What’s In The News

What’s In The News

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International
An estimated 750 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its operation to counter rocket strikes from Hamas. At least 15 people were killed after Israeli forces struck a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinians in northern Gaza, the Gaza Health Ministry said. Another 200 people were wounded in the attack.

Nearly 750 Palestinians and at least 32 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the fighting, which intensified in mid July when Israel launched a ground operation to destroy tunnels used by Hamas to deploy rockets into Israel. Palestinians claim the tunnels bring in much needed supplies – food and medical supplies.

The international community has struggled to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, even as the United Nations has condemned both sides in the conflict.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said there was a “strong possibility” that Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza while also condemning the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed “outrage and regret” after rockets were found to have been stored inside a UN building in Gaza. More than 140,000 Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza since the fighting, many of whom have taken shelter in UN buildings, the UN has said.

National

When President Obama issues executive orders on immigration in coming weeks, pro-reform activists are expecting something dramatic: temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for perhaps several million undocumented immigrants.

If the activists are right, the sweeping move would upend a contentious policy fight and carry broad political consequences.

The activists met privately with the President and his aides June 30 at the White House, and say in that meeting Obama suggested he will act before the November midterm elections.

They hope his decision will offer relief to a significant percentage of the estimated 11.7 million estimated undocumented immigrants in the U.S. “He seems resolute that he’s going to go big and go soon,” says Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-reform group America’s Voice.

Exactly what Obama plans to do is a closely held secret. But following the meeting with the activists, Obama declared his intention to use his executive authority to reform parts of a broken immigration system that has cleaved families and hobbled the economy.

After being informed by Speaker John Boehner that the Republican-controlled House would not vote on a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law this year, the President announced that he was preparing “to do what Congress refuses to do, and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.”

The recent meeting “was really the first time we had heard from the administration that they are looking at” expanding a program to provide temporary relief from deportations and work authorization for undocumented immigrants, says Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

Obama has a broad menu of options at his disposal, but there are two major sets of changes he can order. The first is to provide affirmative relief from deportation to one or more groups of people. Under this mechanism, individuals identified as “low-priority” threats can come forward to seek temporary protection from deportation and work authorization.

In 2012, the administration created a program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that allowed eligible young unauthorized immigrants to apply for a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit.

The most aggressive option in this category would be expanding deferred action to anyone who could have gained legal status under the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate in June 2013. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, the Senate bill would have covered up to 8 million undocumented immigrants.

It is unlikely that Obama goes that far. But “You can get to big numbers very quickly,” says Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

One plausible option would be to expand DACA to include some family members of those already eligible. Says a Congressional aide: “While there are several options to provide temporary deportation relief, we expect an expansion of the DACA program to other groups of individuals to be the most clear opportunity.”

According to the CBO, there are an estimated 4.7 million undocumented parents with a minor child living in the U.S., and 3.8 million whose children are citizens. Around 1.5 million undocumented immigrants are married to a U.S. citizen or lawful resident, but have been unable to gain legal status themselves.

Obama could also decide to grant protections for specific employment categories, such as the 1 million or so undocumented immigrants working in the agricultural sector, or to ease the visa restrictions hindering the recruitment of high-skilled foreign workers to Silicon Valley. Either move would please centrist and conservative business lobbies, which have joined with the left to press for comprehensive reform, and might help temper the blowback.

The second bucket of changes Obama is considering is more modest enforcement reforms. Jeh Johnson, Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security, is deep into a review of the administration’s enforcement practices, and it is likely Obama will order some changes to immigration enforcement priorities.

Until now, Obama has frustrated immigration-reform activists by insisting he has little latitude to fix a broken system on his own. Any relief the President provides would be temporary; it’s up to Congress to find a permanent solution by rewriting the law. But legal experts say Obama does have the authority to take the kinds of executive action he is reported to be considering.

Even if Obama is on firm footing from a legal standpoint, he would likely damage vulnerable Democratic incumbents in red states, including several whose re-election could determine control of the Senate. Despite the short-term political consequences, in the long run a bold stroke could help cement the Democratic Party’s ties with the vital and fast-growing Hispanic voting bloc.

And it would be a legacy for Obama. In the case of immigration, he has the capacity to ease the pain felt by millions with the stroke of a pen.

“There are two ways this could go,” says Fitz of the Center for American Progress. Obama will be remembered as either “the deporter-in-chief, or the great emancipator. Those are the two potential legacies.”

Political

In a partisan vote of 7-4, the House Rules Committee approved the legislation, setting health care up for consideration by the full House.
The legislation already has spawned a bitter debate between Republicans and Democrats less than four months before elections that will determine the political control of Congress next year. The lawsuit, if approved by the full House, would focus on Obama's actions in implementing his landmark healthcare law known as "Obamacare."
Republicans claim that he went beyond his legal authority and bypassed Congress when he delayed some of the law's healthcare coverage mandates and granted various waivers. Republicans have been trying to repeal the healthcare law since its enactment in 2010.

Business

The National Bureau of Economic Research found Walmart store managers make an average salary of $92,462 per year. The authors of the new working paper used data from career site Glassdoor and the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey to analyze and compare average salaries of employees at some of the U.S.’s largest retail chains including Walmart, Costco, Whole Foods, and Starbucks.

According to the analysis, Walmart store managers are among the highest paid in the Nation, with Costco leading the pack with average manager salaries of $109,000. At Starbucks and Whole Foods, store managers bring home on average $44,632 and $75,775, respectively.

However, while store manager pay ranks high, according to NBER, Walmart cashiers earn about $8.48/hour and are paid less than their counterparts at the other chains.

At Starbucks, “baristas” make $8.80 an hour, on average, while those at Whole Foods and Costco make $10.31 and $11.59. Cashiers at three out of four of the retailers make less than the average national hourly cashier rate of $11.22/hour.

The paper also shows a significant gender gap, even among cashiers. While high school educated women in retail make 25 percent less than their male counterparts, women cashiers make 17% less. Among those with some college education, women make 20% and 21% less than men when they have a high school education and some college, respectively.

Health
The more chronic medical conditions you have, the shorter your life will be, say researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In the study, published in the journal Medical Care, the team found that nearly four in five Americans over the age of 67 have multiple chronic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

Obesity may be driving much of this trend, and may be responsible for slowing recent gains in life expectancy. Life expectancy has been growing at about .1 years per year in the U.S. (that’s slower than rates in other developed countries).

The study used the Medicare 5 percent sample, a nationally representative group of 1.4 million Medicare beneficiaries, which included data on 21 chronic conditions. On average, life expectancy decreased by 1.8 years with each additional chronic condition among older Americans.

“When you’re getting sicker and sicker, the body’s ability to handle illness deteriorates and that compounds,” says senior study author Gerard Anderson, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins. “Once you have multiple conditions, your life expectancy becomes much shorter.”

For example, he says, a 75-year-old woman with no chronic medical conditions would likely live to at least 92 years old, or another 17.3 years.

However, a 75-year-old woman with five chronic conditions will likely only live another 12 more years, and a woman of the same age with 10 chronic conditions would only live to about 80 years old.

According to the data, women fare better than men and white people live longer than black people even with the burden of additional health conditions.

The type of chronic disease older people develop also seems to affect their life expectancy. A 67-year-old diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will only live an additional 12 years, while someone with a heart condition can expect another 21.2 years.

But once people develop more than one chronic condition, the specific illnesses no longer matter. “There are interaction effects among the diseases that result in decreases in life expectancy. Any condition on its own has a particular effect,” says lead study author Eva DuGoff.

“When you have heart disease plus cancer, that has a particular affect, and then those start to accumulate.”

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