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Stories you missed during the debt ceiling debate

by Eric Ferguson on August 2, 2011 · 1 comment

The world held its breath while the first ever default of the federal government came closer, but the world didn’t stop. There were noteworthy if not important stories happening. I’m sure there’s more, after all, I must have missed some too, but here are some I didn’t miss:

American Crystal Sugar has locked out workers in several plants in the Red River Valley. Despite the threat of a lockout and the company’s plan to bring in replacements, the contract offer was so bad, workers overwhelmingly rejected it. The negotiations and ratification vote have been on the inside pages over the last week.

Americans For Prosperity (AFP) sent absentee ballots to Democrats in Wisconsin telling them to mail them back by August 11. Those districts’ recalls are August 9. Republicans and groups like AFP try to deceive Democratic voters every election, like telling them their polling place has changed to someplace far away, or they can be arrested of they vote while having outstanding parking tickets, and they pull things with absentee ballots. This time though, I can’t rule out the chance of honest error. It’s weird the address they give to mail the ballots is a mailbox used by conservative groups, but August 11 makes sense for the two districts voting August 16, and AFP put its own name on the ballot. I don’t buy that either, but I can’t objectively rule out a mistake.
The US Department of Health and Human Services will require insurance plans to cover contraception:

In July, the Institute of Medicine issued the results of a scientific review of women’s health needs and provided recommendations on specific preventive measures to help them. Today HHS approved those recommendations.

Besides contraceptive use, the list includes free screenings for conditions such as gestational diabetes and the human papillomavirus (HPV), as well as breastfeeding support and counseling on sexually transmitted diseases.

Arab Spring continues. The first country to overthrow their dictator, Tunisia, is in the hard slogging work stage of building a democracy. Though protests are still peaceful, someone must be shooting back, so Syria is reminding me of Libya when its protests morphed into armed rebellion. Though both the government and protesters deny it’s related to Arab Spring and its complaints are purely domestic, there are massive demonstrations in Israel. 150,000 in a country that size is huge. Protesters demand the government address rising housing costs are growing economic inequality. Making it illegal to boycott goods from the settlements seems to have been overreach.

Along with Arab Spring, there’s Murdoch Winter. The scandal threatening the News Corp empire continues to spread. New York Post employees were told to preserve any documents relating to phone hacking, and News of the World might have gone beyond voicemail and into computer hacking. No word yet on whether News Corp. is bleeding advertisers and subscribers. Though I suppose if you would subscribe to the News of the World or New York Post, there isn’t much hope for you.

Last (unless I come up with something else after posting) but not least (in fact, it should be a damn big story), the Obama administration made a deal with the auto industry that roughly doubles fuel economy standards. This will mean a serious reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an actual reduction in oil consumption, not merely slower growth. Speaking as someone who fancies himself an environmentalist and thinks global warming is a genuine crisis, I’m pretty pleased. As unhappy as I am about the debt ceiling deal, I give Obama credit for sliding this one under the political radar.

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