferred introduction to job seekers. Dick Bolles, author of ‘What Color is Your Parachute?’ and a true pioneer in the employment industry, was recently quoted as saying, “Your Google results are the new resume.” Today’s recruiters are using Google searches and LinkedIn to source candidates instead of trolling job-board databases

 

Social media trends

Twitter is an interesting and advantageous technological innovation. Job seekers who are active on Twitter can use Twitter to display their resume. All they need to do is upload a copy of their print resume and it will appear as the background on their Twitter page. This is a great tool especially for younger job seekers.

Online identities are more important than ever before. Your online identity used to be something that you could worry about later. Not now! The time to be concerned about your online identity is today, as the vast majority of recruiters and companies will Google potential candidates or look them up on LinkedIn before initiating contact. Every single person — job seeker, happily employed worker, entrepreneur, CEO,consultant — must be dedicated to building a strong online presence and doing it now.

 

Job search trends

Vocational and skilled trades jobs are in demand. There is a huge market today for plumbers, electricians, welders, and other skilled trades people. Unfortunately, there still exists a stigma that those types of careers are not “enough.” As we continue to move through this economic recession, we hope that the perception of these careers will change to more accurately reflect the high pay scales, great benefits, and other perks of these professions. College isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK!

Master job applications are a valuable tool in today’s job search market. A “master job application” includes all of the data that job applications require: job titles, employers, dates of employment (months and years), locations, phone numbers, contact names, salary, reasons for leaving, and more. This comprehensive document will be your single source for all online job applications. Do it once, do it right, and you’re all set.

 

Networking trends

Networking skill leads the way. CareerXRoads publishes an annual Sources of Hire survey of Fortune 500 companies. Their 2010 study showed that, of all external hires, 26.7 percent came from referrals, 22.3 percent from employer career sites, 13.2 percent from job boards, and the remainder from other sources. As in years past, the largest number of new hires came from referrals.These are today’s results and what we anticipate for tomorrow.

LinkedIn is THE online networking place to be seen.The consensus of career coaches, career counselors, resume writers, recruiters, outplacement consultants, and others is that LinkedIn is now the No.1 online networking platform for job seekers, both active and passive. It is essential that job seekers devote the time necessary to write well-branded and comprehensive LinkedIn profiles, because these sites are used daily by recruiters and hiring managers to find quality candidates.

To find out more, you can download your own free copy of the findings of the 2010 Global Brainstorming Day.

Next: Companies Hiring This Week

 

Related Stories from Fins Finance

 

19
Apr
11

Man without legs hopes to inspire as a teacher

There are certain teachers whose influence can affect students for the rest of their lives, whose names are never forgotten. Doug Forbis hopes to become one of those — and it’s not just because he doesn’t have any legs.

The 24-year-old Spartanburg, S.C., man is finishing up his first year of a two-year graduate education program at Converse College. He plans to teach physical education to kids with special needs.

Doug Forbis

Barcroft / Fame
Born with a rare condition called sacral agenesis, Doug Forbis had his legs removed at the age of 2. He’s now 24 and studying to teach physical education to kids with special needs.

“When I was growing up, if you had any sort of difference in a PE class, there wasn’t a lot you could do,” Forbis told AOL News. “You could be a score keeper or watch, but it wasn’t the most productive use of your time.”

Rather than spending his youth as an observer, he joined swimming and basketball leagues for disabled kids.

“It was a big deal to meet others going through the same issues. It gave me a safe zone each week going to practice,” he said.

Now he hopes to offer that safe zone for those in need at a local self-contained school.

“It’s so rare for kids with special needs to have a teacher with special needs — that almost never happens,” he said. “I think it would help a lot for these special need kids to say, ‘Look, Mr. Forbis is a teacher, I can do that, too. He lives by himself, gets around town, goes shopping, I can do that, too.’ A lot of kids don’t know that’s an option. They just depend on the system their whole lives.”

Barcroft / Fame

4 photos

Previous
Next
Doug Forbis drives his car, outfitted with custom hand controls and a hydraulic driver’s seat.
(Note: Please disable your pop-up blocker)

Forbis was born with a rare condition called sacral agenesis, preventing his lower spine from developing properly. It left him with malformed legs, which would only serve to hinder movement.

So at the age of 2, his parents took a doctor’s recommendation and elected to have his legs amputated. As a child he tried using prosthetics in an attempt to “be more like everybody else.”

But he soon chose to go without them.

“They were tiring, hot and more hassle than they were worth,” Forbis said. Instead, he gets around by walking on his hands or using a custom-built titanium wheelchair.

When he needs faster wheels, he drives a minivan, outfitted with hand controls and a hydraulic driver’s seat that allows him to see over the dashboard. Forbis bought the van to accommodate the various wheelchairs used for his individual sports — which eventually grew to include track.

In 2008, Forbis even tried out for a position on the U.S. Paralympic team.

Doug Forbis

Barcroft / Fame
Doug playing frisbee with his girlfriend Elizabeth in their local park on September 15, 2010 in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“People always think I’m overcoming something. I’m not,” he said. “I’ve never known anything different.

“The only challenges I run into are other people’s mindsets, nothing physical or anything related to me,” he added. “People who think a person in a wheelchair shouldn’t be at the mall or shouldn’t be hanging out with their friends. It’s crazy.”

But Forbis takes all the looks and murmurs in stride — particularly when they come from naturally curious children. It’s parents who tell their kids not to look and to keep quiet that bother him.

“I’d rather they bring them over to me and I can explain everything, then they walk away and they’re cool with it,” he explained. “But if parents don’t let them ask, it contributes to the lack of understanding and learning, and nothing’s going to get accomplished. It makes a person with a disability feel disabled, because people don’t understand. You shouldn’t have to feel disabled.”

Helping others understand is something he’s been doing his whole life. Forbis frequently offers advice to people with the same or similar disabilities — some of whom did not have their legs amputated and are now contemplating it as young adults.

Once he receives his teaching degree, he’ll be certified to help a much broader range of kids find confidence and success, from those with intellectual and physical disabilities to those with emotional and behavioral disorders.

Last semester he gained classroom experience assisting 22 typical second-graders of all ability levels. In addition to helping with reading skills and research projects, he often shared personal anecdotes about his own days as a pupil and encouraged students to set goals and achieve more.

“I could see immediately that Doug knows how to talk to children and help them to understand acceptance and respect,” said Angela Ridings, his supervising classroom teacher and mentor at the Spartanburg school. “He is a unique individual with many talents, and I am positive that he will go far in the profession of teaching. The students love seeing Mr. Forbis, and I know he will be remembered for a long, long time.”

But despite Forbis’ accomplishments and ambitions, don’t call him an inspiration.

“I get called that a lot and it drives me crazy,” he said. “I’m doing what any 20-something college grad would do, it’s not really any different.”

14
Apr
11

Walmart reviving ‘low prices, every day’ strategy

In this economy, retailers have to fight for every dollar that consumers are willing to spend. One way to do that, of course, is to offer weekly sales. A great deal, whether it’s on paper towels or the latest seasonal fashions, helps drive traffic through the front door or to a website.

The problem is that offering good deals on select sale items doesn’t always translate into purchases of other items at regular prices with better profit margins. And that can pinch retailers’ bottom lines.

So leave it to Walmart Stores (WMT), the nation’s largest retailer, to revisit a marketing gimmick it used to great effect once before: “Low prices, every day.” The company, which is rolling out a new ad campaign Monday, says it also plans to bring back some 8,500 items that have disappeared from its shelves in recent years.

The so-called “assortment changes” will bring back customers’ favorite local food and other products, Walmart said in a statement. The company also plans to conduct more frequent surveys of other retailers’ prices on similar goods to ensure its stores offer lower prices on the right mix of items.

“Our company is determined to create the best one-stop shopping experience and low prices on the right products backed by a clear, consistent ad match policy,” Duncan Mac Naughton, Walmart’s chief merchandising officer in the U.S., said in a statement.

“Walmart is making progress with their re-merchandising, and the launch of the ad campaign shows that most items to be returned are now back in the stores,” Sanford C. Bernstein retail analyst Colin McGranahan told Bloomberg News. “Whether that will be enough to lure disenchanted customers back remains to be seen.”

Reversing a Failed Strategy

The retailer’s prior advertising campaign — “Save Money, Live Better” — failed to drive more consumers through the door. Despite its dominance in the U.S. market, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has enduredseven straight quarters of falling salesat its stores.

See full article from DailyFinance:http://srph.it/eEGBej

That previous campaign involved neatening stores and reducing the number of items for sale. While that may have seemed a good strategy, it defined shopping at Walmart a lifestyle choice, causing consumers to perceive the popular retailer as moving away from the low prices and variety they had come to expect, says Paul Kurnit, clinical professor of marketing at Pace University.

“The Walmart that we knew three and five years ago was a pretty messy shopping experience, but that was kind of OK, because we knew we were getting the lowest possible prices,” Kurnit says. He adds that research shows that more items on retail-store shelves translates into bigger totals at the check-out counter.

Offering customers a one-stop shopping experience that assures customers of low prices on a variety of goods is good strategy in these days of steadily rising fuel costs and economic uncertainty, Kurnit says.

With gas prices at $4 a gallon and higher prices expected, he says, “People are really feeling the crunch.”

See full article from DailyFinance:http://srph.it/eEGBej
12
Apr
11

Nuclear crisis level raised

Japan raised the crisis level at its crippled nuclear plant Tuesday to a severity on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, citing high overall radiation leaks that have contaminated the air, tap water, vegetables and seawater.

Japanese nuclear regulators said they raised the rating from 5 to 7 — the highest level on an international scale of nuclear accidents overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency — after new assessments of radiation leaks from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant since it was disabled by the March 11 tsunami.

AP

500 photos

Previous
Next
Police officers man a checkpoint in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, about 20-kilometers (12-miles) from the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant Monday. The signs read “No entry, Entry not allowed by the special nuclear disaster legislation,” right, and “Security check in operation,” left.
(Note: Please disable your pop-up blocker)
Japan’s Tsunami Aftermath
Police officers man a checkpoint in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, about 20-kilometers (12-miles) from the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant Monday. The signs read “No entry, Entry not allowed by the special nuclear disaster legislation,” right, and “Security check in operation,” left.
AP
Kyodo News

Japan Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

Buddhist monks, Japan Self-Defense Force personnel firefighters and other relief workers observe a moment of silence on Monday, April 11, 2011, exactly one month after the devastating earthquake hit northeastern Japan, on “Hiyori Yama”, or Weather Hill, in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture. Local fishermen used to climb the man-made hump and decide whether it was safe to fish. (AP Photo/Yomiuri Shimbun, Koichi Nakamura) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

Japan Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

Buddhist monks, Japan Self-Defense Force personnel firefighters and other relief workers observe a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. on Monday, April 11, 2011, exactly one month after the devastating earthquake hit northeastern Japan, on “Hiyori Yama”, or Weather Hill, in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture. Local fishermen used to climb the man-made hump and decide whether it was safe to fish. (AP Photo/Yomiuri Shimbun, Yasushi Kanno) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

Japan Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

Buddhist monks, Japan Self-Defense Force personnel firefighters and other relief workers observe a moment of silence on Monday, April 11, 2011, exactly one month after the devastating earthquake hit northeastern Japan, on “Hiyori Yama”, or Weather Hill, in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture. Local fishermen used to climb the man-made hump and decide whether it was safe to fish. (AP Photo/Yomiuri Shimbun, Koichi Nakamura) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

Japan Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

Buddhist monks, Japan Self-Defense Force personnel firefighters and other relief workers observe a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. on Monday, April 11, 2011, exactly one month after the devastating earthquake hit northeastern Japan, on “Hiyori Yama”, or Weather Hill, in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture. Local fishermen used to climb the man-made hump and decide whether it was safe to fish. (AP Photo/Yomiuri Shimbun, Yasushi Kanno) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

Japan Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

Members of the Ground Self-Defense Forces form a line before a silent prayer for the tsunami victims in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture on April 11, 2011 a month after the earthquake and tsunami strike. Japan fell silent at 2:46 pm to mark exactly one month since a massive earthquake hit, spawning a devastating tsunami. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force members take a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m., exactly a month after a massive earthquake struck the area in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, Monday, April 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Yomiuri Shimbun, Yasuhiro Takami) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

Japan Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force members take a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m., exactly a month after a massive earthquake struck the area in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, Monday, April 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Yomiuri Shimbun, Yasuhiro Takami) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

Japan Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

Police officers offer silent prayers for victims of tsunami and earthquake before tsunami washed at Ishinomaki city in Miyagi prefecture on April 11, 2011 a month after the earthquake and tsunami strike. Japan fell silent at 2:46 pm to mark exactly one month since a massive earthquake hit, spawning a devastating tsunami. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

Members of the Ground Self-Defense Forces search for relics from a wreck in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture on April 11, 2011 a month after the earthquake and tsunami strike. Japan fell silent at 2:46 pm to mark exactly one month since a massive earthquake hit, spawning a devastating tsunami. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

Members of the Ground Self-Defense Forces search relics from a wreck in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture on April 11, 2011 a month after the earthquake and tsunami strike. Japan fell silent at 2:46 pm to mark exactly one month since a massive earthquake hit, spawning a devastating tsunami. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

The new ranking signifies a “major accident” that includes widespread effects on the environment and health, according to the Vienna-based IAEA. But Japanese officials played down any health effects and stressed that the harm caused by Chernobyl still far outweighs that caused by the Fukushima plant.

The revision came a day after the government added five communities to a list of places people should leave to avoid long-term radiation exposure. A 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius already had been cleared around the plant.

The news was received with chagrin by residents in Iitate, one of the five communities, where high levels of radiation have been detected in the soil. The village of 6,200 people is about 40 kilometers from the Fukushima plant.

“It’s very shocking to me,” said Miyuki Ichisawa, 52, who runs a coffee shop in Iitate. “Now the government is officially telling us this accident is at the same level of Chernobyl.”

Japanese officials said the leaks from the Fukushima plant so far amount to a tenth of the radiation emitted in the Chernobyl disaster, but said they eventually could exceed Chernobyl’s emissions if the crisis continues.

“This reconfirms that this is an extremely major disaster. We are very sorry to the public, people living near the nuclear complex and the international community for causing such a serious accident,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

But Edano told reporters there was no “direct health damage” so far from the crisis. “The accident itself is really serious, but we have set our priority so as not to cause health damage.”

Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear physicist at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, said the revision was not a cause for worry, that it had to do with the overall release of radiation and was not directly linked to health dangers. He said most of the radiation was released early in the crisis and that the reactors still have mostly intact containment vessels surrounding their nuclear cores.

The change was “not directly connected to the environmental and health effects,” Unesaki said. “Judging from all the measurement data, it is quite under control. It doesn’t mean that a significant amount of release is now continuing.”

 

12
Apr
11

Budget ingenuity saved some programs Obama favored

The historic $38 billion in budget cuts resulting from at-times hostile bargaining between Congress and the Obama White House were accomplished in large part by pruning money left over from previous years, using accounting sleight of hand and going after programs President Barack Obama had targeted anyway.

Such moves permitted Obama to save favorite programs — Pell grants for poor college students, health research and “Race to the Top” aid for public schools, among others — from Republican knives, according to new details of the legislation released Tuesday morning.

And big holes in foreign aid and Environmental Protection Agency accounts were patched in large part. Republicans also gave up politically treacherous cuts to the Agriculture Department’s food inspection program.

The details of the agreement reached late Friday night just ahead of a deadline for a partial government shutdown reveal a lot of one-time savings and cuts that officially “score” as cuts to pay for spending elsewhere, but often have little to no actual impact on the deficit.

As a result of the legerdemain, Obama was able to reverse many of the cuts passed by House Republicans in February when the chamber approved a bill slashing this year’s budget by more than $60 billion. In doing so, the White House protected favorites like the Head Start early learning program, while maintaining the maximum Pell grant of $5,550 and funding for Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative that provides grants to better-performing schools.

Instead, the cuts that actually will make it into law are far tamer, including cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation. Another $3.5 billion comes from unused spending authority from a program providing health care to children of lower-income families.

Still, Obama and his Democratic allies accepted $600 million in cuts to a community health centers programs, $414 million in cuts to grants for state and local police departments, and a $1.6 billion reduction in the Environmental Protection Agency budget, almost $1 billion of which would come from grants for clean water and other projects by local governments and Indian tribes.

The National Institutes of Health, which funds critical medical research, would absorb a $260 million cut, less than 1 percent of its budget, instead of the $1.6 billion cut sought by House Republicans. Family planning programs would bear a 5 percent cut rather than being completely eliminated.

Homeland security programs would have to take their first-ever cut, though much of the 2 percent decrease comes from a $786 million cut to first responder grants to state and local governments. The IRS would see its budget frozen but be spared the 5 percent cut sought by House Republicans.

About $10 billion of the cuts already have been enacted as the price for keeping the government open as negotiations progressed; lawmakers tipped their hand regarding another $10 billion or so when the House passed a spending bill last week that ran aground in the Senate.

For instance, the spending measure reaps $350 million by cutting a one-year program enacted in 2009 for dairy farmers then suffering from low milk prices. Another $650 million comes by not repeating a one-time infusion into highway programs passed that same year. And just last Friday, Congress approved Obama’s $1 billion request for high-speed rail grants – crediting itself with $1.5 billion in savings relative to last year.

The underlying issue is long overdue legislation to finance the day-to-day budget of every Cabinet department, including the Pentagon, for the already half-completed 2011 fiscal year. The measure caps 2011 funding for such operating budgets at about $1.2 trillion.

About $10 billion of the cuts comes from targeting appropriations accounts previously used by lawmakers for so-called earmarks, those pet projects like highways, water projects, community development grants and new equipment for police and fire departments. Republicans had already engineered a ban on earmarks when taking back the House this year.

Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. Under an arcane bookkeeping rule – used for years by appropriators – placing a cap on spending from the Justice Department crime victims fund allows lawmakers to claim the entire contents of the fund as budget savings. The savings are awarded year after year.

Even before details of the bill came out, some conservative Republicans were assailing it. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said he probably won’t vote for the measure, and tea party favorite Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is a “nay” as well.

The $38 billion in cuts, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., wrote on his Facebook page, “barely make a dent” in the country’s budget woes.

Huelskamp and other conservatives are also upset that most conservative policy “riders” added by Republicans were dropped from the legislation in the course of the talks.

The White House rejected GOP attempts to block the EPA’s ability to issue global warming rules and other reversals of environmental regulations. Obama also forced Republicans to drop an effort to cut off Planned Parenthood from federal funding, as well as GOP moves to stop implementation of Obama’s overhauls of health care and Wall Street regulation.

The administration also thwarted a GOP attempt to block new rules governing the Internet, as well as a National Rifle Association-backed attempt to neuter a little-noticed initiative aimed at catching people running guns to Mexican drug lords by having regulators gather information on batch purchases of rifles and shotguns.

Anti-abortion lawmakers did, however, succeed in winning a provision to block taxpayer-funded abortions in the District of Columbia. And House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, won funding for a personal initiative to provide federally funded vouchers for District of Columbia students to attend private schools.

Instead of sharply cutting the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, both agencies would get increases under the legislation as they gear up to implement last year’s overhaul of financial regulation. And renewable energy programs are cut $407 million below last year, almost 20 percent. The Army Corps of Engineers , which funds flood control and inland waterway projects, will absorb a $578 million cut, representing about 10 percent of its budget.